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Patronize Local Stores on Black Friday if You’re Shopping

November 25, 2011 Economy, Featured, Parking 6 Comments

The great thing about  not having any money is I have no need to subject myself to the crowds of people trying to get a cheap flat-screen television at midnight.

ABOVE: Parking lot at The Galleria Mall on Sunday August 1, 2010

But part of me is tempted to take transit to places the The Galleria Mall just to see the vast areas of surface parking on the only day of the year that much parked is needed.

If I were shopping it wouldn’t be at a generic mall. I’d be at a locally owned store so my money would stay in the community. What are your thoughts on Black Friday & Cyber Monday?

-Steve Patterson


Readers Don’t Think the 2011 World Series Win Will Help Get Ballpark Village Built Sooner

November 9, 2011 Downtown, Economy, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy, Real Estate Comments Off on Readers Don’t Think the 2011 World Series Win Will Help Get Ballpark Village Built Sooner
ABOVE: Future site of "Ballpark Village" in July 2009

Before I get to the poll results from last week I want to ask local TV stations to stop saying they are broadcasting “live from Ballpark Village.” BPV doesn’t exist yet! The vacant site where BPV is proposed to be built certainly exists — but at this point no village exists. Cut it out, I got tired yelling at my television recently. Okay, not that I have that off my chest I can share the poll results from last  week.

  1. No 78 [56.12%]
  2. Hopefully 38 [27.34%]
  3. Maybe 12 [8.63%]
  4. Yes 7 [5.04%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 2 [1.44%]
  6. Other: 2 [1.44%]

The two other answers were:

  1. Yes, but at a much reduced scale
  2. It’s a nice spot for a park/gathering place. Do we need more buildings?

We need buildings because they define urban space in a downtown, we have an excess of open space.

– Steve Patterson


Readers Support Cost-Saving Measures for USPS

November 2, 2011 Economy, Politics/Policy 2 Comments
ABOVE: USPS truck on Locust

In the poll last week Readers showed support for changes at the U.S. Postal Service:

  1. Reduce delivery to five (5) days per week per the USPS plan 44 [43.56%]
  2. Privatize the postal service 17 [16.83%]
  3. Other: 16 [15.84%]
  4. Reduce delivery to four (4) days per week or less 14 [13.86%]
  5. Keep delivery six (6) days a week & raise first class cost up to $1:  9 [8.91%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 1 [0.99%]

Not surprising since you are online. These days government checks (pay, Social Security, Disability, etc) are direct deposited for most who receive them. But there are still many who eagerly await mail delivery six days a week.Privatization sounds good but as one comment on the original post pointed out, those in rural areas would get the short end of the stick. The USPS can deliver to the 40 household in my condo building much easier than 40 households in Franklin County or edge cities like Wentzville.

Here are the “other” answers provided by readers:

  1. Look into how top heavy the post office is and the financial abuse by the mgmt
  2. end the unusual and crippling pension funding levels that only apply to USPS
  3. Keep six days and raise bulk rates. I get 5-10 pieces of bulk a day.
  4. Charge more for junk mailings, reduce to 5 days. Don’t close rural offices
  5. Close it down. Take the money spent prossising mailand give every a PC
  6. stop performance bonuses to mgmt of all levels. stop paying unit to move every
  7. Pass HR 1351.
  8. go back to the way the PO was run prior to 2006 postal reform, get rid of congre
  9. Have OPM give the USPS the money they owe them
  10. Require the union to allow firings/layoffs
  11. get rid of 1 supervisor in each office
  12. Stop making the Postal Service prepay into the retirement fund
  13. does it really lose money? I though that’s mostly budget games.
  14. Reduce service and raise price to breakeven
  15. Reduce 5 day/wk but no deliver on Wed, mid week
  16. Close every single post office that doesn’t make a profit; see what people think

I’m well on my way to not needing the USPS at all. As more of us conduct out business online the USPS will continue to struggle. That realization explains a recent USPS ad called “hacked:”


Click here for tips on how to stop USPS junk mail.

– Steve Patterson


Guest Post: Old Man of Armour: A Last Look at The Armour Plant

September 8, 2011 Economy, Featured, Metro East 22 Comments

by Chris Andoe

I’ve spent a great deal of time documenting the collection of ruins that make up much of the East St. Louis area. It’s fascinating to see what happens to large masonry structures after fifty years of abandonment. The first couple of times the decay seems static but after a few seasons your eye begins to measure the steady progression.

ABOVE: Armour Packing plant, National City, IL, January 2010 by Chris Andoe

The site urban explorers find the most intriguing is the Armour Meat Packing Plant, which was the first of East St. Louis‘ big three plants to shutter, closing in 1959. Visiting this behemoth is a religious experience for many with its smokestacks, towering ornate machinery – some circa 1902 – incredible views, and endless areas to discover.

