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Restaurant Space Available In Historic Union Market

January 28, 2019 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Local Business Comments Off on Restaurant Space Available In Historic Union Market

Union Market, North Broadway,  is an interesting building.

Union Market in February 2010. New floors were added for hotel rooms.

It is considered a local landmark.

Mauran, Russell and Crowell designed the market in a Eclectic Revival Style in 1924.

One of only four extant market buildings remaining in St. Louis, Union Market was constructed in 1924-25 as the city´s largest, most architecturally significant and functionally progressive market. Occupying a full city block, the building´s strong presence and individuality are established by bold rhythms of large Gothic arches and battered buttressing at the lower stories. Speckled buff brick curtain walls are handsomely accented by horizontal bands of terra cotta ornament. The three-story garage above the market space was one of the City´s early indoor parking facilities.   For over five decades, Union Market has served as one of the City´s two principal markets and has continued a tradition of marketing established on the same site during the Civil War.  Union Market is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (St. Louis City Landmark #103)

More on the building, including pre-hotel photos on the early 80s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. As a public market, it was a failure (read nomination). It’s had a tough life, see timeline and lease battle details.

On December 31, 2018 the hotel restaurant, J.F. Sanfilippo’s Italian Restaurant, closed after 28 years.

J.F. Sanfilippo’s Italian Restaurant will close after service on Dec. 31, owner Joe Sanfilippo announced Tuesday. The restaurant has operated inside the Drury Inn & Suites at 705 North Broadway downtown since February 1991. Sanfilippo tells Off the Menu a number of factors went into the decision to close, including the departure of major companies from downtown over the years to the arrival this decade of Ballpark Village. (Post-Dispatch)

No doubt the reduction of the downtown workforce, Ballpark Village, and fewer conventions have had an impact. My only time in this building was on Saturday April 21, 2012 — for dinner solo using a Groupon.

At 7:22pm I took this photo of the empty 80s looking dining room.
At 7:50pm I photographed my pasta con broccoli.
And at 8:10pm I photographed my dessert.

As I recall, the food & service met or exceeded my expectations. The place just felt dated…bad 80s dated. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t close earlier than NYE. I wish them the best of luck at their Chesterfield location.

The closed J.F. Sanfilippo’s Italian Restaurant earlier this month

I do hope someone will open a new restaurant in this space — after changing the interior. XFL games begin in one year.

— Steve Patterson

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Readers Want the Impossible: Amtrak Trains at St. Louis Union Station

November 21, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, Planning & Design, Transportation, Travel Comments Off on Readers Want the Impossible: Amtrak Trains at St. Louis Union Station
Grand Hall in St. Louis Union Station

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll readers overwhelmingly indicated they’d consider using Amtrak if trains departed/arrived at St. Louis Union Station.

Q: Agree or disagree: I’d consider taking Amtrak if trains arrived/departed at St. Louis Union Station

  • Strongly agree: 22 [53.66%]
  • Agree: 6 [14.63%]
  • Somewhat agree: 2 [4.88%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 5 [12.2%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Disagree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Strongly disagree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Well, to the nearly 75% who agreed I have some bad news for you. Amtrak trains will never use Union Station again. Ever.

For more than 28 years I’ve lived in St. Louis I’ve heard people suggesting the return of Amtrak to Union Station and for 28 years I’ve just been struck by a complete lack of understanding about rail service and station design.

The decline of trail [rail] travel began following World War II, as traffic dropped significantly, even while railroads began to update their passenger fleets with new equipment in the 1950s hoping to retain passengers and ward off ever increasing competition from the automobile and airplane (the development of jet propulsion only worsened the situation).  Technically, passenger rail travel peaked in this country during the first two decades of the 20th century and slowly declined thereafter, particularly with the onset of the Great Depression.  However, it also did not help that President Dwight Eisenhower enacted the Interstate Highway System in 1956 (also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act).  By that time railroads were beginning to see the writing on the wall and cutback their services, with most giving it up altogether by the start of Amtrak in 1971. (American-Rail.com)

By the time the stock market crashed in 1929 St. Louis Union Station had been open for 35 years. This was a poor time to be the largest U.S. railroad station. The last train pulled out from the huge train shed 49 years later.  The main building (from “Headhouse”) hadn’t been used for nearly a decade. With only a few trains per day having such a huge facility made no sense. It would’ve happened sooner if another option existed.

Under the big shed in 2012

You might point out the Kansas City still uses their Union Station for Amtrak service. Yes, yes they do.  It’s a through-station, not an end-station.

