Events JNEM

CityArchRiver 2015 Report to the Community

What: Project leaders will update the public on the design plan and next steps for CityArchRiver 2015, which will connect, invigorate and expand the Gateway Arch and its surroundings. Detailed plans for the park over I-70, Museum of Westward Expansion entrance, and new access for the I-70 corridor will be unveiled.

This event is open to the public.

Where:Ferrara Theatre, America’s Center, Downtown St. Louis
Main entrance is on Washington Avenue at Eighth Street

When: Wednesday, January 25 – Doors open at 5:30 pm
6:00 – 7:15 pm – Public presentation, Ferrara Theatre

Who: Deborah Patterson, president, Monsanto Fund, and member of CityArchRiver 2015 Design Competition Board of Governors, M.C. for Report to the Community

Tom Bradley, superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Walter Metcalfe, Jr., lead director, CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation

Susan Trautman, executive director, Great Rivers Greenway

Michael Van Valkenburgh, president and CEO, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

Clearance Infrastructure JNEM PRO Collection Riverfront South St. Louis Urban Renewal Era

Photographing the Changing Face of St. Louis

by Christina Carlson

I recently had the opportunity to digitize several photographs for the Preservation Research Office spanning from the 1930s to the 1980s. The photos consisted primarily of pictures of historic buildings and other structures in St. Louis, but also included were snapshots of parades, fairs and local people. Although many of the photos were of great interest– revealing buildings, people and spaces now forgotten — a few in particular caught my attention.

The Old Cathedral amid riverfront clearance around 1942. Photographer unknown.

At first glance this snapshot appeared to me as nothing out of the ordinary, simply another picture of the substantial efforts at demolition which took place in mid-century St. Louis. However, on a second look I recognized the iconic nature of this photo. The church in the center of frame is The Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, which sits adjacent to the Gateway Arch ground. I realized that this image captures the moment of destruction for a large swath of the riverfront area which began in 1939 and ended by 1961. Despite the conjecture of many who saw the riverfront area as a vital, ethnically and cultural diverse area, demolition of some of the oldest buildings in St. Louis was approved in 1939. In a twist of irony, much of the Eastern portion of the city was destructed to make way for a memorial to Westward expansion.[1]

Construction of the ramps connecting Interstate 44 to Interstate 55, circa 1964. The City Hospital is in the background. Photographer unknown.

Another photo I noted was one on the opposite end of the spectrum, as it portrayed the construction of the lanes of Interstate 44 where it merges into Interstate 55 south of downtown St. Louis. This image evokes a different moment in the city’s history, one in which it suddenly became much easier for those in the rapidly expanding suburbs to reach downtown, and to leave it. Although the history of suburban development in the post-war years is well known, the story in St. Louis was particularly evident. As the population shifted outward, many buildings within the city were demolished, leaving in their wake parking spaces and empty lots.

Side by side, these two images powerfully convey prominent themes in the history of St. Louis: the destruction of older, more diverse districts and the construction of vast networks of suburbs, supported by the presence of major freeways bypassing downtown. Although there are a variety of themes present in the photographs I digitized – family ties, segregation, religion, wealth, poverty – none were so prevalent as the drastic restructuring of the face of the urban landscape in St. Louis in the middle of the twentieth century.

Events JNEM Mid-Century Modern

Wednesday Evening Events

On Wednesday, two events dealing with St. Louis mid-century modern architecture are up against each other — take your pick between seeing about the yet-unseen revised plan for the Arch grounds project and a lecture by Edward Durrell Stone’s son on his father’s architectural legacy. Also that night the Riverfront Times will be giving out its web awards. We are happy to relay that this blog is a finalist.

Wednesday, January 26 at 6:00 p.m.
Ferrara Theater, America’s Center, 8th & Washington
Open to the public; pre-registration is preferred.

Lead designer Michael Van Valkenburgh, members of his design team and others, will update the community on the design concept and discuss next steps for invigorating the Arch grounds and making connections to downtown St. Louis, the Mississippi River and the Illinois riverbank area, and next steps for community
comments. Details here.

Wednesday, January 26 at 6:30 p.m.
Lee Auditorium in the Missouri History Museum
Free and open to the public

Hicks Stone, architect, author, and son of Edward Durell Stone, will present anextensive illustrated review and commentary on his father’s work,which includes the former Busch Stadium. Sponsored by Landmarks Association of St. Louis. Details here.

