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About the Site
Built St. Louis began as a way to document the destruction of the city's historic architecture. Spurred on by the 1996 demolition of the Ambassador Theater, and shocked that the Arcade, Syndicate Trust, and others were similarly threatened, I began photographing them and posting the photos online that fall. Over the years it's grown into a way for me to express both joy and outrage over changes in the cityscape.
It is not my intention to paint a negative or positive portrayal of St. Louis -- just an honest one. But if I didn't think the city was wonderful, I obviously wouldn't be sitting here doing this. If my photographs are shocking on occasion, well, it's because there are some shocking things happening out there.
About the Author
My name is Robert Powers; I can be contacted at BuiltStLouis@Gmail.com. The content of Built St. Louis is my soley own work, except for reader contributions and quoted articles as noted.
I lived in St. Louis from 1992 to 1997. Since 2000, I've lived in Milwaukee and Chicago, enabling me to visit St. Louis several times a year, but I do not live there now.
Over the years I have lived in Atlanta, Shreveport LA, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Chicago, but St. Louis still holds a unique fascination for me. I came to Washington University in St. Louis in 1992, where the campus's century-old Tudor Gothic buildings immediately captured my interest. That fascination soon spread outwards to the rest of the city, which I eagerly explored by bike, camera in hand. St. Louis began my interest in architecture, preservation, and urban design.
I left St. Louis for the East Coast a year after graduating, but the city remained in my heart. Living in Philadelphia for three years, with many trips to New York, Boston and Washington, showed me what a thriving urban environment could be. It spurred me to continue documenting the damaged portions of St. Louis's environment long after I'd left.
St. Louis is now conveniently located 5 hours down the road from me, and I generally travel there several times a year to photograph and visit friends new and old.
Contact the Author
I welcome email from site visitors, including criticisms, commentary, and especially memories and contributions. I am always looking for older photographs of the city, especially snapshots from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Please don't fret if I don't get back to you right away. Though I'm very passionate about it, the site is still a hobby for me. I work on the site -- and answer email from it -- when I can find the time and energy.
Also, as I don't live in St. Louis, I can't really do research about specific topics. If you're looking for a particular building or area of town, first try doing a text search on the Site Map and Index. Other questions are addressed below.
My email: BuiltStLouis@Gmail.com
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Visiting the City
I'm going to be visiting St. Louis. What
would you recommend I see?
What is a good guidebook to St. Louis architecture?
How can I get into (name of abandoned building)?
What can you tell me about (name of building/name of architect)?
Do you know anything about the building at this street address?
Where else can I look for answers?
What are the tallest buildings in St.
Louis? How tall is (name of building)?
About the Site
Who took all those photographs?
May I use one of the images on your site?
Why is there so much stuff about the Continental Building?
Is there anything on the site about (name of building)?
Would you be interested in an article/old
photograph of one of the buildings on your site?
Who the hell are you?
Why do you maintain this site?
So are you ever moving back here?
- I'm going to be visiting St. Louis. What would
you recommend I see?
It depends in large part on what you want to see.
Much of this site is dedicated to documenting the obscure but beautiful. In the process, I've skipped over some more obvious destinations. I'll try and cover a little of both here.
Architecture - the Basics
St. Louis's downtown is not outstandingly large, and 3 hours or so of walking can cover most of it. The notes below will lead you on a nice long loop around downtown that covers the highlights.
The Gateway Arch is simply the single most amazing object in the region, and really must be the first stop for any first-time visitor to the city. The trip to the top is neat, but it's also time-consuming, so I recommend skipping it if you're on a tight schedule. Your time is better spent exploring the rest of downtown. While you're at the Arch, have a close-up look at the Basilica of St. Louis, the only structure to survive the razing of the 40 square blocks that preceded the Arch grounds.
