No Encore for the Culver House

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Back in April of this year, I wrote of the prospects of saving the Culver House from imminent destruction at the hands of the Saint Louis Symphony and its planned expansion to the east:

“Someone with deep pockets needs to step up, or it will almost certainly be demolished.”

Saturday, July 16, 2022

There are now increasingly fewer residential houses left in Grand Center. Here are a few of them here, here, and here. The area is now basically just an amusement park of cultural institutions of various quality sitting amongst huge swaths of parking lots. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the planned residential element that has been talked about for decades–it’s clearly never coming. This isn’t a neighborhood.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

I guess it’s pointless for me to spend much time discussing whether the Culver House should have been torn down or not. I suppose it is only fair that the Symphony get its own boring, unremarkable asymmetrical Modernist expansion like all the other cultural institutions in St. Louis. But ultimately this comes down to worrying about the future, and who will be attending performances in ten, twenty and forty years from now.

The new expansion will not improve Symphony attendance, which is the structural problem that is at hand long term. I talk to actual young and middle aged people all the time–the people the Symphony is trying to get through the doors in greater numbers–and none of them say, “Jeez Chris, if the symphony just had a new lobby and more rehearsal space, I would go more.”

3 Comments Add yours

  1. ME says:

    It’s so sad to see these beautiful structures being destroyed. Especially when the craftsmanship to recreate what’s being destroyed no longer exists. Thank you for your documentation Chris! It’s really all we’ll have left to remind us of a time when those took pride in construction, not just trying to turn the most profit the most cheapest way possible.

  2. Everett Engbers says:

    I think there was a secret, monied donor that was behind all of this. As you may know, St. Louis is largely controlled by big money interests who usually get their way and tend to keep a low profile. As a result, there was very little discussion about alternatives to the original plans by the City. The original plan , (if you can call it that), was cooked up many decades ago that the Grand corridor was to become the entertainment and cultural center of the city at the eventual expense of the now dead downtown. The same thing happened when it was decided by the monied interest to tear down the Ambassador Theatre building for the benefit of a predatory bank leaving downtown even more destitute for want of street traffic.
    They are building a good many new apartments in the St. Louis University area near The Foundry development, so maybe such projects will help populate the area. I agree that building a bland new lobby will do nothing to improve attendance. I can see them needing new rehearsal spaces and that’s OK as long as it would have been designed more in keeping with the original theatre structure. I know that the Los Angeles Philharmonic has many programs that are geared to get younger audiences interested in classical music. Maybe they could have foregone the ‘convention center’ lobby design and built similar programs around engaging the community.
    It’s a pity that there are no organizations there that can better protect the architectural heritage and have the power to file suit to stop egregious developments from destroying what helps to make the city unique.

  3. Absolutely agree. I am assuming this is not a public relations problem with the symphony Board or with these monied interests.In an ideal world of transparency, it certainly would be. Just more bricks in the dustbin though.
    An area without live-in residents will not long stand. Thanks for background and insight, Chris.

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