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Sunday, August 31, 2008

STL Dotage evacuates to....St. Louis, of course!

As Hurricane Gustav (presently a Category 3 storm) barrels towards the Gulf Coast, Mayor Ray Nagin has ordered a mandatory evacuation out of the city of New Orleans.

And so, yours truly is headed to St. Louis.

I am currently sitting in the Louis Armstrong International Airport, waiting for a flight that leaves at 5:15 pm (it's only noon right now). Foolishly, I believed that if I came to the airport early, there'd be somewhere to eat and hang out. Nope. Everything is closed.

And I just threw out a whole refrigerator full of food.

Sigh.

I'll try to pick up my slack when I get home tonight, but I will, of course, be keeping a watchful eye on my adoptive home, New Orleans.

On a side note, I am pleased with the city's efforts in helping those without cars get out of the city. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) enlisted its bus fleet to pick up carless residents at 17 sites across the city. As I walked across the French Quarter to an airport-bound bus at the Sheraton earlier this morning, the city was a veritable ghost town. Boards everywhere. People nowhere. That's a good thing, though. It means we might not lose another 1,700 lives as happened during Katrina. Cities need to pay special attention to their residents lacking automobility, and New Orleans appears to have done a good job of storm preparation this time around. Of course, to be fair, Katrina made a last minute turn towards the city.

Still, a job well done in this particular instance.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A quick question to readers...

Anyone know what's going on with the San Luis Apartments?

I've not heard anything since July...and I'm beginning to worry. With Lyda Krewson (28th Ward Alderperson) publicly indifferent as to the fate of this modernist eye-popper, I am hoping demolition proceedings are not simply rolling through.

-Matt

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This is the very precise point at which you know your region has been irrevocably damaged by suburban sprawl:

"We would also like the St. Louis Symphony to have a summer home here in Chesterfield," said Kathy Higgins, president of Sachs Properties. Cultural resources like the Missouri Botanical Garden, the St. Louis Zoo, as well as public libraries and parks get funded by tax money from all county residents, Sachs said, but the bulk of them are located within St. Louis City.

"We would like to bring at least pieces of those to other places, to Chesterfield," Higgins said.


Ms. Higgins is helping develop a sterile, suburban downtown for Chesterfield.

And she wants to cannibalize St. Louis's historical institutions for her (and other West Countians') driving convenience.

A bold quote if I've ever read one--and, as stated above, a sure sign that St. Louis has some of the world's worst sprawl.

If a suburbanite hypothesizes about handpicking away tourist attractions from the central city, it show a total disconnect between that suburb and its host region, and especially that suburb's relationship to the central city.

Far too many "St. Louisans" grow up without any urban frame of reference. The city, to them, is but another one of the myriad municipalities in the region.

Well, even in their minds, it is a special municipality--one marked by poverty and crime and undeserving of tourist dollars anyway, likely.

Shameful.

(To end on a more light-hearted note, here is some wackiness from Big Small Town Designs in reference to Chesterfield:



).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good infill.

This time, right home in St. Louis.

Sure it sticks out in the Northampton (aka Kingshighway Hills) neighborhood.

But infill that makes a statement should probably not be discouraged in a city starved for creativity in contemporary construction.

This house, on the 4900 block of Miami, by Killeen Studio, is a nice addition to the streetscape in this blogger's opinion.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A truly urban plan for Lafayette Square

What happens when an industrial site implodes in a city's poshest neighborhood, sending fiery flotsam into the helpless 'hood?

They kick it out of their neighborhood entirely! Sorry, Praxair (well, and a couple city jobs, but that's all right...).

Then, Lafayette Square laid out a plan to determine the type of development they wanted for their neighborhood--one which accounted for the land freed up by Praxair's departure.

You may view it HERE.

And I would recommend it.

It includes:

1. Extending (re-extending?) LaSalle Street through the former Praxair site and turning it into a secondary business district for the neighborhood.

