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A Decade Since Jane Jacobs’ Death

April 25, 2016 Books, Featured, History/Preservation, Planning & Design, Urban Renewal Comments Off on A Decade Since Jane Jacobs’ Death
Cover of Death and Life of Great American Cities
Cover of Death and Life of Great American Cities

Ten years ago today, one of my heroes died. Jane Jacobs, author of The Death & Life of Great American Cities, was 89. Her 1961 classic was a sharp critique of Urban Renewal — the erase & replace thinking that was commonplace at the time.  New York’s Robert Moses & St. Louis’ Harland Bartholomew were among the top advocates of Urban Renewal.

At 45, she and many others directly challenged Moses’ plan to cut an interstate highway through lower Manhattan:

Jacobs chaired the Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway (a.k.a. Joint Emergency Committee to Close Washington Square to Traffic, and other names), which recruited such members as Margaret Mead, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lewis Mumford, Charles Abrams, and William H. Whyte. Papers such as The New York Times were sympathetic to Moses, while the newly created Village Voice covered community rallies and advocated against the expressway. The Committee succeeded in blocking the project. On June 25, 1958, the city closed Washington Square Park to traffic, and the Joint Committee held a ribbon tying (not cutting) ceremony. Jacobs continued to fight the expressway when plans resurfaced in 1962, 1965, and 1968, and she became a local hero for her opposition to the project. She was arrested by a plainclothes police officer on April 10, 1968, at a public hearing, during which the crowd had charged the stage and destroyed the stenographer’s notes. She was accused of inciting a riot, criminal mischief, and obstructing public administration – after months of trials conducted in New York City (to which Jacobs commuted from Toronto), her charge was reduced to disorderly conduct. (Wikipedia)

Following her arrest, and in protest of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, she, her husband (an architect)  and two draft-able sons, moved to Canada. They settled in Toronto.

A few months after her death, I was in standing in front of the home where she lived in Toronto. Crying.

The following are some videos about her, some of her speaking.

Jacobs still inspires me today, I just wish I’d known of her in high school — I would’ve studied urban planning instead of architecture, in the mid-late 1980s. May 4th will mark the 100th anniversary of her birth.

— Steve Patterson

 

Monogram Building, Formerly CPI Headquarters, To Become Loft Apartments

It’s time to stop calling the 9-story building at 1706 Washington Ave the “CPI” building. It has been a few years since the failed portrait studio operator occupied the building. For decades it was known as the Monogram Building, located within the Washington Avenue Historic District on the National Register, here are a couple of quotes from the listing:

The Monogram Building, rising nine stories, is a concrete-frame factory-warehouse extending eight bays on the east, elevation (facing 17th St. and 10 bays on the north (facing Washington). On both elevations, cream colored, glazed terra cotta, fashioned into shells, bound sheaves of wheat, caducei , and -foliated patterns, faces the narrow piers and spandrels which -frame triple windows . The end bays are sheathed in red brick and demarcated by terra cotta quoining. Above the two-story base, there is a foliated, bracketed cornice of terra cotta. The facade terminates with round arches formed bv the piers above the ninth story. A terra cotta cornice crowns the facade. 

and…

Rosenthal-Sloan, the “world’s largest millinery establishment,” occupied the Monogram Building at 1700 Washington constructed in 1910.” Numerous other millinery companies occupied quarters within the District and, according to one source, St. Louis was the largest millinery market in the country. ‘ Specialty items, junior dresses, for example, originated on Washington Avenue. Fashion shows were held first yearly and then twice yearly attracting thousands of buyers to the City. Large and small firms alike and the many out of town concerns that maintained offices and showrooms in the district flourished.

Before the Monogram was built in 1910, the site had already made history in St. Louis. Washington University in St. Louis, founded in 1853, opened its first building, Academic Hall, on the site on September 8, 1856. At the time, Lucas Place, now Locust St, was home to the city’s finest mansions.

