Photographs by Eric Seelig
Before the demolition.
Photographs by Eric Seelig
Before the demolition.
Photographs from February 28, 2005
By the end of February 2005, masons were working daily to cover the openings on the east wall of the Syndicate Trust Building, exposed when the connector structure between that building and the Century Building was removed. Other workers were picking through the rubble in the Century basement to separate out bits of steel and iron that could be sold as scrap.
The evening light fell upon the newly-uncovered east side of the Syndicate Trust Building, revealing a colorful cross-section of walls that were once part of the connector between the Syndicate Trust and Century buildings.
A large and spectacular unexpected collapse the night before had necessitated nearly completing above-ground demolition of the Century Building. The wreckers were supposed to leave a large section standing so that they could take it down ceremoniously in front of the developers responsible for the demolition.
At around 7:45 p.m., the wrecker pulled a cable to pull down the last free-standing above-ground portion of the Century Building while Steve Stogel and other developers watched. This photograph shows the two columns before the pull. Only one column fell on the first pull.
Photograph by Michael R. Allen
Image taken by Robin Hirsch from the neighboring Art St. Louis Gallery, 917 Locust Street, Third Floor
Technical Review, Century Theater and Office Building, St. Louis
Special Supplement to the Inland Architect and News Record, August 1897 (Vol. XXX, No. 1)
Illustrations have been omitted.
THE CENTURY BUILDING — A MARBLE PALACE FOR BUSINESS AND AMUSEMENT.
The development in the construction of the modern office building is of comparatively recent date. It is not a long time since the demands of the rapid development of a system of commerce calling for vast office accommodations have received adequate consideration at the hands of the architects.
The subjects of light, convenience of access and safety against fire, were neglected to a degree which can only be explained on the ground that the unexpected demand for office space found the architects unprepared to meet it. Any building that would house the tenants and provide space where their business could be carried on was considered adequate. Comparatively young men can remember the time when the stove was almost the only means employed for warming, and when the use of large windows admitting abundant air and light was hardly thought of. Today an office building is designed the same as a machine is planned, namely, to fulfill a special purpose, and every detail is laid out and adjusted toward that end.
No one would dare assert that we have by any means designed today the ideal building for the use of the unlimited variety of employments demanding office space, but comparing the office buildings of a decade and a half ago with those recently constructed, we can say that practically the entire change from the old to the new is comprised within that period.
Naturally keeping step with the advance in construction and design of business buildings, the arts have experienced a great and diversified growth. The office building of today could not exist without the development in the steel, glass, electric and many other industries, which again, on the other hand, owe in part their present dimensions to the demands made upon them by the phenomenal growth of cities and of the industries located or represented within them.
The commercial building of today calls for the best effort of the designer, the artisan and the mechanic, for not only are its inmates housed in comfort, but their surroundings are in many instances positively luxurious. The competition for tenants has caused expenditures in the direction of elaborations in costly mosaics and marbles of the public halls of office buildings.
The Century building, of which this supplement treats, is an example of the result of the most careful study of the demands made upon a building devoted to commercial purposes; but it is not that alone, for it shelters under the same roof with stores and offices a theater devoted to the presentation of what is best in modern drama. The Century occupies one-half block in the very heart of the city of St. Louis. The ground dimensions are 228 feet 2 inches by 127 feet 6 inches. The building is ten stories high. Three of its sides face on streets, the fourth side is bounded by an alley.
The large size of the building, lot afforded an excellent opportunity to provide amply for air, light and hall space. How the designers availed themselves of this opportunity may be seen by the study of the arrangement of the different floors. The Century building was erected from plans prepared by Messrs. Raeder, Coffin & Crocker, architects, now Raeder & Coffin, architects, of Chicago, Mr. Crocker having left the firm on April 1, 1896.
The theater is entirely separated from the part of the building containing offices by heavy masonry walls, and the entrance to the same is placed so as in no way to interfere with the convenience and comfort of the tenants of the rest of the building.
There are no reentering courts in the street fronts, the light being provided for the interior offices by courts entering from the alley on the west. The east side of the building faces the post office building on Ninth street; the north side faces Locust street, and the south side faces Olive street.
The main entrance hallway, which is notable for its size and the beauty of the marblework, is on Ninth street and fifty feet wide, flanked on the sides by marble stairways twelve feet wide, which lead to the second floor. The elevators are opposite the main entrance, and they are reached by crossing a passageway called the “Arcade.” This arcade connects Olive street and Locust street. It is twenty-four feet wide and is lined on sides and ceiling with Italian marble. The Ninth street entrance hall is two stories high, all finished in Italian marble, with paneled sides and deep paneling of ceiling.
The main stairways have heavy marble balustrades, and the openings in ceiling of Arcade to second story hallways are surrounded by balustrades of similar design.
The first floor of the building is occupied by stores and halls, excepting the portion devoted to the theater. The description of the theater will be taken up later on.
The portion of basement not occupied by machinery will be finished as a high-class restaurant. The second floor of the building can be used for store or office purposes and is specially adapted to occupancy by insurance companies.
