2 More Gasometers Coming Down

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Interstate 44 near Shrewsbury Exit
St. Louis, MO

As reported by the Webster-Kirkwood Times, the two gasometers that mark the boundary between St. Louis City and County are currently being demolished.

The natural gas storage tanks owned by Laclede Gas were erected in 1925 and 1941, and have been inactive since 1995.  They sit on just under 6-acres of land, which was purchased by a development firm that plans to grade and seed the soon-to-be-vacant property so it looks “nice” while trying to attract a new owner to build on the site.

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I’d like to know if the property developers even considered selling the property as-is, just in case there’s an entity out there that would like to re-use these iconic and impressive structures for other purposes.   Considering the current commercial real estate market, they may be sitting on this property for a bit, so they have some time play with, and could possibly save themselves demolition fees if a buyer wanted the gasometers to remain.

Are there other uses for such unusual structures?  Vanishing STL covered the demolition of another gasometer in St. Louis City, and in another post about its history, he shares information about how Vienna, Austria re-purposed four of theirs.

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Granted, the highway has locked these gasometers into a remote location surrounded by industrial, so that could limit the scope of new use, but limitations are what inspire some of the most compelling ideas.   It’s depressing that, yet again, there is a willful lack of imagination and possibility about high-profile structures that are part of the Greater St. Louis history.  And there is one more opportunity to squander our last remaining gasometer near Goodfellow, in North St. Louis City.

I wanted to document how most of us experience these twin towers: sturdy yet delicate-looking guide posts along the highway that change size, color and texture with the distance, time of day or weather.  Their absence will matter, and they will be missed.

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35 thoughts on “2 More Gasometers Coming Down

  1. The advertisement claim is that natural gas is clean. Is this true or is there any kind of environmental hazard with the land? What can the land be reused for safely? Would a park be feasible? Would we want our children playing on the ground?

  2. @bradley: Gasometers were commonly used by local gas companies for the storage of locally produced “town gas” or “coal gas”. Before the creation and widespread use of the national, high pressure, natural gas pipeline grid, local companies would heat coal in airtight ovens, extracting the “gas” that was then captured for heating and lighting. The end product was coke, which was then sold for metallurgical production uses or heating. A stable supply of high pressure, natural gas, stored under high pressure in underground facilities such as salt domes, made the local gasometers obsolete and unnecessary.

  3. As a lifelong resident, these gasometers were on par with the Arch, so far as STL landmarks are concerned. Needless to say, I am very sad to see them go. Thank you, Toby, for this informative post on their history. I appreciated your words, that: “most of us experience these twin towers: sturdy yet delicate-looking guide posts along the highway that change size, color and texture with the distance, time of day or weather.” Very well said (and true of the Arch, too).

    I posted a little memorial to them myself-
    http://acondradictioninterms.blogspot.com/2009/12/bye-bye-gasometers.html

    This post was my introduction to your blog. I’ve spent most of my afternoon perusing your posts here and I really enjoy your work. Thank you for thinking about and documenting our city so beautifully. You’ve done an excellent job!

  4. Why did they stop using them? Where do they store the natural gas now?

  5. P: too few enjoy the foolish joy of youth. were we idiots there and elsewhere? of course. would we have been idiots anyway? (do I need to answer that?)

    yeah some would protect us against ourselves and our stories would be that much more tiresome.

    juxtapositions between old and new are much more interesting than homogeneity.

  6. In my younger days my friends and I would sneak in and climb to the top of these. Now knowing they were gas meters it was probably not the best idea to sit up there and smoke cigarettes. Anywho…

    We swore that on clear days you could see all the way to the arch. Who would thunk it, fond memories of a gas tower.

    Perhaps we could do something to keep the view they provided. There can never be enough places with a view. It looks as though the Austrians feel the same.

  7. “What I can’t understand is why people think that we should keep these up when you have it bound by industrial, rail, and highway, and the Des Peres sewer line, err river des peres. ”

    that’s the point. this is not a desireable site for development, so why demolish them for no reason? they’re not hurting anything. at least leave them up until someone comes along with a BETTER use for the land (i.e. NOT a highway-side strip mall, which is the most likely outcome for visionless saint louis.)

  8. I’ve always thought of them as Constructivist sculptures, esp when they were in use. driving by they might be empty and a few weeks later the membrane would be full, completely changing the impact of the presence.

    There was one in North County near a skating rink that as a child filled me with a combination of fright and awe..

  9. WoW! Look at what the Austrians did with their gastrometers! That would never happen in St. Louis, The area will probably become a Sams Club or something dumb and not needed.

