Wednesday, April 15, 2009

St. Louis Architecture: Union Trust

I see the Union Trust or 705 Olive building just about every day. I catch the bus home very near it each day.
I’m still not tired of it.

Granted, its groundview storefronts are funky looking.

They are in serious need of an update.

They are, unfortunately, a shadow of the beautiful building that was completed in November 1893.

At 15 stories, it was the tallest building in St. Louis at the time. The building originally had a roof top observatory which was later used as a beer garden. (You can sort of see that on the left tower roof in the old photo, circa 1900.)

So we've established that the building has, in fact, seen better days. But look upward toward the topmost floors and you will see some of the most beautifully ornate features found in St. Louis architecture today. (That’s my opinion anyway.) Luckily, several of its best features were left in tact.

The building’s two towers have a gorgeous row of bay windows between them.

And, of course, if I am so fascinated by it, you know that it must have a gorgeous cornice to top things off!

This building definitely does not disappoint in that respect. It even throws some columns in for good measure.

These griffins, or “bearcats” as architect/designer Louis Sullivan supposedly called them, are all over the place.

In the photo above, you can see that there is one between every set of columns. But it's only when you zoom in that you really get an idea of just how fabulous they are.

Don't you almost feel like they could take a bite out of you?! Grrrrrr!

Made you jump, didn't I?

They’re scary, but beautiful.

You can see a rendering of the original face of the building here. You can see the decorative detail that surrounded the round windows. Yes, I said round. Please make a note of that because you aren't going to see round windows on the front of the building now.

Those windows – and the two-story arch entryway – were casualties of a complete remodel in the 1920s. Can you believe some idiot covered those up?!

However, if you sneak along the side of the building, in an alley between Union Trust and another building I hope to feature soon, you get an idea of what they were like but without the fancy adornment surrounding them.

I still can't believe someone covered those up! At the very least, they should face a firing squad.

OK. Maybe that's a little too harsh, but not that far off of being exactly what they deserve in my book.

At least for now, it doesn't appear to be in any immediate danger of having anyone else tinker with what first made it so great more than 115 years ago.

I'll be the first one in line to protest if they do.


Anonymous said...

Oh so beautiful.

Folks who "tinker" in such ways with old buildings should be shot.


Why S? said...

The tinkering seems to be the work of bureaucrats. They say that architecture is the most fragile art form. Or they say something like that.

Mama Martha said...

NV, I love your architecture posts. These old buildings are so beautiful, or they were before someone messed with them. You should put together a walking tour of downtown.

Jayne said...

Great photos. That is a beautiful building. I wonder if the original round windows are under that purple yuck? When Riley's Pub here in my hometown was restored, they found gorgeous stained-glass windows under a more modern and much uglier facade.

I love those bearcats!

NV said...

Michele -- Amen! I'm with ya.

Why -- well, I'm not sure where people get the idea that they are qualified to do that kind of stuff!

MM -- Thanks! I love doing them. These buildings are just too beautiful to not share.

Jayne -- Thanks!I'm sure they probably are. Isn't it sad when people do these kinds of stupid things?!