2. Bring two to four story mixed use buildings to face Chouteau.

3. A specific reference that big box development and suburban style apartments are not allowed.

4. That the pedestrian should come first!

There's a lot more to it...but just those four are amazing!

Please check it out to see a real, urban neighborhood plan.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rising from Ruins Movie Trailer

Stay Local! is the group in New Orleans dedicated to fostering support and appreciation for its city's innumerable and special local establishments.

Their presence in New Orleans--a strong and growing one--has inspired a film called "Independent America: Rising from the Ruins".

The film tracks the recovery process in New Orleans, specifically focusing on the local and independent businesses whose owners try, in the face of subsidies given to their large, national chain competitors, to rebuild their customer base, storefronts, lives, and livelihoods.

Watch the trailer above.

The documentary highlights just how disconnected from their physical locations that national chains really are. Unlike smaller and independent local businesses, there is no incentive to return to a ruined city like New Orleans at all. Those locals and independents do not solely focus on that profit motive. Often, it's a matter of heart and determination and love for one's city and its neighborhoods. Even pessimistically speaking, it's a matter of not having the resources to just pick up and leave whenever conditions for business sour (such as with Hurricane Katrina in 2005).

Remember, locals' "corporate headquarters" are based right at home!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A mini movie-making boom in St. Louis?

Just reviewing the incomparable IMDB, I found a couple movies that were filmed in St. Louis recently.

> Edgar Allen Poe's Ligeia

Synopsis:

Successful writer and scholar Jonathan Merrick falls under the spell of the irresistible, bewitchingly beautiful Ligeia. She's fighting a fatal illness and she will stop at nothing to defeat death, her one true enemy. She steals other people's souls and on her quest to immortality she tricks Jonathan into supporting her work, breaking him apart from his fiancé Rowena and pulling him into her dark, mysterious world. They settle down in an old manor by the Black Sea where Ligeia's everlasting presence slowly drives Jonathan to madness...


Filmed in:

St. Louis
Maplewood
University City
Kirkwood

Special notes: Michael Madsen is in the movie! That's pretty big time, right?

> The Informant

Synopsis:


"The Informant" is a true story that parallels a mixture of "A Beautiful Mind" and "The Insider" -- where real life Ph.D.s had done something extraordinary. Based on Kurt Eichenwald's 2000 book, "The Informant" is the tale of Mark Whitacre (played by Matt Damon), an Ivy League Ph.D. who was a rising star at Decatur's Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in the early 1990s. He wound up blowing the whistle on the company's price fixing tactics and became the highest-ranked executive to ever turn whistleblower in US history. Whitacre secretly gathered hundreds of hours of video and audio tapes over several years to present to the FBI which became one of the largest price fixing cases in history. In the story -- a dark comedy / thriller in director Steven Soderbergh's hands -- Whitacre's good deed dovetails with his own major infractions and struggle with bipolar disorder


Filmed in:

St. Louis
Lambert International Airport

Special notes: Matt Damon's the star. Steven Soderbergh (Michael Clayton, Syriana) is the director. That's even BIGGER time! I'm guessing they only filmed in Lambert though. Who knows?


> The Lucky Ones

Synopsis:


After suffering an injury during a routine patrol, hardened sergeant TK Poole is granted a one-month leave to visit his fiancé. But when an unexpected blackout cancels all flights out of New York, TK agrees to share a ride to Pittsburgh with two similarly stranded servicemen: Cheever, an older family man who longs to return to his wife in St. Louis, and Colee, a naive private who's pinned her hopes on connecting with a dead fellow soldier's family. What begins as a short trip unexpectedly evolves into a longer journey. Forced to grapple with old relationships, broken hopes and a country divided over the war, TK, Cheever and Colee discover that home is not quite what they remembered, and that the unlikely companionship they've found might be what matters the most.


