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The Continental is a bit of a stylistic hybrid. Its soaring verticality, emphasized by the unbroken lines of the facade running up between the windows, make it a close cousin to "skyscraper Gothic". But instead of using traditional Gothic elements such as buttresses, gargoyles, and crockets to express this verticality, architect William B. Ittner turned to the emergent Art Deco style. The style offered a vocabulary of ornamentation based on floral and plant motifs, geometric forms, and highly stylized and streamlined forms. These elements are best seen in the pairs of figures that stand at the 16th floor setback -- their bodies merge seemlessly into the piers upon which they rest. Other Art Deco detailing can be found in the polished black granite of the first three stories, including flattened pilasters crowned with small flower-like motifs, and a low-relief globe surrounded by a cornucopia of vegetation. Spandrel panels (the panels above/below windows) are adorned with lightning-like designs.

The facade draws the eye upwards and gives it a feeling of lightness. Setbacks near the top of the tower narrow this upward arrow to a point. Such setbacks were common on skyscrapers of the 1910s and 20s, the result of a 1917 New York zoning ordinance that skyscrapers not to block the passage of sunlight to the streets below. (St. Louis's best examples of the form are the old Southwestern Bell Headquarters and the Missouri Pacific Building, both downtown; on the Continental, the setbacks are small enough to be mainly aesthetic in function.) As one St. Louis book puts it, the Continental marries the heavens and Earth, celebrating the juncture formed by the roofline.

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