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The cornerstone before removal

The spot where the cornerstone time capsule was removed

A. S. Aloe Co. Building
A seamless fusion of Streamline and International Style, this building dates from 1940 and stood on the northeast corner of Olive and 19th Street.

It was built for the A.S. Aloe Company, sellers of medical and surgical supplies; the company dated back well into the 1800s. The Aloe family name is prominent in St. Louis history, and was given to the plaza facing Union Station.

The building appears to have consisted of both a reskinned Victorian-era building and a lower addition that was entirely new; the architects took this odd condition and turned it into a strong, geometric composition. Powerful rows of horizontal windows are capped off with simple raised lettering. The graphics of the entryway are bold and unmistakable. Like much of the best Modernism, the building makes clean use of simple elements to create a form that delights in its strength and simplicity.

Its ornamental signs and lettering stripped away, the A.S. Aloe Building was demolished in fall of 1996. The site today is a parking lot. The cornerstone contained a time capsule, containing company catalogues and medical journals, as well as a hand-written letter from company president Howard F. Baer. The content addresses the growing uncertainties with the growing war in Europe; yet it is a casual aside which makes the letter most poignant for me:

“It is difficult to write this letter, partly because I do not know when you will read it—but partly also because one must always feel somewhat self-conscious about posterity. There is the feeling that after all one probably has very little to say that will interest the yet several generations unborn..."

Several generations unborn! Cast into the harsh fires of American capitalism and urbanism, this handsome, powerful building did not outlast even one.

Gallery: Demolition, Fall 1996

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