Fourteenth Anniversary of St. Louis Patina: The Times They Are a-Changin’

Fourteen years now. The world and St. Louis have changed so much in that time. I’ve changed so much, too. I think about what and how I photographed in that time. What is gone, and what I had no idea even existed back in May of 2007. I’m on my fourth camera, and I have had the privilege and good fortune of obtaining a nicer model each upgrade–though you can always see how the photos started to go down in quality as the previous camera starts to die right before the new one takes over.

Clara Avenue Reopens South of Delmar Boulevard

Update: The gates were demolished on April 13, 2023.

I remember way back in October 2014 when I first walked Delmar Boulevard, photographing the beautiful apartment buildings and the former B’Nai El Synagogue at the souteast corner of Clara Avenue I was shocked to discover the latter north-south street, which stretches far north into the Northside, was blocked off with tall locked gates.

Constructed decades ago, they have now been reopened, and I think it is a great symbolic move. In reality, Clara Avenue is only a couple hundred feet east of DeBaliviere, and to the east there are no other north-south streets before Union. So its opening is not earth-shattering for the entire City of St. Louis–it’s not like Grand Boulevard had been blocked off for fifty years and now all the sudden it was being reopened. But Clara reopening does make accessing the neighborhood easier, and on the day I visited, there were several pedestrians walking freely on the sidewalks. The two or three automobiles I saw passing through were driving at a normal, safe speed. It seems like a net gain, and I wonder if it was ever necessary to close it.

To the north, of course, is one of my favorite sections in the city, which is the Visitation Park neighborhood, which I include in the greater West End area.

There are many rehabs going on of apartment buildings, and of course the Delmar DiVine, which is in the former St. Luke’s Hospital. I am impressed at how fast the project is going. There are still many blocked-off streets in St. Louis, such as the one below, which I hope will be opened again in the future. I can assure you that young people have no problem jumping over these fences–they’re not keeping anyone out who’s determined.

“The Past Isn’t Dead. It Isn’t Even Past.”

There seems to be a coda to the Christopher Columbus statue controversy in Tower Grove Park (see it in the last photo). Recently, I was taking a walk through the park, and as I was about to exit, I was passing by its former location. As I came closer to the granite pedestal that once held the statue of Columbus, I realized there was something different, something more shiny about the top.

I discovered that there was clearly a new piece of pink granite that had been cemented to the top, with a shallow pyramid slope to it. This was clearly not intended for any future statue to be put on top of it. So I guess, with little fanfare, we have now discovered the decision of the Board of Trustees of Tower Grove Park about the future of the pedestal. Columbus will not be going back up, nor will any other statue. Sort of seems like a decision that will make nobody happy, but then perhaps that is the idea. I personally thought that Leonardo da Vinci was a far better representative of Italian culture being a painter, draughtsman, sculptor, architect, inventor, anatomist, engineer, classicist and Renaissance humanist, but that was just me.

I wasn’t terribly emotionally involved in the whole statue controversy last summer; even though I live four blocks from the location in question, I had honestly forgotten the Genoese seafarer was even there. I know many people who were happy to see it go, and I also knew many people were upset that it was removed. I also personally know many Italians living in Italy who told me they were surprised we care so much about Columbus in America, as he rarely if ever comes up in classrooms or in conversation in his home country.

Unrelated to that controversy, it turns out the base was made by the Syenite Granite Co. of St. Louis; here is a page from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources about granite and its syenite variation. Much of the granite and its variants came from quarries in Iron County near Elephant Rocks State Park.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jan says:

    Congratulations on the anniversary! I have enjoyed your website for years. You lay out the good, the bad, the happy and sad through photos often venturing into areas that many of us would never visit. Thank you for sharing your work!

  2. Bob says:

    Chris, Congratulations and thanks for all your work, which touches and enriches the lives of so many!

  3. Congrats! The site always has new and interesting views of our fair city. Thanks for all the hard work!

  4. Tom Bartholow says:

    And how often over these past years have your posts sent me on to Google to do more lookups, and how often has one of your photos made me think oh, let’s go home by such-an-such route, so I can see for myself some house or school or streetscape you’ve brought to my attention. Thank you for your kind, alert, and wide-ranging regard for the place we live.

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