All floors above the second are planned for office use and will be subdivided to suit tenants.
As the construction of the building is somewhat novel, it will not be out of place to generally describe it.
In the foundation work the steel-beam system, so commonly used today, was not followed, but all the foundation piers were built of solid concrete. The strength of the concrete was carefully adapted to the weights to be carried. A different quality of concrete was used for the lower half of the piers than for the upper half, the piers being pyramidal in shape.
No practical tests made in this country on the strength of concretes of different composition being available, the architects caused a number of tests of pyramids of concrete to be made, which tests resulted in a great increase of confidence in the use of concrete in piers of the composition and of the form adopted for the Century building. Above the street level the building may be considered a combination of the old method of solid masonry construction, insuring stability, and of the so-called skeleton construction, lessening the weight on foundations and enabling the introduction of large window areas.
The main corner piers and the walls on the alley are built of solid masonry. The exterior iron construction is protected by grouting all spaces between the steelwork and the surrounding brickwork with cement mortar. As all steel framework is covered on the outside in addition by Georgia marble or enameled brick, both of which materials are practically impervious to moisture, it may be assumed that the probability of the skeleton steelwork being attacked by rust is very remote.
The material used for the entire exterior on the three street fronts is Georgia marble, a stone, as said above, almost impervious to moisture, and of great strength and durability.
The interior framework of the building is of steel. The floors are designed with large spans between the beams. A system of steel floor straps in combination with concrete and expanded metal was adopted for the floor areas between the beams. The three west wings of the building are stiffened with diagonal wind bracing and are connected at the rear on the roof level by trusses which form bridges. These bridges would prove useful should a roof garden be placed on top of the building. The theater is built with a view to making a fair-sized audience entirely comfortable, and affording everyone a chance to see the performance without intervening columns or posts. In order to avoid the necessity of supports, therefore, in the first floor and in the balcony, the latter is supported on a system of cantilever trusses, and the gallery is suspended from the trusses above.
In treatment the exterior of the building follows the Italian Renaissance style, adapted in a modern spirit to the needs of the site and the uses to which the building is devoted.
There are three main horizontal divisions: one comprises the first two stories and finishes in a broad cornice, the second division comprises the third floor to the eighth floor, both included, and terminates in the boldly projecting main cornice; and the third division consists of the ninth and tenth floors, which are treated as an attic, and terminate in a second cornice and the parapet wall. Each of the three facades is divided vertically into three parts. The division on the broad or Ninth street side is very strongly emphasized by the middle divisions receding about five feet from the general facade above the second story, affording an opportunity for a balcony and balustrade effect.
The vertical divisions are emphasized by the pyramidal tops of the main piers or pilasters, which are surmounted by large candelabra.
In treatment of the exterior, breadth of design was aimed at rather than elaboration of detail.
The entrances, however, received a more ornamental treatment in harmony with their importance.
The broad and imposing entrance on Ninth street especially deserves mention, as a solution of the problem of emphasizing properly the doorway to so large a structure, the designer being unable to project a portico any distance beyond the building line. In building the Olive and Locust street entrances the difficulty of designing doorways placed, owing to practical demand, at awkward positions in the facade, had to be overcome. The shell hoods, with bracket supports, which are introduced, call interested attention to the doorways, while not marring the general symmetry of the design.
The loggias of the attic stories are a strong feature in the end vertical subdivisions of the building and the balcony construction on the level of the ninth floor.
The mechanical plant of the building, which is designed in every respect with a view to the most economical operation of the building, is located in the north end of the basement. The boiler plant is in the northwest corner. The boilers are of the water-tube boiler type with Hawley down-draft furnace.
The electric light plant and elevator pumping machinery is placed in the center of the north end of the building. The electric plant consists of three 100-kilowatt multipolar dynamos directly coupled to three compound automatic high-speed engines of 175 horse-power each, at 125 pounds steam pressure, and 245 revolutions per minute. Upon the east wall of the dynamo room is placed a marble switchboard upon which a most complete set of indicating and regulating apparatus is mounted. One of the most interesting features of the lighting plant of the building is the switchboard for the theater, and the system for regulating the lighting of the stage for every imaginable effect.
The offices and stores are warmed by a direct system of heating with the “Paul Vacuum System.” The basement restaurant is to be warmed indirectly and ventilated by a system of fans.
The plumbing system is of the best modern type, supplemented by a complete system of heavy cast-iron drainage pipes, which keeps the basement and cellar thoroughly dry. This drainage system is readily accessible for cleaning and rodding purposes by the use of the Wade accessible manhole clean-out fittings, each with a cover at surface of floor, screwed down to gasket and easily removed without disturbing the marble or concrete floors.
The hydraulic elevators, of which there are six for passenger service, are of the plunger type. A high-duty pump supplies water for the same, a subsidiary duplex pump being used only in case of emergency. Of the elevator system, it may be said that it has proved itself to be the most economical of any now in operation in any existing office building.
