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Remembering The Old Kiener Plaza

May 15, 2017 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Parks Comments Off on Remembering The Old Kiener Plaza

The ribbon will be cut on the new Kiener Plaza at noon on Friday, May 19, 2017. Kiener Plaza is a 2-block urban park, part of the Gateway Mall, bounded by Broadway (5th) on the East, Market on the South, 7th on the West, and Chestnut on the North.

Originally Kiener Plaza was just one block — Broadway to 6th. The 2nd block was added in the 80s with the Morton May Amphitheater replacing a surface parking lot on the West block.  Sixth Street was closed between Chestnut and Market — just one block. This forced the one-way Southbound traffic on 6th to turn onto one-way Eastbound Chestnut.

The land outlined in white is privately owned. Source: GEO St. Louis

I went through my photos of Kiener Plaza — I’d used a few on the blog before, but added 20+ to this post.

The two blocks were never a cohesive design, from different decades. The new design starts from a clean slate, we’ll see Friday how well it turned out.   See cityarchriver.org/visit/kiener for more information on Friday & Saturday’s activities.

A week from today I’ll have my thoughts on the new Kiener Plaza.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Learn From Embarrassing History, Don’t Brush It Under The Rug

May 8, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks, Popular Culture Comments Off on Learn From Embarrassing History, Don’t Brush It Under The Rug

Late last month New Orleans was in the news, causing me think about St. Louis’ own confederate statue. .

New Orleans has taken a first major step in fulfilling its 2015 promise to tear down four prominent Confederate statues, an attempt to scrub the city’s public spaces of what many see as white supremacist symbols.
City workers began removing the Battle of Liberty Place statue at 1:25 a.m. Monday in an effort to avoid disruption by protesters who want the monuments to stay, reported The Associated Press. Erected in 1891, the obelisk honors members of the Crescent City White League, a group of all-white Confederate veterans who killed members of the city’s post-Civil War integrated police force. (Huffington Post)

Someone at KMOX also thought about St. Louis:

While the city of New Orleans is removing its Confederate statues, a 32-foot tall monument to Confederate soldiers here in Forest Park still stands — two years after the Slay Administration began exploring how to remove it.

Now the point man on the project, Human Services Director Eddie Roth, is preparing to brief new Mayor Lyda Krewson on where the project stands.

“The most economical and preferred plan is one that would cost about $100,000,” Roth says. “It mainly involves burying the granite shaft in place in Forest Park where it will be preserved.”

Under the plan, the bronze face plate would be removed and stored someplace else. (KMOX)

Our confederate monument was placed in Forest Park in 1914 — a “gift” of the Daughters of the Confederacy.

The confederate memorial was dedicated in 1914, rededicated in 1964.

Our monument, like those in many other cities, was part of an effort to revise history.

The significance of the UDC lies not in its present-day clout, which is negligible, but in its lasting contributions to history— both for good and for ill. From its inception in 1894 up through the 1960s, the UDC was the South’s premier social and philanthropic organization, an exclusive social club where the wives, sisters, and daughters of the South’s ruling white elite gathered to “revere the memory of those heroes in gray and to honor that unswerving devotion to principle which has made the confederate soldier the most majestic in history,” as cofounder Caroline Meriwether Goodlett grandly put it. At first, the UDC provided financial assistance and housing to veterans and their widows, offering a vital public service at a time when for all practical purposes most local and state governments in the South were nonfunctional and/or broke. Later, as the veteran population aged, the UDC built homes that allowed indigent veterans and their widows to live out their days with some measure of dignity. Long before there was such a thing as the National Park Service, the UDC played a crucial role in preserving priceless historic sites, war cemeteries, and battlefields across the South. At the same time, it embarked on a spree of monument building: most of those confederate monuments you can still find in hundreds of courthouse squares in small towns across the South were put there by the local UDC chapter during the early 1900s. In its way, the UDC groomed a generation of Southern women for participation in the political process: presidents attended its national convocations, and its voice was heard in the corridors of the U.S. Capitol.

But the UDC’s most important and lasting contribution was in shaping the public perceptions of the war, an effort that was begun shortly after the war by a Confederate veterans’ group called the United Confederate Veterans (which later became the Sons of Confederate Veterans—also still around, and thirty thousand members strong). The central article of faith in this effort was that the South had not fought to preserve slavery, and that this false accusation was an effort to smear the reputation of the South’s gallant leaders. In the early years of the twentieth century the main spokesperson for this point of view was a formidable Athens, Georgia, school principal named Mildred Lewis Rutherford (or Miss Milly, as she is known to UDC members), who traveled the South speaking, organizing essay contests, and soliciting oral histories of the war from veterans, seeking the vindication of the lost cause “with a political fervor that would rival the ministry of propaganda in any 20th century dictatorship,” Blight writes. (Salon)

I loath the confederate flag, but I don’t see how revising history again will make things right in the future. Instead of spending $100k to bury the monument we should spend that money on a new exhibit around  it talking about the Civi War, St. Louis’ role, the 20th century revision movement, and the 21st century movement to eradicate pro-confederate symbolism. Something powerful like Wall Street’s “Fearless Girl statue. Tell the story of the 150+ years since the end of the Civil War — Jim Crow laws, deed restrictions/Shelley vs Kraemer, segregation, Jefferson Bank protests, Ferguson, etc.

Burying the monument would be brushing an embarrassing moment under the rug.  “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” — click here for variations on this quote.

