Downtown PRO Collection Riverfront

Riverfront Rodeo

Riverfront Rodeo. Source: Preservation Research Office Collection.

So, once upon a time, after the riverfront blocks were cleared (by 1943) but before the Merchant’s Exchange was demolished (1959), there was a rodeo where the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is now located. the Exchange is located in the background right of the photograph, at the corner of Chestnut and Third (now Memorial Drive) streets. After demolition, the site was a parking lot. In 1982, the Adam’s Mark Hotel built a new building on that site.

This photograph is one of many amateur photographs in our collection, and is undated. If any readers know more about the rodeo shown in the scene, please post in the comments section!

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.

Industrial Buildings North St. Louis Preservation Board Riverfront

Preservation Board Considering Procter & Gamble Demolition Monday

by Michael R. Allen

The west elevation of the massive Procter & Gamble plant.

On Monday, the Preservation Board will consider an application by Procter & Gamble to demolish 16 buildings at its landmark north riverfront plant (official address, 169 East Grand Avenue). There are no immediate plans for reuse of the cleared land, but Procter & Gamble claims that it needs a “shovel ready” site for expansion. (“Shovel ready” gets thrown about a lot, but not often is the phrase applied to creating vacant land.) Cultural Resources Office Director Betsy Bradley is recommending approval of the application; read more in the meeting agenda.

This section would be left standing.

The demolition plan does not affect the southernmost building in the long, multi-height row of buildings that give the plant its recognizable form on the city skyline. This portion, which meets Grand Avenue at the sidewalk, is in use as offices and will stay in use. The rest of the buildings are already being gutted, with many windows removed. Even earlier today demolition workers were loading scrap metal dumpsters. According to Bradley’s report, the plant was built between 1903 and 1924 as the William Waltke & Company Soap Factory.

UPDATE: The Preservation Board approved all of the demolition application by a vote of 3-2. Members David Visintainer and Anthony Robinson voted “aye,” and members Mike Killeen and Melanie Fathman voted “nay.” Chairman Richard Callow cast a tie-breaking “aye” vote.

Events North St. Louis Riverfront

Two North Riverfront Public Meetings in March

Branch Street Connector Public Meeting
Thursday, March 10

5:30pm – Branch Street Walk-Through
6:00pm – Meeting and Visioning Session

LOCATION: For both the walk-through and the meeting, meet at Old North Restoration Group Office, 2700 N. 14th Street

The Mississippi River, the Riverfront Trail, and the McKinley Bikeway are incredible resources that are just a 10-minute walk or 5-minute bike ride from our community, but most of us rarely visit them because we don’t have safe access. Branch Street is our community’s only remaining direct connection to these assets. We need your help to create a new vision for Branch Street. Please join us for a walk-through and visioning session to identify the major issues and generate ideas for improving Branch. The meeting will include an update on the Trestle project from Great Rivers Greenway staff.

Port/North Riverfront Land Use Study Public Informational Meeting
Thursday, March 24, 2011 – 4:00pm until 6:00pm

Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) Bissell Point Waste Water Treatment
Environmental Compliance Building Auditorium
10 East Grand Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63147

The North Riverfront of the City of St. Louis (stretching from Mallinckrodt at the south end to Cementland at the north) is currently undergoing a RFP process for long-term land use planning. This area accounts for over a third of the entire Mississippi River frontage of the city of St. Louis, is home to the Riverfront Trail, proposed Iron Horse Trestle, and a good percentage of historical industrial architecture.

1. Take I-70 to Grand Avenue
2. Go east until Grand Avenue dead-ends at the front gates of the MSD Bissell Point Wastewater Treatment Plant
3. Enter the front gates and follow the signs to the Environmental Compliance building
4. The auditorium is located inside this building, just to the left as you enter the front doors.

Historic Boats Mid-Century Modern Riverfront

S.S. Admiral, RIP

by Michael R. Allen

Soon the S.S. Admiral’s streamline, art moderne superstructure may be converted into cold hard cash at the going rates as high as $300 a ton. As soon as next week the old boat may be towed away to be picked apart by the skilled hands at the appropriately-named Cash’s Metal Recycling. So goes the 71-year run of the city’s finest floating pleasure palace.

Yet preservation circles are mostly silent on the death of one of the city’s most beloved mid-century icons. Perhaps the end of the boat has seemed like a foregone conclusion ever since its engines were removed in 1979. That act tore away the best reason to set foot upon the Admiral: being able to glide up, down and around the Mississippi River while dining, dancing, courting and sparking. The Admiral’s short life as a moored entertainment center was a bust, and its subsequent use as a casino was extended not through any great affection but by Missouri’s now-defunct loss limit law that sent Lumiere Place patrons over to keep their fix flowing. The Admiral’s once-dazzling interior had long been denuded of any of the swanky swagger of yesteryear. What was left was an artifact — a riverboat left without engines, dining room, band stand or dance floor.

Of course, the S.S. Admiral was not a hopeless cause, and wild imaginations conjured future worlds in which the Admiral was pulled onshore and reclaimed with artistic license. Yet no one imagined bidding fairly on the Admiral at auction in November — not a single party. There were no last-ditch “Save the Admiral” campaigns, a fact counterbalanced by the persistent and now well-organized effort to save the earlier Goldenrod Showboat.

The swell of nostalgia that saves Historic Things did not flood over the Admiral, which may have been too young and too much a part of the unpleasant present-day reality of gambling to be a fitting subject. The S.S. Admiral’s demise points to the need for continued advocacy for parts of our built past that are within our grasp. A building (or boat) young enough to be part of the lives of many people still living should be revered because it touches so many lives still being led.

(For a personal look back at the S.S. Admiral, I recommend Marilyn Kinsella’s “S.S. Admiral, I Salute You!”.)

Historic Boats Mid-Century Modern Riverfront

S.S. Admiral on the River in the 1940s

by Michael R. Allen

This photograph depicts the S.S. Admiral cruising the Mississippi River in the early 1940s, not long after its reconstruction.  Built first in 1907 as the S.S. Albatross, the rechristened Admiral had a capacity of 4,400 passengers and a palatial ball room on its five decks.  Streckfus Steamers commissioned fashion designer and illustrator Maizie Krebs to design the streamline, art deco-influenced superstructure.  Reconstruction cost $1 million and took place between 1938 and 1940. The Admiral has not cruised since its engines were removed in 1979.

Photograph from the Preservation Research Office Collection.

Historic Boats Mid-Century Modern Riverfront

S.S. Admiral Offered on eBay

Vintage postcard view of the Admiral, which was rebuilt as an art deco entertainment palace around 1940.

The S.S. Admiral is being offered for sale via an eBay auction. The “buy it now” and starting bid price are the same: $1.5 million.  Pinnacle sold the Admiral to a new owner handling the auction, which ends November 10.

The price — which is a suggestion — seems like a bargain, but there is a catch: after the sale, the Admiral will have to be moved from its site on the St. Louis riverfront.  The new owner will have to be ready to moor the vessel somewhere else.

Events North St. Louis Riverfront

Reminder: North Riverfront Tour Tomorrow

Afterward, stick around for Artica: Artica invites you all to summon your muses, pack up your gear and gather once again for St. Louis’ most spectacular fab-dilly-iscious weekend of art, performance, music, ritual and creative revelry!

Saturday October 9th, 11:00am to Midnight
Sunday October 10th, Noon to 8:00pm
Location: The corner of Lewis and Dickson Streets on the North Riverfront

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.