The Wainwright Building

Completed in 1891, the Wainwright Building by Louis Sullivan is perhaps St. Louis’s most influential building, commissioned by Ellis Wainwright from the firm of Adler and Sullivan.  Discarding revivalist trends in skyscrapers of the time, Sullivan created an entirely new vocabulary for a tall building.

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Sparsely adorned vertical lines dominate the structure, cutting through the horizontal lines of the spandrels, themselves ornamented in newly created designs.

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The attic floor, with its simple cornice, features Sullivan’s distinctive circular motifs repeated around the building’s facade.  The floor hides mechanical equipment.

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The base of the building highlights the building’s steel skeleton construction, unleashed from the need for stocky walls to support the skyscraper, the first floor is punctuated with large storefronts windows, defying the pair of windows that extend the height of the building above them.

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Luckily, the Wainwright was saved from demolition, but at the cost of sacrificing its original floorplan and its neighbor, the DeMenil Building, built by the owner of the Chatillon-DeMenil House.

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In fact, all of Real Estate Row, one of the great stretches of tall buildings in America, was destroyed in the making of the Gateway Mall and the atrium of the Wainwright.

 

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I was intrigued by the simplicity of the non-public exterior walls of the Wainwright; they are just your standard brick wall with windows common at the time.  It is not surprising, as of course these elevations would have been concealed by other tall buildings, now long gone.

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Sullivan would go on to design one of the most innovative mausolea at Bellefontaine Cemetery, the Wainwright Mausoleum.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. RyleyinSTL says:

    I was examining this marvel the other day and noticed the State seems to have been neglecting it. There appeared to be plenty of exterior decay going on unimpeded. Not cool.

  2. Greg Menniges says:

    My grandpa was the head of security there back in the mid 80’s after retiring from the SLPD.

  3. Dani Alba says:

    really nice building, completely breaks with the aesthetics of the surrounding buildings, I hope to remain for many years, there are not many buildings like this, besides ornaments below the windows are beautiful, and really outstanding work, greetings !

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