With a few flashlights you can descend into the labyrinth basement complete with deep watery pits, climb multiple levels taking in the glazed brickwork, and one explorer even documented his journey to the top of the smokestack where bricks came loose in his hands and he nearly fell to his death.

ABOVE: Satellite image of the abandoned Armour plant and the planned route of I-70, click to view in Google Maps.

The mystique around this place is accentuated because it’s long been difficult to find. You head north through East St. Louis, past the prostitutes strolling Route 3, make a right at nowhere, park along the isolated potholed road. Once on the property you trek the long convoluted pathways through thick vegetation before you reach it.

Nature has taken back the site, inside and out. Trees are firmly rooted on the roof, vines climb through windows, and a giant white owl waits in the rafters.

ABOVE: Armour Packing plant, National City, IL, June 2009 by Chris Andoe

In recent years the natural decay has been accelerated by the metal scrappers who have removed much of the flooring and disassembled some of the ornate equipment. On an intellectual level I’ve wondered why the thefts bother me so much. After all the building has been steadily falling for decades and is well past the point of being converted into a new use. The condition is terminal, and after half a century development is encroaching with the new I-70 slated to skirt the site. This hidden, mysterious treasure- long a beacon for explorers and thieves will be laid bare as a dangerously accessible, intolerable eyesore on newly visible, valuable property. Its days are numbered but the dismantling bothered me nonetheless.

After being away for seven months I was eager to see the ruins. I visited the neighboring Hunter Plant, slated for demolition, several sites in Downtown East St. Louis, and I saved the best for last. Sure enough the scrappers had stripped away even more of the personality but in light of recent severe weather I was surprised that the structure hadn’t fared too poorly.

As I was looking around my eyes locked with an old black man in an official looking uniform.

“Who told you you could be in here?” he demanded. I’ve always had ready-made replies in the event this would happen but in that moment I felt like one of the twelve year old kids in the movie Stand By Me. I simply replied “Nobody. I was just taking photos”. He instructed me to “get my crew and get out of here”.

I realized he thought I was a scrapper. He followed us closely as we walked the long overgrown road to the main street. I shared that I knew about the scrappers and also thought it was a shame. He then opened up. “They’re who I was hoping to catch!” he began. “They’re tearing this place apart”.

I had found a kindred spirit. This man loved this crumbling monstrosity even more that I did. After inquiring further I was astonished to learn that he had been one of the employees of Armour during its heyday, and when the plant shuttered he was the lone employee kept on as the caretaker for the site. Since 1959 he’s watched his coworkers leave for the last time, watched as sections of the roof crashed in, walls crumbled, supports failed, and people like myself climbed the building with abandon.

I had so many questions for him and asked if he’d speak with me for this piece. “I can’t really say nothin’, I’ve gotten in trouble in the past” he said. He did point to a few areas and told us how many people worked in each. He spoke of all the jobs that were there.

The overgrown lot littered with brush, bricks and debris gave way to the blinding white pavement of the brand new road. We were off the property. The old man with gray stubble, one blind eye and a sharp, pressed uniform had done his job.

ABOVE: Armour Packing plant, National City, IL, January 2010 by Chris Andoe

A few years back I had a dream that after a storm I went to check on the plant. As I approached I heard a snap, like a lone firecracker, then watched as the whole structure collapsed in slow motion before me- a spectacular sight- so vivid with the smokestacks splitting and the fire escape landing just feet from my body. That would have been a demise worthy of such a structure. Nestled in quiet vegetation and in the company of someone who loved it.

Just before we got in the car the caretaker pointed to a nearby dirt pile and said “That’s where the new highway’s comin’”.

All of us understood what that meant.

– Chris Andoe

Chris Andoe is a writer and community organizer who has divided his time between St. Louis and San Francisco for the past decade. He earned the moniker “The Emperor of St. Louis” as the crown wearing Master of Ceremonies for the zany Metrolink Prom, where hundreds of transit supporters pack the train for the city’s biggest mobile party. Andoe writes for St. Louis’ Vital Voice.


Post Offices Named After Two Prominent St. Louis African Americans on Closure List

Financial trouble at the Postal Service will soon hit the St. Louis area:

A number of St. Louis-area post offices have landed on a list of 3,700 retail offices the U.S. Postal Service is studying for possible closure to help cut its budget deficit.

The Postal Service, which has 32,000 retail offices nationwide, lost $8.5 billion last year and has already cut its payroll and closed retail locations. (Source)

Two of the St. Louis area post offices are located in depressed neighborhoods in north St. Louis. I had seen one before, but not the other.  I decided to see both up close.

