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Ten Buildings That Changed America: The Wainwright In Downtown St. Louis

PBS (WTTW/Chicago) has a new special coming out next month called the Ten Buildings That Changed America. One of the ten is our own 1891 Wainwright Building by Louis Sullivan (National Register nomination). I got to meet host Geoffrey Bear last May when he and the production crew were in St. Louis.

PBS film crew on May 8, 2012
PBS film crew filming the Wainwright in downtown St. Louis on May 8, 2012
Geoffrey Baer
Ten Buildings host & writer Geoffrey Baer, right, will be back in St. Louis on April 22nd for a panel discussion, see below

Here are the details on the free event being held at the Wainwright:

Our local PBS station is hosting a free event to preview the program.
Click image to register — seating is limited.

If you’re not familiar with Sullivan’s Wainwright you might be wondering just how a building in St. Louis changed America, well here’s your answer:

At only nine stories, the Wainwright is the granddaddy of all skyscrapers. It isn’t the first tall building but Sullivan’s innovative structural steel frame showed that even brick can appear to soar. (stltoday.com)

Yes, skyscraper!

— Steve Patterson



Narrowing The List of Mid-Century Modernism

Mid-century modern buildings in St. Louis have gained a new audience recently as some of these structures have been threatened with demolition. As a result he city decided to take a closer look at buildings built between 1945-75.

The City of St. Louis received a grant in early 2012 for the completion of a thematic survey of non-residential Modern Movement architecture built between 1945 and 1975. The term Modern Movement in used for this project to encompass various styles of the mid?century Modern era, but does not include the Art Deco, Modernistic, Streamline, and Moderne styles that were widely used before 1940. The project will identify a group of properties that are eligible for listing in the National Register and that may be designated as City Landmarks. The grant is from the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service. Peter Meijer Architect, PC, a firm experienced in assessing Modern architecture, was selected as consultant for the project. The survey will be completed by September 2013.  (PDF)

The process would first start with a massive list and work down to 20-25.

ABOVE: The project is now at the point of narrowing down to the top 20-25
ABOVE: The project is now at the point of narrowing down to the top 20-25

Right now the city and consultants are at the “Defining the Era 40” stage and their looking for public input to help narrow the list to the final 20-25 for further research and documentation.  The 40 are decided into two parts (Part 1: 1-20 Part 2: 21-40).

Below is all 40 in the order listed on the two PDF files along with a link to each to find them on Google Maps.

