New Book — ‘Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades’ by Jim Merkel

 

 Though I’ve lived in St. Louis for over three decades, I didn’t grow up here. This book is fascinating because you can read stories from over 100 people who did grow up here. No matter when or where we grow up, the stories, people, and places that populate our memories …

Our November 3rd Ballot Is Long, Begin Your Research Now

 

 I’d imagine most of you know how you’ll vote in the upcoming presidential election. There are five tickets for president, but it’s only between two for most voters. But what about the rest of the ballot? Your civic duty doesn’t end with the presidential race. In-person absentee voting began yesterday, …

New Book — ‘Forest Park: A Walk Through History’ by Carolyn Mueller

 

 Forest Park, opened in 1876, is larger than NYC’s Central Park. It had already been open over a quarter century when the Word’s Fair opened in 1904 in the park.  Today’s book is a guidebook to help you walk through thr park, exploring the many areas and historic  structures. Because …

Grand Bridge/Viaduct Not Looking So Good After Only Eight Years

 

 The ribbon for the $20-$30 million Grand bridge/viaduct was cut on August 25, 2012. It looked great that day. Now, eight years later it is not looking so fresh. On Monday (9/14/2020) I crossed both sides, end to end. Ribbon cuttings are appealing to politicians, especially those running for additional …

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The Praxair Explosion Was 15 Years Years Ago Today

June 24, 2020 Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on The Praxair Explosion Was 15 Years Years Ago Today
 

Fifteen years ago today the outside temperature was a lot hotter than today, nearly 100°.  A safety valve on a propane tank at Praxair, on Chouteau east of Jefferson Ave, opened to release pressure. Liquid droplets self ignited, setting off a chain reaction involving other tanks on the asphalt outside yard.

The burnt-out building in 2010, five years after the explosion.

I wasn’t in the city that day, I was with a client in Richmond Heights. This was pre-iPhone days so I’m not sure how we heard about it. But the fire was still going by the time I got home.

In the 15 years since there have been numerous proposals & announcements about developing the site. The latest may have actually started, though it hadn’t the last time I checked.

What’s good is nobody was killed that day, no longer having such an industrial use right across the street from homes. Yes, the site was probably industrial/commercial long before residents bought their homes — but those homes are older than the Praxair company and probably older than the business of propane & propane accessories.

Airgas’s yard (left)  abuts the East side of the Grand bridge, near the elevator & stairs transit passengers use transferring between bus & light rail. September 2012 photo.

Hopefully the city keeps a close eye on the Airgas yard, I’d hate to see a repeat of 2005.

— Steve Patterson

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POLL: Agree or Disagree: Juneteenth Agree or disagree: Juneteenth Should Become a Federal Holiday.

June 21, 2020 Featured, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll Comments Off on POLL: Agree or Disagree: Juneteenth Agree or disagree: Juneteenth Should Become a Federal Holiday.
 
Please vote below

This year St. Louis County made Juneteenth an official holiday. If you’re not familiar, this will help:

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. (Juneteenth.com)

Nearly two and a half more years of slavery for the humans held in Texas.  Juneteenth is a holiday here and there.

Although Juneteenth has been informally celebrated primarily by African American communities since that day in 1865, currently 47 of 50 US states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday or observance. Texas became the first in 1980.

Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota and are the only three states that don’t formally recognize Juneteenth.

Nationally, a US president typically offers a proclamation acknowledging the day’s significance and gives well wishes to African Americans who observe. Barack Obama did so every year of his presidency and Trump marked the day last year.

However, no president has supported declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. Last year, the US Senate passed a resolution recognizing “Juneteenth Independence Day” as a national holiday, but it has not yet been approved in the House. (The Guardian)

Today’s non-scientific reader poll is about making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, Home of the Gateway Geyser, Dedicated 15 Years Ago Today

June 18, 2020 Featured, Metro East, Parks Comments Off on Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, Home of the Gateway Geyser, Dedicated 15 Years Ago Today
 

It was 15 years ago today that the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park was formally dedicated.

The park overlook on December 10, 2010. Click image to see live webcam view.

