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The Arcade Building along Olive Street

Arial view from the southeast - from Bing.com

Upper level details; Old Post Office in foreground

Pine Street arcade entrance

The Arcade Building - southern facade along Pine Street

The Arcade Building
800 Olive Street
Architect: Tom Barnett

The Arcade Building takes its name from a grandiose two-level shopping arcade which runs straight across the lot from Olive to Pine. The arcade is an early version of the modern shopping mall, but its vaulted, tiled ceilings and ornate entrances, lamps, railings, and chandoliers are captivatingly beautiful in a way that modern suburban malls cannot hope to compete with.

The Arcade Building actually consists of two mostly-separate towers, built on either side of the Wright Building. The two sections are different heights, front onto different streets, and have harmonious but differing facade designs and details. The south-facing Pine Street elevation is shorter, smaller and more restrained.

When construction began, excavation of the site uncovered quicksand; pilings had to be sunk 50 feet into the ground to hold the building up, and extra floors were added to cover the higher construction costs.

The building was supposed to have basement access to the railroad tunnels which pass by it; however, smoke from steam locomotives made this an impractical option. The entryways were sealed and never used. Today Metrolink uses the same tunnels; it is unfortunate that the trains are not able to use this attractive choice for a station stop.

The Arcade Building has a commanding presence on the street. Its giant second-story bay windows extend the building's domain out to the sidewalk, while street-level storefronts make it part of the city's pedestrian life. And the shopping arcade draws those pedestrians into the building itself (all this assuming, of course, that the building is not vacant and shut off -- which it currently is.)

The building presents a somewhat different facade on its south-facing Pine Street frontage -- which is appropriate, since from the street, it appears to be an entirely different building. Smaller and more restrained, the south facade is clearly subordinate to its two neighbors, the Paul Brown and the Wright.

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