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UrbanReviewSTL.com Turns Eight Today

October 31, 2012 Books, Featured 2 Comments

Eight years ago today I began writing UrbanReviewSTL.com, St. Louis’ oldest urban blog. The archives in the right sidebar show the entire history dating back to eight years ago today.

It’s hard to believe that eight years has passed? Time really does fly by when you’re having fun! I can’t imagine how I’d spend my time if I wasn’t blogging. Each day I look forward to photographing and writing.

I’ve not researched to see how St. Louis stacks up to other cities, but we’ve got lots of great blog on the built environment (see blogroll in right sidebar). In the poll last week I sought to know where these blogs are read:

Q: Where do you read local blogs? (check all that apply)

  1. At home 78 [47.27%]
  2. At work 48 [29.09%]
  3. On my smartphone/tablet on the go 27 [16.36%]
  4. At school 7 [4.24%]
  5. via users: 3 [1.82%]
  6. “Other” 2 [1.21%]

Home is the top answer but nearly a third read at work. The three answers supplied by readers:

  1. On Metro
  2. Since I have a home office, home and office get mixed.
  3. who cares?

As for the last one, I care that’s why I asked the question!

Since it’s halloween here are two great costumes for kids that use wheelchairs:

Happy Halloween and thank you so much for reading!

— Steve Patterson


Reading: To The Top! A Gateway Arch Story By Amanda E. Doyle, Illustrated By Tony Waters

October 27, 2012 Books, Featured Comments Off on Reading: To The Top! A Gateway Arch Story By Amanda E. Doyle, Illustrated By Tony Waters

Everyone loves the Arch, right? But kids especially seem curious about the monument, now there’s a book to help them understand it:

Take the children in your life on their own journey of discovery: tag along with Ella, her impatient little brother Jake, and their Grandpa as they explore the outside, inside, and very, very top of the Gateway Arch, on the Mississippi riverfront in St. Louis, Missouri. While Jake just wants to get to the top as fast as possible, Ella is intent on impressing Grandpa with everything she has learned about the landmark and its history. Together, the family discovers fascinating artifacts-a bison, a great grizzly bear, a tall statue of Thomas Jefferson-while Grandpa spins tales of his own memories, as a young man, of watching the Arch being built. More than just an architectural feat, the Arch embodies the history, culture, and spirit of westward expansion, exploration, and individual dignity. Don’t worry, they ?nally make it to the top . . . and what Jake wants then will resonate with your own young explorers! Amanda E. Doyle is an ardent St. Louis transplant, writes about the city for visitors and locals, and spends lots of time looking up with her own intrepid family. She is the author of the popular St. Louis title “Finally, a Locally Produced Guidebook to St. Louis, by and for St. Louisans, Neighborhood by Neighborhood.” (Reedy Press)

The book doesn’t address  the 40 city blocks that were cleared to make room for a monument before a competition was even held. That’s best left for a different book I suppose. This hardcover book is $16.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the final piece of the Arch going into place in 1965.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Where Do You Read Local Blogs?

October 21, 2012 Books, Sunday Poll 3 Comments

Blogs are now mainstream information sources and St. Louis is fortunate to have blogs on nearly every topic imaginable. Hopefully UrbanReviewSTL.com is among your top St. Louis blogs but even if it isn’t I’m curious where you do your reading of blogs. Is it at work? Home? School? Mobile?

Vote in the weekly poll in the right sidebar, smartphone users switch to the full layout to vote. My guess is most read at work but we will see. results will be presented on Wednesday October 31st.

— Steve Patterson


Reading: Clayton Missouri: An Urban Story

October 20, 2012 Books, Featured, St. Louis County Comments Off on Reading: Clayton Missouri: An Urban Story

A beautifully illustrated book recently came across my desk, Clayton Missouri: An Urban Story by Mary Delach Leonard with Melinda Leanard:

In 1878, Ralph Clayton and his neighbors Martin Franklin and Cyrene Hanley donated 104 acres of farmland so that St. Louis County could build a courthouse and county seat. The townsfolk who pushed to incorporate Clayton, Missouri, in 1913 had little reason to suspect that their rural outpost of small frame buildings and plank sidewalks would later be recognized as a progressive metropolitan hub-one carefully buffered from quiet tree-lined neighborhoods and gorgeous parks. Clayton, Missouri: An Urban Story reveals the making of a city and the people who built it as a community. This lavishly illustrated book tells Clayton’s story through historical anecdotes and the voices of residents, timelines, and pullout sections on key facts and figures, plus stunning photographs of modern street scenes and nostalgic images of the city’s past. Also highlighted are important city leaders and residents who looked to the future at critical moments. Their efforts helped yield the Clayton of 2013, where magnificent steel and glass high-rises reach to the sky within blocks of historically splendid homes, many of them designed by noted architects of the twentieth century. (Reedy Press)

Clayton became the county seat for St. Louis County when St. Louis divorced itself from the county in 1876. I’ve only skimmed this hardback book so far but I look forward to reading more about this municipality on the west edge of St.  Louis.