Filmed in:

Chesterfield
Edwardsville, IL
St. Louis
Lambert International Airport

Special notes: Tim Robbins! Rachel McAdams! This is too much for this small town!

> One Lucky Elephant.

Synopsis:

Five years in the making, ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT follows the poignant journey of circus producer David Balding as he tries to find a nurturing and permanent home for Flora, the 18-year-old African elephant that he rescued as an infant, raised as his "daughter" and made the star of his circus. David's love for Flora is put to the ultimate test when he realizes he made a terrible mistake keeping her as a solo elephant, and decides to retire her from the circus after 17 years of performing. Knowing Flora will outlive him, and with his health and finances becoming an issue, David sets off on a quest to find a home for Flora can live freely with other elephants. This complicated task begins with Flora's final circus performance in St. Louis and takes us on an emotional trek across America, then to Africa and back. We follow David's journey as he discovers just how difficult it is to find a proper home for an elephant in a world that reveres these animals for their majesty yet slaughters them for their ivory, adores them as cuddly Dumbos yet brands them "rampaging creatures". ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT raises critical issues about the well-being and future of the hundreds of thousands of endangered and exotic animals kept in captivity, the overdevelopment and destruction of their natural habitats, our intense and often damaging relationship with wild animals, and how all these issues have impacted the life of one very lucky elephant.


Filmed in:

St. Louis (and Kenya, of course)

Special notes: Documentary-haters, beware!

> Say Goodnight

Synopsis:

Three guys tell a friend the stories of how they met the loves of their lives, and how they managed to completely screw up the relationships.


Filmed ENTIRELY in:

St. Louis

Special notes: May be pretty low-budge, for those that care.



---

There are a couple more. Check them out for yourself here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?



This is the Lawrence Group's rendering of the South Side Tower (formerly South Side National Bank) at completion. The picture is from Steve Patterson's recent post on Urban Review St. Louis.

You'd have immediately noticed the difference between the rendering and what was there prior to the rehabilitation.

But there's still something missing.

Pedestrian amenities!

Both Grand and Gravois are intimidating streets for a pedestrian to cross.

According to the measurement tool available at maps.live.com:

> Crossing Gravois on Grand, heading south from the White Castle is about 175 feet. This includes the triangular block in the middle.

> Crossing Grand on Gravois heading east from White Castle is about 130 feet, again including a triangle block.


Those distances are way too long.

Why not expand the sidewalk and rid of both triangles?

Why not place planted medians in the center of both boulevards?

I know the answer to these questions: because it would slow down traffic.

My response: exactly!

Planners are going to have to start advocating for the hard sell in St. Louis: inconveniencing motorists for the sake of pedestrians and cyclists.

In the very crude mock up of the intersection below:



Medians are placed along both streets; these could continue nearly throughout each street's expanse, if funding called for it. Medians would help narrow the road and slow traffic, also making it more comfortable for pedestrians to cross. Trees within the medians would (eventually) shade the road and provide an attractive canopy. One traffic lane in each direction would be lost on Gravois and Grand. On-street parking would be allowed throughout. This one lane would be more narrow as well, allowing for a 4 foot bike path in each direction.

The orange triangles represent obliterated right turn opportunities. This helps slow down traffic too: the more the motorist must slow to make a sharp turn, the more aware of their surroundings they will be. In other words, these soft-angled turns inform the motorist that he or she should not have to slow down as much to complete a turn. Obviously, this arrangement is anti-pedestrian.

On the South Side Tower side, the disappearance of the triangle leaves ample room for a paved plaza with attractive lighting. This could be a spectacular patio for a restaurant that could claim the space inside the bank's impressive lobby (which is still not leased). If not, it could simply be the "front porch" of the development until a restaurant or other space found another use for it.

The ridding of the triangle islands sounds funny to us now. After all, who would want to dine on such large and noisy streets? Remember, though, that now there's a green median in the middle of the street, traffic is slower and not nearly as loud, and pedestrians feel safer crossing.