The Eads Bridge, the first bridge over the Mississippi this far south, stands immediately north of
Laclede's Landing is a small 19th century commercial district on the other side of the Eads Bridge. It's now full of bars, clubs, and other nightlife; it is the last surviving indication of what the original city streets looked like before they were razed in the 1940s for the future Arch grounds.
Washington Avenue marks the northern boundary of downtown; it's due west of the Eads Bridge. Here you'll find several dozen old warehouse and garmet buildings from the 1890s and earlier, all wonderfully elaborate. With widespread condo conversions, Washington has become downtown's most urbane street. The Convention Center
is also here, for whatever that's worth. Don't miss the massive Merchandise Mart on the 1000 block. Washington Avenue rewards a stroll out as far as 17th or 18th Streets.
As you stroll Washington Avenue, make some detours:
- The Old Post Office district
Walk two blocks south on 9th Street. Here you'll be in
the heart of what survives of historic downtown. The Old Post Office is the centerpiece, but don't miss the Arcade/Wright (currently prepped for renovation), the Syndicate Trust and the former site of the Century Building on the west, the American Theater a block or two north, the Chemical Building and Louis Sullivan's Union Trust to the east, and the Railway Exchange building further east.
- Lucas Park
Turn south at 13th Street, where several buildings of note are situated on or around a small park, inclding the
main branch of the public library (masterful Beaux Arts by Cass Gilbert) and the curved facade of the Art Deco-styled Shell Building.
Christ Church Cathedral is immediately adjacent as well. Lucas Park itself is a lovely little park, a bit neglected but perfectly scaled for an urban retreat.
- The City Museum
Turn north at 16th Street. Brace for a shock.
Union Station: Washington Avenue peters out around 18th Street. Turn south on 18th, walk two block, and you'll find the city's former rail terminal, now a magnificent
shopping mall. The mall itself is nothing special, but the station's head house retains its magnificent interior and is one of the city's finest spaces.
The City Beautiful strip: aka the Gateway Mall. From Union Station, walk back east, toward the Arch. This is the city's civic corridor, where its City Beautiful schemes came to fruition. The Gateway Mall is an overscaled, underdeveloped strip of park land meant for a city that was teaming with urban residents, which St. Louis no longer is (in part because they were all kicked out to create "green space" like this.) But it's worth a walk, since en route you'll pass a number of notable buildings. From west to east:
- the old Opera House, muscular Beaux Arts with Deco detailing.
- the Beaux Arts Municipal Courts building
- the elaborate, French chateau-styled City Hall
- the Civil Courts, Egyptian Deco with a pyramid on top.
- the U.S. Court/Custom House, another monolithic Egyptian Deco/Classical fusion.
- The Wainright Building is one of Louis Sullivan's most important designs, and the most architecturally important building in the city. Don't miss it -- it's hidden by a bland post-Modern building that sits in the middle of the Gateway Mall.
- Keiner Plaza is a sunken plaza with stepped fountains, and the only block of the Gateway Mall to be properly developed as a functional public urban space.
- The Old Court House is the Mall's other
central piece of architecture.
If you've followed directions, you're now right back at the Arch.
Soulard is a venerable red-brick neighborhood about a mile south of downtown. Its intimate scale and French design heritage gives it a charm comparable to New Orleans' French Quarter. Soulard is a big spot for bars and restaurants; the Anheiser-Busch Brewery a half mile south gives free tours and is an architectural spectacle in its own right.
Lafayette Square was the city's first "suburb", with beautifully ornamented Victorian townhouses facing a delightful park. It is located just a few blocks west of Soulard and contains the oldest public park west of the Mississippi. The grand main building of City Hospital stands along the main road connecting Lafayette Square to Soulard.
- Tower Grove Park is about a mile south of Midtown. It's a Victorian walking park, with long, curving paths winding past trees. Don't miss the Romantic Ruins near its central intersection, and the whimsical picnic pavilions scattered throughout.
