Potential North-South & County Light Rail Line Should Include ‘Green Track’

 

 No, I don’t want the rails to be painted green. Instead I want the space between the rails to be green with vegetation, where possible. Why? Aesthetics, cooler temperatures, management of stormwater runoff, etc. Green track isn’t limited to only historic lines, it’s increasingly common in Europe with some limited …

Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

 

 I never met Robert J. Baer, but I see the plaza named for him all the time. Baer Plaza, across Broadway from The Dome (map), was named in his honor a little more than 20 years before his death in 2017. The 25th anniversary of the dedication is just 7 …

Glad the Illinois Primary is Tuesday, June 28th

 

 I’ve lived in two states my entire life, Illinois isn’t one of them. But as a St. Louis Missouri resident for nearly 32 years I’ve seen plenty of Illinois campaign television advertisements. Of course, Illinois residents in the St. Louis metro area have seen more than their share of Missouri …

New Residential Building Will Replace Short 1968 Bank Building at 620 Market in Downtown St. Louis

 

 The 2-story building at 620 Market Street, at 7th, was built in 1968. Most recently it was Mike Shannon’s restaurant, originally it was a bank with drive-through tellers. My first time in this building was in the early 1990s when the offices for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments — …

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Lewis Reed’s 25-Year Political Career (1997-2022)

June 8, 2022 Featured, History/Preservation, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Lewis Reed’s 25-Year Political Career (1997-2022)
 

Former 21st ward alderman John Collin-Muhammad resigned two weeks prior to a federal indictment against him and two others was unsealed. Jeffery Boyd resigned his long held seat as 22nd ward alderman the day after the indictment became public.

The third indicted was board president Lewis Reed, who resigned yesterday.

All three may avoid guilty verdicts in court, but politically they’re finished.

I never trusted Lewis Reed, I never could get a direct answer from him. He’d always just laugh and change the subject. Huge red flag in my book. Yuge!

Thankfully I can proudly say I’ve never voted for Lewis Reed. Not when he first ran for the citywide office in 2007, or re-election three times since. I never voted for him when he ran for Mayor.

Here’s a brief outline of Reed’s political career in St. Louis.

Reed was the campaign manager for 6th ward alderwoman Marit Clark’s 1997 independent run for mayor against Democratic nominee Clarance Harmon. Reed’s day job was as a computer network manager for a hospital group.

Harmon won the race but Reed got himself appointed to the St. Louis Port Authority, quickly becoming the chair. By 1999 Clark decided to retire from the Board of Aldernen, Reed was one of three candidates to become Alderman in the 6th ward. The other two were Patrick Cacchione and Brian Ireland.

Lewis Reed won his first election in St. Louis.

In the Spring of 2001 board president Francis Slay was elected mayor, alderman Jim Shrewsbury elected board president.

It was as 6th ward alderman that Reed came to my attention in 2006, over a planned police substation in the Tower Grove East neighborhood. It was known in the Fall of 2006 that Reed would be challenging board president Jim Shrewsbury in the Spring of 2007, causing people to begin planning to replace him on the board, representing the 6th ward.

From Reed’s 2007 campaign website running for board president. Saved on 3/6/2007 — knew it would eventually be useful.

Reed won his first citywide election in the March 2007 partisan primary by defeating 2-term president Shrewsbury, becoming president of the board the following month.

In March 2013 Reed ran for mayor for the first time, losing to incumbent Francis Slay. He remained president of the board since it was elected two years off from the mayoral race.

In Spring 2017 Reed again ran for mayor, but this time incumbent Slay wasn’t seeking a 4th term. The Democratic primary was packed with people wanting to become mayor. Others on the ballot included then 21st ward alderman Antonio French, Treasurer Tishaura Jones, 22nd ward alderman Jeffrey Boyd, and 28th ward alderwoman Lyda Krewson. Krewson became the city’s first female mayor. Every other candidate kept their existing elected sears that year, except Antonio French. John Collins-Muhammad was elected 21st ward alderman, succeeding French.