The black squares represent opportunities to seize a couple parking spaces from adjacent autocentric businesses to widen the sidewalks for this particularly pedestrian-heavy intersection. The erased island-triangles also provide more room for pedestrians.

These basic improvements would improve walking and biking conditions at this intersection 100 percent. And yes, this could not be relegated to one intersection. Both streets would need (and should receive) improvements throughout.

As long as planning in St. Louis (or the absence thereof) continues to do whatever it can to accommodate automobiles, we will forever be incentivizing big boxes and parking lots--not what we need to encourage more pedestrians, more eyes on the street, more local pedestrian-oriented businesses, and less crime.

Consider the new Kingshighway and I-64/Highway 40 intersection.

The Post-Dispatch posted a video of how it works (courtesy of MoDOT).

What a mess!

This set up is not designed for pedestrians at all!

I'm not even sure it's designed for cars.

You can tell that some traffic engineer drew this from a God's eye perspective and deemed it brilliant. On the street level, it's an absolute mess by the look of things.

Sure, now pedestrians won't have to deal with continuously merging traffic and will have a signal to walk with. They will, however, deal with a roadway given even more to the passing automobiles on the interstate. I just don't know if this was the best configuration.

And were there public meetings for this reconfiguration?

More on the I-64 mess later.

For now, we need to be redesigning our streets to benefit the pedestrians and cyclists we have for so long overlooked. Yes, this includes slowing down traffic and making driving less convenient. This will be the only way to encourage walking urbanism in the all-too-car-friendly city of St. Louis.

Follow up on 311

Here is a link to a map of cities that have the 311 service line.

I've done a quick search and have not found that St. Louis has such a line. I know that it has a non-emergency line maintained by the Citizens' Service Bureau, but that's a seven digit number (much harder to remember and harder to advertise).

By the way, that number, if you need it, is (314) 622-4800.

Read more about the different services offered by 3-1-1 lines in different parts of the country here.

EDIT: A reader posted the following as a comment. Thanks to MAIRE for the heads up on 211.

Just to elaborate,

MFH and United Way teamed up to create a 211 number for health and human services needs.

http://www.211missouri.com/

Monday, August 18, 2008

What's the 3-1-1?

New Orleans has an amazingly convenient service that many other cities have already caught onto.

That's the 3-1-1 city services line.

Instead of having to remember a seven to ten digit city number every time you see a downed tree, a drug house, or an unsightly alley, you simply dial 3-1-1.

Read more about this on the City of New Orleans website.

It's such a simple improvement to make for the quality of life of St. Louisans.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My recommended mass transit map for the city.

Why reinvent the wheel?



This was the St. Louis streetcar system from 1903.

Note the tiny blocks of Soulard and the old riverfront. Compare them to the newer developments in the city's fashionable West End.

It's also cool to see a map of the entire city prior to the destruction caused by the interstate system and urban renewal.

This was a connected city--sound urbanism before there was a negative to truly contrast with (exemplified by today's second generation suburbia and exurbia).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I will never get over this photo.

The block of Pine (West Pine) just east of Grand--SLUville, now.



The entire block has been demolished.

Imagine the benefits Midtown might have seen if at least some of its residential blocks remained.

Thanks to the Urban St. Louis forum's SMSPlanstu for this shot.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Bricks

Walking home the other day, through one of New Orleans' most beautiful Creole neighborhoods called the Marigny (that's MARE-in-ee), I spied a refurbished sidewalk out front of an up-to-the-street cottage.

The brick pavers looked worn, full of character--like they'd had a gloriously long lifespan already to be so graciously reincarnated.

As I looked closer, I saw the word:

ST. LOUIS

I suddenly hunkered closer to the sidewalk in fearful hope of finding another. I must have looked like I was rearing to pounce on a lizard or something to an outside observer.

I found another.

ST. LOUIS.

