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American City: St. Louis Architecture Three Centuries of Classic Design

January 27, 2011 Books, History/Preservation 8 Comments
ABOVE: Cover of American City: St. Louis Architecture.  Text by Robert Sharoff & photographs by William Zbaren
ABOVE: Cover of American City: St. Louis Architecture. Text by Robert Sharoff & photographs by William Zbaren

Two days ago my post contrasted St. Louis natives & newbies.  That day a beautiful large-format book arrived at my door.  American City: St. Louis Architecture, with text by Robert Sharoff and 140 color photographs by William Zbaren, is stunning.  They affirm my point from Tuesday, that outsiders see what we often overlook.  Sharoff & Zbaren, both from Chicago, came to St. Louis in 2007 working for the New York Times. In the cover letter with the book they say they “wound up being knocked out by some of the greatest architecture in the country.”

ABOVE: One of several photographs of the Carl Milles fountain in Aloe Plaza. Photo by William Zbaren

St. Louis can and does impress persons from Chicago, New York, San Francisco, etc.  Books like this new volume will hopefully open they eyes of people who’ve never once visited St. Louis.  This book is the second in their American City series, the first was Detroit. Upcoming volumes will look at Chicago and Savannah.

Sure St. Louis, and Detroit, have issues but the gems presented in this book are part of the reason why St. Louis is home for me.  This book will be available for purchase in March 2011.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. Al Fickensher says:

    Very happy that you posted this, I love books. I'm generally not a buyer of the broad, somewhat-vague “coffee-table” genre of books but I am buying this one.

    Under $25 bucks at Amazon.

    Thanks, Steve.

  2. Melanie Harvey says:

    Yes, it seems to take outsiders to appreciate and validate St Louis. As a tour guide here I am familiar with the phenomenon of visitors who “discover” St Louis – their delight usually atones for their condescension…. I guess they are expecting only a shabby, polluted, crime-ridden city next to a big river stuck in the middle of the country. We are more than that and can become so much better than that – beginning with a little local pride.

    This lovely book is in stock at Left Bank Books right now. Yes, it costs more than at Amazon but a purchase at either Left Bank (downtown or CWE) supports an indie business that is supporting the City and contributing to local culture. http://www.left-bank.com/catal….

    St Louis architecture has been documented for decades, especially by the Landmarks Association (although apparently no one from Chicago or New York was paying attention). I recommend St Louis: Landmarks & Historic Districts, with some outstanding photography by St Louisan Robert Pettus, and St Louis: Historic Churches & Synagogues. These and others can be purchased at on-line of course (https://store.landmarks-stl.or…) but also F2F at 911 Washington, where you can see some of St Louis' architectural heritage by actually walking down the street.

  3. Joe Hoff says:

    A native St. Louisan from the Shaw neighborhood near Tower Grove Park, I always appreciated the architecture of my neighborhood and the surrounding areas of Compton Heights as well as downtown and other parts of the city. It always hurt me to see more buildings torn down. I now live in Richmond, VA (because of a job) which has a similar brick architecture albeit on a smaller scale. Here we have a small architecture museum which allows for people to study and appreciate architecture here as well as elsewhere (including St. Louis). It would seem to me that St. Louis could benefit from a similar institution (not just he City Museum's approach) to help people appreciate the built environment – starting with the school kids so they can see what a great place they live.

  4. Alfred Fickensher says:

    BTW, my interest in and appreciation of architecture in St Louis extends more to the myriad of generally older residential and light-commercial brickwork all around town. One good large group example which I personally remember from when I was in StLouis back in the sixties is along Clayton Ave between Hampton and McCausland. My own 4-flat apartment building in the 7300 block of Zephyr Place in Maplewood, if it's still there, is another. They're almost universal apparently, because I'm seeing them all the time in Steve's blog photos. They all look similarly “alike”.

    And Melanie, local bookstores are wonderful when they are there. The last of mine closed down two years ago so Amazon for “new” and Bookfinder.com for “used” have become my book sellers. “Here” happens to be Davenport, Iowa.

  5. Anna says:

    I love the design on the cover of this book. Well done!

  6. Jen Marie says:

    Thank you Steve. I bought the book last night at Left Bank Books, it was a little more than Amazon but well worth it. I am happy to pay a little more at LBB and other locally owned businesses; I know by doing so Left Bank, their employees and the other businesses they buy from will be able to not only stay in business but thrive.


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