The park is dedicated to the man who pushed for the creation of the Gateway Geyser more than 25 years ago:

The tallest water fountain in the United States and third tallest in the world, capable of rising to 630 feet, the Gateway Geyser began operating on May 27, 1995, helping to fulfill Malcolm W. Martin’s vision of creating a landmark along the Illinois riverfront that would complement the Gateway Arch. The Gateway Geyser was established with the help of the Gateway Center of Metropolitan St. Louis, a non-profit group founded by Malcolm, whose members raised $4 million in private donations to construct the geyser. (The park with a view)

Source: Metro East Park and Recreation District
June 2015

It used to operate multiple times per day, but now only at noon — weather permitting, of course. The equipment is aging.

The Gateway Geyser is typically accompanied by four smaller fountains around the perimeter of the pond. These fountains are not expected to come back online until the 2020 season. Why? The pump is being rebuilt. This repair does not affect the operation of the Gateway Geyser. Sorry for any inconvenience.

This park is one of my favorite spaces in the the region, a reason why my husband and I got married here just over 6 years ago this month.

I’m the shorter one on the left, photo taken while our friend Dionna Raedeke sang ‘The Very Thought of You’

Another reason we picked this park, located in East St. Louis Illinois, for our wedding is we still couldn’t legally get married in Missouri — but Missouri is in all our photos anyway!

Now that wheelchair access to the west end of the Eads Bridge has been fixed, I can visit this park more often.

— Steve Patterson

Ugly Addition Being Transformed Into New Entrance To Former Post-Dispatch Building, Square’s New St. Louis Offices

June 17, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Ugly Addition Being Transformed Into New Entrance To Former Post-Dispatch Building, Square’s New St. Louis Offices
 

The work to modernize the former Post-Dispatch office building at 900 Tucker is well underway. Major alterations to a later addition at Tucker and Cole Street will be the biggest exterior change, as you’ll see below.

900 N Tucker, January 2019 photo
This January 2016 photo shows the Tucker side later windowless addition on the north end of the building.
This June 2012 photo shows the blank side along Cole Street.

More than five years ago the St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced it wanted to sell its building, to downsize.

Lee Enterprises, owner of the Post-Dispatch since 2005, announced Tuesday it is selling its building on 900 North Tucker Boulevard and searching for a new location.

The six-story building, completed in 1931, has been the newspaper’s headquarters since 1959, the year that the Post-Dispatch bought the property and printing equipment from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, a now-defunct morning newspaper. (Post-Dispatch)

In August 2018 Jim McKelvey, via StarLake Holdings, was to buy the building, the Post-Dispatch was to remain as a tenant on the top two floors. The purchase closed in September 2018.

The Post-Dispatch decided to renovate and move to a vacant 1980s building a block to the east. StarLake Holdings became Starwood Group.  In July 2019 payment company Square announced it would relocate its St. Louis offices from the CORTEX area to 900 Tucker. Not really a surprise since McKelvey is a co-founder of Square, along with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.

The Post-Dispatch’s 7th home, 901 N. 10th Street.

Once the Post-Dispatch moved into their newly renovated building a block away, work began on the old building.  Inside at first, but then to the addition.

On May 16th I was driving home and noticed the buff veneer brick was being removed from the concrete block addition.
By May 30th the veneer brick had been removed from the entire west facade and window openings were being created in the block structure.
And window openings also on the north side, also on May 30th
By June 3rd ground floor window openings had been created on both the Tucker & Cole facades. This view shows windows once existed on the Cole side, later bricked up.

I was very happy to see this windowless addition being opened up, but how would it be utilized? On June 7th I got my answer, turns out the main entry will move from Tucker at MLK to Cole Street.

The new lobby will not open to Tucker Boulevard on the west, but to Cole Street on the north. That is philosophical. McKelvey wanted the lobby to face Cole to recognize the untapped potential of the largely African American population on the north side. (Post-Dispatch)

That last line sounds like BS to me, a marketing explanation for what physically made sense with the structure — they wanted to keep the old lobby intact but not as a lobby, so they needed a new lobby. The north addition was their only option.

