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Remembering Peter Fischer, Improving Citygarden

August 1, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Remembering Peter Fischer, Improving Citygarden

Peter Fischer, the reserved head of the Gateway Foundation, died a year ago Saturday 7/23. His best known work is Citygarden, which opened June 30, 2009:

Citygarden started with his Gateway Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting art and urban design. His affinity for unpretentious art is reflected throughout the park. Park patrons can climb on the sculptures, dart around the water plumes and swim in the fountains.

A frequent visitor to the park, Mr. Fischer especially loved watching kids splash in the water features. When safety concerns arose, he proposed to continue to allow swimming but hired lifeguards to keep watch.

The world soon took note of the park. A New York Times piece praised the park, and numerous awards were given. In 2011, Citygarden won its biggest award, the ULI Amanda Burden Urban Open Space award. (Post-Dispatch)

Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011
Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011

I was there for the ribbon cutting , I think he was too. But he wasn’t on the stage giving a speech, he always proffered to remain in the background.

One of the few times he and I talked was shortly after Citygarden opened, I saw him sitting and observing people. I rolled over and chatted briefly. I got an email from him once — just before a public Gateway Mall Advisory Board meeting — he didn’t want me taking/posting pictures of the model we’d be shown for Kiener Plaza.

I love Citygarden, visiting often. However, it’s not perfect.

The only restroom is inside the restaurant, so these are on the 10th Street (West) side.
The only restroom is inside the restaurant, so these are on the 10th Street (West) side.

As I’ve stated before, I’d like to see the block to the West joined via the Hallway walkway with a public restroom.

There was no thought about communicating to pedestrians on the hallway about traffic on 9th Street, so Fischer had it closed to vehicles.
There was no thought about communicating to pedestrians on the hallway about traffic on 9th Street, so Fischer had it closed to vehicles.
Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles
Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles

I chose not too pursue the opening of 9th Street while Peter Fischer was still alive — I knew better. But now, more than a year after his death, I think the subject deserves attention. But it’s not as simple as just moving the barricades out of the way. There’s no way to communicate to pedestrians that Northbound vehicles on 9th Street have a green light.

One way streets function only in pairs — one each direction. Eighth and 10th streets are both one-way Southbound.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Opposed To Licenses To Help Homeless

Homelessness is a problem everywhere around the world, though not at the same rates.

What’s even more surprising than the discrepancy in homeless populations between the two cities is the fact that Tokyo, at 13.4 million people, is larger than New York City (8.4 million people) and Los Angeles (3.9 million people) combined. While the rate of homelessness in New York is currently 67 for every 10,000 people, in Tokyo there is just one homeless individual for every 10,000 city residents.

Why the massive discrepancy in rates of homelessness between two of the most populous cities in the world?

As with most socioeconomic phenomena, there are a number of contributing factors. First and foremost, income inequality is a massive and growing problem in the United States, while Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries. One principal measure of income inequality is the GINI coefficient, a measure from 0.0 (perfect equality) to 1.0 (perfect inequality). Recent surveys in the two countries found a GINI coefficient in Japan of 0.32, while in the US that rate was 0.41. However, income inequality can’t be the only explanation for Japan’s success combatting homelessness, especially considering that the country’s inequality index has actually worsened over the past few decades.

Where Japan is really surpassing the United States, instead, is in the social safety net it offers its citizens. (Think Progress)

Our safety net is full of holes, allowing far too many people to become homeless.

Richard Gere recently portrayed a homeless man.

Two hours of trying to find a place to sleep, trying to get identification to receive benefits.

Here are the results from the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree? St. Louis should require those giving food to the homeless to have a license?

  • Strongly agree 8 [18.18%]
  • Agree 4 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [2.27%]
  • Neither agree or disagreei 2 [4.55%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [6.82%]
  • Disagree 8 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [34.09%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 3 [6.82%]

Nearly 60% disagree with requiring a license, I’m in the middle. Every day I pass the homeless and the criminals that prey on them, I often see a new person with a suitcase. A church group unloading baloney sandwiches from a trunk isn’t helpful as a warm meal indoors. Those doing so think it’ll help them after they’ve died, but I’d rather offer real help in the present.

I’ve helped two people who were homeless in downtown St. Louis. The first lived in a property I owned for over a year as he got a job and rebuilt his life. He’s remarried and they recently bought a home together. The more recent person is still struggling, but he was able to leave St. Louis a few years ago. I brought both food — fresh fruit. They’ve both been in our loft, guests for a home-cooked meal. It’s rare that I meet anyone on the street that I feel comfortable with inviting into our home.