Events Green Space JNEM

Cinema St. Louis Presents “The Gateway Arch” Tomorrow

The Gateway Arch: A Reflection of America
Friday, September 24, 2010 at 7:30 p.m
Old North Crown Gallery, 2700 N. 14th Street


The September Old North film series offering is a screening of the award-winning documentary, “The Gateway Arch: A Reflection of America.” Earlier on the same day as the screening, the jury will officially introduce the winner of the competition to re-design the Arch grounds. The film, narrated by Kevin Kline and directed by Scott Huegerich and Bob Miano, explores the iconic, internationally recognized monument that has come to signify and define St. Louis. The film will be followed by a Q & A with co-directors Miano and Huegerich.

More information on the Cinema St. Louis website.

Downtown East St. Louis, Illinois Green Space JNEM

PRO Proud to Serve on the SOM/Hargreaves/BIG Team

Renderings from the SOM/Hargreaves/BIG submission in The City + The Arch + The River 2015 design competition.

The Preservation Research Office is proud to be a part of the SOM/Hargreaves/BIG team in The City + The Arch + The River 2015 design competition, and urge readers of this blog to examine our team’s proposal as well as those of the other teams. PRO Director Michael Allen provided architectural history and research for the SOM/Hargreaves/BIG team as well as cultural resource management suggestions. The experience has been exciting and rewarding, and PRO commends its fellow team members for many hours of hard work and amazing creativity.

We recommend taking the team to at least skim the narrative statements on the competition website, because the boards only hint at the full scope of all of the submissions.

Downtown East St. Louis, Illinois Green Space JNEM Riverfront

Final Designs Submitted in Arch Design Competition

Yesterday, the five finalists entered in the City+The Arch+The River 2015 design competition submitted their completed designs. Among these is the team headed by SOM and Hargreaves Associates that includes the Preservation Research Office. PRO has provided conceptual planning for both preservation of cultural resources within the competition boundary and creation of new cultural tourism plans for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. That is all that we can divulge until next week.

See our team’s submission and all of the others starting on Tuesday. Here is a calendar of upcoming events in the exciting final stretch of the competition.

Opening of the Public Exhibition of the Design Concepts of the Five Finalist Teams
Tuesday, Aug. 17
o 9:00 a.m.: Welcome at the Arch Grounds (in the event of inclement weather, event will be held in Arch Lobby)
Remarks by: St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay; Tom Bradley, Park Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial; Lynn McClure, National Parks Conservation Association; Donald G. Stastny, Competition Manager

o 9:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.: Open House in the Arch Lobby
Park Superintendent, Competition Manager and others will be on hand to answer your questions about the competition

Design Concepts Exhibition at the Arch and in the Community*

Aug. 17 – Sept. 24

JNEM Riverfront

Park Service Offering Bike Tours of the North Riverfront Trail

Via the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the The National Park Service is offering free ranger-led bike tours of the North Riverfront Trail this summer. The North Riverfront Trail passes through or near many historic sites ranging from still-active industry to the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing.

Downtown Green Space JNEM Riverfront

The Untold Story of the Gateway Arch

by Rick Rosen

Over the course of a century a community took shape on the riverfront in St. Louis. At the same time, what happened in that community shaped the history of the nation. Finally, as those years of destiny unfolded, St. Louis came to see itself as a capital, as the great center of the Midwest.

But then, the currents of history changed. The river of history shifted its course and bypassed that community. Chicago, not St. Louis, became the capital of the Midwest.

Ever so gradually, the riverfront was forgotten. Then it decayed. Finally, it became an embarrassment to the still thriving but less influential community that had grown up around it following its century of greatness.

In that larger community, the humiliation of having lost out to Chicago lingered on. The embarrassment ran deep and it was accompanied by amnesia — a defense mechanism to cope with humiliation. The amnesia masqueraded as conventional wisdom: the riverfront is economically obsolete with regard to its building stock; the riverfront is obsolete in relation to advances in transportation technology; the riverfront is out of date in comparison to current styles of architecture.

All this conventional wisdom was, of course, true. However, it took hold not because it was true, but because it addressed a psychic need to mask the profound sense of loss that ate at the community’s identity, a loss for which the decaying riverfront was a constant reminder.

And then the great depression arrived. Luther Ely Smith, a man of great vision and a respected leader in his deeply embarrassed community, remembered that first century of greatness — and was appalled by its decadent reflection in the mirror of the nearly abandoned riverfront. He dreamed of something to replace the decadence, something that would bring back to life that lost century of greatness. Smith prevailed on the federal government — in response to the depression—to build a national park on the riverfront. Then he organized a design competition to create a new vision for the site.