Through-stations and end-stations are completely different design and planning problems.  They generate completely different kinds of space and completely different sensations of arrival and departure.  It’s pointless, for example, to compare New York’s dreary Penn Station, a through-station, with magnificent Grand Central, an end-station.  They are apples and radishes. (Human Transit)

In the 19th century when 22 railroads built Union Station they correctly saw St. Louis’ population computing to grow. They wanted a facility they wouldn’t outgrow like the original St. Louis Union Station on 12th (Tucker).  They decided their station would be an end-station, not a through-station.  Half a century later the decline of rail passengers, the failure of passenger rail companies, and the fact Chicago beat St. Louis as the midwest end city meant St. Louis Union Station, a beautiful design, was incredibly obsolete for rail travel.

Kansas City’s Union Station has been able to reutilize most of the building to other uses, with Amtrak using a small part for ticketing and waiting, It’s a short distance out to the platform at the through tracks. From the back of the shed at St. Louis Union Station it’s still a very long distance to the tracks — plus office buildings and the closed movie theater block the path.

In the 70s Amshack was built at the tracks. I recall using this in the 90s. Then a slightly nicer Amshack 2 was built, I used this in the aughts. The station I’ve used the most opened a decade ago…today. Yes, it took until November 21, 2008 to open a proper station. I was there for the ribbon cutting ten years ago, and I’ve been back many times since as a traveling customer.

Comptroller Darlene Green speaking at the opening ten years ago

Over the last decade the maintenance was allowed to get behind, prompting me to label it Amshack 3 in 2017.  Thankfully it was improved on my last train trip, in February 2018.

Please understand Union Station is a magnificent asset to St. Louis — but it was last useful as a train station about 75 years ago.  Embrace the current station, or use the new Alton Station if you’re headed North on Amtrak. The rail improvements started during the Obama administration have greatly improved the St. Louis to Chicago experience.  Stop waiting for trains at Union Station — use the station we’ve had for the last decade.

— Steve Patterson

 

Goodbye City Block 1404

November 19, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, North City Comments Off on Goodbye City Block 1404

When I decided to move to St. Louis in August 1990 the street grid was a big factor in that decision. In fact, it’s better to say street grids — plural. Rather than a monotonous grid for miles we get many grids at odd angles to each other. The resulting odd-shaped parcels means we have some very unique building shapes — built to fill the lot up to the sidewalk.

One such group made the top of my April 2015 Buildings I’d Like To See Rehabbed post.

Collection of buildings on North Florissant at Ferry/Gore/Carter. Click image to view in Google Maps.

Every time I’d pass by on the #74 MetroBus, or drive past, I’d admire the fine proportions. I’d usually take a pic or two.

August 2017
September 2018
September 2018

And then a couple of weeks ago…

November 11, 2018

This has been unbelievably depressing. I’m not shocked, I’ve watched it deteriorate and in September I could see one building had a fire. Others hadn’t had a decent roof in years.

Aerial from Google Maps shows poor roof conditions

These all appear on the October 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps:

Sheet 088, volume three

These buildings were all built in 1900-01, with the last in 1908:

  • 4301 Grove Street: 1901
  • 4303 Grove Street/4305-09 N. Florissant Ave: 1900
  • 4311-13 N. Florissant Ave: 1908
  • 4315-17 N. Florissant Ave: 1901

In 2015 I thought there were owned by the City’s Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), but that was incorrect. The owner is Citibrook II, L.L.C., formed in January 1998.   It’s not clear how long this limited liability corporation has owned these buildings. I still fail to see how tearing down buildings improves neighborhoods.

Hopefully the former Eliot School, across Grove St, will get rehabbed.

Eliot School, built in 1898, at 4242 Grove St

At least this property is for sale:

One of W.B. Ittner’s original designs, this building is listed on the National Register and would be ideal for housing, assisted living or a medical facility. The school was named for William Greenleaf Eliot, founder of Washington University. (Saint Louis Public Schools)

Asking price is $256,000. Maybe with the nearby group gone a developer will be interested? For more on Eliot School see St. Louis Patina.

— Steve Patterson

 

Three New Books on St. Louis: Brewing, Timeline, & Quirks

October 29, 2018 Books, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on Three New Books on St. Louis: Brewing, Timeline, & Quirks

When I receive new books I post it to Facebook & Twitter that day, but often it takes me a while to writing a blog post about them. Today’s post is about three books from local publisher, Reedy Press. How local? Their offices are on Chippewa near Ted Drewes’ frozen custard.

All three books are 2nd or 3rd editions of earlier books.

