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Readers: Library Renovation A Good Investment

Last week readers indicated in the poll the millions spent renovating the Central Library was a good investment. The results are at the very end but I want to show you some areas where the library has changed. I was fortunate to tour the library with the AIA St. Louis last week, many photos below.

The library  reopens to the public on Sunday December 9, 2012 so you can see in person then.

ABOVE: Main facade of the Central Library by Cass Gilbert

First we need to understand how the central library was designed. From the sidewalk it appears to be a solid mass, but that is not the case.

ABOVE: Central Library undergoing renovation as viewed from the roof of the Park Pacific, May 2011
ABOVE: The grand hall is in the center with connections to all four outer sides/wings. The stacks wing on the north side was very a modern  contrast to the rest of the building in 1912.

So now you know how the building is organized around the grand hall, let’s head inside.

ABOVE: The lower level entry under the prominent south entrance is no longer open.
ABOVE: The north facade prior to renovation, the stacks aren’t visible through the frosted glass.
ABOVE: Now the stacks and atrium are visible to everyone.
ABOVE: Looking east we can see the new Locust Street entry to the library with the Shell Building in the background
ABOVE: Waller McGuire, director of the St. Louis Pubic Library, heads back to his office across 14th Street. A water feature divides the sidewalk from the entry.
ABOVE: Looking out from the new glass entry vestibule.
ABOVE: The atrium in the former stacks area is a very modern and welcoming area.
ABOVE: The glass wall behind the Locust St circulation desk was made from the old glass floors in the 7-story stacks area
ABOVE: An information board explains the changes to the central stacks area
ABOVE: One photo gives you a before glimpse of the stacks with the glass floor walkways. This area was never open to the general public.
ABOVE: Looking up we can see the stacks on upper levels
ABOVE: This space will now face a cafe, not all furniture had arrived yet
ABOVE: Adjacent to the cafe is a room for book club meetings
ABOVE: And self checkout is now an option
ABOVE: New public space was created in the once-dark basement level
ABOVE: This auditorium was created where the former coal storage room was located
ABOVE: The children’s area is in the same spot as before but new activity areas added and the old outside entrance is just an emergency exit
ABOVE: The Stedman Architectural Library is unchanged, it is still by appointment only.
ABOVE: The 3rd floor Carnegie Room is one of several meeting rooms in the library.
ABOVE: From the 3rd floor you can see the gap between the outer wings and grand hall (right)
ABOVE: The stacks remain in the stacks section of the building but by using movable shelves they occupy less space.
ABOiVE: The staff lounge has a great view of Lucas Park located across Locust St.

Still here? Below are the poll results:

Q: $70 Million To Renovate The Central Library A Good Investment?

  1. Yes 113 [73.38%]
  2. No 17 [11.04%]
  3. Maybe 13 [8.44%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 10 [6.49%]
  5. Other  “too much money but needed some renovation”: 1 [0.65%]

I was nervous about changing the library, the impact of so much money could’ve been a bad thing. In the end I think we’ve made a great investment for the next 100 years. St. Louisans in 2112 can decide what to do next.

— Steve Patterson


Today Is Rosa Parks Day

December 1, 2012 Featured, History/Preservation, Politics/Policy, Popular Culture, Public Transit Comments Off on Today Is Rosa Parks Day

Today marks an important day in history:

ABOVE: The #10 (Gravois-Lindell) MetroBus at Gravois & Jefferson

Most historians date the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States to December 1, 1955. That was the day when an unknown seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This brave woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but her lonely act of defiance began a movement that ended legal segregation in America, and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere. (source)

I was born less than a dozen years later, my oldest brother was 5.  I can’t imagine  the kind of trouble I’d have gotten into trying to fight racial segregation.  Or would I have thought it was the way the world worked?

— Steve Patterson


Poll: $70 Million To Renovate The Central Library A Good Investment?

Next month the Central Library will reopen after being closed for nearly two and a half years:

Central Library is in the midst of a $70 million dollar restoration and renovation. Over four million books and other items were moved out of the building for safekeeping and reorganization before this enormous project could begin. Central Library will reopen late in 2012 – a century after it first opened to the public – as a great research and community library for the 21st century. (slpl,org)

It reopens to the public on Sunday December 9, 2012.

ABOVE: Main facade of the Central Library, November 17, 2012

From July 2010:

The city of St. Louis closed on the sale of $65 million in bonds June 30, clearing the way for construction on the nearly century-old facility to begin later this summer. (St. Louis Business Journal)

The remaining funds were raised privately through the library foundation. The new library will be quite different than what generations have known, the old central stack area behind the scenes no longer has the glass walkways and administrative offices moved to a newer building to the west, freeing up more public space.

