Home » History/Preservation » Recent Articles:

St. Louis Has Faced Deadly Epidemics Before

March 20, 2020 Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on St. Louis Has Faced Deadly Epidemics Before

My last three posts had nothing to do with Coronavirus — not an easy task! While I’ve given you a break here it’s nearly impossible to escape news on new infections, closures…and deaths.

Watching the news as this epidemic worsens I’ve been thinking about earlier epidemics St. Louis has faced. Namely the cholera epidemics of 1849 & 1866.

The first known cholera in St. Louis was in 1832. More than 300 people died that summer, and more died during each of the following three summers. However, it was the epidemic of 1849 that wiped out nearly 10 percent of the city’s growing population. That epidemic occurred between April and August. Immigrants were arriving in St. Louis by the steamboat-load, and neither the boats nor the city had any sewer system. The combination was deadly. One source says more than 120 people died of cholera in April. The Missouri Republican newspaper normally reported five or six deaths a week, but during the epidemic, weekly deaths ranged from 150-640. On July 18 alone, 88 burials were reported — not by name, but by how many were buried in each cemetery.

The number of deaths dropped dramatically in August. The official death toll from cholera is 4,317 but is probably not accurate as many people were buried outside the city limits.

While cholera was trying to kill St. Louis with disease, another tragedy struck May 17 of that year that almost wiped out the entire town. (NewsTribune)

Wow, 1849 was a tough year in St. Louis with a fire destroying most buildings and boats plus cholera killing 10% of the population. Fewer were killed in 1866, though still in the thousands.

Prior to 1849 St. Louis leaders realized the need for a rural cemetary beyond the city limits. It opened just in time.

Bellefontaine Cemetary contains many beautiful mausoleum, such as the Wainwright Tomb.

St. Louis was hit by the cholera epidemic in June of 1849, creating an even greater crisis as the death toll rose and land for burials diminished. The city’s rural cemetery, established just prior to the epidemic, could not have been timed more appropriately. By the early part of July, the epidemic had so alarmed the community that everyone who was financially able to do so, except the mayor, fled from St. Louis with their families. By the end of August, a whopping 4,317 people — nearly seven percent of the city’s population — had perished. (Bellefontaine Cemetary)

Glad cholera is a thing of the past….but it’s not.

From October 2018:

Many people think of cholera as a 19th century disease. This is true for high-income countries. But elsewhere, cholera never went away. The current pandemic – the 7th that has been recorded – has been ongoing since 1961. It is the world’s longest running pandemic.

Over the last year, cholera (or suspected cholera) outbreaks have struck in Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, India, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, while the long-running outbreak in Haiti continues.

Cholera sickens approximately 2.9 million people every year, and kills 95 000. The disease is endemic in more than 47 countries across the globe. In Africa alone, more than 40 million people live in cholera “hotspots” where outbreaks are a regular occurrence. Factors driving the outbreaks include climate change, forced migration, prolonged conflict, urbanization, population growth, and poor access to health services. Fundamentally though, cholera is the result of a lack of adequate water and sanitation.

Cholera is spread when people consume contaminated food or water. To put it bluntly, cholera spreads when people have no choice but to eat food or drink water that contain faeces. It is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. Today more than 2 billion people worldwide drink water from sources contaminated with faeces, and 2.4 billion are without basic sanitation facilities. (World Health Organization)

Ongoing since 1961. Perspective.

Yes, our routines have been changed. Some will face financial hardships. Be thankfully we don’t have feces in our water supply.

And hopefully due to modern science this won’t be as bad as prior epidemics & pandemics.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Scenes of Historic Wonder: St. Louis’ by Jaime Bourassa & Cameron Collins

November 25, 2019 Books, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on New Book — ‘Scenes of Historic Wonder: St. Louis’ by Jaime Bourassa & Cameron Collins

Local publisher Reedy Press comes out with many great books every year, usually on a specific subject.  For example 2015’s ‘Downtown St. Louis’ by NiNi Harris (a 2nd edition was just released). Today’s book is different, the subjects are varied. The only common element is they’re oddities.