There’s a lot more detail I probably could’ve researched/included, but I think you get the overall picture of Reed’s 25 year political career in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

My Maternal Ancestors Farmed In Ukraine, Russia For A Couple Of Centuries

June 2, 2022 Featured, Politics/Policy, Religion Comments Off on My Maternal Ancestors Farmed In Ukraine, Russia For A Couple Of Centuries
 

Few living today have seen war between European nations, until the last few months. Russia President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine is horrific. The whole world is watching, especially neighboring countries. Eventually this may become World War 3.

When Russia invaded Ukraine I began looking at cities on Google’s Streetview, beautiful. Google has since removed this feature, at least from Mariupol. Satellite views are still available — I love how you have a dense city up to a point then rural farmland — none of the auto-centric sprawl visible in every region in the U.S.

But this post isn’t about present cities in Ukraine, or the war. It’s about my familial connection to Ukraine, Crimea, Poland, Russia, other European nations mentioned nightly on the evening news for months. It’s also about religious freedom.

As the headline states, numerous generations of my ancestors lived in Ukraine and South Russia. However, I’m not Ukrainian or Russian. All eight of my maternal great-grandparents were Mennonites living in settlements in Russia & Ukraine before immigrating to the U.S. and Canada in the late 19th century.

Mennonites are members of certain Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons (1496–1561) of Friesland. Through his writings, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders, with the early teachings of the Mennonites founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held with great conviction, despite persecution by various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. An early set of Mennonite beliefs was codified in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith in 1632, but the various groups do not hold to a common confession or creed.

Rather than fight, the majority of the early Mennonite followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their belief in believer’s baptism. Over the years, Mennonites have become known as one of the historic peace churches, due to their commitment to pacifism. (Wikipedia)

In short, Mennonites and other anabaptists don’t believe in baptizing a baby. They believe baptism is something a person should decide for themselves.  This distinction from other Christian religions subjected anabaptists (Mennonite, Amish, etc) to religious intolerance.

All my mom’s ancestors for hundreds of years were Mennonite, but that ended when she married my father, who wasn’t a Mennonite.

My maternal ancestors moved every few generations, trying to find a place to farm and follow their religious beliefs.

Vistula delta Mennonites were a historic Mennonite community, established in the mid-16th century in the Vistula river delta in Poland. It originated from the Netherlands and present-day northern Germany. The Mennonite community played an important role in the drainage and cultivation of the Vistula delta and the trade relations with the Netherlands. In the late 18th century a significant number of Mennonites emigrated further and formed the nucleus of the Mennonite settlements in Russia, while many remained in the region after the annexation of the region by Prussia in the Partitions of Poland. With the end of World War II and the flight and expulsion of Germans (incl. Germanized Dutch settlers) the Mennonite settlements in the Vistula delta ceased to exist.

The Plautdietsch language, a mixture of Dutch and the local Low German dialect, originates from the Vistula delta and is still used by Mennonite communities worldwide. (Wikipedia)

This is the context that prompted my ancestors in the late 1700s and early 1800s to move to Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea — the hope of farming and being left alone. They didn’t attempt to assimilate, they set up rural isolated Mennonite villages in settlements.

The Molochna River, Ukraine. Photo from internet, by ??????? ???????. June 2017

My recent research has found my ancestors lived in at least 16 different settlements, but the one with the most was the Molotschna Colony.

Molotschna Colony or Molochna Colony was a Russian Mennonite settlement in what is now Zaporizhzhia Oblast in Ukraine. Today, the central village, known as Molochansk, has a population less than 10,000. The settlement is named after the Molochna River which forms its western boundary. The land falls mostly within the Tokmatskyi and Chernihivskyi Raions. The nearest large city is Melitopol, southwest of Molochansk.