A few Central Library facts:

  • Opened: January 6, 1912
  • Architect: Cass Gilbert 
  • Carnegie grant: May 12, 1901

With Carnegie’s $1,000,000 grant St. Louis built seven libraries — six branches and the central (source). I read somewhere Carnegie told other cities to not do like St. Louis did — putting a large percentage in one building. Today some might say $65 million in public bonds might have been better spent if spread around to the many infrastructure needs of the city. Others say such an institution is critical to our future.

The poll question this week asks if this was a good investment? The poll is in the upper right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson


Scott Joplin’s Brief St. Louis Connection

Legendary ragtime composer Scott Joplin wasn’t born, or raised, in St. Louis, but he lived here during a significant part of his short career.  That much is well documented, Joplin’s birthplace & birthday aren’t so clear:

One tenacious myth tells us that Joplin was born in Texarkana, Texas, on November 24, 1868. The location is easily dispensed with: Texarkana was not established until 1873. Testimony of a family friend has Scott born in Marshall, Texas, some 70 miles south from what was to become Texarkana; in 1870, according to the U.S. Census, the family lived on a farm in Linden, Texas, almost 40 miles away. That same census, of 1870, certifies that on July 18, 1870, the young Scott was already two years old, thereby ruling out a birth date of November 24, 1868. The 1880 census and his death certificate support that conclusion. Though we cannot cite an exact date for his birth, documents place the event between July 19, 1867 and mid-January 1868. (source)

As a young man in his 20s he began his musical career:

During the late 1880s he left his job as a laborer with the railroad, and travelled around the American South as an itinerant musician. He went to Chicago for the World’s Fair of 1893, which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897.

Joplin moved to Sedalia, Missouri, in 1894, and earned a living teaching piano and continuing to tour the South. In Sedalia, he taught future ragtime composers Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden and Brun Campbell. Joplin began publishing music in 1895, and publication of his “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899 brought him fame and had a profound influence on subsequent writers of ragtime. It also brought the composer a steady income for life. During his lifetime, Joplin did not reach this level of success again and frequently had financial problems.(Wikipedia)

Joplin only lived in St. Louis from 1900-1907, but it was a productive period in his life:

Joplin moved to St. Louis in the spring of 1900 with his new wife, Belle. They moved into the flat at 2658A Morgan Street, now Delmar Boulevard. While living there between 1900-1903, he produced some of his better known compositions: The Entertainer, Elite Syncopations, March Majestic and Ragtime Dance. With royalties coming in from his musical creations, he began to perform less and became more of a teacher and composer. During this productive time in St. Louis, Joplin also wrote his first major serious composition, an operatic piece called A Guest of Honor, which had as its setting the Missouri governor’s mansion in Jefferson City. The original score for this work was lost, and it can no longer be performed. (Scott Joplin House)

Although Joplin and his wife only lived at that address for a few years, it is a Missouri state historic site, with most of the block face intact as it was during his time here.

ABOVE: Scott Joplin lived in an upstairs flat on a ordinary stretch of Delmar
ABOVE: Originally built as a single family house, it was divided into two flats. The house on the right wasn’t divided and retained a single front door.

Joplin moved to New York City in 1907 to further his career, but he never achieved  the same success. He died there on April 1, 1917, basically pennyless.

The Scott Joplin House State Historic Site is an interesting place to see. It’s is closed November-January but I’d suggest visiting next year.

— Steve Patterson


Municipal Auditorium Cornerstone Set Eighty Years Ago Today

Four decades ago, during the Great Depression, the cornerstone on the city’s new Municipal Auditorium was set into place. Later it was renamed Kiel Opera House after former mayor Henry Kiel (1871-1942).

Last year the building reopened as the Peabody Opera House.

ABOVE: Inside the Peabody Opera House September 2011
ABOVE: The main auditorium is a beautiful space, the ceiling lights can change colors

In today’s political climate stimulus funds to kickstart the economy are highly controversial. thankfully we can still benefit from those that came before us.

ABOVE: “1932” cornerstone facing Market St near 14th St
ABOVEL Details about dignitaries involved are listed on each side of the main entrance, this one on the east starts with mayor Victor J. Miller
ABOVE: The list on the west side includes members of the Memorial Plaza Commission.

I like seeing names on buildings, makes it easier decades later to know who to thank, or curse.

— Steve Patterson