- Midtown is due west of downtown. Despite being the city's theater district, its anti-urban renewal doesn't give much reason to linger. Still, it's got some of the city's most notable buildings, particularly the Continental Building and the Fox Theater. The insanely ornate Fox gives $5 interior tours on select days, and it's well worth the money. Several buildings of note also endure at Saint Louis University, a block south.
The Central West End is centered at the magnificent intersection of Maryland and Euclid. Stroll north along Euclid, past some of the CWE's incredible private streets, to a second intersection that is likewise lined with stores and restaurants. Nearby, to the east on Lindell, is the unfathomable New Cathedral, whose mosaic tiled interior is among the most vast pubic spaces in the city, and perhaps the most ornate. More of the city's grand private streets are entered from Lindell west of Kingshighway. Be discreet - the locals can be very persnickity about camera-toting people wandering through the privately-owned streets of their neighborhoods.
Forest Park is two square miles of landscaped green space. Within its bounds are the Art Museum (perched magnificently atop Art Hill, with a grand basin at its foot), the Zoo, and the Missouri Historical Museum; admission to all is free. Forest Park is located on the city's western edge, just to the west of the CWE.
Washington University is just across the city line from Forest Park. Its Tudor Gothic buildings make it among the finest college campuses in America.
The Delmar Loop, located a few blocks north of Wash. U's campus, is the city's most eclectic commercial district, though most of its architecture is undistinguished. It does feature some grandiose civic and religious buildings at its western end.
St. Charles, a separate town way way out west on the
highway, has a great little Main Street district.
Alright, you've seen all that, or you're not interested in mamby-pamby tourist-friendly stuff. You want the real deal! You want local watering holes! You want urban decay! You want hidden charm! Here ya go.
Old North St. Louis
Old North is a neighborhood about a mile north of downtown's edge. It's a good sample of the good and bad in the city -- its streets have been decimated by urban decay; many houses have been lost, and some still sit empty and falling apart. But intrepid urban pioneers have been making their homes here for 20 years, and now the times are catching up with them, as renovation and new construction become widespread. Crown Candy Kitchen is a favorite with locals from across the region; they serve huge sandwiches and delicous malts and shakes.
- The Cemeteries
On the north side of the city lie two enormous cemetaries, side by side, laid out in the Victorian era tradition of the scenic walking park. The north one is Calvary Cemetery, and it's Catholic; the south one is Bellefontaine Cemetary (locally pronounced "bell FOWNTin"), and it covers almost everyone else. Bellefontaine is the more impressive of the pair, both in its funerary architecture and in the register of famous locals buried there. Louis Sullivan's third surviving St. Louis design, the Wainright Tomb, stands there. Maps are available at the entrance.
- St. Louis Place
St. Louis Place is an odd mix. It contains some beautiful mansions along St. Louis Avenue west of Florissant, and the neighborhood's eponymous park is lovely (if often empty.) But the area's westard reaches contain some of the most devastated urban streets in America. N. 22nd Street is nearly 5 blocks of absolute emptiness. Northward and further west are some of the city's meanest-looking streets, but some of the most charming can be found there as well. This area has been heavily subjected to the speculatory activities of Blairmont in recent years, and its attendant problems of abandonment, eviction, decay, and brick rustling.
- The Chain of Rocks Bridge
The bridge is at the farthest northern tip of the city. It's a 1920s truss bridge with a bend in the middle, which used to carry Route 66 into the city. Today it's been converted into an awe-inspiring biking and walking path. Its deck offers a great view of the two historic water intake structures.
- Grand Avenue
One of the longest streets in St. Louis, Grand crosses the entire city north to south, and carries travellers past many landmarks. North of Midtown, it's a showcase of urban neglect and architectural deterioration, with some spectacular buildings in various states of decay. South of the Mill Creek Valley, it runs through some of the city's most delightful neighborhoods. Two of the standpipe towers are located along its length, with the third nearby.
One of several parks set up at the same time as Forest Park, Carondolet is at the south end of Grand Avenue, near the city's southern border. It's a peaceful and lovely retreat with its boathouse and bizarre sinkholes.
