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Poll: How Often Do You Use The Public Library?

May 6, 2012 Books, Featured 13 Comments

This year the St. Louis Central Library will reopen after a $70 million dollar renovation and the St. Louis County Library is seeking a property tax increase to replace it’s main building and others (story). The library is a great resource we all pay for,  one I know I haven’t used often enough. I’m changing that this year.

Lately I’ve been checking out DVDs from the library for titles I can’t stream on Netflix. I had to update my library card since I hadn’t used it for a while.  Turns out the St. Louis Library requires everyone to update their card after each birthday.

ABOVE: Cabanne Branch at 1106 Union Blvd

With all this investment in our libraries I was wondering how often you use the library. Take the poll in the right sidebar and add any comments below.

– Steve Patterson




Richard Nickel Died 40 Years Ago

ABOVE: Cover of book on Richard Nickel's photography, click image to see book info on Left Bank Books website

One Chicago resident was obsessed with photographing, stopping demolition of and lastly saving pieces from buildings designed by Louis Sullivan.

Architecture photographer Richard Nickel spent years with his camera, documenting — and arguing against — the demolition of buildings in Chicago. Thirty-five years ago this month, Nickel died trying to document the demise of a building designed by Louis Sullivan, whose architecture helped define the Chicago cityscape.

In the ’60s and early ’70s, Nickel watched the demolition of so many of Sullivan’s buildings — and buildings created by other turn-of-the-century masters — that he wrote, “I look forward to the day when I never have to enter a wet, charred, smoky building again.” (NPR)

He died 40 years ago today inside one of those buildings.

Nickel was killed on April 13, 1972, while attempting to obtain more items for SIUE, when a stairwell in the Chicago Stock Exchange building collapsed on him. He is buried in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery, not very far from where Sullivan is buried. He died without completing his great collection of photographs of Sullivan’s work, but Nickel’s black-and-white photos have been displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago and elsewhere. The Richard Nickel Committee and Photographic Archive is a non-profit organization devoted to preserving the photographer’s work, and holds the copyrights for most of his pictures. (Wikipedia)

Some items previously salvaged by Nickel had been purchased by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). Some are on display in the The Louis H. Sullivan Collection in Lovejoy Library.

Nickel would be 83 if he were alive today.

– Steve Patterson


Maybe The World Breaks On Purpose, So We Can Have Work To Do

August 24, 2011 Books, Events/Meetings 2 Comments

Earlier this month I attended a couple of events with Peter Kageyama, author of For the Love of Cities. In his presentations he talked about attachment with where we live, quoted here from his website:

“A 2009 Gallup study that looked at the levels of emotional engagement people have with their communities, found that just 24% of people were “engaged” with their community. Gallup also found a significant relationship between how passionate and loyal people are to their communities and local economic growth. The most “attached” communities had the highest local GDP growth. Despite this, it feels as though our places and our leadership have forgotten how to connect with us emotionally and our cities have suffered because of it.”

Attachment, he explained, might be as simple as voting, going to a PTA meeting, etc. Forty percent were not attached, thirty-six percent were neutral, and only twenty-four percent attached. See the Gallup Soul of the Community website for the detailed reports.

“Over the past three years, the Soul of the Community study has found a positive correlation between community attachment and local GDP growth. Across the 26 Knight communities, those whose residents were more attached saw more local GDP growth. This is a key metric in assessing community success because local GDP growth not only measures a community’s economic success, but also its ability to grow and meet residents’ needs.” (p5 2010 report)

I asked  Peter Kageyama to say a few words to St. Louis:


Good advice! In the presentations he mentioned a January 2011 report in Newsweek listing the top 10 dying cities.  Those listed were:

  • 10. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • 9. Flint, Michigan
  • 8. South Bend, Indiana
  • 7. Detroit, Michigan
  • 6. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 5. Cleveland, Ohio
  • 4. Rochester, New York
  • 3. Hialeah, Florida
  • 2. Vallejo, California
  • 1. New Orleans, Louisiana

Newsweek wrote:

“Michigan dominates much of this list, with several cities experiencing significant declines in population as the state suffered high unemployment rates and above average foreclosures in recent years due mainly to the collapse of the auto industry.”

