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Pedestrian Improvements At Utah Place & Gustine Ave

I recently noticed some pedestrian improvements at Utah Place & Gustine Ave.  To note the changes we need to look at a similar intersection, Utah Place & Spring Ave:

ABOVE: Utah Pl & Spring, pedestrians are exposed when crossing Utah Pl
ABOVE: Utah Pl & Spring, pedestrians now have a refuge when crossing Utah Pl
ABOVE: Looking north across Utah Pl
ABOVE: Looking west across Gustine Ave, note the detectable warnings point in the direction a blind person should walk
ABOVE: SE corner of Gustine & Utah with ramps/detectable warnings pointing in the right direction.

Scroll up and look at the aerial again, the ramps on west side of Gustine crossing Utah point into the center of the intersection, not at the crosswalk.  These new improvements are a step in the right direction, but not without flaws.

– Steve Patterson


St. Elizabeth Academy Raising Funds To Raze Historic Structures

ABOVE: Original 1894 structure with 1914 north wing (left) and 1922 south wing (right)

St. Elizabeth Academy, located at 3401 Arsenal in the Tower Grove East neighborhood, is planning to raze some or all of their original structures. Which historic buildings is unclear, an email request to administrators for a response have gone unanswered.

From their 2010 Annual Report (emphasis added):

In addition to strengthening our academic program this year, we gathered a group of volunteers to join us in strategic planning for the future of SEA‟s facilities. The result of that study is a 10-year plan that includes renovation of the 1957 building and eventually replacing some of the buildings that no longer serve SEA‟s mission with a new facility. In order to implement this plan, we are beginning a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds.

While the funds for upgrading SEA‟s facilities are crucial for SEA‟s mission, even more important is creating an endowment to provide tuition assistance for the young women God asks us to empower. Therefore, the first phase of the capital campaign will raise funds to establish an endowment in addition to raising funds for the renovation of SEA‟s 1957 building. The second phase of the capital campaign will raise funds for a new facility.

The original structure with the two wing additions is what is I assume they want to replace. The only other structure on the site is the 1927 gymnasium, apparently in good condition.

ABOVE: The 1957 structure faces south toward Arsenal St rather than west as before.
ABOVE: view looking east down Crittenden St. toward the 1894 St. Elizabeth buiding

The original building with the two wings is a central part of the Crittenden Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983:

Establishing an impressive visual focus for the District is the building constructed in 1894 for St. Elizabeth Academy with its projecting entrance tower facing west on Crittenden.1 Designed for the Precious Blood Sisters by Joseph Stauder & Son and built at a cost of $18,900 by contractor George Bothe, the three-story red brick building is 64 feet by 53 feet. Typical of much Catholic institutional architecture of the last decades of the nineteenth century in St. Louis, the building is a High Victorian amalgam. The central entrance tower with steeply pitched pyramidal roof is enriched by panels of ornamental pressed brick and by stone sill courses, key stones and skew backs at the second and third stories. Tower windows are paired below broad,slightly pointed arches. The heavily carved,double entrance doors with paneled wood reveals are set beneath a stone-trimmed arch and framed by stone-capped piers. Decorated copper-clad crosses crown the entrance tower and north and south gables of
the slate mansard roof. A strongly defined pointed arched corbel table is at the cornice onallelevations;slightlypointedarchesheadthewindows.
The architectural firm of Joseph Stauder & Son was one of several specializing in Catholic institutional design at the turn of the century in St. Louis and was responsible for numerous churches, parsonages, convents and schools in Missouri and southern Illinois. Their work included the complex of St.Agatha’s parish, one of the schools where the Precious Blood Sisters taught, and the order’s Mother House in O’Fallon,
Missouri. The firm’s founder,a second generation German,began work as a carpenter in St. Louis in the 1870s and was joined by his son Joseph, Jr. in the early 1890s.’ Later generations of Stauders designed the 1957 addition to the school.

A $40,000 north wing 51 feet by 97 feet was built in 1914 by contractor F. Kratzer from plans drawn by Brother Leonard Darcheid, who was trained as an archi tect before becoming a Franciscan. The design of the three-story building sustains, with variations, the idiom established for the 1894 structure. The central bay of the west elevation is marked by pilasters rising to a gable. Pointed arched corbel tables appear at the cornice and between the first and second stories of this Day. Window openings are segmentally arched and trimmed with stone key stones. Stone lintels head the second story windows of the five central bays on the east elevation. At the third story on this elevation and at the three eastern bays of the north Stone trim.  Similar arched openings appear on both elevations of the three- story passageway linking the 1894 and 1914 structures; the three bays of the first and second stories are doubled to six bays at the third.