ABOVE: Jordan W. Chambers, 63106 post office

My first question was, who are the people these locations are named after? I had seen the Jordan W. Chambers Post Office (above) in the last few years, although I didn’t know the name at the time.  Here is the answer for this one:

Chambers, Jordan W. — of St. Louis, Mo. Democrat. Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Missouri, 1944, 1952 (alternate), 1956, 1960. Presumed deceased. Burial location unknown. (Political Graveyard)

I checked Find-A-Grave and found more information, Jordan W. Chambers (1896-1962) is buried at Saint Peters Cemetary in Normandy:

Chambers was active in politics for many years. He worked in Ward 19 to organize precinct captains to ensure that all in his ward got out to vote. He organized the Young Democratic Club. Chambers owned the Peoples Undertaking Company in St. Louis–his political headquarters were next door. He was elected Constable and Democratic Committeeman of the 19th Ward in 1963, making the first Black Committeeman in St. Louis. He worked to get the Black vote for Harry S. Truman. Chambers worked tirelessly for better jobs for Blacks & was instrumental in the integration of the Circuit Court & the St. Louis Housing Authority. He owned Club Riviera–a meeting place for many big name stars and prominent politicians. He never retired from politics or civil rights work and when he died, Governor John Dalton gave the eulogy. President Kennedy and Vice-President Johnson sent telegrams of condolence.

Impressive! The 4,000sf post office bearing his name, at 901 N. Garrison Ave, was built in 1959, three years before his death. Was it named for him while still living?  This post office is located in the 19th ward where he was politically active. Chambers Park is located to the west.

ABOVE: The Gwen B. Giles (63112) post office is on the closure list

One of the first things I noticed when I visited the Gwen B. Giles post office located at 1409 Hamilton Ave was the nameplate attached to the building, likely covering the original name. City records online do not indicate the year the building was built, I’d guess sometime in the late 1930s based upon the detailing.

ABOVE: Gwen B. Giles from Missouri State Archives

Gwen B. Giles was born in Georgia in 1932, so the post office was named for at least one person before her:

Gwen B. Giles was the first African American woman to serve in the Missouri Senate. She lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and was elected senator in 1977. Giles was also the first woman and the first African American to be appointed St. Louis city assessor, a position she held from 1981 until her death. Gwen Giles devoted her life to public service. She worked steadfastly to secure civil rights and improve living conditions for the citizens of St. Louis. (Source)

Giles died in 1986:

During her distinguished career in politics served as Missouri’s first African American female senator, representing the Fourth District, where she chaired the Interstate Cooperation Committee and was a member of several other legislative committees. She was also the first woman and the first African American to be appointed St. Louis city assessor, a position she held from 1981 until her death. She devoted her life to public service working steadfastly to secure civil rights and improve living conditions for the citizens of St. Louis. She came to St. Louis in 1935, later graduated from Saint Louis University. Beginning in the 1960s, she promoted involvement of St. Louis religious leaders in the civil rights movement. She was a member of the Archdiocesan Commission on Human Rights. In 1973, St. Louis Mayor John Poelker appointed her commissioner of human relations. In this position, she updated a city ordinance to protect women, the elderly and people with disabilities, and promoted passage of the 1976 Comprehensive Civil Rights Ordinance. Among her accomplishments was the appointment by President Jimmy Carter to a task force to assist in selecting talented women for positions in the federal government. She died in her St. Louis home in 1986 from lung cancer. A park and a U.S. Post office have been named after her to honor her achievements and involvement in the community. She will continue to be a pioneer as well as a role model for women in generations to come. (Find-A-Grave)

Also very impressive! Senator Giles was part of the fight to keep the Homer G. Phillips Hospital open:

On August 17, in a massive display of force, city officials sent 120 policemen in riot gear to Phillips Hospital to deal with approximately one hundred protesters during the final transfer of the remaining forty-seven Phillips acute-care patients to City Hospital. Police arrested seventeen pro- testers under charges of failure to obey a police officer when at least fifty people sat down in the main hospital driveway to prevent transfer vans from leaving. Pearlie Evans, aide to U.S. Repre- sentative William Clay, was present at the protest; her sentiments, quoted in the Post-Dispatch, captured the feeling of that day: “the squad was brought in to overpower poor, helpless people whose only concern was that they have some place to go near their homes when they get sick.” Missouri State Senator Gwen B. Giles, also quoted in the Post-Dispatch, took note: “Conway declared war on black St. Louis today.” (Source: ‘‘To Serve the Community Best”: Reconsidering Black Politics in the Struggle to Save Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, 1976-1984)

“[Virvus] Jones was appointed assessor in April 1986, after the death of Gwen B. Giles” per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch November 23, 1988.

– Steve Patterson