  10. I have lived and now work next to these towers. I respect that some of you like them, I disagree with you, but that’s ok. What I can’t understand is why people think that we should keep these up when you have it bound by industrial, rail, and highway, and the Des Peres sewer line, err river des peres.

    I am always for saving historic buildings and trying to reuse what can be reused, but in the game of real estate, it’s all about location, location, location and while it’s fair to dream about adaptive reuse, this is not a good example.

    Again, I don’t want to come across as bashing the ideas, because they really are wonderful, but they aren’t realistic to the true scope of the ground.

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  14. -These empty natural gas storage systems are an example of government regulation failure. Natural gas prices drop in the summer because usage drops. Under the old regulations, Laclede gas had incentive to make sure there was plenty of gas supply available at the lowest cost.
    -In the 1990’s their dream came true. The MO Public Servises Commission gave them the right to pass on price increases to the consumer with a fixed profit margin without going back to the commission.
    -That removed the incentive for Laclede gas to buy and store gas when prices were down to then sell them with a bit more profit margin. It gave consumers protection against those 50% price spikes and shortages that we see now.

  15. Pingback: Those Whatever-They-Are Things on 44 Are Coming Down « Punching Kitty

  16. by the way, if you were so concerned with energy consumption and conservation you wouldn’t advocate for needless demolitions, which consume energy and produce waste that sits in landfills.

  17. “Gasometers…are a pox on the landscape of the world.”

    hyperbole. and opinion.

    “Nothing more than a potential ground zero, which these two in particular came perilously close to becoming if you know the history of the area.”

    CAME being the operative word. they are no longer in use, hence no longer a threat.

    “They represent nothing more than the rampant consumption of energy that defines our society.”

    are you kidding? guess we better tear down everything that represents energy consumption! oh, wait. THAT’S EVERYTHING EVER BUILT.

  18. “Tear it down and start from scratch” is about the worst modus operandi ever. Don’t the Gasworks and Duisborg-Nord mean anything to the nay-sayers? I think calling for a restoration or conservation would be misguided romantic nostalgia, but tearing them down without a good reason is bad too. I will miss them, but I won’t mourn them.

  19. I too think they are beautiful. They are industrial and no longer useful, so now they are art. Isn’t it great that our city would get these wonderful sculptures by chance? And now they are being torn down. With every landmark that goes this city is becoming stranger and stranger.

  20. I’ve long wondered what these structures were; until I saw the Webster-Kirkwood Times piece, in fact, I just presumed they were being used by SETI or some similar enterprise. 🙂

  21. It seems like these would be a great creative re-use opportunity for someone like Bob Cassilly. The gasometers unquestionably funkify the drive down Farty-Far. One (well, two) less landmark(s) that help to define a sense of place.

  22. Wow…. Uh…. Well…. Wow….

    Really? you’re calling for the preservation of gasometers?

    So…. can I expect to see an ode to the Labadie plant when it is retired? Maybe we can make it into condos…..I absolutely love your blog, and agree with every thing you’ve posted until now, but….. you’ve lost me here.

    Gasometers, despite all of the geometric fun they present(and I’ve photographed these two extensively), are a pox on the landscape of the world. Nothing more than a potential ground zero, which these two in particular came perilously close to becoming if you know the history of the area. They represent nothing more than the rampant consumption of energy that defines our society.

    I’m sorry, but I must disagree with you on this post – tear the rusting hulks down. Grass would be an improvement.

  23. chris,

    out of curiosity, what is it you find ugly about them? is it just the rust? the rust can be removed. what about the geometry? the form? their silhouettes against the sky? is the arch ugly? it’s a big chunk of metal too. the eiffel tower? is it because they weren’t INTENDED to be art? IMO they are both beautiful AND an important part of our industrial history. onward to placelessness, saint louis!

  24. Bummer. Seeing those was an original, permanent
    memory after we moved to St. Louis in 1958. As a kid, I thought they were water towers. I remember driving by them one day on the way downtown to survey some of the damage done to downtown St. Louis as a result of the tornado that wiped out the Arena, etc.

  25. I find them beautiful and will miss them greatly. I all ways figured their destruction was just a matter of time.

  26. I’ve always thought they were really ugly. Can’t see why anyone would be overly sentimental about them. Selling the metal for scrap will probably cover the demolition costs.

  27. oops, i guess Laclede doesn’t pay anything to maintain since they don’t own them.

  28. No, no, no, no, no, no, no! I thought these would be safe for a while… is this about cost of maintenance? does Laclede actually pay anything to maintain them anymore? my guess is no unless there are safety violations.
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    F#@K!

  29. What the hell is replacing it? I’m sure located between the highway and rail-yards makes this demolition much needed, especially in this economy.

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