The $51,000 south wing incorporating a chapel on the east was planned by the firm of Ludwig & Dreisoerner and constructed in 1922 by contractor John Grewe. The design of the west elevation matches and balances the north wing. The chapel portion of the building employs crossed gabled roofs and triads of lancet windows flanked by stone-trimmed buttress forms on the second story of the north and south elevations. Window openings at the first story of these elevations are unembellished rectangles set below a stone course. Five bays of similar windows are at the second story of the east elevation. A passageway identical to the earlier one links this building to the 1894 structure. A new entrance and three-story stairwell were added at the east elevation in 1957. (Wooden infill panels have been placed at the heads of all of the arched openings of these three structures and their linking passageways except for those of the lancet windows of the chapel.)

Architect Henry Dreisoerner designed the 1927 gymnasium at the eastern edge of the campus. The interior features one of the first lamella roofs licensed and constructed in the Midwest. (See Section 8.) A building cost of $34,000 was recorded on the permit for construction of the gymnasium which extends 141 feet along Louisiana Avenue and is 60 feet deep. S. W. Schuler was the contractor. On the exterior eccle siastical echoes are evident in the pointed arched roof covering the modern lamella roofing system, the copper-clad gablets above the buttresses of the fourteen-bay side elevations and the corbelled arcading on the north elevation. The basement is random- sized limestone set in dark mortar. Side elevations are articulated with arched bays at the north and south ends. On the south elevations diapering of contrasting dark brick is employed in a large blind arch; diapered brickwork also appears on the north elevation below five rectangular openings and corbelled arcading. Although there is no record: of replacement, the present asphalt, shingles probably replace the original asphalt roof. In the interior, the interlocking transverse arches of the wooden lamella system creates a diamond-shaped grid. It is now almost completed concealed by a dropped ceiling. The new school building of 1957 joins the gymnasium on the south; a one-story addition was built the same year at the north elevation.

A low crenellated wall of random-sized, quarry-faced limestone laid in dark mortar was constructed to extend along three sides of the school camous in 1938.

Very significant structures! I can just hear them at the Preservation Board in 5 years requesting demolition, ‘We’ve been planning this for years, we’ve spent a lot of money on architectural design for our new buildings.’

ABOVE: aerial of the campus.  Image: Google Maps
ABOVE: aerial of the campus. Image: Google Maps

The state mental hospital west on Arsenal comes to mind.  Originally the State of Missouri wanted to raze the original domed structure hidden behind a 1950s building.  Thankfully the state realized it was better to raze the 1950s building and renovate the more stately original structure while building new structures elsewhere on their grounds.

The campus is located within the current boundaries of the 6th ward,  alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett is alumni of St. Elizabeth Academy.

I’m not suggesting St. Elizabeth raze their 1957 building, just that they find a way to incorporate their historic west-facing structures into their plans for the future.

– Steve Patterson


Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side

October 15, 2010 Books, South City 5 Comments

ABOVE: Jim Merkel signs his new book
ABOVE: Jim Merkel signs his new book "Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis's South Side"

Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side is the title of a enthralling new book by Jim Merkel.  The publisher’s description:

In St. Louis’s South Side, people stand in line for frozen treats named for building material, and women used to scrub their concrete steps every Friday. In the South Side, a stop sign means “tap the brakes quick,” and a restaurant masquerades as a windmill. In the South Side, a dentist once moonlighted as a murderer, and a bloody bank heist became the basis for an early Steve McQueen movie. And in the South Side, prepare to run if you use a particular local slur. Suburban Journals reporter Jim Merkel brings nearly ten years’ experience in covering the South Side. Herein are some of the people, places, and events that made the South Side a place like nowhere else. “South Siders are down-to-earth, good people,” this South Sider writes. “I’m staying until they drag me away for good.”

Merkel’s beat as a reporter for the Suburban Journals has been covering south St. Louis for years. This book enables him to share interesting stories about the people, places & events of the south side.

ABOVE: The Asylum on Arsenal Street

The following is one such story from page 70-71 of the book:

The Asylum on Arsenal Street

In August 1911, the area was shocked to learn how forty-year-old Eva Jarvoubek, a patient at the City Sanitarium, was choked to death by a straitjacket she was wearing. The outcry was loud about what happened at the city’s institution for the mentally ill. Dr. C. G. Chaddock, a member of the City Hospital Visiting Staff, told the State House Special Investigations Committee that the use of mechanical contrivances for quieting violent patients was wrong. Attendants too often used straitjackets and similar restraints when they should use humane care, he said. It was a brief moment of light for the institution inside a tall red brick domed building on a hill at 5400 Arsenal Street. After this incident, things went back to normal. The asylum once again became that looming building visible on the horizon throughout the South Side, where people wondered what went on inside. The asylum’s history was a mix of mistreatment and sincere efforts to help mentally ill people, always limited by a lack of funding. Instances of mistreatment have declined in recent years as effective medical treatments for mental illness have become known, but increasing limits in state funding have harmed efforts to improve the lives of mentally ill people at what is now known as the St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center.