Initially called Halbstadt (Half-city), Molotschna was founded in 1804 by Mennonite settlers from West Prussiaand consisted of 57 villages. Known as the New Colony, it was the second and largest Mennonite settlement in the Russian Empire. In the late 19th century, hundreds of people left this colony to settle in North America. Colonies there had groups that later relocated to Latin America, where Mennonites settled in several countries. After many Mennonites left or were deported during and after the last days of World War II, this area became populated largely by Ukrainians. (Wikipedia)

Some of their surnames included: Klassen, Neufield, Weins, Zacharies, Wall, Kruger, Kroeker, Fast, Thiessen, Bornn, Toews, Loepp, and Loewen. My maternal ancestors all immigrated to the U.S. and Canada in the late 19th century. It’s still unclear to me the proximity of their villages to the Pale of Settlement:

A western region of the Russian Empire with varying borders that existed from 1791 to 1917 in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed and beyond which Jewish residency, permanent or temporary, was mostly forbidden. Most Jews were still excluded from residency in a number of cities within the Pale as well. A few Jews were allowed to live outside the area, including those with university education, the ennobled, members of the most affluent of the merchant guilds and particular artisans, some military personnel and some services associated with them, including their families, and sometimes their servants. The archaic English term pale is derived from the Latin word palus, a stake, extended to mean the area enclosed by a fence or boundary. (Wikipedia)

This coincides with the time frame my maternal ancestors were in that part of Europe. My understanding is Jewish people weren’t allowed to farm, they were in cities doing trades. My ancestors, on the other hand, were farmers in small self-sustained rural villages. Recent pictures (before this war) of these areas were simply gorgeous, very beautiful.

Political changes & religious intolerance is why many Mennonites immigrated to North America in the late 19th century. Many Jewish people also left the Pale in the same period.

It’s weird that prior to this war I had little interest in Ukraine and my familial connection. Now I see news reports of fighting in certain regions so I look to see if my ancestors lived there, or nearby. The answer is usually they did.

It has been nearly 150 years since my ancestors lived there, but I feel a connection. The loss of life, disruption of families, destruction of cities, etc is all very upsetting.

— Steve Patterson

Two Buildings, One Small Lot

May 26, 2022 Featured, Neighborhoods, Planning & Design, Zoning Comments Off on Two Buildings, One Small Lot
 

In the past you’d see multiple buildings on a single lot. Usually this was house and outhouse, stable, or garage. Large fancy homes might have servant quarters over the stable/garage — such was the case at the Campbell House. In more modest neighborhoods you might see two houses or a house and a storefront. A longtime friend owns a property that has a brick front house with full basement and a smaller frame house with a crawl space.  This was not uncommon a century ago. People would build a small house at the rear of the lot and then later build a bigger/nicer house at the front.

What’s unusual about my friend’s property is the 896 sq ft brick house with basement was built first, in 1927. Then in 1936 a 440 sq ft frame house with crawl space underneath was built. My assumption is some combination of increased population and the Great Depression is why the smaller frame house was built later. Either the owner rented out the new frame house to supplement their income, or the owner moved to the frame house so they could rent the bigger brick house and avoid foreclosure. I like that the big house is less than 900 square feet.  I looked up the address in the Post-Dispatch archives, the husband died in December 1934. So his widow likely added the small house for different financial reasons than I originally thought.

My friend has lived in each of the two houses at different times, both are rented now.

Today smaller backyard units are called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU):

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a legal and regulatory term for a secondary house or apartment that shares the building lot of a larger, primary home. The unit cannot be bought or sold separately, but they are often used to provide additional income through rent or to house a family member. For example, an elderly parent could live in a small unit and avoid having to move to an assisted living facility.

  • An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is an additional residential building that occupies the same lot as a primary residence.
  • Examples of an ADU could be a guest house or a detached garage with a rented apartment above.
  • The establishment and use of an ADU will fall under different zoning rules and regulations depending on where you live.
  • An ADU can provide additional income in the form of rent.
  • An ADU costs money to build and upkeep and will increase monthly utility bills.

