Category Archives: St. Louis Place

Rarely Seen Views, St. Liborius

Perhaps as enjoyable as viewing the interior of the church was the chance to step into the private, intimate spaces behind the scenes of the church.

For example, the angles created by the exterior of the apse as it butted up against the bridge to the rectory, or the steps that descend down into the basement.

The building’s stout walls will last for centuries, but the near future of the church will determine in what condition it will remain in the coming decades.

Below, the stained glass windows still line the hall of the bridge between the church and rectory, one of the most unique elements of this complex.

The rectory itself is a large building, with fascinating courses of glazed brick interspersed with the typical red brick.

The fuse box, no longer hooked up to electricity, is most likely part of the earliest wiring of the church.

A yellowed sign explains the operation of the system, though it is of no use now.

The parish hall, in the cellar, has been cut up into smaller rooms, but some of the original paint remains.

The grotto out back, facing away from the street, has miraculously avoided serious vandalism. This is the second historic church I have visited in North St. Louis in the last couple of months, and every time, I get a sad sense that I am witnessing the passing of an era. In fact, I get much of the same feeling viewing these churches as when I’m visiting ancient Roman ruins in Italy, even though those are obviously much older. What caused the Roman Catholic church to give up on this church? Was it a lack of will, or just a sad, realistic realization that there was no reason to keep the church open? Was it no different than when the Romans abandoned the Coliseum? Was there just simply no money or manpower left to keep it open any longer? Perhaps the most sad realization for me is that if even the beautiful St. Liborius can be abandoned and forgotten, then anywhere can, including the places I cherish.

The Fine Arts, St. Liborius

The most stunning aspect of the interior of St. Liborius are the massive painted lunettes above the arcades of the nave and transepts.

While most of the paintings were shrouded in darkness, I could pick out a couple of scenes at the beginning and end.

At the presumed beginning was the Nativity of Christ, and on the opposite place on the wall across the nave was the Resurrection, so I am going to guess that the rest of the paintings focus on the life of Christ.

I have no idea what the scene of a young Christ handing a cross to his parents is all about.

The stained glass is likewise beautiful, though some of the best pieces by Tiffany were sold decades ago and replaced with clear glass.

The high altar, described to me as originally being incredibly ornate and constructed of white marble, has been decimated. I don’t know exactly when or why, but the high altar was stripped of most of its marble. What remains gives you a bit of a clue about how it once appeared.

The transept altars didn’t fare much better, as this one attests, completely stripped of its marble veneer.

St. Liborius, A Desolate and Beautiful Interior

One of my favorite churches in North St. Louis, which I’ve looked at before here and here, is St. Liborius, anchoring the bend in North Market Street in the St. Louis Place neighborhood.

This weekend, the owners allowed visitors to come inside and view the interior, and brainstorm for possible uses for the massive, Gothic Revival church.

The church is a version of a German hallkirche, with relatively de-emphaisized transepts. All attention is therefore focused towards the high altar.

The massive compound Gothic columns hold up intricately detailed and well-preserved groin vaulting.

The choir loft is in bad condition, and the organ is largely gone.

The original gold leaf on the vaulting of the apse is well preserved and extremely beautiful.

Some of the original tracery and mosaic tile is preserved in patches around the church such as you can see here.

The complex, foliated designs on the capitals of the columns are also unique, and still possess their original paint.

Surrounding the front door are thick brick walls, supporting the tall spire above.

The owners are looking for help or a possible buyer for the church. If you have a good idea, and some money, you should help out.

Falstaff Brewery Plant Five, Former Columbia Brewery

Surely the former Columbia Brewery, late renamed Falstaff Brewery Plant Five, must have always dominated the St. Louis Place neighborhood.

With the incredible amount of demolition in the area, it now rises out of what almost looks like a meadow, taller than the remaining houses by over a hundred feet.

The Romanesque Revival brewery sits right on the property line at the sidewalk, with elegant renovated houses across the street framing the complex.

And of course, there’s the massive smokestack with the Falstaff logo nailed to the giant stack, which may be one of the largest brewery smokestacks in the city.

It’s a massive fortress like structure, and I wonder if the beer barons, many of whom were born in Germany, were actively attempting to evoke the architecture of the powerful in their homeland.

The brewery is just as impressive as I remember when I saw the building for the first time up close several years ago.

I love the use of terracotta accents that are combined with cut limestone and red brick. These are not simple utilitarian structures, but statements of the power of the beer industry in St. Louis history.

Please visit this great Falstaff Beer site, where I learned most of my information about the old brewing company. Also, I want to thank Andrew Weil, director of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis, for additional information.

Winkelmann Mansion, Almost Gone

I know that a lot of people love this house, and are very upset that it’s made it to this point where a strong storm might very well collapse the rest of the house. I count myself as one of them.

Once one of many mansions along St. Louis Avenue belonging to wealthy German-American industrialists, it had found new life as a funeral home, which in turn closed long ago.

I’ve been looking at and photographing the house for years, and it’s depressing to see it reach this point. See my earlier posts here and here.

I normally don’t condone graffiti, but in the case of this house,the simple word “legacy” on the plywood is particularly poignant.

McKee promised to save what he called “legacy properties” to go along with his new development, and this one was supposedly going to be one of these properties.

Judging from the neglect shown this building, and its savaging by brick thieves, there isn’t going to be much of a legacy left of this building in the coming years.

Desolation and Southern St. Louis Place

I recently was passing through the area of the worst demolition and desolation in St. Louis, where I had been almost four years before. Nothing has changed.

To many St. Louis urbanists’ horror, The Atlantic Cities discovered this area of urban prairie and publicized it nationally.

In reality, it was a botched redevelopment back in the Schoemehl administration that caused this area to be so heavily decimated. Not that it makes it any better than slow, arduous decay.

See it from the air here; 23rd Street is the major street going through the area.

Post-War North St. Louis Construction

There’s often a prevailing view in St. Louis that nothing was built in the city after World War II except new skyscrapers downtown. In reality, out in the neighborhoods, corner stores were already being knocked down and replaced with gas stations such as the one below. Sadly, this trend continues, as the historic fabric of corners in St. Louis are degraded by the construction of parking dominated businesses such as Walgreens or Quiktrip. Also, new housing, known in local parlance as HUD housing, sprung up in neighborhoods of older housing stock, as can be seen above. These narrow houses actually fit into the street wall very well, but their poor construction has led many of them to be abandoned already, and demolished in many cases.

Photos by Jeff Phillips