Historic Boats Historic Preservation National Historic Landmark Rivers Salvage

Goldenrod Showboat May Be Safe — For Now

by Michael R. Allen

For the last few weeks, local preservationists have been trading rumors of the impending salvage sale of St. Louis’ long lost floating National Historic Landmark Goldenrod Showboat. According to an article in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the sale may be averted and the old show boat moved from its dry dock in Kampsville, Illinois. Whether or not the boat heads back to St. Louis is uncertain.

Historic Preservation Missouri Salvage

Log Cabin for Sale

From an ad on CraigsList posted in the “materials” section:

1860’s Missouri Log Cabin, dismantled, tagged and diagrammed for sale. Pictures available by request. Original cabin 15X16 with an addition of 15X16, all log. Please respond to

Demolition Historic Preservation Missouri Salvage

Historic Building in Washington to be Recycled – Piece by Piece

Demolition of Old MFA Feed Store Will Begin Monday – Sarah Wienke (Washington Missourian, September 14)

A former lumber mill built in 1865 and located in Washington, Missouri will meet its end starting Monday — but there’s a small silver lining. The owner of the building, most recently used a feed store, plans to salvage every part of the building that he can.

Thanks to Richard Callow for the link.

Demolition North County Salvage St. Louis County

"A new chapter of the story writing itself in my backyard"

Please read Toby Weiss’ blog entry “The River Roads Memorial Garden” over at B.E.L.T..

That is all.

Documentation Historic Preservation People Salvage

Richard Nickel, Thirty Five Years After Death

by Michael R. Allen

Chicago salvager, photographer, historian and activist Richard Nickel was killed thirty-five years ago on April 13, 1972 while salvaging at the Chicago Stock Exchange Building. Thirty-five years later, Nickel’s legacy is evident in the contemporary preservation movement. Today architectural salvage, systematic photographic documentation, appreciation of commercial and industrial buildings and concern for the effects of widespread demolition are widely understood as important components of historic preservation — even if not as widely implemented as they should be.

Edward Lifson, himself an interesting interpreter of architectural history, commemorates the anniversary of Nickel’s death and celebrates the new book Richard Nickel’s Chicago in a segment from NPR that ran earlier this week.

Although not as famous as many contemporaries, Nickel sparks an intensity in people as they consider his haunting images, fiercely-argued writings and the awareness he kindled in people still alive today. Years later, for American historic preservation, Nickel stands as a pioneer whose accomplishments have not been fully considered (or even recorded) and whose ideas will provoke our minds for generations.

Gate District Historic Preservation Salvage South St. Louis Terra Cotta

City Hospital’s Missing Pieces

by Michael R. Allen

The City Hospital has reopened, but without two important elements: Its front steps, and its front gates. (Or its original cast-iron cupola framing, made locally by Banner Iron Works. But that’s another story.)

The gates are in the middle of one of the ugliest new developments in the city, The Gate District. The city removed the gates around 1994. They sit on Park Avenue west of Jefferson, framing an ugly and useless lawn that now sits sun-baked.

The gray Maine granite steps are in the City Museum, having been removed by Bob Cassilly in 1997 along with other items from the front entrance, including a terra cotta arch and a transom window bearing the hospital name. While the future of the hospital was bleak at this stage, demolition was not scheduled and salvage bids were not being taken.

Why anyone would rob an architectural landmark of defining features is beyond comprehension. Then again, in 1997 believers in the future of the City Hospital were in short supply. Alderwoman Phyllis Young was seeking demolition in coordination with the redevelopment of the Darst-Webbe housing project, and Mayor Freeman Bosley’s office concurred. While these instincts proved wrong, and some of the hospital buildings ended up being renovated, what sort of pessimism would lead the city government to allow the removal of the gates and steps?

The bigger question is why the city under different circumstances years later did not try to return the gates.

Chicago Documentation Louis Sullivan People Salvage

Anniversary of Richard Nickel’s Death Passes

by Michael R. Allen

Thirty-four years ago day, Chicago photographer, historian and salvager Richard Nickel was killed when several thousand pounds of the steel and concrete guts of the Chicago Stock Exchange Building fell on him. Nickel was inside of the building — designed by Louis Sullivan — on the first floor, having come to the building to rescue a stair stringer and a few other items after repeated warnings from wreckers to stay away. Nickel stepped forward a few years too far ahead of the preservation game to have had things easy. He saw destruction around him, especially of the works of the now-lauded Sullivan, and set out to at least document condemned buildings through photographs. Then he made the fatal discovery that he could recover parts of these buildings that would otherwise never be seen again. Motivated only by a love for preserving knowledge, and often privately very bitter, Nickel took over 11,000 photographs and saved countless pieces of architectural ornament, most of which now belongs to Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Nickel rarely made a dime from his efforts, and never held a steady job except for the one that he assigned himself. He was somehat reclusive and shunned public attention, instead exerting influence through relationships with writers, architects and historians whom he thought were sympathetic to his lonely cause.