— Steve Patterson

 

Fire Destroyed Lindell Hotel 150 Years Ago Today

March 30, 2017 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on Fire Destroyed Lindell Hotel 150 Years Ago Today
Lindell Hotel the next morning, Missouri History Museum collection

A huge fire destroyed St. Louis’ premier hotel on this date a century snd a half ago:

On March 30, 1867, the Lindell Hotel caught fire for reasons unknown. The ornate six-story building was a marvel of architectural design carefully crafted from brick, iron, and stone. As word of the fire began to spread, many of the nearly 400 guests ignored the warnings. Much like some passengers of the Titanic believed the ship unsinkable, these hotel residents thought themselves safe within the strong, solid confines surrounding them. They continued relaxing, eating, and drinking, but the fire wasn’t about to be ignored. (Missouri History Museum blog– recomended)

The Lindell Hotel was rebuilt on the same site, opening in 1874. It experienced a fire in 1885. It was razed in 1906 to build the Stix, Baer & Fuller department store.  It became a Dillard’s in 1984, and connected to St. Louis Centre (opened 1985) via a 4-story walkway over Washington Ave.

Today the building on the site contains:

A lot of history at this site.

— Steve Patterson

 

Moral Crusader George Peach Charged In Prostitution Sting A Quarter Century Ago

March 13, 2017 Crime, Featured, History/Preservation, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Moral Crusader George Peach Charged In Prostitution Sting A Quarter Century Ago

The following is a slightly updated version of a post I did 5 years ago…

A year and a half after I moved to St. Louis a huge scandal broke — 25 years ago today:

The chief state prosecutor for the city of St. Louis, who has spent most of his 15 years in office crusading against obscenity, pornography and prostitution, was charged today with a misdemeanor offense of patronizing a prostitute.

[snip]

Since being elected as circuit attorney in 1976, Mr. Peach has led a fight to rid St. Louis of pornography and prostitution. In the 1980’s he was responsible for closing the city’s major pornographic book and video stores. Last June, he endorsed changes in city ordinances that would make jail mandatory for prostitutes, pimps and customers who are second-time offenders. (New York Times)

Peach was busted three days earlier, on Tuesday March 10, 1992,  in a hotel in St. Louis County. In the days immediately following his arrest on the misdemeanor charge local officials were debating if he should resign or run for a 5th term as prosecutor.

ABOVE: AP story from 3/15/92, click to view article

A January 2004 story in the Post-Dispatch recounts many the sorted details including more criminal activity:

In an eight-month Post-Dispatch investigation in 1992, reporters disclosed that Peach financed his extracurricular activities with cash from a confidential city checking account he controlled. He also took money from a fund set up to aid crime victims. (Link no longer available)

A number of years ago an independent hollywood company began raising money to produce a film about Peach’s downfall, myself and many others donated money to help get the film made:

Heart of the Beholder is a 2005 drama film that was written and directed by Ken Tipton. It is based on Tipton’s own experience as the owner of a chain of videocassette rental stores in the 1980s. Tipton and his family had opened the first videocassette rental stores in St. Louis in 1980. Their business was largely destroyed by a campaign of the National Federation for Decency, who objected to the chain’s carrying the film The Last Temptation of Christ for rental.

The film won “Best Feature Film” awards at several film festivals. Critic Ryan Cracknell summarized the film, “There’s no shortage of material for writer-director Ken Tipton to work with here. That alone makes Heart of the Beholder a film of interest. It is in many ways a politically charged film as it touches on issues of freedom of speech, religious beliefs and all out fanaticism. Still, I didn’t think it was charged with enough balance and I think a large part had to do with the film’s inconsistent pacing.” (Wikipedia)

As one of thousands of uncredited producers I got the film on DVD, but here’s the trailer:

You can watch the entire film online, view chapter 1, do not watch at work! The film is also available on Netflix.

I recall a video store on the south side of Olive between Compton & Grand, now part of Saint Louis University’s campus, that closed in the early 90s. I only visited the store once, not sure if it was one of Ken Tipton’s Video Library stores or not.

– Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today

February 17, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation, MLK Jr. Drive, North City Comments Off on St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today

Last month, on the Martin Luther King holiday, I posted my 13th look at the street named after the slain civil rights leader — see Annual Look At Changes Along St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive. From a STL250 Facebook post that has since been deleted:

This Day in St. Louis History, February 17, 1972:
Martin Luther King Boulevard is dedicated

A Board of Aldermen bill was passed that changed the name of Easton Avenue and portions of Franklin Avenue to Martin Luther King Boulevard. Alderman C.B. Broussard was a primary sponsor, and he announced that the change was part of a nationwide organized drive to rename street[s[ in honor of the murdered civil rights figure. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Just days after his murder, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

By 1972 St. Louis was aware the 1960s was its second decade in a row with major losses in population. In the two decades since the St. Louis population peaked in the 1950 census, the city lost more than a quarter of its residents. The biggest reduction, however, happened during the 1970s. By the 1980 census St. Louis had again lost more than a quarter of the population — in a single decade.

As the white middle class fled North St. Louis for North St. Louis County, commercial streets like Easton & Franklin Avenues were already in decline before 1972.

One building symbolizes this change better than any other. Demolition of existing 2-story buildings began on February  29, 1948 — the new JC Penny store opened the following year. By 1967 the store was so crowded a warehouse was added to the West (since demolished). Less than a decade later, the store closed on September 11, 1976.

 

The former JC Penny store (1949-1976) on MLK in the Wellston Loop in the modern style with an urban form, rather than style of its red brick neighbors that are 20-40 years older.
Click image to view the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

As residents fled to North County retailers followed them. New shopping areas like Northland (1955), River Roads (1962), Northwest Plaza (1965),  and Jamestown Mall (1973) opened to serve the new suburban middle class. Franklin & Easton Avenues would have declined even it not renamed.

Can this corridor be revived? To the point of being the honor it was intended? I have my doubts. Perhaps we should do something different to causally honor Dr. King’s legacy and return the street name to Easton & Franklin Avenues?

— Steve Patterson

 

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