St. Louis Brews: The History of Brewing in the Gateway City 3rd edition
By Henry Herbst, Don Roussin, Kevin Kious, and Cameron Collins

Few cities can tell the story of beer in America like St. Louis can. In this third edition of St. Louis Brews: The History of Brewing in the Gateway City, St. Louis’s brewing history is brought to life. Accompanied by hundreds of historical images and canvassing more than 200 years of brewing history, St. Louis Brews journeys through lagering caves, malt houses, and beer gardens alongside legendary brewers named Lemp, Anheuser, Busch, Griesedieck, and many others. The book details how St. Louis has shaped the brewing industry and how brewing shaped the city in return. Finally, as America embraces a new craft beer movement, St. Louis Brews introduces readers to the brewers that will take brewing into the future. Updated with maps, additional images, and plenty of new St. Louis breweries, the third edition of St. Louis Brews provides an in-depth look into the story of beer in St. Louis. (Reedy Press)

This is a beautiful hardcover book, with an enormous number of photos and interesting history.

 

St. Louis: An Illustrated Timeline, Second Edition
Author: Carol Ferring Shepley

With vignettes and vintage photographs, St. Louis: An Illustrated Timeline takes a wide-angle look at the story of a fur-trading outpost that grew into a major American city. The second edition delves deeper into the mix of politics, personality and culture that make up the Gateway City. Building on the award-winning first edition, new research reveals how the entire city came together for the best World’s Fair of all time, as well as why forces of racism aligned in Ferguson. New tales of visionaries such as Gyo Obata, who escaped Japanese internment camps by studying here and created the country’s largest architectural firm, and Dwight Davis, who fashioned Forest Park to embody his belief that athletics develop character, enliven these pages. Guided by historian Carol Shepley, we meet legends of sports, entertainment and crime, including the Gashouse Gang, Egan’s Rats, Branch Rickey, Stan Musial, Scott Joplin, Miles Davis and Nelly. Heroes and villains, saints and rapscallions, innovators and obstructionists, all have shaped this city. (Reedy Press)

Another hardcover book packs with photos & information. It’s easy to sit with and just flip through the pages to learn about St. Louis chronologically.

What’s With St. Louis?, Second Edition
By Valerie Battle Kienzle

Why are turtles incorporated into the wrought iron fence at The Old Court House? Can beaver be eaten during Lent? Why are pieces of metal track imbedded in some local streets? Who is Sweet Meat, and should he be avoided? These and other questions about St. Louis routinely perplex both natives and newcomers to the area. In this updated version of her 2016 book, author Valerie Battle Kienzle continues her quest to find answers to some of The Gateway City’s most puzzling questions, digging through countless archives and talking to local experts. Part cultural study of The River City and part history lesson, the book reveals the backstories of more local places, events, and beloved traditions. Want to know why St. Louisans are so obsessed with soccer or why the acclaimed Missouri Botanical Garden contains a Japanese garden? Look no further. Dig into this informative and entertaining update for answers to those and dozens of other questions. (Reedy Press)

This is a less expensive book than the previous two, so images are black & white in a smaller softcover format. It does have a few color images in the center. Like the others, the information is well-organized and fascinating.

I still have a couple more books on my desk, just wanted to get the St. Louis books caught up first.

— Steve Patterson

 

Columbus Sculpture Should Remain in Tower Grove Park, Namesake Holiday Renamed Indigenous Peoples’ Day

October 8, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks Comments Off on Columbus Sculpture Should Remain in Tower Grove Park, Namesake Holiday Renamed Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The late Henry Shaw (1800-1889) was an important part of St. Louis’ history, the Missouri Botanical Garden & Tower Grove Park are two of his creations.  He’s celebrated locally, but he was also a slave owner for nearly 30 years.

Maybe one thing people may not realize is for a time between 1828 and 1855, Shaw was a slave owner. When he came to St. Louis, he wrote back to family that he was against that practice, it had been outlawed in England. He was disgusted with the practice. We don’t really know what changed his mind … was it a manner of business? His ownership of slaves ends prior to his establishment of the Missouri Botanical Garden. (St. Louis Public Radio)

This labor likely helped him amass his fortune. Once retired he began to donate his fortune, founding the Missouri Botanical Garden at his country estate in 1859 and donating land for Tower Grove Park less than a decade later:

In 1866, a 66-year-old retired St. Louis merchant—Henry Shaw—approached St. Louis mayor James S. Thomas with a proposition. Shaw, who had already established the Missouri Botanical Garden on part of the estate surrounding his country villa, wanted to donate a still larger tract to the city of St. Louis as a pleasure ground for the citizenry. According to a contemporary, Shaw believed that parks were important “not only as ornaments to a great city, but as conducive to the health and happiness of its inhabitants and to the advancement of refinement and culture.”

