Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Older Foundations

It turns out that the Paul Brown Building was built one hundred years ago on the first floor of an older 19th Century structure. Recently they revealed the ancient pink granite columns that were partially shaved to building the second building.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Washington, DC is the location of a very strange phenomenon: the facadetomy. Essentially what happens is that developers stopped tearing down the entire building and leave the facade hanging precipitously in space on a steel framework. The picture below illustrates the absurd level that they sometimes reach to save the facade.None of these views currently exist; the buildings have been completed and now the 19th century facades form the front of one large blocky building, formed by the strict height limits in Washington, DC.
These two last pictures are taken in the actual alley that John Wilkes Booth fled down after shooting President Lincoln in the nearby Ford's Theatre.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Crumby Rundown St. Louis Malls #1: Saint Louis Centre

"After twenty years of struggling to attract shoppers and residents
back to downtown, St. Louis Centre finally closed permanently in
August 2006--ironically just as downtown is experiencing unprecedented
growth in shopping and condominium construction in rehabbed historic
buildings. The Pyramid Companies has purchased the shopping center
from the last slumlord owner and plans to turn it into a luxury
condominium project. There has been talk of turning the old Dillard's
into a boutique hotel. Famous Barr, which is now a Macy's, will stay
in business independent of the shuttered mall. Most importantly, the
ugly "skybridge" over Washington Ave will come down; currently there
is a large banner hanging on the west side of the bridge with a
computer generated image of the restored sight lines of the Avenue.St. Louis Centre ultimately failed because people had the perception
that it wasn't worth the trouble of traveling downtown to shop. St.
Louis's downtown is ironically not centrally located anymore; the
population center of the region has shifted west along Highway 40 to
Clayton and the Galleria Mall. Simultaneously, the city of St. Louis
has lost around 100,000 people in the twenty years St. Louis Centre
was open; consequently, the most likely population to shop at the
mall, city residents, has declined.The belief that St. Louis Centre was dangerous further helped destroy
the prospects of the mall succeeding. The first time my family
visited the mall in 1986, we watched the police arrest a man who
appeared to be high on drugs. This early experience seems to have
foreshadowed the mall's reputation that developed in the 1990's that
the mall was crime ridden. The most popular, and completely
unsubstantiated, urban legend painted the mall as the place where gang
members went to "earn their bones" by stabbing innocent white
shoppers.That perception of crime, coupled with the slow homogenization of
malls in general, left the mall without a major source of shoppers.
Ironically, St. Louis Centre's close proximity to downtown's huge
convention center failed to attract out of town conventioneers. My
last visit to the mall before it was closed was depressing and
illustrated how far the beautiful, light filled mall had fallen.
Pretty much the only stores remaining were fly-by-night jewelers
selling cheap "bling-bling;" the vast majority of stores were empty.
The floors were filthy, and when I went up the first flight of
escalators, I was confronted by what looked to be high school students
skipping class. Their cold stares gave me the impression that I was
an unwanted presence, and I proceeded to head back down the escalator
and exited the mall. I actually felt safer on the streets of St.
Louis than inside the mall.If St. Louis Centre had been built in 2005 instead of 1985, it
probably would have been able to ride the wave of excitement that is
currently fueling a rebirth of downtown. St. Louis Centre failed
because it refused to embrace the urban environment, which is now in
such demand in downtown. Around the corner, the Arcade Building,
which features a ground level, turn of the 20th century mall space, is
now being restored. I suspect that this new, humanly scaled and
street level shopping space will soon take the place of the failed St.
Louis Centre."The above text was written for a submission to Dead Malls, but for some reason they've never published it, despite saying they liked it.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Is anybody familiar with the piece of junk bridge that Grand Blvd use to cross over Mill Creek? It's a shame, because there was this beautiful bridge in its place for sixty years.

Friday, August 3, 2007

East Washington Avenue

While the other end of Washington Avenue in downtown had blossomed as the Loft District, our old unwanted friend Saint Louis Centre managed to kill most foot traffic east of the hated skybridge over the avenue. Likewise, transients seem to love to cluster just east of the bridge, rendering the blocks east of the Centre a virtual barren no-man's land.
Which is a shame, because there are some stunning examples of old buildings, carefully restored, which are still sitting empty because, quite frankly, time has proven that normal people don't like to walk down dark, enclosed sidewalks such as the ones that sit under the skybridge.
Hopefully, now that the skybridge is coming down, the delayed development east of the old Saint Louis Centre will take off. I mean, it's two blocks from the convention center; certainly someone can think of some type of store or restaurant that could go there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Strange Brew

This impressive former bank building once featured a bar back in the early '80s at the height of the "Strange Brew" movie phenomenon. A family friend from Canada entered a "Best Canadian Impression" contest and won easily, not bothering to tell anyone that he was from Canada. Not a bad idea.

A Blog detailing the beauty of St. Louis architecture and the buildup of residue-or character-that accumulates over the course of time.