With permission, we examined the last remnants of Bethlehem Lutheran, where demolition is almost complete. The tower is staying for the time being. There is a strange, surreal aspect to the tower standing all along by itself. It is still beautiful, even in this state.
12 Comments Add yours
The finial you see wrapped in some of those pictures was taken by City Museum. According to the City Museum Instragram account Bob Cassilly actually (re)created some of those for BLC 20+ years ago…
Hmmm, I think the wrapped piece of terra cotta is going to the City Museum, judging by the Instagram post they did a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps that is why the spire still stands.
I hereby nominate the United States of America for the Stupidest and Most Wasteful Nation to Ever Exist Award. Any seconds?
^ Great minds, samizdat. And seconded.
Because the congregation was broke and neglected the building for 20 years until it collapsed?
No. Because after WWII, with the stage set pre-war by a number of laws and policy decisions–at both the state and Federal level–our country razed significant portions of our great older cities, whereas Europe chose to rebuild theirs. The sprawling complex of suburban and exurban residential, commercial and industrial development–aided mightily by massive subsidies of Federal highway dollars, and the roads that were built as a result–is a hugely wasteful and inefficient allocation of pecuniary, human, and natural resources. More miles of sewers (along with the treatment plants to which our effluent is sent), miles of water lines, stupidly meandering suburban streets, commutes, inefficient vehicles, the acres of asphalt devoted to parking for suburban shopping malls/plazas (which increases storm-water run-off, a problem for the aforementioned sewage-treatment plant in a combined sewer city), our near-enslavement to supranational oil companies, poor transit routing/supply/funding, city v. city development squabbles (Walmart, et al, pitting city against city, for example), local and state subsidies for private developments (new roads, sewer lines, along with hundreds of millions, nay, billions, of breaks and credits to larger concerns, such as the new auto plants in the South, etc.), urban renewal and “slum” clearance, and a host of other such policies which encouraged the flight of the middle-class to suburban locales. In a larger context, these all contributed to the demise of this church and others. I’ve got no beef with the congregation. How could they have envisioned the forced deterioration of urban areas v. the hugely subsidized suburbs?
In terms of energy (source) consumption, our country is one of the least efficient on the planet. Even California, which is the most efficient in the consumption of energy in the US, is still not up to snuff when compared to many countries in Europe. And much of this inefficiency is due to the nature of development after WWII. We make excuses in this country, like “we’re a big country”, “it’s what the people want” (uh, yeah, I’m sure marketing [ie, brainwashing], had nothing to do with that), “freedom”, “it’s old, and would be too expensive to rehabilitate” (funny, the Federal highway system was hugely expensive, and largely unnecessary in suburban and urban areas, but that apparently was not a problem), and more unconvincing arguments for our conscious decision to abandon our cities, and to a large extent the people living in them, but we never even tried to rehabilitate neighborhoods. (I don’t view public warehouses, er, I mean housing, as “rehabilitation”). I won’t even go into the instability created by the forced eviction of millions of people Nationwide from entire neighborhoods and blocks for this housing, and the highways smashed through that which remained. Nor will I go into the moral and ethical issues involved with denying urban residents access to the same moneys spent on suburban areas, or the theft involved when Cities decide to restrict the resources available to areas which have seen dramatic loss of population.
Great comment. Though I do wonder how much of what you’ve described was also driven by what “the people” themselves wanted. Seeing how crowded a lot of cities were in the early 20th century, is it wrong that many wanted to drive out on the new interstate to a house with a big yard and a garage?
Not wrong, of course, but perhaps wrongheaded. And this brings us right back to policy decisions. Was it a good policy decision to focus such significant portions of Federal money to direct and indirect subsidies to suburban development? I’m not against suburbs. Our house here in Dutchtown is part of the Gravois-Jefferson Streetcar Suburb Historic District, , so I view it as an inevitability that suburbs will come as population expands. However, the locus of most funding, outside of the urban warehousing of human beings in PJ’s, was for suburban areas and greenfields. And if those developments were denser in spacing, and better planned as actual cities, as opposed to merely bedroom suburbs, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem. But again, even if denser res/com/ind were present in suburban development, we still have the problem of the massive imbalance in funding and services. Keep in mind that St. Louis and other cities in the 19th and 20th centuries built out their own infrastructure (roads, bridges, sewers, water supply) with their own money, with not a single dime coming from the Federal government. This is generally not the case today, even with the matching local dollars factored in. I take one look at the project lists for Amendment 7, and that’s all I need to know to vote NO. (Even the City’s list is heavily road-based, and the streetcar money should be spent on road diets and massive traffic-calming public works and thoughtfully-located separated bike lane projects).
(My apologies if my tone seems rather strident and pedantic. ‘Tis not my intent).
Fozzie makes a pretty good point.
Local, state, and federal governments have little, if any, money for maintenance of old buildings. If they did devote bucks – esp. to religious subjects – there would be justified outcries.
The Sanctuary, a former church that Alderman Antonio French converted into a community center, is a great example of how government can save and reutilize religious structures without worrying about separation of church and state. That building is now a center of the community. If Bethlehem Lutheran had relinquished their church building twenty years ago, it is very possible it could have seen a similar reuse. It is too late now for anyone to save it.
The thought of that super old, beautiful brickwork being turned into a pile is so… sad. I hope that some of the artistic blocks are saved in some way.
The missing louvers on two sides of the belfry suggest that whatever bells this tower once held were removed. I wonder where they went.