— Steve Patterson


The German House & A New Book On St. Louis Germans

For a while now I’ve been thinking about doing a post on the huge boarded building on Lafayette Ave but I didn’t have time to do the research. Then I received a review copy of Jim Merkel’s new book: Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans and there among the many stories was the history of the building.

ABOVE: The German House at 2345 Lafayette

Jim Merkel sent me the text from that story from the book to use as a preview for you here:

The Place for Gemuetlichkeit

In the years before America fought the Nazis and Japan, Das Deutsche Haus was the place for all things Gemuetlichkeit. Opened in 1929 after a campaign that included help from such German luminaries as former mayor Henry W. Kiel, it soon became the center of German-American life here. The four-story brick building at 2345 Lafayette Avenue was the home of seventy-six German societies within three years after it opened. Built for $380,000, it had meeting rooms and halls able to accommodate crowds from 40 to 1,200. The building was full of activity.

Carl Henne, a St. Louisan born in Germany, remembered those days in a 1972 article in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. “It became the home Hall, which was right across the street,” he said. “We had balls, dances, concerts and Christmas parties there. Every Sunday night we used to always someone to talk to.” He liked it so much that he chose it as the place for his wedding breakfast.

Then came the war, or at least the events leading to the war. In January 1939, word got out that Colin Ross, an agent for a Nazi publishing house in Germany, wanted to give a speech at the German House about the German occupation of the Sudetenland. Groups ranging from labor groups to the VFW to the American Legion to the St. Louis Council for American Democracy protested. Seeing the uproar, the board of directors of the German House turned the request down. Later, when the war started, the name was changed to the St. Louis House. Otherwise, though, it remained a place for Germans.

When the war ended, the name reverted to the German House. But times were different. People were leaving the city and didn’t feel safe in the neighborhood. Poor finances almost forced the place to close. Still, it remained a popular place for local German groups to have their offices and for events. “We had 800 people at our affair last fall,” Henne, the president of the Schwaben Singing Society, said in a 1972 Globe-Democrat article. “If the neighborhood and parking get better again more German societies will go back — there’s no better place in town. The acoustics are great.” The acoustics were so good that the St. Louis Symphony recorded an album at the German House, produced by Columbia Records. But the place wasn’t good enough to survive just on Germans, and an owner said anyone who wanted to could use it. A Mexican bar and restaurant opened in the basement. The bowling alley closed. It was a matter of time before the place joined the ranks of shuttered German gathering places.

The German House was just one of the buildings Germans put up around St. Louis to gather for singing, dancing, exercising, arguing, or the theater. One was the Strassberger Music Conservatory. The three-story building at Grand Boulevard and Shenandoah Avenue once was a place to celebrate the city’s German music culture after it was built in 1904-05. Today it has a mix of upscale apartments, offices and stores.

Another building originally meant for a gathering place of Germans stands at 2930 North Twenty-first Street. In 1867, German settlers founded the Freie Gemeinde, or “Free Thinkers” Congregation. The building was home of a Gesangverein (choral club) and a library with three thousand books.

Some other buildings in the city formerly served as homes for Turner groups. They include the North Side Turnverein, 1925 Mallinckrodt Street, and the South St. Louis Turnverein, 1519 South Tenth Street. One building that is home to a still-active group is the Concordia Turners, 6432 Gravois Avenue. But that’s an exception. Almost all have a different purpose from the original German intent, and that includes the German House.

The end for the German House came in 1972, when the Gateway Temple of St. Louis, Inc. bought it for a church and school. In 2007, the Church of Scientology of Missouri bought the building for $1.6 million. Church officials plan to renovate the building, which would include a counseling area, classrooms, and an area for services. But for now, it’s unused.

The building doesn’t appear to be listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s included in the Lafayette Square Historic District (PDF of nomination).

ABOVE: The building appears to be in very good condition.

The building was just a decade old when Germany invaded Poland, suddenly a bad time to be of German ancestry. Had WWII never taken place would the building still be open and filled with German societies? Would it have shuttered anyway due to the city’s population decline? Of course, we’ll never know the answers.

More relevant questions are in present time; does the Church of Scientology of Missouri still have plans to renovate and occupy the building? If so, would the public get a chance to see the interior at any point?

Pick up a copy of Jim Merkel’s new book for a fascinating look into the German part of St. Louis history.

— Steve Patterson