Scrawled across the ruddy brick in arcane, large letters.

And another.

ST. LOUIS.

Then one with a company's name (wish I could remember it). Underneath that company's name?

ST. LOUIS, MO.

Could it be? Blairmont's brick rustlers are making their dimes off of New Orleans' streetscaping needs?

This article seems to hint that our bricks are headed to New Orleans to aid in the recovery.

I can't bear to think, though, that the Near North Side might be being sacked for sidewalks down South.

And that I might be walking over my home town's heritage on a daily basis.

Could it be true?

I walked down two more blocks.

Another sidewalk re-do.

I scan once more, bending my torso far too forward on account of my poor eyesight. These bricks look just like the other. No intermittent St. Louises though. Hmm...

Aha...tucked away. A signature brick, emblazoned with those letters I could never let escape from my view.

ST. LOUIS.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Community Studies" for Third Graders? A good start!

I won't typically delve into education. It's a topic I'll admit I know too little about. I don't know what's the best learning environment for children, nor how to handle the achievement gap, etc.

Still, when I stumbled across this website maintained by a third grade teacher at the College School in Webster Groves, I was intrigued.

One teacher, named Matthew Diller, takes his students through St. Louis neighborhoods, engages them in what's going on in these parts of the city, who works there, who lives there, who plays there, and has students record their experiences.

Getting children/students out in city neighborhoods (especially those from the suburbs) is a great step toward reinvesting in our central city. The greatest threat to the city of St. Louis--the tiny, 350,000-souled city at the heart of a 16 county sprawling metropolitan region--is its own obsolescence. By that I mean this: too many "St. Louisans" grow up and live their lives without dealing with the City. If they do, it's an experience tinged with extreme levels of fear and caution. Too many people in our bloated region have simply written off the city--so much so that bias against cities in the region exists. St. Louis's old and beautiful historic housing stock, its diversity, its nightlife, its restaurants, what little retail it has--all are threatened by a larger populace that has never had a taste of and appreciation for urbanism.

Diller's experiment is a noble one, in my opinion. It reveals one major theme: third graders are at least as knowledgeable about what makes a good urban neighborhood as our current crop of leadership in the city. At times, they're well advanced beyond that low standard.

Here are a couple eye-openers, by neighborhood, that the children have written. If you want to bypass my yanking quotes, click here for the firsthand experience.

Cherokee Street

We visited Cherokee Street. It is between Ohio and Texas streets in south St. Louis. It is kind of scary. There are a lot of broken windows and burnt wood on the ground. I think they might make up for lost time in a couple years. They need to rebuild the population. A lot of the buildings were empty.



Today, when I went to Cherokee Street, at first I was scared because people were speeding, the streets were empty and littered, and the buildings were old and had bars all around. I felt much safer when we split up into groups and went to the bakery.


I liked how the road crews were putting more vegetation in the community. If I were in charge, I would plant even more vegetation. I think lots of vegetation is important for the community.

If I could I would change the "gangsters" in this community because if I were living there I would not let my kids go out without adult supervision.

I'd also like to see more "Mom and Pop" stores in the St. Louis community, like I saw on Cherokee Street.

In this community the people are all friends. They celebrate Cinco de Mayo together playing Mexican games and eating delicioso Mexican food.



Today my class and I went to the Cherokee Street neighborhood. The buildings are old and some were empty. They looked better on the inside than out and the people were nice.


My comments: While many children talked about how rundown the neighborhood appeared and that it scared them, most enjoyed the people, experiencing a Buddhist temple, El Chico bakery, one of the supermarkets, and the Tortillera.

Soulard

After visiting the Farmers Market I suggest that you go for a walk through one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Just up the street from the market you will find houses built around one hundred fifty and two hundred years ago. Most of these homes are brick, and many have small gardens and terraces. It is a nice place to walk. The sidewalks are brick and granite and they gently rise and fall from the old tree roots growing underneath the sidewalk. Week-day mornings you can watch cars speeding past on the highway, but in Soulard, the side streets are quiet and peaceful. While you walk, you can hear birds sing, and if you’re lucky like I was, you can even see them nesting.