And of course he succeeded — beyond his wildest dreams — with the Gateway Arch and its surrounding park grounds. But there was a cost.

A city’s built environment is nothing less than the accretion of its history. Whenever elements of that environment are wiped away, the material record of that history is lost. When the riverfront was cleared after 1939, the elements that were lost were the very elements Luther Ely Smith sought so hard to recover.

Any built environment tells the story of its history. But it’s also true that it tells that story in a special language, an arcane language that only people who are drawn to history, and those whose personal memories are embedded in its buildings, can easily understand. Still, despite its weaknesses, it is by far the best language for telling a community’s story. When it’s silenced, other languages must be found if the story is to be remembered at all.

Today, a second design competition for the riverfront is in progress. This competition presents a magnificent opportunity for St. Louis and it has already generated widespread excitement. Most of the excitement focuses on possibilities for new connections between the arch grounds and the rest of the city. However, with the original built environment of the riverfront long since gone and forgotten, the hidden challenge of the competition is to find the next best language to tell that lost story. Then, and only then, can the amnesia that has prevailed for so long in St. Louis finally be healed.

Rick Rosen is an architectural historian and downtown resident. Contact him at

Demolition Downtown Green Space JNEM Riverfront

National Park Service Sponsors Look at Lost Riverfront Architecture

by Michael R. Allen

Photograph of St. Louis riverfront buildings from the Historic American Buildings Survey.


The nation’s only urban national park, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial with the stunning Gateway Arch by Eero Saarinen, has long been haunted by a shadow architectural history. To make way for one of the world’s most full-realized modernist landscapes, St. Louis wrecked forty blocks of historic riverfront buildings. The significance of these buildings in American architectural history was such that in 1939, eminent architectural critic and historian Siegfried Gideon came to St. Louis to deliver a lecture on the doomed buildings. Gideon not only spoke about the unparalleled mass of cast-iron facades and storefronts found on the riverfront, he implored the city to change course and preserve the riverfront’s commercial buildings.

Gideon’s cry went unheeded, and plans to create a national memorial to westward expansion on the St. Louis riverfront progressed. Fortunately, the memorial’s architectural achievement matched what was lost. Still, the memorial site has a psychological scar tissue to any who know what was lost there. The National Park Service has had some difficulty in interpreting the pre-memorial riverfront so that both the memorial and the prior riverfront architecture are suitably honored.

Thus, the current “Faces of the Riverfront” exhibit at the Old Courthouse is a welcome endeavor, and, given current events, quite timely and inspirational. (The exhibit runs through August 22, through the unveiling of designs by finalists in the current design competition.) The National Park Service gave artist Sheila Harris access to its extensive photographic record of riverfront buildings lost to build the memorial, and she painted in watercolor renderings of the documented buildings. Harris’ paintings transform the hard, stoic documentation taken before the riverfront death knell into soft, humane snapshots of a still-living urban landscape.

Sheila Harris speaks at the exhibit’s opening reception on February 14th.

For the next few months, visitors to the Old Courthouse will be greeted by an exhibit that properly honors the life of the riverfront, in the space once occupied by the courtroom where the Dred Scott trial unfolded. Superintendent Tom Bradley, staff historian Bob Moore and exhibits manager Caitlin McQuade deserve credit for working with Harris to create the exhibit, as does Sheila Harris’s sister NiNi Harris (author of the new book Historic Photos of the Gateway Arch.)
Alongside the paintings are rarely-seen items from the Memorial’s collection of salvaged portions of riverfront buildings. Those who have seen the items on permanent display in the Old Courthouse often wonder what else remains, and here are a few answers. The expected cast iron pieces are joined by a more obscure terra cotta piece. The only problem withFaces of the Riverfront is that the fragments and watercolors pique a visitor’s interest in seeing the source photographs, of which none are on display save as wall-sized backdrops. Perhaps those photographs will be made public as part of a future Memorial project.
Downtown Green Space JNEM

Design Competition Disclaimer

by Michael R. Allen

This Thursday, the nine design teams entered in the Framing a Modern Masterpiece competition (better known as the “Arch design competition”) held a public networking session at the Old Courthouse. The next day, one of the teams invited me to join, and I accepted.

I will be a member of the team including SOM, BIG, Hargreaves Associates, Jaume Plensa and URS. The next few months will be exciting and fast-paced, and I look forward to participating in the competition from inside. I remain stunned and grateful for the invitation!

Consequently, however, I will be unable to write about the process for the duration of the competition. If this blog is silent on the competition, there is a good excuse.