The sight of crowds of homeless, and those who prey on them, crowding around a car/van must further lower the spirits of those in that situation. Of course, we don’t want anyone dropping dead due to starvation, but all of society would be better off if we improved our safety net and then improved our ability to get people off the street and into housing. It’s also cheaper.

But this is St. Louis, we don’t do what’s best. In June police drove into the park between Soldiers Memorial and the library to run off the homeless.

June 23
June 23
June 28
June 28

Like most parks downtown, this one no longer has any benches. No reason for anyone to be there.

Those newly on the street need to be housed quickly before they become accustomed to life on the streets. An overnight cot isn’t the same thing. This requires social workers. The license bill shouldn’t become law, but it would be nice if those who want to help took action to actually help. Volunteer at places that feed the homeless warm meals indoors, provide stable housing, etc.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Police Headquarters Opened Two Years Ago Today

July 19, 2016 Crime, Downtown, Featured 2 Comments

On Saturday July 19, 2014 — two years ago today —  the St. Louis Metropolitan Police showed off their new headquarters on Olive between 19th (which they had closed) and 20th

Saturday morning before the ribbon cutting
Saturday morning before the ribbon cutting
The open house began while the festivities were still going on outside. We started at the top, 7th floor, and worked our way down floor by floor.
The open house began while the festivities were still going on outside. We started at the top, 7th floor, and worked our way down floor by floor.

The building isn’t new construction, it was previously an office building.  On the day of the police headquarters open house they had some vehicles out front.

A vintage police vehicle
A vintage police vehicle
And what appears to be a former military vehicle
And what appears to be a former military vehicle

Nobody questioned the military vehicle out front, but three weeks later Michael Brown was shot &  killed in Ferguson. Many others have been shot by police in the last two years.

Recent shootings of black men in Baton Rouge & St. Paul, followed by the shooting of police officers in Dallas, Ballwin, and Baton Rouge, demonstrate we still have considerable work to do.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Reuse Potential If The USPS Ever Moved Processing Out Of St. Louis’ Main Post Office

A week ago I posted some Historical Background on St. Louis’ Main Post Office, today I want to talk about the current building and options should the USPS ever decide to move processing to a newer, larger, facility. I have no idea if such a move is even being considered — this is a hypothetical exercise.

Let’s start in front and walk around…

The Main Post Office at 1720 Market opened in 1937
The Main Post Office at 1720 Market opened in 1937
In the 1970s 17th Street from Clark to Market was vacated
In the 1970s 17th Street from Clark to Market was vacated
On Walnut looking West at 16th Street side of huge post office addition
On Walnut looking West at 16th Street side of huge post office addition
Looking North on 16th, the post office addition on the left and Kiel parking garage on the right
Looking North on 16th, the post office addition on the left and Kiel parking garage on the right
The Southeast corner
The Southeast corner
Looking West on Clark from 16th
Looking West on Clark from 16th
Truck area on the South side, facing Clark
Truck area on the South side, facing Clark
Older brick building on Clark
Older brick building on Clark
Looking North from 18th & Clark. The corner building isn't attached to the the main building
Looking North from 18th & Clark. The corner building isn’t attached to the the main building in the background
The Clark building was started in 1939, two years after the main post office opened
The Clark building was started in 1939, two years after the main post office opened

Everything from 1909 is long gone, including 17th & Walnut streets.

I'd long assumed that Walnut existed between 16th-18th, but in 1909 it didn't exist between 16th-17th
I’d long assumed that Walnut existed between 16th-18th, but in 1909 it didn’t exist between 16th-17th

There are a couple of ways to go with the post office, keep the 1070s addition or remove it. What could be another use for the windowless addition? One thought is an indoor grow from for produce or marijuana (medical or recreational). With LED lighting it might do well. The truck access could aid in distribution.

But I like the idea of razing every bit of the 1970s addition.

I picture a restaurant in the lobby of the post office, with outdoor seating on the raised terrace out front. Perhaps residential in the back portion?

Seventeenth & Walnut streets could both be continued through, 17th South to Clark and Walnut West to the new 17th. New buildings could front onto Market, 16th, 17th, and Clark. New building(s) facing Clark between 16th-17th and the 1939 building a 18th could begin to transform Clark. This could help with ideas I’ve stared before:

This could lead to filling in the wasteland of parking lots between the light rail line and the elevated I-64.  Again, this is hypothetical in case the USPS moves mail processing in the future.