The thing that I liked best about Soulard is that people stop to talk to one another on the sidewalk or at the market. No one seems too busy to stop to talk. It is a very friendly part of St. Louis. Where else can you get lunch in St. Louis, in view of the Arch and the city skyline and only spend two dollars? Plus get some delicious fresh fruit for free? Why, at Historic Soulard Market, of course.


Today we went to Soulard. We took a big yellow bus down I 44. Upon arriving, we first took a tour around the neighborhood. There were a lot of interesting buildings. A lot of the had interesting patterns in the brick.



I would change this neighborhood by adding more people and having them walk instead of drive cars. We also talked to a woman about why she moved to Soulard. She said she moved here because she thought it would be a nice neighborhood and it was. She eats at Molly's and a club called Obie's.


South Grand

South Grand is an urban neighborhood. It is urban because there are a lot of office buildings, apartments, and you can easily get parking tickets if you don't put money in the parking meters. There are many old houses that have vines on them and trees and flowers.


I went to South Grand on March 6, 2001 to visit this old neighborhood. It is a nice place to live. It has beautiful homes and friendly people. Between 1850-1899 some homes looked fancy. They had iron stoves, lights, and chairs.

People live and work in this neighborhood. Some people work in the restaurants. Some people have picnics and play in Tower Grove Park.


South Grand has a lot of German immigrants. There are Vietnam and Bosnia immigrants, too. The place we went shopping is called Jay's International. I bought a soda from Vietnam. After we went shopping our group went to a restaurant called South City Diner. There we interviewed different people. I think that all the different people is what makes South Grand interesting.


I left hoping that every neighborhood would be as nice as South Grand. I love our neighborhood studies because they're fun and we get to meet new people and explore different places.


Today, March 3, 2001, I visited the South Grand and Shaw neighborhoods. My third grade class went there by bus because we are studying different St. Louis communities. I learned that Shaw is a beautiful and old neighborhood. However, I interviewed someone who worked on South Grand, and she was robbed once. So it seems to be a dangerous place to work and live. My mother works there, at the Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. She agrees that it could be unsafe sometimes if you are not careful. I know this is true because I fell off a curb and skinned my knees and my chin!


To see more (including the Hill, the Loop, the Central West End, Carondelet, and Downtown), click the link above.


It is interesting how some children complain about the presence of too many buildings and not enough parking. One kid commented that the only problem with the Central West End was that there was not enough parking lots and that s/he'd tear down buildings to provide them.


Like I said, the kids are at least as knowledgeable about urbanism as the adult leaders of St. Louis today!


Still, many children made excellent observations. They were taught the values of diversity, of walking as a form of transit, of beautiful architecture and how it can define a neighborhood, of local businesses and how them both employ people and provide neighborhood a character of their own.


What an excellent find! Credit goes to the College School and Matt Diller for this excellent classroom idea (and for recording it on the internet).

Friday, August 8, 2008

The poor fate of the St. Louis Greek Revival

Greek Revival architecture in St. Louis is critically endangered. First, what is Greek Revival?

Here is an example from St. Paul, Minnesota. This is the more luxurious and less urban form of Greek Revivals.



Here's a New Orleans style urbanized form:



The uniting features of a Greek Revival are:

> A construction date between 1825 and 1860. In St. Louis, they were probably built until 1870, albeit in a transitional form suggestive of the successor--Italianate.

> An entry porch is typical. These are usually supported by columns (Doric on the first floor, Ionic on the second if multi-story). The columns have no bases--that was a feature added in the revival styles of the early 20th century.

> Sometimes, Greek Revivals have elaborate entries. Transom windows will surround the doors. A pediment (a blocky triangle) is very common and is a good indicator of a Greek Revival.