Tower Grove Park was thus founded on October 20, 1868, as a gift from Shaw to the city of St. Louis. At that time, there were only 11 parks in the city. The only conditions Shaw imposed on his gift were 1) that it “shall be used as a park forever,” and 2) that an “annual appropriation” be made by the city “for its maintenance.” Today, as per Shaw’s estate, Tower Grove Park is the only public city park in the City of St. Louis to be managed by an independent Board of Commissioners and staff.  Shaw’s particular interest in the classics and European travel are reflected today in the Victorian architecture of the Park’s historical treasures. (Tower Grove Park)

Shaw was instrumental in how the land became the park we know today.

Looking West into Tower Grove Park from Grand

Near the end of his life he hired German-born artist Ferdinand von Miller II for three works:

His statue [of] Christopher Columbus was the last of three figures that Henry Shaw commissioned from von Miller for Tower Grove Park, and it was the first Columbus statue to be erected in the United States. The benefactor and the sculptor were both detail-oriented men and argued over whether Columbus would have worn a beard. Shaw insisted that the statue have one, even though the sculptor’s research indicated that Genoese sailors of that time were beardless. In the end both men got their way. Columbus is depicted with a full beard, but near his foot is an inscription added by the artist (in German): “It is not my fault that the head of Columbus is not true, but the wish of the client.” (Regional Arts Commission)

This may be the first Columbus statue, but there were obelisks/monuments around the country prior to 1884.

State of Christopher Columbus near East entrance to Tower Grove Park

We now know Columbus wasn’t someone to celebrate:

On his first day in the New World, he ordered six of the natives to be seized, writing in his journal that he believed they would be good servants. Throughout his years in the New World, Columbus enacted policies of forced labor in which natives were put to work for the sake of profits. Later, Columbus sent thousands of peaceful Taino “Indians” from the island of Hispaniola to Spain to be sold. Many died en route.

Those left behind were forced to search for gold in mines and work on plantations. Within 60 years after Columbus landed, only a few hundred of what may have been 250,000 Taino were left on their island.

As governor and viceroy of the Indies, Columbus imposed iron discipline on what is now the Caribbean country of Dominican Republic, according to documents discovered by Spanish historians in 2005. In response to native unrest and revolt, Columbus ordered a brutal crackdown in which many natives were killed; in an attempt to deter further rebellion, Columbus ordered their dismembered bodies to be paraded through the streets.

In addition to the controversy over enslavement and violent rule, the “Age of Exploration” that Columbus helped lead had the additional consequence of bringing new diseases to the New World which would, over time, devastate the native populations of many New World islands and communities. (history.com)

His exploration led to the colonization of many countries, and the brutal treatment of many native inhabitants.

In May 2017 I argued, unsuccessfully, the Confederate memorial in Forest Park should remain — accompanied with information on slavery, Jim Crow laws, and racial segregation in St. Louis.  See: Confederate Memorial in Forest Park Built During A period of High Racial Tensions in St. Louis.

Tower Grove Park is studying the controversy surrounding having a statue to such a brutal figure.

The park is taking a very deliberate effort to study what to do next:

No decisions have been made about the statue other than to assure its protection while the Columbus Statue Commission’s work is underway. They will work during the fall to consider the proper role and future of the statue in the Park. They will consider all issues and points of view related to the statue, its history, what it represents to various communities, its place in the Park’s historic design and national landmark status, and how the various perspectives within the neighborhood and larger St. Louis community can best be represented.

The Statue Commission will actively seek and consider all points of view from citizens, community groups, Park constituents, public officials, experts and others about the statue. In the tradition of the Park’s welcoming role in the community, we intend that there be opportunities for all with views or information about the statue to have their voices heard.

The Statue Commission will make long-term recommendations to the Tower Grove Park Board of Commissioners. (Tower Grove Park)

You can submit feedback here.

Like the now-removed Confederate memorial, I think this statue should remain. Unlike the Confederate memorial, this is one of three statues commissioned by the park’s visionary founder, not added later by a group trying to rewrite history. It has a prominent location, has for over a century. I don’t think we should remove it. I also don’t think it should remain without something telling of the atrocities he committed, and how those were largely unknown/ignored in Shaw’s time.

If it is removed, a new sculpture should take its place. Can’t think of an appropriate person.  Regardless of this statue, Columbus shouldn’t be celebrated with a national holiday.

— Steve Patterson

 

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