  1. Wendell Oliver Pruitt Public School | 1954 | 1212 N. 22nd Street
  2. Mansion House Development | 1965 | 200 N. 4th Street
  3. Millenium Hotel | 1968 | 200 S. 4th Street
  4. Laclede Gas Building | 1968 | 200-12 N. 8th Street
  5. St. Philip’s Evangelical Lutheran Church | 1966 | 2422-4 Annie Malone Drive  
  6. The Pavilion, Barnes Hospital | 1971/1978 | 4949-69 Barnes Hospital Plaza
  7. Queeny Tower, Barnes Hospital | 1964 | 4989 Barnes Hospital Plaza
  8. MHDCHC, Inc. | 1974 | 5443-71 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive
  9. Bishop DuBourg High School | 1955 | 5850 Eichelberger Street
  10. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall | 1959 | 5850 Elizabeth Avenue
  11. James S. McDonnell Planetarium | 1963 | 1 Faulkner Drive
  12. Steinberg Hall, Washington University | 1963 | 6201-53 Forsyth Boulevard
  13. Former Buder Branch, St. Louis Public Library | 1961 | 5320 Hampton Avenue
  14. St. Louis Harvest Church | 1957 | 3201-23 Itaska Street 
  15. Marc C. Steinberg Memorial Skating Park and Recreation Building | 1957 | 400 Jefferson Drive
  16. David P. Wohl Community Center | 1959 | 1515 N. Kingshighway Boulevard 
  17. New Age Federal Savings & Loan | 1958 | 1401 N. Kingshighway Boulevard
  18. Oak Hill Chapel | 1953 | 6100 Leona Street
  19. AAA Building | 1974 | 3917 Lindell Boulevard
  20. Optimist Building | 1978 | 4490-4 Lindell Boulevard
  21. Engineer’s Club | 1961 | 4359 Lindell Boulevard 
  22. Archdiocese of St. Louis | 1962 | 4445-67 Lindell Boulevard
  23. St. Nicholas Parish Center | 1960 | 1801-27 Lucas Avenue
  24. Society of American Gardens | 1957 | 4401 Magnolia Avenue
  25. Gateway Tower | 1966 | 1-99 S. Memorial Drive
  26. Fairground Park Swimming Facility | 1959 | 3715 Natural Bridge Avenue
  27. St. Louis Community College, Forest Park | 1965 | 5600 Oakland Avenue
  28. St. Joan of Arc Church | 1958 | 5800 Oleatha Avenue
  29. Machacek Branch Library | 1974 | 6426-34 Scanlan Avenue
  30. McDonnell Medical Science Building | 1970 | 4550-6 Scott Avenue
  31. Missouri Division of Employment Building | 1959 | 601 N. Broadway
  32. Pius Memorial Library, St. Louis University | 1958, renovated 1986, 2012 | 3655 West Pine Boulevard
  33. Carpenter’s Union Hall | 1956 | 1401-21 Hampton Avenue
  34. The Post Office Annex | 1969 | 1600-98 Market Street
  35. Hamiltonian Federal Savings and Loan Association | 1967 | 3150-6 S. Grand Boulevard 
  36. St. Louis Public Library Jacob Mark Lashley Branch | 1967 | 4531-7 West Pine Boulevard
  37. Paraquad | 1969 | 5200-40 Oakland Avenue (Horner & Shifrin headquarters)
  38. Langston Elementary Public School | 1964 | 5501 Wabada Avenue 
  39. Juvenile Division Circuit Court | 1965 | 910-30 N. Vandeventer Avenue
  40. Lambert International St. Louis Airport | 1957 | 10701 Lambert International Boulevard

Don’t see a favorite? View buildings already recognized via the National register or local Landmark status here (PDF).  The 200 “worthy” list of addresses  can be viewed here (PDF).

The following are the ones I’d cut to reduce the list:

  1. Millenium Hotel (3)
  2. The Pavilion (5)
  3. Queeny Tower (6)
  4. New Age Federal Savings & Loan (17)
  5. Oak Hill Chapel (18)
  6. Gateway Tower (25)
  7. St. Louis Community College (27)
  8. St. Joan of Arc Church (28)
  9. Machacek Library (29)
  10. McDonnell Building (30)
  11. Pius Library (32)
  12. Carpenter’s Hall (33)
  13. Post Office Annex (34)
  14. Hamiltonian Federal Savings & Loan (35)
  15. Juvenile Court (39)

Which 15-20 would you cut from the above?

— Steve Patterson




Poll: Do You Think St. Louis Was Founded On February 14th or 15th in 1764?

Last week St. Louis turned 249 years old but some celebrated on the 14th while others noted the occasion on the 15th. Others celebrated both days rather than taking sides.

February 14, 1764 has been the accepted date for many years but some are saying Auguste Chouteau’s notes indicate the 15th:

The party was premature, says a history professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who has studied Chouteau’s original manuscript for a new book on the city’s founding. Fred Fausz, a professor at UMSL since 1991, says Chouteau’s “5” isn’t the best example of penmanship but is clear enough. Fausz says the 15 in Chouteau’s manuscript has a 5 that looks just like other 5s elsewhere in the paper, and nothing like the 4 that marks Page 4. Fausz also says Chouteau cited Feb. 15 in transcribed testimony for a land case in 1825, four years before he died. (recommended —  stltoday)

Chouteau was just 14 or 15 when St. Louis was founded. The above article from 2/14/2010 also presents evidence the date is the 14th.