A freight elevator, to which access is had from the alley, serves to carry all furniture and supplies to the upper floors. The construction of the theater has been briefly spoken of above. The system of ventilating, warming and cooling the same is of great interest. It is ventilated by an indirect, system of fans, which blow air which has been previously warmed or cooled as the circumstances may require. To warm the air it is blown through steam pipes. To cool the air it is blown through a chamber filled with spray of water, the water being pumped from a tank in which it has been cooled with ice or the use of a refrigerating system. The entire system is automatically controlled.
A word may be said of the comfort of the patrons by means of the system of seating used. Not only are the seats wide and comfortable, but they are spaced so as to leave ample room in front of each. Throughout the building the oak leaf has been used as a motive in designing the details of the exterior and interior. This is true of the fixtures in the office building as well as of the ornamental ironwork, woodwork and carved marble work.
In the theater the decorative scheme is a radical departure from the conventional “white and gold” or pale tints that have so long prevailed. It is marked by strength and richness of color and a profusion of gilding. The scheme is one of green and gold. The rich, warm greens, deep golden browns, the soft intermediate tints and the wealth of gold used in the backgrounds and as “high lights,” produce an effect at once luxurious and refined. It has nothing of the flash and glitter so often offered to catch the public eye, and of which the eye so soon tires. It has rather the effect of a refined and elegant home, and it is safe to venture the prediction that one will learn to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and feel their refining influences.
The “motif” of the ornamental forms used is in the Italian Renaissance style, and is well sustained throughout from the lobby to the beautiful drop curtain — from the parquet floor to the great golden dome of the ceiling.
The entrance is rich in marble floors and wainscoting, gilded cornices and mahogany trim. The lobby, with the fine bronze stairs that lead to the balcony, and the ornate relief work in plaster, the decorative paintings on canvas, that are framed into and become a part of the mural decoration, all show the good taste of the architects and decorator who designed them and the good work done by the various artisans who worked out their ideas.
The entrance to the foyer is through a tastefully draped and spacious doorway, and once within you find yourself treading a soft velvet carpet, and if in no hurry to see the play, you can lounge on the luxurious and roomy couches and easy chairs with which it is furnished.
The foyer is separated from the parquette circle by a high mahogany wainscoting and a soft silken drapery in tones of gold and green. The walls are in the same tones; the ceiling is embellished with ornament; the upholstery and carpets are in strict harmony. The electric light fixtures are a feature, noticeable for their chaste designs and fine workmanship. The deep toned-mahogany woodwork serves as a foil to the lighter tones of the color decorations and the silken drapery, and produces a particularly charming effect.
The proscenium is a succession of receding arches, and a special feature in the construction of the interior; it is tastefully decorated in relief work, in colors and in gilding, and will make a rich frame for the stage pictures. The boxes are luxuriously carpeted, furnished and draped in the finest of silks and embroidered fabrics.
In the large spandrils on either side of the arch, on golden grounds, are decorative paintings representing Tragedy and Folly, Music and the Dance. The balcony and gallery fronts are very brilliant in effect. The ornamentation is in relief plaster, and is picked out in tones of soft green and yellow and lavishly gilded. The walls are paneled and embellished with diaper work and emblematic designs in the same soft tones of gold and green, and this all leads up to the great domed ceiling, with its beautiful decoration of floating female figures, festoons of flowers and ornaments of grotesque masks, dolphins and scrolls. The moldings and enrichments are elaborately gilded, and the electric lights are so arranged that they add much to the general effect.
To the firm of McCormick, Kilgen & Rule, who have from the beginning been the local representatives of the building enterprise, much of its success is due. They, with the Mississippi Valley Trust Company, which is the fiscal agent of the building, have all matters concerning the operation of and renting of the same in charge, which is therefore in excellent hands.
Subjoined is a detailed technical review of the construction of this building for those interested in the latest innovations in architectural construction.
MARBLE CONSTRUCTION — EXTERIOR.
The entire exterior of the Century Building is of Georgia marble. By a judicious use of the three natural tints of this marble, the white, gray and amethyst, a remarkably beautiful effect is produced. The darker shades form the lower courses of stone, the lighter shades the middle courses and the lightest the topmost, so that, beginning with darker shades at the bottom, the building lightens naturally as the top is reached. This is rendered possible because the Georgia Marble Company’s three principal quarries, though furnishing a material essentially the same in microscopic structure, differ greatly in color. The Kenesaw marble is pure white; the stone from the Etowah quarry is tinted a faint shade of amethyst, and the Creole quarry produces a banded or gray color. In all three varieties there is a very high degree of solidity and polarity combined, which renders the stone capable of sustaining an enormous crushing strain as compared with any of the granular marbles, and also enables it to resist the action of the air perfectly.