The ADU is also known as an in-law or mother-in-law unit, secondary dwelling unit, granny flat, or carriage house. An ADU usually has its own kitchen, living area, and separate entrance. An ADU may be attached to a house or garage, or it can be built as a stand-alone unit, but it generally will make use of the water and energy connections of the primary house.

Two structures on a single lot is different than the once-common two-family building, one unit over another on the same lot. The 1924 two-family I bought back in 1924 was like this, very typical for a rapidly growing St. Louis. There were also four & six unit variations.

The gray building on the left was torn down late last year, it was built on the same 40 foot wide lot as they red house on the right. Image: Google Streetview

This post is about another combination you no longer see happen — the addition of a commercial building on a lot with a residence.

In 1898 two matching red brick houses were built side by side, both 844 sq ft. Each on a 40 ft x 100 ft lot.

In this January 1903 map we see the two brick houses (pink) in a mostly wood frame (yellow) neighborhood Source: 1903 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, click image to view source page.

The houses were at 1915 & 1919 Cooper Street, between Daggett & Shaw avenues.

The twin houses were fourteen years old when, in 1912, one family built a 2-story brick commercial building on the same lot as the house at 1919 Cooper Street, its address was 1921 Cooper Street. A 40 foot wide lot with a house AND a commercial building!

The neighborhood was changing as more and more immigrants arrived from Italy. Multi-story masonry commercial buildings replaced many smaller wood frame houses. It’s not yet clear what business(es) initially occupied this new building, but in 1921 the family opened a funeral home.

In the late 1930s Cooper Street became Marconi Ave. In 1940 Calcaterra Funeral home moved to a new building on Daggett, just east of now Marconi Ave.

At some point between 1940 and 2021 the commercial building had the 2nd floor removed, the main floor converted to residential. It was 790 sq ft.

I don’t blame anyone for tearing down this building. Looking at the vacant spot now it’s hard to believe another building fit in the space for 109 years. See current on Google Streetview. Neighborhoods, including The Hill, continue to evolve.

— Steve Patterson

 

Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

May 19, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Plazas Comments Off on Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today
 

Five years ago the trees at the renovated Kiener Plaza looked so new, provided no shade. Now they’ve matured nicely. Saturday we spent 2+ hours sitting in the shade.

Look at the size of the trees on the right, they provide actual shade now.
This February view shows the new visitor center building. The trees are bigger but hadn’t put on level for the seaso9n yet.
Same area, at the reopening in 2017
The awful May Amphitheater sunk into the west end of the previous Kiener Plaza.

It’s nice seeing Kiener Plaza be a space that can hold thousands of people and still function. Now if only we could do something about those two parking garages across Chestnut, to the north.

— Steve Patterson

Rethinking 811 North 9th Street (Holiday Inn Express)

May 17, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Rethinking 811 North 9th Street (Holiday Inn Express)
 

I recently posted about a 1960s hotel in the Downtown West neighborhood that no longer worked (see Rethinking 2211 Market Street (Pear Tree Inn). Today is a similar look at an early 1980s hotel the no longer works: The Radisson/Ramada/Holiday Inn at 811 North 9th Street.

The primary view of the 5-story hotel is from 9th & Convention Plaza (formerly Delmar, Morgan before that). April 2016 photo

It is across 9th Street from the blank west wall of our convention center, but soon the convention center expansion will mean it is surrounded on 3 sides. Its backside will soon face the only through street passing the property.

Before I get into the problems & possible solutions a little history is important.

Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

In 1977 our convention center opened. Delmar, historically known as Morgan, was renamed to Convention Plaza between 3rd/4th and 14th Street. This street remained open as it has always been. The convention center originality occupied four city blocks bounded by Delmar/Convention Plaza, 9th, Cole, and 7th. Two blocks of Dr. Martin Luther King (formerly Franklin) and two blocks of 8th Street were erased from the grid.