The morning of June 16th the work on the Cole facade continued. This time the block is being removed entirely. This suggests a different treatment for this section, all glass with the entrance at the sidewalk level is my guess
The view shows the east & north sides.

Given the historic nature of the 1931 original there was no room for anything creative on the exterior. This addition, however, is the perfect place to be creative.  I’m enjoying seeing it evolve.

In December 2011 I posted about how Tucker will become  Downtown’s New Entrance once the new bridge opened, this is the case for many. This new entrance will pop once completed, getting lots of eyes from drivers on Tucker.

In August 2012 I posted about filling in three blocks along Tucker — building new infill to enhance the urban feel of Tucker. Here’s a crude graphic I made at the time.

Aerial of a few blocks of north Tucker showing locations where infill buildings can easily be constructed (blue) and additional spots where they should be considered (red)

Hopefully we’ll see some infill on some of the parking lots, at least on the 3 other corners of Tucker & Cole. In a future post I want to talk about their proposed “innovation district” concept.

— Steve Patterson

Views From The Temporarily Closed Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge (16 photos)

June 16, 2020 Featured Comments Off on Views From The Temporarily Closed Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge (16 photos)
 

In my nearly three decades of living in St. Louis I’ve crossed the Mississippi River on the MLK Bridge many times.

The bridge was built across the Mississippi River in 1951 as the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge to relieve congestion on the MacArthur Bridge to the south. Built as a toll bridge, it was owned by the City of East St. Louis. At one time, it carried U.S. Route 40 and U.S. Route 66 across the river. In 1967, the bridge fell into disrepair after the (free) Poplar Street Bridge was completed; traffic moved to the new bridge, resulting in declining toll revenues needed for maintenance.

Eventually, ownership was transferred dually to the Missouri and Illinoisdepartments of Transportation and the bridge was renamed after Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, after the national civil rights leader was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1987, the states removed the toll for travel across the bridge. A bi-state project for about $24 million to renovate the bridge, at the behest of local civic and government leaders, was carried out in the late 1980s. In the spring of 1989, the rebuilt bridge was reopened. In June 1990, the lighting of the bridge was completed by the St. Louis Port Authority. In the 21st century it is considered an important contributor to satisfying the transportation needs of the region and enhancing the ambiance of the historic St. Louis riverfront. (Wikipedia)

Recently I’ve crossed the river on the MLK using my power wheelchair. This wasn’t dangerous since it closed to traffic in 2018 for maintenance and work on an approach in Illinois. The reopening has been pushed back as flooding last year delayed the work.

After a friend/regular reader walked across the bridge I decided to give it a try as well. I knew from her description that I couldn’t easily get to the south (eastbound) lanes. I had to first roll along the north lanes (westbound), go into Illinois where the concrete center divider sections had been removed, then go back along the south lanes to get great views of the Eads Bridge, Arch, Laclede’s Landing, etc.

I’ve done it twice now, once late evening and the other in the morning. The lighting is different.  I took lots of photos on both trips, but here are 8 from each — in chronological oder.

Tuesday April 21, 2020

You can see my shadow, just before 7pm.
Looking north
I finally reached an opening in the center divider
Looking back toward Missouri
Looking down at Laclede’s Landing
A barge pushing upriver after passing under the Eads Bridge
I was shocked to see occupied houses on low land just north of the bridge approach in Illinois.
Looking north at the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Saturday May 23, 2020

You can see sections where the concrete paving was replaced.
Obligatory Arch & skyline view, sans barge.
In the center you can see the new pocket park under construction on the Laclede’s Landing side of the Eads Bridge, the site of the former Switzer Building. More on this in a future post.
The Illinois side is shockingly barren and flat. A few remnants of industry remain.
One of the reasons the MLK bridge has been closed was this work in Illinois on the roads that approach the bridge.
This month I noticed a change, looks like forming for new bases for new light fixtures.
Looking north again. The north flood gate was still closed.

I may go across again before it reopens to vehicles, it would be nice if the public was invited to cross the bridge the weekend before it reopens.

— Steve Patterson

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