As you can imagine Grand Rapids wasn’t pleased.  But their response was not the typical stuffy political press release as if so often the case from municipalities. Check out this news report:


In short the city leaders listened to a 20-something controversial local artist, Rob Bliss. The result was the 9+ minute Grand Rapids LipDub:


This video has now been viewed more than 4 million times! The $40,000 production cost was raised through private donations and was a bargain given the positive PR it has generated for Grand Rapids. Thousands of residents participated. Newsweek said they didn’t do the study and they think better of Grand Rapids.

Another town Kageyama mentioned was Braddock PA, a 19th century suburb of Pittsburgh. It has lost 90% of it’s population from a peak of 20,879 in 1920.  They know they have issues, no rose colored glasses. They partnered with jeans maker Levi’s on the following:


“People think their are no frontiers anymore, they can’t see how frontiers are all around us.”

“Maybe the world breaks on purpose, so we can have work to do.”

Powerful stuff! Thanks for the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) and STL-Style for bringing Peter Kageyama to St. Louis!

– Steve Patterson


Opening Reception for American City: St. Louis Architecture: Three Centuries of Classic Design Friday June 10th


Click image for PDF with details of opening reception

Tomorrow night will be a great event, the “opening night reception with photographer William Zbaren and architectural writer Robert Sharoff, creators of American City: St. Louis Architecture: Three Centuries of Classic Design.”  Both the reception and exhibit are free.

The reception is Friday June 10th from 5-7pm at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard. You can use this address link to check transit routes in Google Maps.

ABOVE: Photographer Zebaren (left) and writer Sharoff (right) at Macy's last month

I reviewed their book in January and had the pleasure to meet both last month at the reopening of the downtown Macy’s. I can’t wait to see the images in large format at the exhibit.  If you can’t make the reception tomorrow be sure to get to the exhibit by August 21st.

The authors also have two book signings scheduled: Saturday June 11, 2011 @ The Missouri Botanical Garden 11am -1pm and June 12, 2011 @ Left Bank Books 399 North Euclid from 4-6pm

– Steve Patterson



Readers: ‘Death and Life’ a Classic, Happy Birthday to the Late Jane Jacobs

May 4, 2011 Books 2 Comments



Cover of Death and Life of Great American Cities
Cover of Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane [Butzner] Jacobs was born on May 4, 1916, ninety-five years ago today. Jacobs was 45 when she finished & published Death and Life of Great American Cities.  Jacobs died on April 25, 2006.

The poll (and post) last week asked:

Q: Have you read ‘Death and Life of Great American Cities’ by Jane Jacobs?

  1. Yes, a must-read classic! 38 [37.25%]
  2. No, it is on my list to read 23 [22.55%]
  3. No, never heard of the book before 20 [19.61%]
  4. No, I have no desire to read it 11 [10.78%]
  5. Other answer… 6 [5.88%]
  6. Yes, but it has been years 4 [3.92%]
  7. Yes, wasn’t impressed 0 [0%]
  8. Yes, no longer relevant though 0 [0%]

It is nice to see that more than half have read it or plan to do so. From the other answers we see that some are currently reading the book.

  1. Never heard of it, but I’m curious.
  2. no, but i think i’ve heard of it before somewhere
  3. I just started reading it a couple weeks ago
  4. almost finished; amazingly relevant and still underappreciated 50 yrs later
  5. Yes, A real eye-opener that still applies to mistakes being made today
  6. Just started the other day. It all seems right so far!

To me the book is an enjoyable read filled with excellent observations and lacking the pompous theories that fill so many books on urban planning and architecture. THE classic on urban planning.

Happy Birthday Jane Jacobs!

– Steve Patterson