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Formerly Endangered Sun Theater Impressing New Audiences

Just a few years ago the future of the Sun Theater in Grand Center was uncertain, it was crumbling and nobody had a plan to save it. Enter the Grand Center Arts Academy, a charter school located to the east in the former Carter Carburetor headquarters building & parking garage. In 2010-11 the building and garage were renovated into classrooms & other space for the school. The new school, however, lacked an auditorium.  With dance, music, and theater being core parts of the school’s curriculum they new the Sun Theater would be their next project. It reopened earlier this year.

The Sun Theater, June 2011
The Sun Theater, June 2011
The Sun Theater, August 2014
The Sun Theater, August 2014. The recessed section on the right is a new addition containing stairs and an elevator.
The restored interior, August 2011
The restored interior, August 2011

The new elevator allowed me to reach the upper level seating area. It felt great entering and seeing the interior for the very first time, I wish I had seen the ‘before’ in person, but I can still appreciate the transformation based on the before images.

Further reading:

Kudos to everyone involved in making this happen!

— Steve Patterson

 

A Day Trip Down South

Last month the hubby and I decided to go town to Sainte Genevive, Missouri. I’d been once or twice twenty plus years ago, he’d never been. The fastest way there is I-55 south, but we took the long way heading south from downtown St. Louis on Jefferson Ave until it merges with South Broadway into St. Louis County. On highway 231 we passed Jefferson Barrack’s Cemetery, which we’ve seen before including a memorial service a few weeks earlier.    We were close to two parks we visited last year, Cliff Cave Park and Bee Tree Park.

We got to the end of 231, turning left (south) onto state highway 61/67. Very soon Siri is telling us to turn left for Kimswick, MO. Charming, we made a note to return for lunch or dinner sometime. We continue passing through Barnhart, Pevely, Herculaneum, Festus/Crystal City, happened on a charming old roadside park, before finally arriving in Sainte Genevive. The backroad journey took at least twice as long as the interstate, but it’s so much more interesting!

More after the pics…

Kimswick, Missouri
Vernacular buildings in historic Kimswick, Missouri, click image for more infomation
Highway 61 roadside park near Bloomsdale, MO
Highway 61 roadside park near Bloomsdale, MO
Fourche a du Clos Valley as seen from the highway 61 roadside park
Fourche a du Clos Valley as seen from the highway 61 roadside park, you can hear the traffic of I-55 below but you can’t see it. Click image for more info.
Sainte Genevive
Sainte Genevive
Sainte Genevive
Sainte Genevive lost a historic building in 1934 for a service station, which later became a firehouse, and is now a cafe.
View from the Chaumette tasting room
Stunning views at Chaumette Winery
I love this house on highway 61 in St. Mary, MO
I love this house on highway 61 in St. Mary, MO

Most of the Ste Genevive wineries are a long drive from the historic town, next time we’ll take I-55 so we have more time to explore, possibly staying overnight in one of the many choices for accommodations.

We’d decided to cross the Mississippi River and return to St. Louis via Illinois, but first we stopped in St. Mary where I fell in love with the house shown above. We crossed the river into Chester, IL and came north on Route 3 without stopping.  Very different terrain 0n the Illinois side. I love seeing these historic towns on a map, a nice grid of streets.

Have a great weekend, do something memorable!

— Steve Patterson

 

Eads Bridge 140th Anniversary

July 4, 2014 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Transportation Comments Off on Eads Bridge 140th Anniversary

One hundred forty years ago the Eads Bridge opened after seven years of construction:

The structure was dedicated 4 July, 1874. It had a double deck structure. The upper deck extended over the entire width with a vehicular roadway and two pedestrian walkways. In 1947, this deck was replaced with concrete filled “I Beam Lok” and the roadway was widened to 41 feet. The original highway deck had consisted of treated gum flooring and wood stringers supported on steel floor beams. There were two “street car” tracks at floor level. The trolleys stopped running on the bridge in 1935, and the track work was removed in 1942. (St. Louis History — recommended!)

Wow, wood flooring!

2011
Looking east, May 2011
Eads Bridge with the Admiral in early 1991
Eads Bridge with the Admiral in early 1991

Hopefully civic leaders will come up with a great way to celebrate the Eads Bridge on its 150th a decade from now. Happy Birthday America & Eads Bridge!!

— Steve Patterson

 

Melvin Price Locks & Dam Dedicated Twenty Years Ago Today

June 18, 2014 Featured, History/Preservation, Metro East, Missouri Comments Off on Melvin Price Locks & Dam Dedicated Twenty Years Ago Today

Two decades ago, on Saturday June 18, 1994, the Melvin Price Locks & Dam was officially dedicated, replacing Lock & Dam 26.