The points of superiority in the Georgia marble, and which particularly recommended it for use in a building of such importance as the Century Building, are its great resistance to the absorption of moisture, its consequent freedom from disintegration and discoloration, and its great strength and durability. Repeated laboratory tests have proved that this stone can be made to absorb only from three to six one-hundredths of one per cent of moisture, which is the smallest absorption known to any building stone. This shows that this marble is almost absolutely non-porous; that it is absolutely proof against the action of frost, and that in a dusty and smoky city it will not absorb and be stained by dirty or sooty water, but can be readily washed clean. The strength of this marble is, at average test, 10,200 pounds per square inch, equivalent to 750 toils per square foot, which is about equal to that of granite, and greater than that of any other form of building stone. The general office and quarries of the Georgia Marble Company are at Tate, Pickens County, Georgia. Branch offices are maintained in Chicago and New York.
Among the many practical problems that confront the architect in designing and erecting a great office building, none is more perplexing than that of providing an ample supply of natural light. In fact this is such a primary consideration that it is usually a controlling element in design, especially where narrow streets and lofty adjoining structures render natural lighting difficult. The entire plan must be changed to suit the exigencies of the case, in not infrequent instances, while too often much valuable floor space is sacrificed for the purpose of letting in light to otherwise dark places. Light then becomes a commercial as well as a physical consideration.
In the Century Building, fortunately, the location is such that only one problem of this kind remains to be solved, and in its solution modern invention played an important part. All of the offices in this building have an excellent outer exposure; the only dark spot was in the long halls and corridor on the second floor, and on the middle landing of the grand stairway leading to it. It was found that unless some extraordinary sacrifices of valuable space for the purpose of introducing light, through gallery windows or impracticable light shafts, were resorted to, it would be necessary to use artificial light in the deep second-floor halls and corridors to secure anything like a satisfactory illumination. This would have been an unfortunate fault in a structure of such beauty and perfection in other respects. But at this point a resort was had to an ingenious invention known as the Luxfer Prism, and with excellent results. By inserting these prisms in the lunette over the main entrance directly fronting the second-story corridor and main stairway a flood of light is thrown back to the elevators and down the side halls and to the middle lauding of the stairs. The action of the prisms is such that no matter how deep the shadows of a dark day may be, the light, falling direct from the sky, is caught and diverted to the farthest recesses of the interior of the building. The action is direct, positive and never-failing. At no time during the day is it necessary to supplement the natural light supply by the use of electricity or gas. Not to speak of the saving in cost of artificial lighting, which otherwise would be necessary, the advantages of natural over artificial light are so self-evident that it would be useless to enumerate them. They are secured through a simple but scientific combination of prismatic lenses, which are the product of careful experiment along well-known lines of optical laws. The prisms were manufactured and supplied by the Luxfer Prism Company, of the Rookery Building, Chicago.
IRON AND STEEL CONSTRUCTION.
In its structural iron and steel work the Century building differs widely from the usual office building. Generally the diagrams of the floor construction of commercial buildings differ but slightly one floor from the other, and the problem of designing them is comparatively a simple one.
The introduction of a theater in the Century building and the fact that two wings of the office building above the theater are carried on trusses, made the designing of the skeleton frame not only a difficult one, but one requiring a great amount of work and care in preparing the detail drawings for the shopwork.
The different floors in the theater and their supports presented most interesting problems, because of the omission of all columns in the auditorium.
The balcony is carried on a system of cantilever trusses, the fulcrums of these being also trusses, supported at the ends by the walls, and between walls by two columns, which are placed at the rear end of the auditorium.
The cantilever trusses are counterbalanced by having one end built into the walls and anchored down with heavy bolt anchors. The curved shape of the front of the balcony and the necessity of following with the floor surface a form necessary for producing good sight lines, added much to the difficulty of the work.
The perfect manner in which all the work went together is the strongest commendation of the ability and of the care exercised by the contracting engineer.
The large pin-connected trusses, 70 feet in span, which support the wings of the building over the theater, are also an unusual feature. These trusses are supported at each end by a twin column carrying the entire weight directly to the large bed plate and concrete foundation.
This whole work of steel construction was furnished and set up in place by Engineer C. L. Strobel, Monadnock building, Chicago.
In the evolution of the modern commercial building, no material has contributed a more important part than ornamental iron or other metal. Metallic structure is especially suited to fulfill the requirements of great durability, together with a light and pleasing appearance, and the fireproof qualities essential in modern construction. The difficulty of working the metals and shaping them at will was for a long time an almost insuperable obstacle to their adoption for general purposes, but such has been the progress of modern invention as applied to metal-working machinery, and to such perfection has the art of the smith himself been brought, that now almost any desired shape in iron or bronze can be readily produced.