The poll question is which date do you think St. Louis was founded? Or maybe we should just make next year’s 250th anniversary a two-day affair, embracing the controversy. The poll is located in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson


Progress At 1010 Locust Street (aka Bride’s House)

The economy isn’t prefect but it is slowly improving. Smaller developers are still working on manageable sized projects such as the 4-story building at 1008-10 Locust St., known by many as Bride’s House.  In August 2011 I posted about the building (see What a Handsome Bride).  The 1886 building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, read the application here.

ABOVE: View of Bride's House from Trailnet's new offices
ABOVE: View of Bride’s House from Trailnet’s new offices. August 2011

In November 2012 the good news came that a local couple bought the building to rehab:

The biggest exterior change will be restoration of the street-level facade with separate entrances for a first-floor store and offices on the upper floors. The work will involve removing green granite panels installed in 1950. Cook hopes to reuse the panels in new shower stalls built for office tenants. He also plans to sell the two large “Bride’s House” signs over the current entrance.

The second floor remains available, but a retailer plans to occupy the street-level space and a marketing firm will lease the top two floors, said Patrick McKay, the Hilliker Corp. broker who represented P&F in the building’s purchase. (stltoday.com)

Earlier in the week I was passing the building and spotted workers removing those bland granite panels.

ABnOVE: On the 12th workers were removing those granite panels exposing beautiful detailing.
ABnOVE: On the 12th workers were removing those granite panels exposing beautiful detailing.
ABOVE: Detailing that was covered over for decades.
ABOVE: Detailing that was covered over for decades.
ABOVE: Full view of the facade
ABOVE: Full view of the facade

This project has me more excited than Ballpark Village phase one.

— Steve Patterson


20th Anniversary of the Julia Davis Library Branch

Twenty years ago the Julia Davis branch of the St. Louis Public Library opened at 4415 Natural Bridge Ave. At the time I lived to the east on Hebert Street in Old North St. Louis.

ABOVE: The modern building was new construction
ABOVE: Plaque inside the library notes the date of dedication.

Julia Davis was still living when the branch was dedicated — she was 101 years old.

Born in 1891, Davis graduated from Dumas Elementary, Sumner High and Normal Schools and Stowe Teacher College. She received an M.A. in Education from the State University of Iowa and continued graduate study at Lincoln, Boston, Northwestern, St Louis, Syracuse and New York Universities. From 1913 until her retirement in 1961, she taught in the St. Louis Public Schools. Thirty-five of those years were spent at Simmons Elementary. Among her lifelong interests, Davis pursued research in African-American history. She served actively at Central Baptist church and in national, state, and local Baptist educational programs with the Metropolitan Church Federation. She also served with other civic and cultural groups.

In an effort to raise public awareness of the contributions of African-Americans to American culture, Davis initiated, in 1941, a series of annual exhibits at the St. Louis Public Library. She also published many notable works on African-American history, including a calendar of African-American achievements and a compilation of biographical notes on twenty African-Americans for whom St Louis schools were named.

On November 20, 1961, the day of her retirement from teaching, she established the Julia Davis Fund at the St Louis Public Library. The fund was designed for the purchase of books, manuscripts and other materials related to the African-American contribution to world culture. Thus was initiated the Julia Davis Research Collection on African-American History and Culture. It has grown into a major research collection on the subject. The collection is public and serves a lasting tribute to African-American cultural contributions.

She was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1981 and celebrated her 100th birthday in November 1991 with a ceremony at Central Library. She died on April 26, 1993. (Wikipedia)

A remarkable life dedicated to education.  The Wikipedia article goes on to say she donated $2,500 to the library at her retirement in 1961 to begin the “Julia Davis Collection of Negro and African Literature and Culture.”  In 2011 dollars that’s over $18,500!!

Thank you Ms. Davis for setting such a great example.

— Steve Patterson