Friday, November 28, 2008

Old Pierce Building

A few years back my friend Ruth and I stalked the halls of the Adams Mark, looking for some vestige of the old Pierce Building, encased around the new structure. We found nothing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

West Alton, Missouri

I visited West Alton briefly, on my way to Portage des Sioux last weekend. There is not a lot to see, but there is this quaint little church, seen above.Everything, well at least the houses, look just like normal houses, but they're built ten feet above the ground to avoid flooding. The whole town looks waterlogged, even when it is dry.There is this great church, built in the Modernist style, which anchors one of town across from the town's bar.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hunter Meat Packing Plant #2

Here is the Hunter Meatpacking Plant, hiding in plain view, so to speak. It is in a state of partial demolition, in which it has remained for many years. You might think I am a complete idiot for stepping inside this building, but it is remarkably stable--and incredibly treacherous.The pictures above and below demonstrate how stunning the ruins of Hunter really are; concrete and steel are behaving in ways they should not normally behave. The floors, their supports removed, drape down like they are made of paper or cloth.Below is one of the various atriums of the building, allowing natural light to flood down into the building.Concrete clings to steel tie rods, seemingly defying gravity like in the picture below, in the heart of the complex.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kinloch, Missouri

Despite my better judgment, on Saturday I headed out to Kinloch, the famous first African-American community incorporated in Missouri. I had my preconceptions; a policeman I once had as a student told me Kinloch was the one place he ever felt scared while working, and he had worked in some pretty dangerous neighborhoods. Bud, my student, is about the size of Arnold Scharzeneggar, so I was intrigued that he would be scared of anywhere in the metropolitan area.So I hopped on I-70, got off at N. Hanley, and hung a right onto Martin Luther King Blvd, the main thoroughfare--if you can call it that--of Kinloch.I was immediately pleased that I had come to visit Kinloch myself, as it is totally different than what I had expected. I felt like I had stepped into a rural community, yet I knew I was still surrounded by the suburbia of North County. Kinloch has always been isolated; there are still very few streets that go in and out of the community.But what is so striking, driving around the hilly terrain of the town, is just how desolate the town is. I think I read that five hundred people live in Kinloch, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out where they all live. Most of the town was demolished for an aborted airport expansion, so there are only a few pockets of dense settlement in the entire town.The houses look like your standard rural St. Louis County vernacular--the standard shotgun house as well as a few commercial buildings. The writing on these stores has long outlasted the businesses they once advertised.

There is a fairly large apartment complex in the center of town, and it looks like it burned a while ago, despite sitting across the street from the fire station. I am not sure how old the buildings are, but they look like old HUD housing, and perhaps date to the 1970's when much of the town was deemed "obsolete," necessitating the demolition of five hundred structures.
A friend related a story of giving a coworker a ride home one night years ago. As the coworker was giving directions, he nonchalantly told my friend to stop two doors down from the burning couch in the street. Apparently it was such a regular occurrence that you could give directions by it.One thing I strive to accomplish with my photography is to give an honest assessment of any area I photograph. After driving around Kinloch for awhile, I asked myself, "Am I missing something? Is the whole town one gigantic wasteland? There must be some stable, occupied streets left somewhere?" I am a little hesitant to post nothing of Kinloch except abandonment and desolation, but I quite frankly could not find any part of the town that wasn't largely abandoned or demolished. Looking at satellite images, you can see that there is very little left; where civilization begins again is when you reach nearby communities such as Berkeley.The future of Kinloch, quite frankly, does not look good; its reputation is one of the worst in the area, and despite witnessing signs of life, I came across a large group of young men blocking the street in front of me. I turned around, as I had no idea where I was, and was not about to go driving through a crowd of people who had assembled in front me. I don't know if they were hostile, but the whole situation gave me that bad feeling that I never second guess.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Elevated Lanes of I-70, Laclede's Landing

I have no idea why a whole herd of people were being arrested under the interstate last Sunday.

Friday, November 21, 2008

B & O Roundhouse

Ever since I was five or six years old, living far from here, I have been fascinated by trains; I think every man in America at some point in his life is inspired by locomotives and their power. I had always read about roundhouses, which are sort of like apartment buildings for train engines. I had the opportunity recently to view one sandwiched between active train tracks and the interstate in East St. Louis. The roundhouse actually is just one building in a whole complex of buildings that made up a railroad maintenance yard in the Twentieth Century.The building is in relatively good shape, albeit starting to break and fall apart on the edges. You can actually see depressed pits where maintenance men would work on the undercarriage of locomotives.Also what is interesting is how certain objects have come to rest in seemingly arbitrary locations: a hunk of steel twisted like paper here, an intact light fixture over there.Perhaps it is fitting that the roundhouse has been cut off from its original use by the interstate; after all, it was automobiles that helped to almost ruin the railroad industry in America.I hunted for the turntable that would have rotated to allow each locomotive to drive into its respective berth, but I was unable to find anything other than the faint outline in concrete of what must have been a massive steel apparatus.It is well worth a visit, if you can find it buried in the underbrush.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ohio House Motel at Chicago Patina

Check out my new pictures of a 1960's vintage motel in Chicago along Ohio Avenue.

New Book on St. Louis Architecture

Disappearing St. Louis is a book presenting 55 color images captured over a three-year period by photographer Amy Fontinelle. They depict the poor conditions of homes, churches, and commercial buildings across the city in historic neighborhoods such as Old North St. Louis, Vandeventer, Fountain Park, Academy, JeffVanderLou, and Hyde Park.

Since the photographs were taken, some of these buildings have been restored, but many have deteriorated further and quite a few have been demolished. Despite their appearances, many of these structures, both those that were destroyed and those that remain, were not or are not beyond repair.

Such neglect can be reversed—indeed, it already has been in neighborhoods like Lafayette Square and the Central West End. With an awareness of the issue and a committed effort, the cycle of abandonment and destruction could be stopped and the neighborhoods shown herein could also be restored to their original splendor.

All profits from the sale of Disappearing St. Louis will go to the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, a nonprofit organization that is successfully rebuilding a historic north side neighborhood one building at a time. To learn more, visit

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group is not affiliated with Disappearing St. Louis. The book is an independent project by the author.

The book will also be available for purchase at the 5th annual Rock 'n' Roll Craft Show on Thanksgiving weekend, November 28-30, 2008, at Third Degree Glass Factory on Delmar between Union and Kingshighway.

Check out the link to buy the book here. Also, the author has a website at Seeing St. Louis.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hunter Meat Packing Plant "American Beauty" Moment

Do you remember that scene from American Beauty where the weirdo dating Kevin Spacey's daughter shows her a tape of a plastic bag blowing around in the wind? I thought of that when I saw this piece of paper dangling between the staircases in the offices of the old Hunter Meatpacking plant. How, after the building has been repeatedly hit with various demolition equipment, did this piece of paper come to be dangling so peacefully in the wind?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

East St. Louis Stockyard District Preview

Here is a preview of much new material that I will be focusing on for the next couple of weeks:Above is the remnants of the Hunter Meatpacking Plant in East St. Louis.Above is an old B&O Railroad roundhouse buried in the underbrush along I-70.Above are a fragment of the original Nationa Stockyards, once the largest stockyards in the world.Above are the spectacular ruins of the Armour Meatpacking Plant, inside the powerhouse.And finally, the view of the city of St. Louis from the upper floor of the slaughterhouse.

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