Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Downtown St. Louis: Some Olive Street History

I love downtown St. Louis. But you already knew that. Even so, I got a reminder of just how much in two ways this week.

First, as I virtually trolled through a digital collection of Missouri History Museum photos, I mourned some of the buildings that had perished. It's so hard to look at some of the grandeur I see in these photos and know that someone decided it just wasn't worth saving. Conversely, I got seriously excited as I found images of others that I completely relish during my daily commute.

Then, as I took a lunchtime walk through the actual streets, my spirits were immediately buoyed by the sight of some of my favorite centenarians. Just about every block of the heart of downtown has some old building that has weathered a century or more. And I adore that. The late 19th and early 20th century architects responsible for these gems are among my idols.

Unfortunately, I am a directional idiot so seeing some of these photos tagged as the northeast corner of this intersection or the southwest corner of that, doesn’t help me get my bearings to figure out if the buildings in the photos even still exist. Luckily, I do know enough to recognize certain things. That’s why I was a little puzzled when I saw this photo of Olive Street featuring some of my most favorite buildings.

It’s a photo of the Union Trust building (which I wrote about here) in 1893.

It’s the best picture I have EVER seen of its original round windows that went around its second story. And look at the second-story gargoyles on the corners! I didn’t know it had those.

Wonder what happened to them when some idiot decided to cover over those beautiful windows back in 1924. (Though there’s a lone alley where you can see a precious few. My blog post features a shot of one of those originals.)

Though it was the age of art deco so, by then, some 30 years after it was first built, I guess the plainer front and the gargoyles might have seemed outdated to them.

I easily recognized the domed structure in the background as the Old Post Office. But what’s that rectangular structure between the two?

Beats me. Hey, wait … the Chemical Building is supposed to be there!

Oh, but it wasn’t built until 1896. Guess that could explain its absence, huh?

Then, I happened upon this Olive Street scene from a few years later – 1900 – and a block farther back.

You can see the unmistakable round windows of the Union Trust (and oh, look at those gargoyles!!!!) though the trolley covers the two-story entryway.

Sadly, I'm pretty sure that where that gentleman in the foreground is standing is now the edge of a parking lot. (I hope St. Louis has learned from its shameful history of razing historic structures and turning them into parking lots or garages!)

But just behind the trolley and opposite the power line … is the Chemical Building. (It’s the building with all the bay windows. It’s one of only two in the city with bay windows from bottom to top. The other is the LaSalle Building a few blocks away.)

God, I love this city.


Mama Martha said...

Great post! Did I tell you Mr Martha & I went on the architechture river cruise in Chicago recently? So fascinating. And yes he got some great shots which I will be scrapbooking sometime in 2-3 years!

Marianne said...

Great post! I just love learning all about the history of my city. It really brings the streets and buildings to life when you know what happened there decades ago.

Kristy said...

Our country really does have some rich history!