The metal work in this building was furnished by the Winslow Brothers Company, of Chicago. Wherever iron and bronze could be specified effectively, they were used. The store fronts, main entrances, exterior balconies, candelabra on roof and at the third floor over the Ninth street entrance, the balcony and gallery railings, canopy over theater entrance, main stairway, and, in fact, all the stair work, and the elevator inclosures, were specially designed and executed by the Winslow Brothers Company. The stairways, running from each end of the arcade to second floor, are of artistic design and substantial construction. The three street entrances afforded an opportunity for a display of tasteful and ornamental bronze which was not neglected. For outside work the great durability of bronze recommends it most highly. Exposure to the weather has no effect upon it other than to impart that richness of color which is its peculiar charm. The bronze work on the Century building will outlast the building itself. Equally durable and artistic are the balconies and candelabra — the latter a striking feature of the roof decoration. The finish of the iron work throughout is perfect. The elevator inclosures, for example, are Bower-Barffed, i.e., finished by an electro oxide process which makes them rustless, and also imparts a beautiful blue-black luster, relieved by bronze trimmings. The general style of the work, so far as practicable, is carried out in Renaissance. Many exquisite hand-forged designs may be seen.
One of the features worthy of notice is the gas and electric fixtures in the main corridor. The grand stairway electroliers are of special design and modeled to order under the direction of the architects, having all details harmonize with the carved marble newel posts and balustrades on which they are placed. They are of cast bronze, beautifully executed, and attract immediate attention on entering the building. The fixtures placed in offices and upper floors are in Bower-Barff finish.
By a new and novel arrangement the bottom of each office fixture has an extra socket to which can be attached a desk light or electric fan. The socket when not used is concealed within an ornamented bottom finish. Each office has several adjustable wall brackets, constructed so a vertical rod extends from the picture molding to chair rail; the arm supporting the light (by a patented device) works automatically and is adjustable to any desirable height; also can be moved laterally as required. This bracket and the attachment at the bottom of chandelier makes it possible to extend lights to any part of the room. All this work and fixtures were manufactured and placed in position by E. Baggot, of 902 Olive street, St. Louis, Missouri.
Some idea of the magnitude of the work of electric wiring in the Century building can be obtained from a consideration of the fact that the copper wire used alone weighed over eight tons. This represents 300,000 feet of the highest grades of insulated copper wire, incased with the highest quality of rubber. The brand used was the Simplex Braided Caoutchouc, both in wires and cables. It is the product of the Simplex Electrical Company, and was furnished by the Western office, located in the Monadnock building, Chicago. In the building, including the theater, there are 5,500 lights. The illumination is as perfect as electricity can make it, and the wiring is fully up to the most exacting requirements of modern construction. The work of installation was done by the Western Electric Company, of Chicago, which fact is a sufficient guarantee of its excellence.
The theater decorations, which have received a full detailed description in the foregoing text, were accomplished by Messrs. Crossman & Sturdy, of 287 Michigan avenue, Chicago.
The beauty of the interior finish of a building is greatly enhanced by the glass used in the partitions, transoms, doors and stair lights. In the Century Building 20,000 square feet of Florentine glass made by the Mississippi Glass Company was used. It is of artistic design, translucent, yet brilliant, and diffusing light to a very high degree; perfectly flat and easily cleaned, it affords a welcome and desirable substitute for enameled, ground or chipped glass.
Florentine is admittedly superior to any other manufactured rolled glass ; it is inexpensive, and will harmonize with the most expensive interior finish and fittings.
Another pleasing innovation in this building is wired Florentine glass, which consists of a wire netting imbedded in the center of the glass. This wired glass, �-inch thick, has been used in the basement windows and for bulkheads, etc., instead of iron grating, which makes these openings practically fire, burglar and stone proof. Thus placed it proves unexpectedly troublesome to ordinary burglars and sneak thieves. Stones and other missiles cannot smash holes in the windows, affording ingress to rats and dust. This wired glass would seem to be a most valuable guard for the basement windows and doors of private houses, at the same time diffusing a strong light and obviating the expense of the iron guards so extensively used. The main office and factory of the Mississippi Glass Company is at St. Louis, Missouri, though their product is handled by all the large jobbers of glass in the country.
The proper seating of a theater is of greater importance than any other feature of its interior work. The decorations, the staging, the ventilation — all may be commonplace or even faulty without seriously affecting the comfort of the auditors. But let the seats be illy arranged or poorly constructed and no audience can sit out a performance without a more or less outspoken protest against the lack of care in the planning and furnishing of the building. Fortunately, in the Century Building theater the newest and most approved style of chairs was adopted. They were furnished by the Manitowoc Seating Company, of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and are large and roomy, besides being placed at ample distance between the rows, so as to allow for the comfort of the occupants. The total number of seats installed was 1,601, distributed as follows: In parquet and parquet circle, 786; in balcony, 221; in family circle in balcony, 166, and in gallery, 448, exclusive of the benches. All chairs in the parquet and family circle are fully upholstered; those in the first three rows in the balcony have upholstered seats and veneer backs, and the remaining chairs have both a veneer back and seat. The same general pattern is preserved throughout the house, the only difference in quality being in the upholstery.
One important feature of the Manitowoc chairs is their noiseless, automatic seat, which folds so low as to be almost invisible when the chair is not in use. The general appearance of the chair is not marred by an unsightly turned-up seat. The action is so perfectly noiseless that it is commented on at once by anyone who is familiar with the annoying rattle of ordinary theater seats. The workmanship is noticeably excellent, all castings being very heavy, of artistic pattern, and finished in chocolate-colored baked enamel. All the woodwork is oil finished, in harmony with the interior decorations of the theater. The upholstery is in leather of appropriate color.