Nickel’s work demonstrated that systematic efforts for photographic documentation and architectural ornament recovery were as important to architectural history as theory and research. While his amateur salvage efforts pale in comparison to those of St. Louis’ own Larry Giles, at the time Nickel started saving parts of Sullivan buildings in the 1950s scholarly interest in architectural salvage was non-existent. Nickel blazed his own path, and influenced architectural historians and preservationists that have come since his departure. Without Nickel, so much that I hold as certain may not even exist at all — buildings and ideas both.

East St. Louis, Illinois Neon Salvage Signs Theaters

French Village Drive-In Marquee Recovered

by Michael R. Allen

The marquee in place on March 6, 2005.

The landmark enameled metal marquee at the French Village Drive-In was installed in 1945 and was manufactured by C. Bendsen Company of Decatur, Illinois. After appearing as an item on eBay in fall 2005, the marquee was recovered by Greg Rhomberg of Antiques Warehouse and salvage specialist Larry Giles. The marquee now resides at the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation. The marquee was manufactured by the C. Bendsen Company of Decatur, Illinois.

Downtown Salvage

Hadley-Dean Building Lobby Lost

by Michael R. Allen

Imagine a strange dream-world. You are in a room, surrounded by shiny glass walls painted with wild ancient Egyptian motifs. A large sun-like disc descends as a chandelier. People of the ancient civilization seem to come back to life on the walls around you. There are lotus-stalk-shaped columns. Walls are inscribed with hieroglyphics. You hear a ding sound, and all of a sudden elevator doors open and office-workers stream out. They pass you and head out a glass door, through which you can see brick wholesale warehouses, office buildings and hotels.

The intact lobby on July 9, 2004.

Can you imagine this scene? Good. That is all you will be able to do to reach the former glory of the lobby of the Hadley-Dean Glass Company building at Eleventh and Lucas in downtown St. Louis, where the dream-world was reality for 76 years. This world, created through the art glass called Vitrolite, was shattered in September 2004 to make way for a restaurant space.

The Hadley-Dean Glass Company built their functional, neoclassical building in 1903 from plans by noted architect Isaac Taylor and draftsman Oscar Enders. Yet the building didn’t acquire its most significant feature, its marvelous lobby, until 1928. The company wanted to demonstrate the decorative potential of the Vitrolite that it sold, and it could not have made a more impressive demonstration. The Marietta Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis, Indiana manufactured the glass, technically called Sani-Onyx glass, while Hadley-Dean distributed it in St. Louis. Designed by Oscar Enders, the lobby became an instant attraction, and remained so for decades. Locals would tell each other of the odd “Egyptian office building” in the middle of plain-old downtown St. Louis.

The Hadley-Dean Building on August 1, 2005. The colorful awnings are part of the Mosaic restaurant’s decor.

A renovation in the 1980’s by McCormick Baron greatly altered the lobby by moving parts of it to a different part of the building. The original lobby featured an open, two-story space with a mezzanine and staircase while the new space was one story. Later, in 2002, owners further removed parts and sold some works through eBay. Still, much of the original lobby remained, creating a fusion of wildly modern space with a stoic facade.

Sadly, new owners adapted the lobby for a restaurant oddly-enough called Mosaic by removing the best parts of the lobby. A few panels remain on doors an in the women’s restroom. Workers destroyed much of the lobby’s Vitrolite through crude removal attempts, but the intrepid salvagers and art deco experts of Broadway Moderne managed to purchase of the mostly-intact great features, including the columns pictured above and the chandelier. Some of those pieces will end up in Miami’s Wolfsonian-Florida International Museum and the proposed National Architectural Arts Center in St. Louis.

East St. Louis, Illinois Metro East Salvage Theft

Murphy Building Vandalized

by Michael R. Allen

Vandals have been pillaging the Murphy Building in the last few weeks. On Sunday, March 6, we arrived to find that three of the ornamental terra cotta keystones above the fifth-floor windows on the main facade had been removed. The vandals had removed the boards covering the front door of the Murphy Building — until then mostly inaccessible — and left the boards lying on the sidewalk outside. They had crudely removed the keystones, leaving jagged openings.

The building is owned by the City of East St. Louis, which did not authorize the removal. This is an illegal act.

If you come across the keystones or other parts of the Murphy Building, please contact your local police department.

Facade shot showing the missing keystones.

One of the locations of a keystone. The crude cut of the vandals is evident.

The vandals removed the plywood on the front door.