Quirky, provocative, awe-inspiring, and just plain bizarre describe the scenes captured in this often comical, always fascinating pictorial. The images in this singular collection depict one-of-a-kind moments that we’ll never see again, mainly because they reflect a specific place in time in history. Glimpses of everyday work, family, and public life not to mention scenes of leisure, sport, and entertainment convey what made each period unique. Informative captions place each scene in context and give substance to moments that range from mundane to wondrous and, in some cases, downright wacky. (Reedy Press)

Here’s a list of how the many topics are organized:

  • Old St. Louis
  • Transportation
  • World’s Fair
  • Sports
  • Industry and Innovation
  • Fun and Games
  • Education
  • Everyday Life
  • Hard Times
  • Brews and Food

In flipping through this book the last couple of weeks I’ve learned new things about St. Louis’ history, seen pictures I’d not seen before.

Here’s a small fraction of the subjects covered:

  • Mound City, the opening subject is Native-American mounds that used to exist on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River.
  • Kayser’s Lake, at  9th & Biddle, was one of many stagnant ponds to eventually be drained to get rid of disease and make room for development.
  • The Campbell House Museum opened in the 1940s, but they didn’t have a good record of what the interior looked like in the past — but in 1973 a photo album from 1885 was found!
  • In 1910 a biplane flew under a span of the Eads Bridge (obviously not during flooding).
  • The 1906 demolition of the Farris wheel used in the 1904 World’s Fair, which had been used in 1893 fair in Chicago. Residents at the time considered it an “eyesore.”
  • A steeply-banked wooden motordrome (motorcycle race track) used to exist at Grand and Meramec — that I new. The photograph, however, it not one I’d seem before.
  • I also knew the zoo’s original location was on the east end of  our current Fairgrounds Park (Grand & Natural Bridge), but the photo used is new to me.
  • 3-story outhouse for tenements. Yes, a great photo of a 3-story outhouse structure with walkways to adjacent tenement buildings.
  • St. Louis’ historic Chinatown area, commonly known as Hop Alley, razed in the 1960s for parking for the new baseball stadium.
  • Homer G. Phillips Hospital, for African-Americans, was the result of segregation. It helped train thousands of black doctors and nurses. The photo used isn’t a building exterior shot, but a group of professionals inside working.
  • Four Courts Building, 1870-1917, occupied the block bounded by Clark, 11th, Spruce, 12th (Tucker).

If you’re a St. Louis history buff this book needs to be on your coffee table or bookshelf.

— Steve Patterson

 

A Modern Addition To A Historic 1859 Structure

August 12, 2019 Accessibility, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on A Modern Addition To A Historic 1859 Structure

The library building at the Missouri Botanical Gardens is one of the original structures from when Henry Shaw opened his private gardens to the public in 1859 — 160 years ago.   It’s a small structure, as the gardens expanded it simply outgrew it. It was rarely opened after being closed.

Since Shaw’s death in 1889, the building has served many functions—from research lab to offices to restaurant. Since its closing in 1982, it’s only open on special occasions, such as Shaw’s birthday celebration each July 24.  (Missouri Botanical Garden)

I was fortunate enough to get to see the interior on a rare opening on July 10, 2011.  This meant leaving my wheelchair as the bottom of the steps and using the handrails to walk up the steps. It was worth the effort.

The Museum Building: Commissioned by Henry Shaw in 1858, this neoclassical building was designed by George I. Barnett and modeled after a building at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England. Originally, this building served as a small natural history museum, and housed the library.
Interior in June 2011

They planned a restoration project and addition to make the building accessible. Adding onto a significant historic building, especially one designed by a noted architect, is very tricky. Most people, I think, probably assume it’s best to use the same materials & style  — to try to blend in. That’s the opposite of what is recommended!

Instead you want to use modern materials from current times. It’s best to not do irreversible damage where adding on.

This view shows the original on the left with the 2018 addition on the right. A glass connector attaches addition to the historic. South facade.

I’ll let the architects behind the project explain the addition:

The 2,150 square foot addition is designed with a contemporary use of stone, distinguishing it from the existing building and reflecting current building technologies and materiality.  A glass volume creates a formal entry on the north façade while the south façade is comprised of a modern limestone finish.  The limestone masses define transparent entries both on the north and south facades.  As a whole, the addition is simple, yet unique; providing much-needed access and facilities in a building that subtly complements the original historic structure. (Christner)

As you approach the historic main entrance from the North you’re directed toward the left.

