Monday, September 22, 2008

History Lost: The Buder Building

You might recall my few posts highlighting the gorgeous architecture in downtown St. Louis. I’ve got several more installments planned or under way.

However, I think it’s important to also note that much was lost to the wrecking ball during the late 1970s and early 1980s. For a while, it was almost as if St. Louis was on a targeted path to destroy its historic heritage and rightful place as an architectural gatekeeper. Unfortunately, there was another strong dose of this destructive activity in the 1990s and a quick shot even in recent years that took out two more historic goliaths.

So, I’ve decided to also share information (and photos where I can find them) of some of the history that was made in centuries past lost in recent decades. So I’ll occasionally be doing another feature: History Lost. I’m going to start with the Buder Building. You can see it above in a 1910 postcard, and shortly before it was demolished in 1984.

I never even knew what it was called. Sadly, when I embarked on this little journey, I didn't even realize which building it was until I pulled up that photo from 1984. Oh yeah. The building where KFC was.

How sad is that? God, I wish I had paid more attention.

At the turn of the 20th century and in the decade that followed, downtown’s Seventh Street between Market and Locust was a collection of huge, monumental – by that time’s standards—skyscrapers.

Constructed for approximately $600,000, the 13-story Buder opened in 1902 as the Missouri Pacific Building. It officially completed the city 1890s development plan for the west side of Seventh Street. Faced in light buff brick, the Buder was embellished with white terra cotta at the two story base and two story capital and around the windows in the eight story shaft.

It exhibited the richest and most extensive use of Beaux Arts/Renaissance Revival terra cotta ornament in the city. If the outside was regal and lavish, no expense was spared inside either as this 2002 blog entry featuring an interview with Bruce Gerrie, curator of the first major exhibit of antique doorknobs in the United States.

“The emblematic doorknobs were often the owner's signature. For instance, when the Missouri Pacific building was built in St. Louis, its doorknobs had MP molded into them. When the building was purchased by Gary Buder, he renamed the building the Buder Building, and installed doorknobs with BB on them.”

Under much protest, it was leveled in August 1984 to make room for “green space” as part of the Gateway Mall project.

Now, I’m as much a fan of parks and open green lots as the next person, but not at the expense of one of a city’s historic architectural gems.

When I saw this photo recently, it almost moved me to tears.

Look at all that grandeur and beauty – fragmented and in a heap – treated like so much trash. (This was some of the rubble after they imploded it.) Thankfully, I also found this photo which shows workmen salvaging the angels (below) that can be seen in the shot of the building’s main entrance at far right.
I think progress is a wonderful thing but it should never trump our heritage. You can always build a new building. You can never replace one built a century or more before.
It reminds me of something I heard my grandmother say more than once: "Forget where you came from and you might never figure out where you're going ."
Don't worry, Gram. I won't forget.


Jayne said...

Wow, that was a beautiful building. The photo of the rubble makes me sad. And I wonder what happened to those angels?

NV said...

Thanks, Jayne. That was the photo that almost made me cry.

I'm not sure. The fact that they were removed prior to implosion tells me they went somewhere anyway. You'll be thrilled though by what I can report about some of the other buildings' salvages. Stay tuned ...

Vicki said...

That is truly a shame! They don't make them like they used to...that could be sid for anything these days. The little details is what really made architecture like that special. The men were artisans and took pride in their work...

NV said...

V -- You're so right. At least it gets to live on by being on my and other blogs. :-) And because the people that read those blogs are affected by what they see. It could stop a repeat performance somewhere else.

Anonymous said...


Stephanie VonDrasek said...

Many pieces of Buder Building ornament are exhibited at City Museum in St. Louis, thanks largely to the aforementioned Bruce Gerrie.