The city's furthest southward neighborhood is a strangely isolated little place, feeling at times like a small farming town. Many architectural delights await the intrepid explorer here.
Cherokee is located in the central south side. East of Jefferson Avenue, it has a thick concentration
of antique dealers and other shops.
South Side neighborhoods
There is a wealth of charming early 20th century construction in the city's southern reaches. One might start at the intersection of Hampton and Chippewa and head east, turning north or south at leisure. The terrain is hilly, adding to the picturesque nature of these areas. Nearby is the landmark state mental hospital.
East St. Louis
St. Louis's infamous neighbor lies just across the river from downtown, and offers a wealth of stunning decay. Take the Eads Bridge across for a leisurely and scenic view of the river and skyline. Once you've cleared the casino grounds and gone under a series of underpasses and highway bridges, Collinsville Avenue will be to your left. It's safe enough in the daytime, though you might want a knowledgable local as a guide after dark. For adventures in industrial decay, check out the nearby Armour meatpacking plant, abandoned for fifty years and pretty much totally unguarded.
You're sick of looking at architecture; you just wanna have some fun now.
- The City Museum
The fabulous City Museum is located north of Washington at 16th Street, and is not to be missed - after the Arch, it's my #2 recommendation on things to see and do in St. Louis. Allow at least 3 hours to browse through their collection of architectural fragments from St. Louis and beyond, as well as the inventive, whimsical displays that fill
the remainder of the museum. If it's not winter, drop a few extra bucks and let your inner child run loose on the astonishing Monstro City playground. Wear sneakers and dress for an afternoon of running, climbing, crawling, swinging, and sliding.
- Missouri Botanical Gardens
If you've got time for just one other thing, there's no doubt what it should be: the. Located in the city's southern reaches, the Gardens are spectacular beyond belief and are not to be missed. Tower Grove Park, immediately south of them, is a beautiful old Victorian walking park and one of my favorite places in the city. The nearby blocks of Grand Avenue (which marks the east end of the park) contain a nice variety of shops and restaurants.
- Ted Drewes
For the full experience, go to the location in the city's southern reaches, on Chippewa. On a warm summer night, especially the weekends, you'll find dozens -- sometimes hundreds -- of St. Louisians seemingly milling about in front of this little roadside stand next to the former Route 66. They're waiting in a series of fast-moving lines for a frozen custard "concrete", which is like ice cream but about ten times richer, thicker, and tastier. They're served with your choice of mix-in. Try the Oreo or caramel or butterscotch for a basic starter, but there's dozens of options. (WARNING: don't take on a concrete and a Crown Candy malt on the same day!)
- South Broadway Athletic Club wrestling
This little neighborhood institution hosts local level wrestling matches in the style of WWE pro wrestling. After hearing about it online, I finally got to go myself in early 2008. There's a homegrown charm and sincerity to the whole affair that's hard to find in this day and age, with locals of all stripes drinking beer and cheering for the faces and booing the heels and just generally having a great time. It's an awesome and cheap way to spend a Saturday night. See their web site for listings.
At 88.1 FM, you'll find one of the best radio stations on the dial anywhere. Tune in as you're driving around to hear bluegrass, country, blues, rock, punk, reggae, jazz, hip-hop, Latino, pop, and more bluegrass. The concert calendars during various shows are a treasure trove of live performances happening around the area, and among other things, reveal the St. Louis area's deeply instilled tradition of bluegrass music. See also: KDHX.org. Other recommended stations: 89.1 for pop music; 88.7 for jazz; 90.7 for NPR news; 94.7 on Sunday mornings for obscure classic rock.
- Who took all those photographs?
Unless otherwise credited, all photographs on the site are my own.
I started off with a 35mm point-and-shoot in the early 1990s, though very few of those photos are on the site. I got my first SLR, a Pentax K1000 SLR, in 1995 -- a series of them, actually, as I had two stolen from me.
For many years I used the cheapest film and developing I could find (a necessity, considering that I could easily through a dozen rolls of film in a single day.) I then scanned the developed photos on a Visioneer scanner of dubious stability, with tweaks in Photoshop.
In 2003 I started switching to digital, and have burned through two digital point-and-shoots, most recently a Fuji FinePix A340. It was a great little camera, light, fast, cheap... but not meant to be dropped on the pavement, a trauma which ultimately proved to be its undoing.
Now I'm the jubilant owner of a Canon Digital Rebel SLR, the finest, fastest, most powerful camera I've ever used by a long shot.
- May I use one of the images on your site?
I generally request a small useage fee if a photograph is being used in a for-profit publication. I'm not trying to get rich or discourage such uses, but I have invested considerable time, effort and money in amassing my collection of images, and feel that some renumeration is not unreasonable. I'm not expensive at all; please ask!
If you're a student needing images for a class report or presentation, feel free to use images from the site; just be sure to properly credit me and the site in the presentation (which is simply proper procedure for any such reference, regardless of the source.)
For other purposes, feel free to ask. Odds are I'll say "fine, no problem," but I do like to know where, how, and by who my pictures are being used.
- Why is there so much stuff about the Continental Building compared to everything else?
Simple. 1, it's my favorite building in the whole city, and 2, I wrote a big research paper on it in college, so the material was ready at hand.
- Is there anything on the site about (name
Maybe! Check the search function on the site map page. The site map also lists most of the buildings on the site. If it's downtown, it might be on the Historic Downtown or Washington Avenue tours -- check the text listings.
- What can you tell me about (name
of building and/or architect)?
In all probability, not too much. I haven't lived
in St. Louis since 1997; I can't exactly run down to the local library
anymore. : ] Furthermore, I really don't have any great degree of expertise
on St. Louis's architectural history. The buildings I know the most about,
and everything I know about them, are already on the site.
However, I do have photographs of many of the city's major present-day buildings; if you ask nicely I'm certainly willing to share (for the record, I've never had anyone not ask nicely; the site's readers seem to be a friendly and intelligent lot.) I also have a big stockpile of old postcard scans from Ebay saved on my hard drive, mostly covering downtown from the 1900s to the 1920s, which I'm also willing to share as long as it's for private use.
- Do you know anything about the building at this street address?
Again, probably not. The only St. Louis buildings I know by street address are those on the Historic Downtown tour. City Hall's the place to look for information on a specific address.
- So then where else can I look
First try Google. It's the best search engine on the web. If you can't find it there, there's a good chance it simply can't be had on the Internet.
The Architecture Links page is a list of some of the major architecture-related sites that have proven to be long-lasting and informative. Most importantly, note the list of blogs at the top. Many of them are written / frequently visited by people who are highly knowledgable about the city.
Other places to try:
- Ebay.com. If you're looking for old images of St. Louis, try a search for "st. louis" along with "postcard", "postcards", "architecture", and "building". You'll come up with hundreds of old photographs and prints of the city, all for sale, and most with scans of the images. I've gained a lot of information on the city's downtown this way.
- Bookstores. Most book stores have a section entitled "Local Interest" that contains all sort of regional books. Some of these will be architecture-related. Even non-architecture books often have photos of architectural interest, particularly if you're after historical pictures. If you don't already have it, buy a copy of George McCue's "Guide to St. Louis Architecture", a terrific handbook of the area's buildings and a good starting point for research.
- The Public Library. The downtown branch of the St. Louis library maintains several voluminous files of newspaper clippings related to local buildings from the last 20 years or so; ask at the Arts desk to see the Building Files for whatever particular building you're interested in. The Central West End branch has a whole shelf full of local books; other branches probably have some as well. Many of these are out of print volumes that won't be found anywhere else; they are definately worth digging through.
- The Mercantile Library. No relation to Mercantile Bank, this is one of the oldest libraries in the country. It's private, so you'll have to sign in and have someone assist you, but if you're looking for older articles on a building, this is a terrific resource. They have the files of the St. Louis Globe going back to the 1920s and earlier (this is where I got the oldest articles on the Continental Building.)
- Missouri Historical Society (Skinker Boulevard). A fabulous and very comprehensive resource. They have all sorts of old records, journals, and newspaper articles, and other resources that I don't even know about myself. The building itself is a treat, as well. Register with the desk in front, then ask for assistance; the staff is very helpful.
- The History Museum (in Forest Park). Their exhibits often contain historical building info, and their gift shop has many books on old St. Louis. If you're after World's Fair info, this is a good place to start.
- City Hall taxation/land deed records. I've never done this myself, but apparently in the basement of City Hall there are records of every land transaction recorded in the city of St. Louis. These can give important clues to a building's ownership. Open during business hours.
- Washington University libraries. You can do a search on their computers for any journal references to your topic. It's likely that the libraries have the journals, as well, or can get it for you. Most of the architecture journals will be housed in the Steinberg Library, in the second floor of the funky 1950s building at the front of campus. To get to the library, go up the steps on the parking lot side of the building. Ignore the glass doors in front of you; go to the left and go in the door that looks like a fire escape. Go up the stairs, turn right at the top. The library is on your left.
- How can I get into (name of abandoned building)?
Beats me -- for the most part I don't venture into abandoned buildings. More to the point, regardless of whether or not I condone the practice, in the interest of legitimacy I wouldn't give out such information over the internet even if I had it. If you've made it this far, you're probably smart enough to figure out such things on your own anyway. There are other sites specifically devoted to such endeavours as well.
- What are the tallest buildings
in St. Louis? How tall is (name of building)?
Copied from an informative email sent to me by one
ELB78@aol.com (later Rastanx4@aol.com), and enhanced by Slickwell@aol.com, here are some of the tallest buildings in St. Louis along
with their architect and date of construction. Note that the Gateway Arch (1965, Eero Saarien)
is the tallest structure in St. Louis at 630 feet, but it usually
isn't counted among the tallest buildings.
#1: Metropolitan Square, 600 feet, 42 stories. HOK Architects,
1988. According to this
website, it ranks as #396 among the world's tallest buildings. Some
interesting figures on that page, incidentally... New York City has 586
buildings over 90 meters in height. Chicago, 256. St. Louis, 14.
#2: One Bell Center, 588 feet, 44 stories. HOK Architects,
#3: Eagleton Courthouse, 557 feet, 27 stories.
HOK Architects, 1999.
#4: Firstar Center (formerly Mercantile Bank Center), 485 feet, 35 stories.
Thomson, Ventulett & Stainback, 1976.
#5: Laclede Gas Building, 400 feet, 35 stories. Emery Roth and Sons, 1969.
#6: Southwestern Bell Headquarters, 398 feet, 26 stories. 1926.
#7: Civil Courts Building, 387 feet, 13 stories. Klipstein and
#8: Bank of America (formerly Boatmans, Nations Center), 384 feet, 31 stories. 3D International, 1981.
#9: One City Center, 375 feet, 25 stories. HOK Architects, 1986.
#10: Sevens Building, 312 feet, 24 stories. 1969.
#11: Park Plaza, 310 feet, 27 stories. 1930.
#12: Pierre Laclede Center, 309 feet, 23 stories. Smith and Enterzoth, 1970.
#13: 500 Broadway, 282 feet, 22 stories. Smith and Enterzoth, 197?.
#13: Continental Building, 282 feet, 22 stories. William B. Ittner, 1929.
#14: Equitable Building, 275 feet, 21 stories. HOK Architects, 1971.
#14: Bank of America tower 275 feet, 22 stories. HOK, 1976.
- What is a good guidebook to St. Louis architecture?
George McCue's "A Guide to the Architecture of St.