> Above windows and at the cornice line, a simple horizontal band usually exists. Sometimes, tooth-like "dentils" will be featured on the cornice. This is a holdover from the earlier Federal, or "Adam" style, which faded in most places around 1840. Some Federal townhouses can be difficult to distinguish from Greek Revival.

> Roofs typically have a low pitch or are gabled.

(Partial source: Virginia and Lee McAllester's A Field Guide to American Houses)

Greek Revivals are found all over New Orleans. That makes sense, since that city's major boom period occurred at about 1840, when cotton catapulted the city to heights of wealth unseen for a city its size. Greek Revival was the in-vogue house style at the time.

GR's used to be a common feature of the St. Louis landscape, though St. Louis saw its own zenith later on, past the Civil War. Neighborhoods east of Grand used to feature the occasional GR country home--miniature Greek temples. After all, the then-new republic wanted to amp up its connections with the foundations of democracy--Democratic Greece.

Neighborhoods like Old North St. Louis and Soulard as well as now-demolished Kosciusko, Mill Creek Valley, Lucas Place, and DeSoto-Carr were some of the city's oldest, and so could claim many of this then-popular style of home.



The Campbell House, circa 1851, is a later Greek Revival construction that is starting to resemble its cornice-heavy younger cousin, the Italianate. It is the last remaining structure from Lucas Place. At least it's incredibly well preserved.

Recognize this one? No, it's not New Orleans...



It's the 1848 Chatillon-DeMenil House in the city's Benton Park neighborhood--almost sacrificed (needlessly, obviously) for Interstate 55 right-of-way in the 1960s.

Other Greek Revivals in St. Louis were not so lucky.



Those above were located on the south side of Market Street between Jefferson and Beaumont [Source]. This was Mill Creek Valley, mostly constructed around the Civil War. Mill Creek had many late Greek Revival structures before it was completely demolished in 1959.

Ecology of Absence ran a great post a couple weeks back about a north side Greek Revival in its death throes. Michael Allen's picture of the home is below:



Says Allen:

The poor old house at 1219 Clinton Street in Old North St. Louis may be headed toward the end of a long death cycle. The beautiful side-gabled brick house is one of those Federal or Greek Revival-inspired row houses that lines streets in Old North in the middle 19th century. Prior to the popularity of the Italianate and Second Empire styles in the 1870s, and with materials like tin not widely available for ornamental cornices, builders tended toward a restrained, elegant form. These houses had segmental arches or flat (sometimes arched) stone lintels over doors and windows. They were two stories with an attic in the roof. Cornices were usually simple dentillated rows or wooden boards with beading or other patterns. Mostly tenements, these houses had gallery porches in back with staircases leading to second floor flats. Amid dense blocks, with buildings attached, mouse holes opening to gangways were necessary to allow for the passage of residents to and from the streets.



Part of the reason for the diminution of the Greek Revival stock in the city has to do with its Great Fire in 1849, where a lot of said structures downtown were wiped out. The other main reason is that urban renewal during the late 1950s and early 1960s destroyed most of St. Louis's oldest remaining neighborhoods. Planners of the time wanted to rid of Soulard as well, one of the only remaining areas of the city with any notable concentration of the house style.



Here is a Soulard Greek Revival, located at 1019 Shenandoah.


View Larger Map

Here is an Old North example, on the 2500 block of Blair:


View Larger Map


Unfortunately, the increasingly rare St. Louis Greek Revival is not receiving the level of protection it needs. The city and its mayor sit in the sidelines as McKee systematically destroys the last of them--and so many other styles--all within some of St. Louis's oldest neighborhoods. Just in case you fell out of habit of checking Rob Power's Daily Dose of Blairmont series, we're on Day 155!



Okay. So most of the structures remaining in the neighborhood are either transitional structures with more Italianate (heavy cornices with brackets) or Second Empire (mansard roofs) features. But many date to the end period of Greek Revival fame--and they share its quiet, often subdued urban elegance.



