by Michael R. Allen
This week’s start of the long-awaited rehabilitation of the Kiel Opera House provides an occasion to post some interesting historic photographs from the collection of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation.
The city of St. Louis’ Plaza Commission, responsible for completing the development of parks and civic buildings in the Memorial Plaza area, commissioned architectural sculptor Victor Berlendis to create a scale model of the proposed Municipal Auditorium and Opera House before construction began in 1932.
The Plaza Commission had the model photographed from different angles and with various cardboard props to demonstrate how lovely it would look when completed. The sky backdrop was a dramatic touch.
The thorough mock-up included a night scene as well. The model’s whereabouts are unknown. Berlendis sculpted other civic buildings from the 1930s, and half of his model of the Main Post Office at 18th and Market resides at Landmarks Association of St. Louis.
For more history of the opera house, the Kiel Opera House National Register nomination by Lynn Josse is the best source.