Built St. Louis > > MidCentury Modernism > > Natural Bridge Road

Various Buildings, Natural Bridge Road
Inner NW County
Architects: various
Date: 1940s - 1960s

The architecture along Natural Bridge Road tells the story of the city's outward expansion, a steady progression from the between-war period styles, into early Streamline, then leapfrogging into the various styles that collectively form Mid-Century Modernism. Several outstanding examples are shown here.

5900 Natural Bridge Road: The widely-reknown Goody Goody Diner has been in operation for nearly six decades. The building today is vastly changed from its original appearance; the projecting neon sign is a relatively recent addition, replacing a similarly styled sign that went up in the 1960s.

The massive framework in the background is the support structure for a gasometer, a massive tank with a moveable lid and walls used for storing natural gas and maintaining system pressure in natural gas lines. The tank is one of four in the St. Louis area, all of which are featured on the Industrial City tour.

6149 Natural Bridge Road : Across the street stands this battered Streamlined building, faced with black panels (possibly in vitrolite) and featuring a quirky clock tower clad in stainless steel. It appears to have originally been a bank.

7150 Natural Bridge Road: At the City Hall of the Beverly Hills municipality, what could have been a dreadfully mundane 1960s box is transformed into a celebration of the color blue with brightly glazed bricks and an exhuberant neon sign for the pharmacy upstairs. The building is additionally notable both for being built into a hillside and for being an unusual example of mixed government and commercial use.

7276 Natural Bridge Road: It's a style I refer to as Onassis Modern. Common in the mid-1960s, it seems to be Modernism's attempt to recapture the elegance of Classical Greek architecture. Onassis Mod is marked by arched multi-story arcades, a contrast between white structure and dark glass infill, and a predominance of marble as a finishing material or, on a poor man's budget, white painted concrete: a mini-Parthenon for the auto age. The red colors are a much later change and contrast with the cool elegance the building's designers were striving for.

7520 Natural Bridge Road is a classic 1950s office building, immediately adjacent to St. Ann's Catholic Church: raised on piers, a transparent ground floor over solid upper stories, and a drive-through for the automobile show it to decend from the Le Corbusier school of design. It appeared to be empty when I visited in July 2006.

7629 Natural Bridge Road: Murchison Tabernacle C.M.E. Church appears to be more of a 1960s vintage. I was unable to find the rooms served by the stained glass windows, but I did note remarkable light fixtures in the lobby.

7810 Natural Bridge Road: A small, empty office building near UMStL's campus, with a massive facade of concrete panels.

Just down the road stands the remarkable UMStL Music Building.

7855 Natural Bridge Road: Across the street from the Music Building, the Normandy Middle School's generic International Style design has been enlivened by a contemporary stair tower addition in front.

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