by Michael R. Allen
Ever-alert explorer and geographer Paul Fehler, one of the extraordinary producers behind The Pruitt-Igoe Myth altered me to the fact that something is happening to make St. Louis a whole lot less weird: our last gasometer is being dismantled. The word “gasometer” is not the only weird thing here. The cylindrical steel structure that dominates Laclede Gas Pumping Station N at 3615 Chervolet Avenue near Goody Goody diner in north city is a quirky landmark, whose skeletal form evokes wonder from many.
Alas, not for much longer. Laclede Gas is pulling the gasometer down as fast as one can type “scrap metal prices are high” (the likely cause of this and the removal of the wrecked USS Inaugural on the south riverfront).
Three years ago, the pair of gasometers in suburban Shrewsbury alongside Interstate 44 fell, and I penned a wistful essay entitled “Some Thoughts on Our Gasometers.” There I pointed out the history, value and reuse potential of the industrial relics — potential that many countries in Europe have realized through housing developments even stranger than the structures they preserved.
Then, just a few weeks ago I wrote an entry about the gasometer on Chervolet Avenue for the forthcoming Buildings of Missouri, a multi-contributor guide to the state’s architecture set to be published next year by the University of Virginia Press. This is the north St. Louis site that I have had to tell the editors to remove.
As an epitaph, I post that entry here:
Gasometer, Laclede Gas Company Pumping Station N
c. 1920. 3615 Chevrolet Avenue.
The city’s standpipe water towers are not the only the only topside relics of early utility systems. The Laclede Gas Company once employed gasometers to regulate the supplies of both natural and coal gas used to heat and light the city. Gasometers are round structures consisting a fixed tank at the base and a steel structure at top with vertical tracks at intervals. As supply expands in the system, the tank walls rise on the tracks. The gasometer at Pumping Station N, built around 1920, is the last left in the region, making it a significant artifact. Laclede Gas Company abandoned use of gasometers in favor of underground storage after 2000.