— Steve Patterson

 

Historical Background on St. Louis’ Main Post Office

Last month I posted about how the employee line for the main Post Office parking garage was two blocks long — costing workers time & money — and polluting. My point was to find a way to reduce/eliminate this shift-change queue. However, a few comments were classic strawman fallacy — saying I wanted this post office to close — moving the sorting & processing jobs to a suburban. Uh…no. Again, my point was to collectively find a way to get people to their jobs without having to queue up just to park. That said, the USPS might decide to move mail process out of downtown to more modern facilities. If they do — it won’t be because I don’t like the daily queue for the parking garage.

The possibility of the processing moving got me thinking about the history of the Main Post Office on this site. I knew online city records didn’t have the year built, so I’d need to investigate beyond a quick online search. Buildings from this era usually had cornerstones — people weren’t embarrassed to have their names displayed on them for eternity. Though I’d never seen a cornerstone here before, I knew one had to exist.

I spotted it, but couldn't get closer in my wheelchair. I returned home to get my cane.
I spotted it, but couldn’t get closer in my wheelchair. I returned home to get my cane.
1935 and architects of Klipstein & Rathmann should be sufficient to find out more
1935 and architects of Klipstein & Rathmann should be sufficient to find out more

Back home I found online that an article from October 1935 talks about the design. So off to the 3rd floor genealogy department at the Central Library to find it on microfilm.  Note: searching Post-Dispatch articles 1874-1922 can be done online through a free database, using your library card account for access.

On October 20, 1935 the design was shown in the Post-Dispatch. From the caption: "The present Main Post Office, Eighteenth and Walnut streets, will be wrecked to make way for part of the new structure when it has progressed sufficiently to accommodate postal offices."
On October 20, 1935 the design was shown in the Post-Dispatch. From the caption: “The present Main Post Office, Eighteenth and Walnut streets, will be wrecked to make way for part of the new structure when it has progressed sufficiently to accommodate postal offices.”

So we know the Main Post Office in October 1935 was at 18th & Walnut, from the article:

The excavation and foundation work have been completed for some time. It is estimated that it will take 900 calendar days, approximately two and a half years, to complete the superstructure. The architects are Klipstein & Rathmann of St. Louis, Engineers are W. J. Knight & Co, on structure. John D. Falvey on mechanical work and Joseph A. Osborn on electrical work. 

An earlier post office, at 18th & Walnut, was razed to build the present one between 17th-18th.  An older post office annex building still exists between the Union Station train shred and 18th Street.

Foundations done for some time? An earlier paragraph explains the delay:

Construction of the superstructure was delayed by the Supreme Court decision on the NRA which necessitated asking for new bids. Representative John J. Cochran of St. Louis has been in constant communication with the procurement division of the Treasury and with the Post Office Department in an effort to speed up the project. 

NRA? A different one.

National Recovery Administration (NRA), U.S. government agency established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to stimulate business recovery through fair-practice codes during the Great Depression. The NRA was an essential element in the National Industrial Recovery Act (June 1933), which authorized the president to institute industry-wide codes intended to eliminate unfair trade practices, reduce unemployment, establish minimum wages and maximum hours, and guarantee the right of labour to bargain collectively.

The agency ultimately established 557 basic codes and 208 supplementary codes that affected about 22 million workers. Companies that subscribed to the NRA codes were allowed to display a Blue Eagle emblem, symbolic of cooperation with the NRA. Although the codes were hastily drawn and overly complicated and reflected the interests of big business at the expense of the consumer and small businessman, they nevertheless did improve labour conditions in some industries and also aided the unionization movement. The NRA ended when it was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1935, but many of its provisions were included in subsequent legislation. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

The National Recovery Administration was created in 1933, but ended on May 27, 1935 when the Supreme Court unanimously interpreted the Commerce Clause differently than Roosevelt in A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States.

One more quote from the article:

Besides serving the postal needs of St. Louis, the new building will be a distributing center for all postal supplies, machinery ns equipment for post offices throughout the Southwest. 