We should be identifying our remaining Greek Revival resources and protect them under an innovative arrangement--a local historic district that is non-contiguous, scatter site. If not, they will nearly all be lost, save for the grandest of them or those protected already by local HD's.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Streetview comes to New Orleans!

No longer do I need to lift someone else's photos when I speak of New Orleans on this blog.

You can look forward to more detailed posts comparing New Orleans and St. Louis now!

In the meantime, here is my French Quarter abode:


View Larger Map

Notice the wonderful median/neutral ground in the center of the street.

This is pedestrian paradise, folks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

St. Louis's Local Dining Options Expand

From Sauce Magazine's online foodie "gossip" column:

Now open
Café Osage, the new eatery from the folks at Bowood Farms nursery in the Central West End we told you about back in June, is now open. Stop by 4605 Olive St. to sample the fare prepared by chefs David Guempel and David Kirkland (which uses many ingredients grown at the nursery or its Clarksville farm).


Awesome addition to the Central West End and to the city at large! Well...I've not been of course, but I'm speaking of the concept: healthy foods from local and regional farms. St. Louis has too few of these.



Don't forget about Local Harvest on Morganford's latest venture either: the Local Harvest Cafe (see the Commonspace Blog for hours and more information).



Someone, please, report to Cafe Osage immediately so I can read the full pre-restaurant critic review!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What's with that House?

As a sort of sister post to the previous, I have to ask, what's with that house (on the 40xx block of Juniata in Tower Grove South):


View Larger Map

St. Louis CIN says it was built in 2004.

I've never seen another house like it.

Anyone have a clue as to what stylistic influence this house can claim?

Monday, August 4, 2008

A rival to Ballpark Village's crater?


View Larger Map

(Zoom in where the marker is placed to see the site.)

The city says it's owned by Anheuser-Busch.

A little research on the address turns up the St. Louis "Everman Quarry". It's also on a list of Missouri Superfund sites--the list that the Environmental Protection Agency creates to document extremely contaminated sites that require remediation.

What is this place? Does anyone know? Are there any plans for it?

If you can't tell on the map, it's bounded by Virginia on the west, Delor on the north, Walsh on the south, and Michigan on the east.

Can anyone help me out?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cherokee Street Before and After

The Cinderella Theater (date unknown--probably turn of the century)
2731-39 Cherokee
(Source)

THEN:



NOW:



The Main Street Program I've referred to in many previous posts could really help buildings like these be restored to their original luster.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Neighborhood Banners and Logos: Part I



Since when is the Chain of Rocks Bridge in Baden? If you follow its city-defined boundaries, Baden has no coast line at all--it ends at Hall Street on the east.



The old Bevo 2001 symbol. Bevo actually has other neighborhood banners, most of which are now tattered. But those green banners are nice because they display the block numbers and run the entire length of the neighborhood along Gravois and Morganford. Still, some new ones are in order. The Mill and German symbolism should share space with the Bosnian immigrants that have so changed the neighborhood.



This logo is all part of the "re-branding" of McRee Town. It's shameful when we as citizens and when our policy makers can't overcome stigma to assist a downtrodden neighborhood in reshaping itself, rather than forcefully from the outside. At the very least, the overhauled neighborhood should have still sported the historical name McRee Town, in my opinion. But I know why they opted for "Botanical Heights"--free advertising for the Garden that helped take the neighborhood down. Plus, and excuse the pun, it's much more flowery.



To my knowledge, this sign was either vandalized or lost in one of the 2006 summer storms. It was a nice little entry marker to a little known neighborhood (though, with the mayor moving here, it may just be on the St. Louis City map soon!).



I really like these crests that hang on banners all over Carondelet. They memorialize that this was once an independent city, a little French and Spanish Creole settlement that retains its uniqueness despite its absorption by the city.

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