Fol­low­ing the cholera epi­demic and fire in 1849, wealthy cit­i­zens became con­vinced that it was no longer desir­able to live in down­town St. Louis. James Lucas and his sis­ter Anne Lucas Hunt soon offered a solu­tion. They devel­oped the idea of the “Place,” a neigh­bor­hood with deed restric­tions that ensured it remained apart from the city and gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. The main thor­ough­fare was aptly called Lucas Place. Orig­i­nally Lucas Place (now Locust Street) extended between 13th and 16th streets when the city lim­its were just one block to the west between 17th and 18th streets. When estab­lished, Lucas Place was west of the devel­oped por­tion of the city, mak­ing it St. Louis’ first “sub­ur­ban” neighborhood. (Campbell House Museum)

The first mansion, built in 1851, was the Campbell House — the only mansion still standing.  The university occupied Academic Hall at 17th & Washington, and other buildings, until moving to its current campus in 1905. By the time the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Co documented these blocks in February 1909, Academic Hall had already been razed.

Every building shown in this four block map is gone -- except for the streetcar powerhouse circled in purple. The Monogram was built the next year on the site outlined in red. Click image to see larger version.
Every building shown in this four block map is gone — except for the streetcar powerhouse circled in purple. The Monogram was built the next year on the site outlined in red. Click image to see larger version.
1711 Locust was a power station for the original streetcar system, the Monogram can be seen in the left background
1711 Locust was a power station for the original streetcar system, the Monogram can be seen in the left background

The Monogram Building, built 1910-12, was designed by architect Albert B. Groves (1868-1925). Groves and his family lived at 5419 Maple Ave, built in 1906.  There are two entries for him in findagrave.com — here and here. Their son Theron A. Groves was also an architect.  Albert died weeks before his 57th birthday, Theron died at 65 — the wife & mother lived to 95!

This building is important to me, for 8+ years it has been a significant part of the view from my loft & balcony.

The Monogram is the building on the left in this December 2008 image. In November I posted about how CPI had lights on 24/7, click image to see post. In 2010 I moved my bed to the other bedroom away from the windows and urban light pollution.
The Monogram is the building on the left in this December 2008 image. In November I posted about how CPI had lights on 24/7, click image to see post. In 2010 I moved my bed to the other bedroom away from the windows and urban light pollution.
By May 2014 the frequently full parking lot was empty, but begging to be rented by the hour & month. Click image for post.
By May 2014 the frequently full parking lot was empty, but begging to be rented by the hour & month. Click image for post.

The Monogram Building has likely had many occupants over the last century, with a variety os uses. In January it was sold:

Revive Capital Development LLC, of Kansas City, bought the nine-story building from downtown St. Louis property owner David Jump. John Warren, a vice president of commercial real estate company JLL, represented Jump’s 1706 Washington LLC in the sale that closed Monday. No financial terms were revealed.

JLL said Thursday the new owner plans to put loft apartments in the former CPI headquarters at 1706 Washington Avenue. Efforts to reach a Revive representative were unsuccessful. (Post-Dispatch)

Hopefully this new Kansas City firm will be successful. The LLC’s sole listed organizer is real estate attorney Michael D. McKinley, a partner at the law firm Lathrop & Gage.

The two detailed facades are 17th (left) and Washington (right)
The two detailed facades are 17th (left) and Washington (right)
The first (East) entrance facing Washington Ave
The first (East) entrance facing Washington Ave
The next has a small step
The next has a small step
The third has a taller step
The third has a taller step

It’ll be interesting to see how Revive Capital Development configures the residential units, allocates parking, uses the ground floor. Hopefully one or two of the Washington Ave entrances will be for a restaurant or retail space, with the addition of an ADA-compliant ramp.

— Steve Patterson

 

1960s Grand Bridge Closed For Replacement 5 Years Ago Today

It was five years ago today when St. Louis closed the 1960s Grand Ave bridge over the railroad tracks so it could be replaced:

The Grand Bridge is scheduled to close from Chouteau Avenue to the I-64 off-ramp on Monday, March 14, 2011. The bridge will close before the morning rush around 5:00 am. The bridge will be closed to traffic for about 14 months; the entire project is expected to be completed in 18-24 months. During that time, the current bridge will be completely removed and replaced. When finished, the project will provide a dramatic facelift to Midtown. (St. Louis)

The old bridge had 3 vehicles lanes in each direction and vary narrow sidewalks.