You see this sign first.
You turn and see the addition, the garage on the left is old — but not historic.
Approaching the entrance you can see through to the South entrance. This view shows an upper floor of glass walls.
Looking back North from inside the upper level — the glass box is where the stairs come up. The elevator is behind me.
No matter how you get up one level, this is what you see. A little bit of the outside wall is now inside. A former window becomes the opening into the main historic space.
This is looking North, toward the original main entrance doors.
This is the view looking South. The new addition is accessed at the back left, just past the bookcase. The upper level mezzanine is not open to the public.
In the back (south) room a vaulted ceiling had been hidden for decades by a dropped plaster celling.
Built-in shutters on the sides of the windows in the back space.
Back at the South side you can see how stone on the addition conceals the elevator.

The addition not only provides access to the historic spaces, it also provides much-needed restrooms & drinking fountains on the East side of the garden. It opened last year, but it was only recently I got to see & experience it.

I’m so glad so many parents use baby strollers in public, it’s an added incentive to makes spaces accessible to everyone. Kudos to everyone involved with this project.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Michael O.D. Brown May 20, 1996 – August 9, 2014

August 9, 2019 Featured, Ferguson, History/Preservation Comments Off on Michael O.D. Brown May 20, 1996 – August 9, 2014

Five years ago the world learned where Ferguson Missouri was located because a young black man was unnecessarily killed by a white police officer. We’ve seen it happen over and over since.

Days later roses in the center of Canfield Drive ended at the spot where Brown’s body was left for four hours the afternoon Saturday August 9th, 2014
A section of the Canfield Drive sidewalk was replaced, along with a plaque. August 2016 photo.
9/7/16

The Urban League built a new facility on the site of the nearby burned out QT, there also included a plaque. August 2017 photos below.

ADA-compliant accessible route from public sidewalk to Urban League building set back behind parking.
Bench along route, before building
Plaque beneath bench

I have thoughts on proposed development in Ferguson & Dellwood, but I’ll share about those another day. Today I pause and think about Michael Brown and the too-long list of others who were unarmed but died in the hands of police. Hopefully in my lifetime I’ll witness the end of such discrimination.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Historic Missouri Roadsides, 2nd Edition’ by Bill Hart

July 26, 2019 Books, Featured, History/Preservation, Missouri Comments Off on New Book — ‘Historic Missouri Roadsides, 2nd Edition’ by Bill Hart

I’ve posted many times about day/weekend trips my husband and I have taken in small towns in Illinois & Missouri. Now we have a beautiful new hardcover book to guide us exploring more of Missouri. We especially like “two-lane” trips, as interstates are so boring.

Who hasn’t heard the call of the open road and felt the desire to get out of the city and see the beauty of the Show-Me State? Historic Missouri Roadsides offers all the history, recommendations, and itineraries you need to make the most of a picturesque trip down a two-lane road or highway. Richly illustrated with photographs from the author’s own collection, you’ll find tours of varying lengths, most beginning near Kansas City or St. Louis. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a local “staycationer,” you’ll want to check out these tours like Route 79 along the Mississippi River or El Camino Real leading down to the Missouri Bootheel. Don’t miss the Route 24 tour through Excelsior Springs and across the state into Ralls County or a chance to see the Osage Hills and Prairies in Laclede County. Find insider’s tips on the best locally owned businesses, restaurants, and lodging along the way with character and a hometown feel. The second edition of the book offers even more destination trips including Fulton, Sedalia, the Boonslick area, the Arcadia Valley, Glasgow, and St. Joseph. Bill Hart takes the wheel and shows you the very best of the roads from St. Charles County to old Route 66. Thumb a ride through this beautiful guide to enjoy all that small town Missouri has to offer. (Reedy Press)

I like the organization, with suggested groupings of towns and interesting back routes between them. Hart suggests using a free Missouri state map, or a printed atlas. I’ll stick to using maps on my phone connected to our car’s screen — with “avoid highways” turned on.  Each area has places to eat, stay, visit, and to do — very helpful. Often our trips are based on a cafe in a town many miles away from St. Louis. Food tourism.

Thumbing though the book & scanning the index I’ve learned so much about Missouri. For example, I can finally afford to visit Paris!  Paris…Missouri.  According to Wikipedia it was platted in 1831 and named after another Paris. Paris…Kentucky.

This hardcover bill is filled with many photographs. It’s available from St. Louis’ Left-Bank Books (in stock!), St. Louis-based publisher Reedy Press, Amazon, and others.

— Steve Patterson

 

Advertisement



FACEBOOK POSTS

This message is only visible to admins.

Problem displaying Facebook posts.
Click to show error

Error: An access token is required to request this resource.
Type: OAuthException
Solution: See here for how to solve this error

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe