Category Archives: Central St. Louis

Yes, You Can Force CVS to Do What You Want

I have been following the proposed demolition of the AAA Club on Lindell for a while now, but Vanishing St. Louis says it best here. While honestly, it’s not the most urban building in the world, the AAA building is WAY better than the crap that the CVS chain builds. And speaking of them, despite what they claim, they can make buildings that respond to local tastes and context. This CVS, at the intersection of Henry and Clayton Roads, was forced to be a little more stylish than the average CVS. So yes, they will do it if you make them.

Honestly, I think the Preservation Board is a complete joke, more proficient at forcing small home owners to do their bidding than forcing major local power brokers to do what is right. I’ll never forget the meeting where I saw the Board fine a private citizen for two freaking windows that weren’t perfect enough for their tastes, while later on in the meeting they rolled over for a powerful local entity who shall remain anonymous. Basically, if the mayor’s office or alderman wants the building saved, it will be, and if not, it’s toast.

Heck, even Walgreen’s tries a little bit harder if forced, as this store at Clayton and Clarkson Roads attests. Do I think these two stores I just showed are the pinnacles of Western architecture? Of course not, but they’re slightly better than the average, ugly stores the two chains build.

More McRee Town

Much of the rest of McRee Town sits abandoned, with the potential for more redevelopment.

I particularly like the house with the tan front and the red brick side walls; it would make a great rehab one day.

The two mirrored apartment buildings give the effect of one larger building.

I always like alley dwellings such as this one, because so many of them have been torn down. It would make a great garage and artist’s studio combination.

The Rebirth of McRee Town

I’m interrupting my tour of Kansas City architecture because I was so excited to see the recent developments in McRee Town, which for a long was one of the most troubled neighborhoods in the city.

Combining sensitive in-fill with the conversion of four-family flats into two houses and the renovation of other notable single family houses, the Botanical Grove redevelopment is doing everything right that has so often been done wrong in St. Louis.

For starters, pre-existing homeowners were not run out of their homes with eminent domain arranged with corrupt officials in smoky backrooms.

Secondly, the remaining housing stock was renovated into viable real estate, and priced at market rates.

Finally, the in-fill housing is very cool; it doesn’t try to pretend it was built in the Nineteenth century, is unashamedly modern, but the massing and materials match the neighborhood and city.

If the first phase on McRee Avenue is successful, it will spread to other streets, and hopefully the rest of the city.

"Obsolete" and "Blighted" Neighborhoods

This was the plan that basically condemned a large portions of the buildings inside Grand as “obsolete.” While it might be trivial, much of what was labeled thus was in fact torn down. “Blighted” areas are now some of the most prized, and in some cases, the most troubled areas of the city today. Thank God they didn’t get their way completely.

St. Louis Centre, Eviscerated

Alerted by posts at Vanishing St. Louis and the Preservation Research Office, I decided to use the new St. Louis Centre Memorial Parking Garage last Friday. That was a big mistake.

I had already seen the new exterior, but I wanted the opportunity to see the new parking garage built in the floors of the old mall. I must say, it is the most open, light-filled parking garage I have ever parked my car in, but when I tried to exit by a staircase, I was greeted by signs saying that the exit was for emergencies only. I had to go back up the stairs, checked to verify that there was in fact no sign saying that I couldn’t use that staircase, and eventually just took an elevator down to 7th Street. What a bizarre place.

Castle Ballroom

The Castle Ballroom, nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, is a little rough around the edges right now, but is still a stable and important building.

One of the few buildings left from the historic Mill Creek neighborhood, the ballroom provided entertainment for around fifty years.

While it’s described as Renaissance Revival in the nomination, I would have to disagree; it is more of a severe example of classical revival architecture, though I see one element, the curved lintel over the first floor door is inspired by the architecture of Michelangelo.

Originally red brick, it was painted the garish yellow sometime later. Though in St. Louis, with its wide variety of colored bricks, it is sometimes hard to tell.

Grand Viaduct Nearing Completion

I don’t know what to say about the new Grand Viaduct, as I don’t plan on every using it, as despite all the expense, the exit off of Highway 40 will remain just as dysfunctional as before. And I assume the traffic will be just as bad.

And sadly, I have a feeling it will be torn down in fifty years anyway, all of its pseudo-historical elements and blocks of styrofoam.

Maybe then I’ll be able to snap a picture of the old original bridge’s stone left in situ under the roadbed on the north side of the bridge.

I know one thing for sure; Chouteau and Grand will remain vacant, devoid of life, nothing more than sewers spewing traffic on either side of the bridge.

One of my few vices is battered fish, so I stopped in the Captain D’s; the staff was very friendly and implored me to post their picture on the internet. I sat and chatted with the staff for a couple of minutes; they were sad to hear the Pevely Building was being demolished as well. Behind the facade of that decadent Cape-Cod Revival fast food restaurant is some real heart.