Looking north from the old transit stop, June 2010
Looking north from the old transit stop, June 2010

The new bridge, with 2 lanes per direction & wider sidewalks, opened in July 2012. See: New Grand Viaduct Huge Improvement, Development Opportunities Remain.

The Grand bridge over I-44 will soon be replaced, though traffic won’t be completely cut off:

The driving surface of the bridge will be completely replaced and the bridge will be raised to meet interstate standards. Although the project will be completed in stages, drivers can expect fewer lanes across the bridge and will not be able to make left turns during construction, MoDOT said.

At least one lane will be open in each direction on Grand during each stage of construction.

Construction is expected to start in June, with all driving lanes expected to be open by the end of the year. (Post-Dispatch)

Work continues on a new kingshighway bridge over the railroad tracks South of I-44, the old bridge closed last July.

— Steve Patterson

 

Minoru Yamasaki’s Lambert Airport Terminal Dedicated 60 Years Ago Today

The non-profit STL250, set up to celebrate the city’s 250th in 2014, posted fascinating history during its campaign. I saved links to the ones I thought would be interesting to share on anniversary’s. Today’s was posted in 2013 — about an event sixty years ago today:

This Day in St. Louis History, March 10, 1956:
Lambert’s “Ultra modern” airport terminal is dedicated

St. Louis Mayor Raymond Tucker dedicated the new main terminal at Lambert Field, replacing the old terminal that had been built in the 1930s. Minoru Yamasaki designed the four-domed, concrete shell terminal, which would later inspire similar airport designs at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. Minoru Yamasaki was one of the most prominent architects of the mid-20th century, but two of his projects would meet famously tragic ends – the Pruitt Igoe Housing Complex of St. Louis in 1972 and the World Trade Center Twin Towers of New York on September 11, 2001.

This dawn photograph of the Lambert Main Terminal was taken in June 1956, less than 4 months after its opening. Photograph by Ralph D’Oench, Missouri Historical Society Collections

This dawn photograph of the Lambert Main Terminal was taken in June 1956, less than 4 months after its opening. Photograph by Ralph D’Oench, Missouri Historical Society Collections
“This dawn photograph of the Lambert Main Terminal was taken in June 1956, less than 4 months after its opening. Photograph by Ralph D’Oench, Missouri Historical Society Collections”

Yamasaki’s airport commission was around the same time as his commission for Pruitt-Igoe, probably just after.

Many changes inside & out have altered the original clean lines, but it still looks good to my eyes.

— Steve Patterson

 

Soldiers’ Memorial Kicked Off Demolishing Our City’s Center

Last month, on the 28th, Soldiers’ Memorial closed for a 2-year renovation. Soldier’s Memorial is St. Louis’ tribute to those who died in World War 1.

The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum closed Sunday for a $30 million renovation, with promises of reopening in two years as a functional and inspirational “transformation.”

It is the first lengthy closure of the 80-year-old downtown landmark.

The Missouri Historical Society and local public officials held a flag lowering ceremony Sunday afternoon to mark the occasion. (Post-Dispatch)

The 80th anniversary of the cornerstone isn’t until this fall.  It opened to the public on Memorial Day. May 30, 1938.