The structure is very large
The structure is very large, free tours daily at 10am, 1pm & 3pm.
Looking down river from up top as a barge leaves the auxiliary lock. The main lock has been out of service since November.
Looking down river from up top as a barge leaves the smaller auxiliary lock. The main lock has been out of service since November.
The gate closing behind downstream barge as it entered the lock
The gate closing behind downstream barge as it entered the lock
Looking upstream toward Alton and the Clark Bridge
Looking upstream toward Alton and the Clark Bridge
The flood of 1993 flooded the open, but incomplete, facility before the dedication. .
The flood of 1993 flooded the open, but incomplete, facility before the dedication. the high water mark is on the left was recorded on August 1st.

Some facts about the Melvin Price Locks & Dam:

  • Also known as #26, the number of the old lock & dam it replaced
  • Named for the Illinois congressman that championed the project, Charles Melvin Price (January 1905 – April 1988)
  • Construction began in 1979, the main lock opened in 1990, and the full structure was completed in 1994.

And here’s an image of the old lock & dam 26:

AERIAL VIEW OF LOCK AND DAM, LOOKING SOUTHEAST Photocopy of photograph, ca. 1980. Original print is on file at St. Louis District Office, U.S. Engineer Office, St. Louis, Missouri. - Upper Mississippi River 9-Foot Channel Project, Lock & Dam 26, Alton, Madison County, IL
AERIAL VIEW OF LOCK AND DAM, LOOKING SOUTHEAST Photocopy of photograph, ca. 1980. Original print is on file at St. Louis District Office, U.S. Engineer Office, St. Louis, Missouri. – Upper Mississippi River 9-Foot Channel Project, Lock & Dam 26, Alton, Madison County, IL Click image to view more images at the Library of Congress

And finally, another metro east facility was dedicated on June 18th. Nine years ago (2005) the Malcolm Martin Memorial Park, where I got married recently, was dedicated.

— Steve Patterson

 

Absentee Landlord Quickly Located Using Internet

This post is about an absentee landlord, how the city reacts to code violations, and a blogger stepping in to make change happen. I’d originally planned to post the property address and the name of the owner, but he responded to my letter, we’ve texted, talked on the phone, and emailed. Publicly embarrassing him would serve no purpose, at this point.

Twenty-four years ago tomorrow a prominent local family bought a property in the McKinley Heights neighborhood, they’ve been renting it all these years. The house is very attractive, and maintained. The carriage house, however, has been falling down for years, at least according to a neighbor. I viewed the carriage house from the alley, from the neighbor’s 2nd floor porch, and satellite images.

You can easily see daylight by pushing on the carriage door
You can easily see daylight by pushing on the carriage door, the entire structure is covered in vines

The flat roof has large holes, the floor to the 2nd floor no longer exists. When I emailed city officials to inquire about why this property was allowed to be in this condition, I’d been cited for much less. At the last minute in my email I added a sentence wondering if the owner’s last name is why ore if it was incompetence. I got called on that, and apologized. A couple of days later a reply comes from a staff member at the Building Division with a copy of the 2011 violation letter and a note saying the owner failed to contact them, failed to show up for housing court in 2011, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Wow, so a prominent last name doesn’t get them off the hook!

I got involved and within a week had the owner talking to the building department about fixing the carriage house. My secret? The internet!  The address of record for this property is the owner’s bank in suburban Ballwin, they pay the annual tax bill. However, it seems they discard all other correspondence sent by the city. I used the internet to find the owner’s home address, also in Ballwin. Before I’d heard back from the city about the violation letter and bench warrant, I’d mailed the owner a letter asking his intentions. I found his phone number online too, but chose to mail a letter knowing that would be less confrontational. He called me, we played phone tag a little before finally speaking.  He had no idea about the 2011 violation letter, the missed housing court date, or the bench warrant.

I got his email address so I could forward to him what the city emailed me, along with contact information for the Building Division, Cultural Resources, and a link to the McKinley Heights Historic District Design Standards. I immediately replied to the city officials I’d been emailing with to fill them in on the discussion along with how to reach him. The very next night the Neighborhood Stabilization Officer (NSO) told the neighborhood meeting the bench warrant had been served. With a bench warrant the police don’t come looking for you, but get pulled over for speeding you’ll be taken in when they see it in the system.

The bench warrant wasn’t served, as told to the neighborhood, I used the internet to track down the property owner. Most likely everyone at city hall followed their procedures, mailing letters to the recorded address. Waiting and mailing more letters. It’s very clear the address is in care of a bank. Many property owners have the tax bill sent to an address other than their home, sometimes it is the property itself. When the city fails to get a response from the first letter mailed to such an address they need to try something new rather than mailing a court notice to the same address.

How many other properties are in the same situation because city staff haven’t searched online for the property owner? The staff may not be incompetent, but the official procedures are if they don’t include taking a half an hour to do some searching online.

— Steve Patterson

 

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