The new post office opened in 1937. so that takes care of the history, right? Not quite.  From the 1935 photo caption we know the previous Main Post Office was at 18th & Walnut, but because the current post office Walnut Street doesn’t exist between 16th-18th.  So I turned to Sanborn Fire Insurance maps:

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Company, established in 1867, compiled and published maps of U.S. cities and towns for the fire insurance industry to assess the risk of insuring a particular property. The maps are large scale plans of a city or town drawn at a scale of 50 feet to an inch, offering detailed information on the use made of commercial and industrial buildings, their size, shape and construction material. Some residential areas are also mapped. The maps show location of water mains, fire alarms and fire hydrants. They are color-coded to identify the structure (adobe, frame, brick, stone, iron) of each building. 
Between 1955 and 1978, the Library of Congress withdrew duplicate sheets and atlases from their collection and offered them to selected libraries. Maps for Missouri towns and cities were given to the MU Libraries. Documenting the layout of 390 Missouri cities from 1883 to 1951, the University of Missouri-Columbia Ellis Library Special Collections Department has digitized 6,798 of the maps for Missouri cities from 1880 to 1922.

This Project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as Administered by the Missouri State Library, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.

Most of the ones for St. Louis are from 1907-1911.

This December 1908 view has Market on the North (top), 16th on the East (right), Clark on the South (bottom), and 18th on the West (left). I'd long assumed that Walnut existed between 16th-18th, but in 1909 it didn't exist between 16th-17th. A street called Moore runs parallel to 17th. Click image to view larger version.
This December 1908 view has Market on the North (top), 16th on the East (right), Clark on the South (bottom), and 18th on the West (left). I’d long assumed that Walnut existed between 16th-18th, but in 1909 it didn’t exist between 16th-17th. A street called Moore runs parallel to 17th. Click image to view larger version.
Trying to find the previous post office I zoomed in on 18th & Walnut
Trying to find the previous post office I zoomed in on 18th & Walnut

In the block bounded by Market, 17th, Walnut, and 18th is Excelsior Brewery. The only thing South of Walnut is a Union Electric building with vacant land. My unconfirmed assumption was a post office was built after December 1908 o the block South of Walnut. So the new post office replaced the brewery? That was my initial hunch, but it’s far more complicated.

An article from October 21, 1917 has the headline: “$1,000,000 HOTEL PLANNED TO FACE UNION STATION”. The “skyscraper type” hotel would have 450-500 rooms, to be built by someone from Oklahoma.  From that article:

The site, which is owned by the St, Louis Brewing Association, will be acquired either under a 99-year lease or by purchase outright. Norman Jones, secretary and treasurer of the brewing association, stated the owners are not interested in the project, but are desirous of leasing the site for improvement with a building of the nature stated. He said the association would either lease or sell the plot, and for that reason it had declined to tie it up with short-term leases. He stated that the association had plans, several years ago, for a large hotel for this plot, but that they had been lost. 

The Market street frontage is filled with a conglomeration of small stores, picture theaters and saloons. The rear, or Walnut street side of the block, was occupied by the Excelsior Brewery, the building of which was recently razed. 

Several years ago a group of Chicago capitalists head this block under consideration for improvement with a large hotel structure, but the project collapsed when Europe was plunged into war. 

This 1917 article says this hotel would be compatible with the St. Louis Real Estate Exchange’s plans for a plaza in the catty-corner block bounded by 18th, Market, 19th, and Chestnut. Side note: that plan eventually doubled in size to 20th, it was fined by a 1923 bond issue. The centerpiece Meeting of the Waters fountain & sculpture were completed in 1939 — two years after the new Post Office opened.

This July 6, 1902 drawing on caves in the area shows the storefronts on the left and Union Station on the right
This July 6, 1902 drawing on caves in the area shows the storefronts on the left and Union Station on the right

An article from November 11. 1917 says an $800,000 13-story hotel with 700 rooms was to be built on the Northeast corner of 18th & Market.

A brewery previously existed where Union Station was built, this was operated by the Uhrigs — who earlier had opened a beer garden at Jefferson & Washington.

  • A Julius Winkelmeyer and Frederich Stifel moved there small operations to 18th & Market in 1846, it was started the year before at Convent & 2nd.

Ok, so both 1917 hotel plans failed, the brewing association sold the Southeast corner years later for the post office?  Yes and no, respectively.

Ever since the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis opened Union Station on September 1, 1894, there was an effort to “improve” the appearance of the blocks facing it. Prohibition lasted from 1920-1933. A week ago I found an article suggesting they had bought the Excelsior Brewery property, my assumption is they sold or donated it for the new post office.

At some point I may return to dig more into the history of this intersection, but I’ll stop for now.

— Steve Patterson

 

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