The institution first opened as the St. Louis County Lunatic Asylum on April 23, 1869. The building went up in the country, full of fresh air thought to help mental illness, said Barbara Anderson, who was volunteer director of the hospital from 1988 to 2006. The building itself was designed to bring that air inside. But in fact, treatment of any sort was wanting. “It was basically warehousing people with mental illnesses,” Anderson said. “There was no clinical criteria by which someone measured another as being psychologically disoriented,” she said. Sometimes women were brought in suffering from postpartum depression and often ended up institutionalized for years. “It was a way to get rid of your wife and run around with some young girl,” Anderson said. Patients also could have been alcoholics or suffering from syphilitic dementia, or just plain poor.

Treatment was cruel at worst and misguided at best. In the basement, some patients were placed in six-to-eight-foot-wide cubicles with straw on the floors. “People would defecate on the floor, and they would sweep it out every day,” Anderson said. “It was cold and damp down there, and people slept on the floors.” Those patients were usually African-American, or whites who were out of control. Upstairs, patients would be treated to all the amenities of the Victorian household, including reading rooms and pool rooms. These rooms also were thought to improve patients’ mental health. To shock them into sanity, people were placed in vats of ice cold water. “They did the best they could, based on the incredible ignorance they had,” Anderson said.

As time went on, the institution’s name changed to the St. Louis City Insane Asylum and then the City Sanitarium. When the city sold it to the state for one dollar in 1948, it became the St. Louis State Hospital. In 1997, it moved to new quarters on the same property at 5300 Arsenal Street and became the St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center. The domed building at 5400 Arsenal became an office building for the Missouri Institute of Mental Health and the State Department of Mental Health.

Through the years, as the building’s name changed, one ineffective therapy replaced another. Patients danced, were given beauty treatments, and sang operettas. A newspaper ran a feature story about how straps, straitjackets, and manacles were replaced by outdoor recreation and occupational therapy, but other articles told of cramped and unsanitary conditions. Nothing really helped, though, until the discovery of medications that treated mental illness. However, here and elsewhere, their promise was limited when patients were released without enough of a structure to treat them in the community. Today, people continue to see the big building with the green dome on Arsenal Street wherever they go on the South Side. What they may not see is how budget cuts are still hurting patients.

This book is a must for any student of St. Louis history.

– Steve Patterson



Will Fifth Third Bank At Loughborough Commons Connect To Sidewalk?

Has it really been nearly two full years since I’ve written about Loughborough Commons? It was December 2008 when I wrote about the new Burger King’s lack of pedestrian access despite the nearby sidewalk.

“Burger King has very generous provisions for the motorist but zip for the pedestrian. What pedestrians you might ask. Well, people do walk to Loughborough Commons. People also arrive by bus and bike. Yes, most use a car but we shouldn’t overlook those not driving private autos. Everyone spending money at Loughborough Commons is paying an extra tax to the Community Improvement district. Shouldn’t pedestrians expect some accommodation in return?”

Of course, nothing was done to correct the lack of pedestrian access.  Now construction has started on the Fifth Third Bank for the parcel between the main entrance and the Burger King.  Here is what the site looked like in late 2008:

The bank building faces Loughborough but will be reached internally. The drive through lanes, not the front door is what is visible from the main drive.


My assumption is the existing sidewalk will not be continued across the edge of the parcel and not up to the front door, a clear violation of the ADA.


I was only at Loughborough Commons for a few minutes but I spotted pedestrians leaving as I was leaving. Walkability is not that difficult but it is obviously out of the mindset of civil engineers and the developers who hire them.

– Steve Patterson


Broadway Art-A-Fair Saturday in Marine Villa Neighborhood

August 6, 2010 South City Comments Off on Broadway Art-A-Fair Saturday in Marine Villa Neighborhood


ABOVE: Old firehouse on South Broadway
ABOVE: Old firehouse on South Broadway

Tomorrow (8/7/2010) the Marine Villa Neighborhood is hosting an art event called Art-A-Fair.  You may not know where Marine Villa is located but you probably know the old firehouse pictured above.   That firehouse is in Marine Villa and is the site of the 10am-4pm event. The address is 3678 S. Broadway.

– Steve Patterson