The Sheraton Hotel also opened in 1977 — on the east side of the convention center, bounded by 7th, Cole, 6th, and Dr. Martin Luther King.  Then on April 1, 1981 the Radisson St. Louis Hotel opened on the west side of the convention center on  “9th at Convention Plaza”, aka 811 North 9th Street. Radisson was a very small hotel chain at the time, this was roughly #30 for them.

Demolition of the decade-old Sheraton Hotel to make room for the new football stadium. July 1992 — looking South from Cole & 7th

Ok, back to the Radisson and how it doesn’t fit 41+ years later:

Click image to see a larger view.

In this view the green box on the left is the parking lot to the south that will soon become an outdoor convention space. The blue in the upper left will be a parking garage with ground floor retail/restaurant. The grey box on the right will be new convention center space. 10th Street (left to right on top) will become 2-way traffic, unfortunately only for the short distance between Washington Ave and Cole Street. The hotel main entrance is the red star, bottom center. The red hexagon at 10th & Dr. Martin Luther King is the hotel dock/service entrance.

As always, I look first to see options where as much of the existing is retained. Maybe move the entrance/lobby from the east (9th) to west (10th) side?

This December 2012 view shows a problem with relocating the entrance to 10th Street — the 1st floor level is below the street/sidewalk. Plus the main elevators are on the east side.
Guests approaching from southbound 10th Street will be greeted by the docks and often employee cars.

Because the height of the ground floor relative to 10th Street, elevator locations, dock, etc relocating the entrance said lobby to the opposite side doesn’t look feasible — at least not to me. Again, the building has had many updates over the decades, but I don’t see anyway to avoid totally razing it. Maybe the interior has some redeaming quality to make it worth saving?

Nope!

Looking up from the 1st floor corner of the lobby. December 2012
On the 2nd floor you can see how the pool is at the center, spreading humidity and chlorine smell throughout. December 2012.

Maybe those planning the convention center expansion thought of this, but I’d have liked to have seen a land swap. Get the hotel to build a modern structure on the surface lot one block south, green in my diagram above. When the new hotel is finished tear down the old one and use that for the outdoor convention space — would be conveniently between the new wing of the convention center on the north and the new hotel on the south. Instead of 3 extra 1-block sections of streets surrounding the old hotel that land could be put to better use. The hotel could get a great new property closer to Washington Ave with zero downtime.

Again, this might have been proposed and ruled out Just not sure since the design was final when presented to the public.

So let up suppose the hotel owner, a Washington DC – based LLC, is willing to raze and rebuild on the existing site. What should they do?

Public streets all the way around is excessive paving, city maintenance. I’m at a loss how to design an attractive/functional hotel on this site, but I think creative architects could come up with some great concepts.

Short of a new building, I’d like to see the perimeter updated. Landscaping and maybe some shallow/liner retail spaces to fill in the gaps between the blank first floor walls and the public sidewalk(s).

Looking east from 10th along the south side (Convention Plaza/Delmar).

The south side has the most extra land. This isn’t inviting at all — a totally blank wall and boring turf grass. Maybe add some texture to the wall, giving it some gentle lighting at night? Or you widen the public sidewalk and build little storefronts to fill in the remaining lawn? Put a green roof on these so the hotel guests have something nice to look at from above.

In 2012 the Holiday Inn was a Ramada.

Regardless of the brand, I’d like to see the check in driveway located somewhere not between the sidewalk and the front door. It’s not impossible.

An Embassy Suites hotel in Chicago has no valet or other vehicle provision out front. Click image to see in Google Maps.
Parallel to the main street is a driveway for valet, etc. There’s an other entrance for guests to self-park.

To close I think if the 41+ year old hotel at 811 North 9th Streets remains as is, surrounded by wide streets, it’s going to be awkward for convention guests. It’s not going to look/feel good to anyone. Not sure of the best solution but I know it should be figured out before we spend millions locking it into this location.

— Steve Patterson

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