EXPANDED METAL FIREPROOFING.
The fireproofing of the building was put in by the St. Louis Expanded Metal Fireproofing Company, and presents some novel and interesting features. The floor construction used is what is known as the “suspension system.” It is designed to use all materials employed to the very best advantage, and is believed to be able to carry a given load with less material than any construction now known. All forms of arch construction require tie rods to counteract the thrust, if each panel is to be made independent of adjoining ones. The system here employed obviates the use of tie rods by inverting the arch, converting the thrust on the beams at the bottom into a pull upon them at the top, where a compression member is needed instead of a tension one. This compression member is furnished by the floor slab of cinder concrete. This material was used as being the most fireproof structural substance known, the large number of fire tests made on it but confirming the results obtained abroad, where it has been used for many years The city of Hamburg, Germany, several years ago appointed a commission to make a report upon the relative fire proofing qualities of different substances, and in 1895 this report was submitted, and puts cinder concrete next to brick in its fire-resisting qualities.
The top slab of the floor, previously mentioned, is usually three inches thick, but its thickness is designed to develop the full strength of the straps, the latter being computed for a factor of safety of 4 on the maximum working load, the same as employed in the supporting I-beams. In order to properly dimension the concrete slab, of course, numerous tests on the strength of cinder concrete of various mixtures were required, more than one hundred, in fact, being made; numerous tests, also, of the completed floor were made before its adoption, all of which were satisfactory and demonstrated the accuracy with which the construction could be designed for a given load.
By the use of this system it is possible to construct very long spans. Of the 240,000 square feet of flooring in the building, about one-fourth is on spans ranging from 23 to 26 feet in length. About two-thirds of the remainder is on spans of about eighteen feet in length, the other spans ranging in length from 10 to 16 feet. These long spans effected a great economy in the use of I-beams in the building, the saving on this one item alone amounting to many thousand dollars.
While weighing forty per cent less than tile construction, it is fully as strong to resist static loads and has about five times its shock-resisting capacity; in other words, it is a resilient construction. The necessity for this quality in floor construction has been much overlooked, but it is one of first importance in time of fire when falling weights are especially dangerous, and when all holes through the floor form flues for increasing the draft and spread of the fire. The fireproofing of the floor is completed by means of a suspended fireproof ceiling, shown in the cut, of very light but rigid construction.
The partitions throughout the building are made with 4-inch studs spaced sixteen inches apart, consisting of 1-inch angles laced together, and lathed on both sides with expanded metal lath; this partition weighs but little over two pounds per square foot before the plastering is put on, and as the studs are not solid, it is open on the inside for the running of pipes in any direction, which has been taken advantage of in this instance.
A construction similar to the partitions was used for fireproofing all the columns and projecting girders of the building; a construction much more difficult to displace than, for example, 2-inch furring tile laid up in courses.
The Century Building was roofed with the Ready Rock Asphalt Roofing. This is a prepared roofing made in layers. A heavy burlap is coated on both sides with Trinidad asphalt of the highest grade. This is surfaced with screened gravel, and backed with rosin-sized paper. It is manufactured by machinery, which insures uniform quality and thickness. The roofing comes in rolls of 32 inches in width, each containing 106 square feet. It is laid in the usual manner by lapping the upper layers over the lower, and cementing and nailing them down. By sprinkling a little sand over the joints while the cement is still wet, a neat and uniform appearance is given to the roof. This roofing was chosen for the Century Building in preference to tar and gravel roofing, on the ground that it is both cheaper and better. It is claimed that it will not contract from cold or run from heat, and that it can be applied to curved, vertical or flat roofs. Its superiority to metal roofs, aside from its cheapness, lies in the fact that it requires no painting, and does not corrode from gases, etc. These claims are sustained by severe tests extending over a series of years during which this roofing has been in general use. The roofing for the Century Building was supplied by the Ready Rock Asphalt Roofing Company of 2210-2214 Scott avenue, St. Louis.
The hardware for the Century building is all of special design. The first floor is genuine bronze metal. The upper stories are furnished throughout in Bower-Barff goods. The corridor and lavatory doors are furnished with pneumatic door checks and springs of the latest device. The corridor doors are hung on extra heavy butts, three to each door, and provided with extra heavy cylinder office locks, special boxed extension and lip strike. Security of key system is assured in the fact that there is no master or general pass key. All communicating doors or doors between offices are provided with three-bolt keyless locks, giving each tenant the control of the lock without keys. This obviates the annoyance of losing the keys. The key system on the first story is perfect, each store having an independent set of locks, governed by one key, thus avoiding the annoyance of trying the wrong key until the correct one is found. Double-acting doors in the vestibules are furnished with three hinges to each door, with compound spirals, assuring almost a perfect service. The exterior transoms over stores are operated by large transom lifters, self-locking, and provided with extra chain to prevent possibility of the transom falling. The mechanical service throughout this building without doubt is the most perfect of any in the city, it Having the care and attention of the best artists in the trade. Supplied by A. F. Shapleigh Hardware Company, of St. Louis.