 Mayor Dickman laid the cornerstone on November 11, 1936 -- nearly two decades after the end of World War One -- less than 3 years before the start of WWII
Mayor Dickman laid the cornerstone on November 11, 1936 — nearly two decades after the end of World War One — less than 3 years before the start of WWII

The project began in the 1920s:

The City of St. Louis created a Memorial Plaza Commission in 1925 to oversee the creation of the Memorial Plaza and Soldiers Memorial. Designed as a memorial to the St. Louis citizens who gave their lives in World War I, the Memorial became Project No. 5098 of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works. The St. Louis architectural firm Mauran, Russell & Crowell designed the classical Memorial with an art deco flair and St. Louis-born sculptor Walker Hancock created four monumental sculpture groupings entitled Loyalty, Vision, Courage and Sacrifice to flank the entrances. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the site on October 14, 1936 and two years later Soldiers Memorial Military Museum opened to the public on Memorial Day, May 30, 1938.  (Missouri History Museum — Soldiers’ Memorial)

In 1925 St. Louis hadn’t begun razing the blocks between Market & Chestnut, 11th and 20th. The Civil Courts building began in 1928, Aloe Plaza in 1931. Demolition of the original city on the bank of the Mississippi River didn’t commence until 1939. A war memorial was what St. Louis’ planner, Harland Bartholomew, needed to justify taking & razing private property just West of the Central Business District.

The block with Soldiers’ Memorial is bounded by 13th, Chestnut, 14th, and Pine, it looked very different in 1909:

In February 1909 the block was full of 2-3 story brick buildings. Click image to see Sanborn Map page with this & adjacent blocks
In February 1909 the block was full of 2-3 story brick buildings. Click image to see Sanborn Map page with this & adjacent blocks

Granted, none of these buildings were notable, no special businesses were displaced. It was rather ordinary, in fact. But this one block contained nearly 50 structures, with entrances on all four streets — it helped generate urban activity. To many born in the late 19th century such blocks were viewed as chaos.

Taking out one active block does little to change the vibrancy of a city, but when it’s repeated over and over it has a hugely negative impact.  The 1940 census showed a drop in population — at least partially as a result of massive demolition in the 1930s. At the time they thought the population would continue growing — exceed a million by 1960.  They couldn’t see their actions contributing to massive population declines in the coming decades.

The Soldiers’ Memorial building is very formal — especially compared to the nearly 50 buildings that previously occupied the block. Let’s take a look.

The St. Louis flag being lowered on Sunday February 28, 2016
The St. Louis flag being lowered on Sunday February 28, 2016
The raised platform that surrounds the building is in poor condition
The raised platform that surrounds the building is in poor condition
The raised platform helped elevated the building above the then-bust city sidewalks. The ramp wasn't installed until this century.
The raised platform helped elevated the building above the then-bust city sidewalks. The ramp wasn’t installed until this century.
At the same time another ramp was built to go from the raised platform into the open center of the building
At the same time another ramp was built to go from the raised platform into the open center of the building
The mosaic tile ceiling in the center is impressive
The mosaic tile ceiling in the center is impressive
This is the East display room on the last day, the casework and detailing are beautiful
This is the East display room on the last day, the casework and detailing are beautiful
Interior of the elevator is magnificent -- one of my favorites in the city
Interior of the elevator is magnificent — one of my favorites in the city
The West end of the upstairs is a wonderful meeting room. It hasn't been used too often because of a lack pf air conditioning
The West end of the upstairs is a wonderful meeting room. It hasn’t been used too often because of a lack pf air conditioning
Getting to the rest of the 2nd floor requires steps or a non-compliant ramp. Presumably this will be addressed. The terrazzo floors throughout are spectacular
Getting to the rest of the 2nd floor requires steps or a non-compliant ramp. Presumably this will be addressed. The terrazzo floors throughout are spectacular

Yes, St. Louis built a war memorial that many disabled veterans couldn’t visit! Not uncommon for the era — the disabled were routinely institutionalized then. Apparently the building had an outdoor mechanical lift that failed in 2004, leaving a disabled vet stranded. It was that event that prompted the effort to build ramps outside.

I love many of the interior details (floors, ceilings, rails, lights, elevator. etc) but they missed the big picture. The outdoor WWII memorial, the Court of Honor, in the block directly south also wasn’t accessible when it opened a decade later on Memorial Day 1948.

Since St. Louis has given up on the Gateway Mall Advisory Board I’m nervous above what’ll happen here.

— Steve Patterson

 

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