Louis" (1989, University of Missouri Press) is THE definative field guide
to the city's buildings. It covers all sections of the city proper, and
devotes several chapters to St. Louis County and even one on Illinois,
across the river. It's a bit dated, as it's over ten years old, but still quite useful.
I'm not sure if it's still in print, but here's a
link to its entry on Amazon.com.
If you're feeling less global and more local, Left
Bank Books is a great local bookstore in the Central West End whose
friendly staff would be happy to track down a copy for you. Give 'em a
Another rich source of information is the guide's predecessor, "The Building Art in St. Louis: Two Centuries". Also by George McCue, its third edition is only 8 years older than the Guide, and it contains many more entries (albeit with much less information on each.) You can probably find a used copy on the Internet. Try the following resellers: Abebooks, Alibris,
Bibliofind, and Bookfinder.
A third recommendation is Landmarks Association's "St. Louis: Landmarks and Historic Districts", by Carolyn Toft and Lynn Josse. This book, revised in 2002, is far more up to date than the previous two, and is not a field guide but a full-sized book with numerous beautiful color photographs and rich background information. As a recent publication, it's available at most local bookstores or through Virginia Publishing.
- Would you be interested in an article/old photograph
of one of the buildings on your site?
Oh lord, YES. I would be eternally in your debt.
In particular, I am looking for good pictures of
the following demolished buildings:
Third National Bank Building
Rivoli Theater (later the Towne Theater)
Columbia Building (pre-1977)
Cotton Belt Building (formerly Planter's Hotel)
Buder Building (formerly Missouri Pacific)
Title Guaranty Building (formerly Lincoln Trust)
St. Louis Title Co. Building
Veteran's Administration Building
- Who the hell are you, anyway?
From a St. Louis perspective, I'm a 1996 Washington University graduate, originally from Louisiana. After Wash U, I moved to Philadelphia, then to Milwaukee for architecture graduate school at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. I graduated from UWM in December 2003 and eventually wound up in Chicago. Before Wash U, I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana.
- Why do you maintain this site?
Because the architecture of St. Louis simply blew
me away when I first saw it and continued to do so for as long as I lived
there. There's nothing like it where I came from, and even after travelling
to many other cities, I have to say that St. Louis's architecture and urban
landscape still beats out that of almost any American city of similar size.
What really got my goose, however - what has always
struck me as totally unfathomable -- was how much of the city was being
left to ruin. I wanted to preserve all these sad old buildings somehow --
archive them, record them, make them available to the public, show people
what was going on in the city. All the ancient decaying shells deserved
some kind of memorial... even the ones that weren't gone yet.
The earliest version of the site came about in late
1996 when I was first thinking of
creating a web page, and considered what I could contribute to the Web
that would actually be original and unique as well as interesting to me
personally. This being back in the days before comprehensive search engines like Google.com, I hit on the idea of gathering together every
link on the entire web that related to the city's architecture -- kind of a one-stop shop for St. Louis building information. Hence the links section on the main page. Shortly thereafter came
a page of various buildings I'd seen demolished, another for abandoned ones (the long-defunct Lost St. Louis I & II pages), and a third for the Continental Building. Inspired by the "sequential tour" format of the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit site, I revamped, unified, and expanded all these in early 2000, bringing the site more or less into its current format.
Having started the project, I've been unable to let
it drop, even after moving away from St. Louis. A combination of nostalgia,
anal-retentiveness, moral outrage, sense of duty, and love for the city keeps me going. I drop by St. Louis whenever I have an excuse to do so -- whether driving back home to Louisiana or visiting friends who are in town. That wasn't very often when I was in Philadelphia, but I've been back many times since moving to Milwaukee (a scant 6 hours up the road) in August 2000.
- So are you ever moving back here?
Well, I'm not really planning on it right now... but never say never. There's still a lot of other places I might want to live, too: New York, Boston, maybe even Philly again; who knows.