Steam is generated in three water-tube boilers of the O’Brien Boiler Works make, having an aggregate capacity of 900 horsepower, and the live steam from these boilers is collected into the main header, which in turn distributes steam for power and heating purposes. While the system of elevator pumps and electric light engines is running, the exhaust steam coming from their exhaust pipes is sufficient to do the heating work in the building. The exhaust steam is first conducted to the Excelsior combined feed-water heater and receiver, where the separation of grease and other impurities from the exhaust steam takes place. During the summer mouths the temperature of water in the feed-water heater is raised to 212 degrees before it is fed into the boilers; in the winter months, after the steam passes through the feed-water heater, it is carried away to the heating apparatus and the device for heating the supply of hot water for the different washbowls and other fixtures throughout the building.
Starting from this feed-water heater, the heating system is supplied by one or more runs, one of which leads to the theater portion of the building and the others to the office portion of the building, and still another for the main hall and first floor stores and basement heating. The offices are supplied by one immense riser pipe which ascends directly from the basement to the attic of the building; in the attic a system of distributing pipes conveys the steam to the several descending lines, and each of the radiators are connected by a single pipe and valve as the several floors are successively passed. In the basement these descending lines are connected into a system of return pipes, conveying the water of condensation back to the combined feed-water heater and receiver, from which it is pumped back again to the boilers. In addition to the foregoing, there is a separate and distinct system for the removal of air from the pipes and radiators. This is one of the latest improvements in steam-heating apparatus of recent times. In this system, which is known as the “Paul System,” originated by the Western Paul Steam System Company for the removal of air, each radiator is supplied with an automatic air valve, designed to close when the heat expands the metal mechanism within same, and to this air valve is attached an air pipe. These pipes are all joined together in one line, terminating in the basement, where the air is exhausted by a clever but simple machine controlled by the engineer. This apparatus is so constructed that the enormous quantity of radiators and pipes in the system can be filled with steam at atmospheric pressure, or even below same, doing away with all hammering or pounding in ordinary apparatus, and proving a great source of economy by the removal of back pressure on engines and pumps from which the exhaust steam is utilized.
To give a proper idea of the magnitude of the steam plant installed by the I.H. Prentice Company, of Chicago, in this building, we might say that all the pipes connecting radiators together and then connecting with the boilers would measure five and one-half miles. If the loops of the radiators were laid on the ground with their ends butting against each other, they would measure about four and one-half miles. The radiators are of the most approved type furnished by the American Radiator Company.
ENGINE AND ELECTRICAL PLANT.
The electrical plant installed in this building is in many respects one of the most complete and modern electric equipments in existence. It is well suited to serve as a model for similar installations on either a larger or smaller scale. Three Ideal engines are used, of the class known as tandem compound, of about 175 horse-power each. They are built by the well-known firm of A. L. Ide & Son, Springfield, Illinois, upon the plan followed by them for years, and which has now become known practically all over the world as the only solution of the difficult problem of high-speed automatic and certain lubrication. They are direct-connected to 100-kilowatt Siemens & Halske generators, and run at a speed of 245 revolutions per minute. The base for each engine and dynamo is cast in one piece, employing no joint whatever, thus securing the greatest possible stiffness and rigidity. Outer bearings are made massive and strong, and yet, as can be seen from the illustrations, are of very graceful and symmetrical outlines. The armatures are fastened to the shafts according to the system adopted by the Siemens & Halske Company of using three keys set 120 degrees apart around the shaft. This method, although not much used in this country, is really an excellent one, as the armatures can readily be taken off, reset and centered without much loss of time, and with hardly any more tools than a hammer and monkey wrench.
Lubrication is secured by the self-oiling system, invented and used by the builders, A. L. Ide & Son, Springfield, Illinois, and in which the oil thrown from the crank disks by centrifugal force is distributed by properly located passages to all parts of the engine requiring lubrication, flooding them constantly and completely; the oil then returns by gravity to a place under and in contact with the revolving crank disks, again to be thrown out as before. Steam is used at a pressure of about 125 pounds, and the engines being especially designed for this pressure and load, are very economical in steam consumption. As is well known, an engine is only economical at one point, i.e., at only one particular load will it be able to give the best economy of steam. As the day load is very small, averaging only about 50 to 100 amperes at 110 volts, it was found advisable by the managers of the building, for purposes of economy, to put in a smaller machine, and the contract for this also was awarded to Ide & Sons. It will consist of one n by to Ideal single-expansion engine, direct-connected to a 4o-kilowatt National dynamo. In this smaller machine practically the same design as in the larger units will be adhered to, and when it is finished and in service the Century building will have a plant in which both the builders and purchasers can take the greatest pride.
On account of the economy in dividing power into several units in preference to running one large unit during the longest period of operation when the load is light or the number of lights small, the Ideal engines have forced themselves on the attention of builders of slow-speed engines of the Corliss type. The firm have just concluded arrangements for their manufacture by Messrs. Daniel Adamsou & Co., of Dunkiufield, near Manchester, England, which company have issued a handsome catalogue, devoted exclusively to the Ideal engines, which they will place iu the hands of their agents in South Africa, India and Russia. The Goldie & McCulloch Company, Limited, of Gait, Ontario, took out rights two years ago for the manufacture of Ideal engines in Canada and are meeting with great success. The Harrisburg Foundry and Machine Works, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, have manufactured Ideal engines for the New England, Eastern and Southern States for the past ten years.
The plumbing of this building is one of the largest jobs placed in this country, and no more fitting concern could be found to install it than the well-known Chicago firm of J. J. Wade & Son, located at 276 Dearborn street, Monadnock building, who have made a specialty of large building work. They have also placed their sewerage system, consisting of backwater gates and accessible manhole fittings and catchbasins of their own manufacture. The principal feature of this system is that in case of stoppage in main sewer or branches inside building, floors need not be disturbed nor concrete or marble removed, as iron extension manholes are connected to each clean-out sewer the surface, placed flush with floor, with covers bolted down to gasket and easily removed for flushing and cleaning purposes, and as shown in illustration.
The plumbing materials in this building are admirable. The water closets, lavatories and urinals being types of the very latest improvements in this direction. They were designed and made by the L.M. Rumsey Manufacturing Company, and embody many patented features. The water closets are the jet siphon pattern, provided with Rumsey�s patent dovetail seat attachment for securing the seat to the bowl, thus obviating the necessity of any connection between the seat and wall, and with patent flexible flush-pipe connections, which prevent, absolutely, breakage of the earthenware at the point of union with the brass flush pipe. The water closet cisterns are of solid mahogany, lead lined, and provided with their improved high-pressure ball cocks and flushing valves. The accessibility and thorough ventilation of the closets add to their completeness. The urinals, arranged in convenient batteries, are provided with self-closing valves, brass traps, and expansion joints, so arranged as to permit the removal for cleaning or repair of any of the fittings, without removing the urinal. This is a very important feature in connection with fixture of this character. The Italian marble lavatories are provided with oval basins, self-closing faucets, brass air-chambered supply pipes, brass vented traps, brass legs, etc., forming a pleasing and well-constructed fixture. The hot and cold water supplies to the lavatories are controlled by special loose key valves concealed beneath the floor, though easily accessible.
ICE MACHINE PLANT.
There is being placed in the building an eight-ton refrigerating plant compressor, driven by a fifteen horse-power Westinghouse engine. This plant has a surplus capacity to supply ice water through the building and theater, outside of its present engagement in the restaurant, if so desired. The plant was installed by Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Co., of Chicago.
Being in need of an especially hard brick to stand the great weight and pressure of this great marble structure, after examining and testing different samples submitted, the brick of the Cote Brilliant Pressed Brick Company, of St. Louis, Missouri, were selected and used.
The tinting and decorating of the walls and ceilings of the office building are carried out in harmonious colors of soft buff, blending with the rich marble effect, by Messrs. Busch & Latta, of 2703 Lafayette avenue, St. Louis, Missouri.
In planning the Century Building it was found necessary to install a water filter with a capacity of 144,000 gallons daily, this being the quantity required for a full supply to the tanks, from whence it flows to the boilers and engines, to the wash bowls and closets and the drinking faucets. The river water commonly used in St. Louis is so turbid that filtering is not only necessary but extremely difficult. The problem was successfully solved, however, by the installation of a steel pressure filter by the Jackson Filter Company, of 312 North Fourth street, St. Louis. It has been found that this filter gives the full requirement of perfectly pure water, and is practically self-regulating. The steel pressure filters are made in sizes from 42 inches to 10 feet in diameter, and will stand any required pressure. The cylinder, or filter proper, is filled up to within a few inches of the top with filtering material composed of the best quality of quartz sand carefully screened to the proper grade. During the process of filtering, the unfiltered water is admitted to the filter through the inlet pipe, taking an upward course and entering the filter at the top, where by a peculiar arrangement all soluble substances are arrested and coagulated before going farther, thence passing down through the bed of sand and issuing from the outlet pipe thoroughly filtered and purified. The outlet system covers the bottom of the filter, and is constructed so that it cannot become clogged and will not allow the escape of sand with the filtered water. The filter may be cleansed at will by reversing the current of water through the outlet system. The reverse current of water is thus directed against all portions of the filtering material, thoroughly scouring and rinsing the sand in its rapid upward course to the waste pipe, carrying with it to the sewer all dirt and impurities which were arrested during the process of filtering.
Images taken by Robin Hirsch from the neighboring Art St. Louis Gallery, 917 Locust Street, Third Floor
Thursday, January 6
Friday, January 7
Photographs from December 27 and 29 by Michael R. Allen
From the December 24 St. Louis Business Journal: