B.E.L.T. is “Most Amazing”

I am jazzed to report that this here blog is on the list of 50 Most Amazing Architectural Photography Blogs.

Thank you to Photography Colleges for reading, and acknowledging B.E.L.T. in the “Local” category, putting me in the company of architectural blogs about Berlin, Barcelona & Manchester.

You know what this means, right?  It means that the images and stories of  St. Louis are just as compelling and kick ass as great global cities.
Yeah, I said it: St. Louis Kicks Ass!

Shown Above: Woerner Elementary School on Leona in the Holly Hills neighborhood. It’s just across the street from this mid-century modern church.

South St. Louis, Then & Now

Bates Street & Morgan Ford
South St. Louis, MO

FILE PHOTO This venerable “gasoline service station” opened in 1931, back when 2 gas pumps in front of a tiny garage was all that was needed to handle vehicular volume in this section of Bevo Mill.  We are fortunate to have such historical remnants of the city’s past still standing and operating today.

OK, this is actually a lame Photoshop gag.
I took this photo just the other day. With the vintage pickup truck parked in front, the place was an endearing warp in the space/time continuum.  This brief, anachronistic moment is Reason #1,238 why I love the City of St. Louis.

3rd Time’s A Charm?


3600 block of Morgan Ford Road
South St. Louis MO

The preposterously named Morganford Manor apartments are 4 separate buildings; 3 are on the west side of the street, and one is half a block down on the east side.  All of these identical building went up in 1963, so there’s something wonky about that faux colonial entry under the bank of glass block.


Eh, this one is a tad bit better.


And here you go – much more appropriate.  Now, about those shutters…

Local Built Environment News

Take a look at the right column on this page and see a new B.E.L.T. feature: Local Headlines.

I’m constantly hitting the RSS pipe, and I’m passing it to you.  Whenever a Metro St. Louis media outlet covers an item related to our built environment, it will pop up on B.E.L.T.

I scour the news so you don’t have to! So check in daily – or several times a day – to stay atop the latest news from our finest reporters in the area.

Doll House Time Traveling


While procrastinating over cleaning the kitchen floor, I went digging into some far corners of junk and found the business man figure above.  He’s rather Don Draper, isn’t he?  The bottom is stamped with the simple – but meaningful – word “Father.”  Holding that tiny, white piece of plastic sent my memory hurtling back in time to the metal doll house he belonged to… he’s the sole survivor of my first humble abode.


Pushed along by the gentle fog of innocent memory, I was able to quickly find this picture.  That’s me and the doll house on Christmas morning, 1969, in a tract house in Ferguson, MO.  One of the white splotches next to my elbow is the very Father I hold today.

I didn’t really need the photo to remember that doll house in achingly precise detail.  I can still feel the coolness of the metal floors on my arm as I moved the the plastic furniture about, and how easy it was to lose the toddler in the plastic nuclear family.  Placing furniture in inappropriate rooms (toilet in the living room, bed in the kitchen!!!) was always good for a giggle, and Fisher-Price farm animals were conveniently sized to fit in and around  the homestead.


With the wonder of the cyber world, I can share the details an ancient photo cannot provide.  One site got me to the photo above, which is pretty close to the interior of the Marx Colonial model I had.  My version did not have curtains on the living room picture window.  Hard to overlook that at this very moment in time, my living room has green walls with no curtains on the picture window.  Do we travel so far just to come back where we started?


Remove that dormer, and this is exactly what my doll house looked like from the front.


And here’s a wonderful shot of all the furniture pieces.  This website also revealed that the house came in panels that had to be put together.  I clearly remember it being one delicious whole on Christmas morning, so I guess my Father had to do some Christmas Eve construction.

So, I’ve spent a bit of time remembering the doll house and how much it meant.  Doll houses hold a very strong allure and special meaning for little girls, even as they age.  I’ve also been thinking about all the little boys who wished they could have gotten their hands on our doll houses without facing unceasing hours of ribbing.  How many of them messed with the houses when no one was looking, and how many of them turned into architects and designers?

I don’t remember what happened to this doll house; it feels like it had a short shelf life, which would not have been of my choosing.  Do any of you still have your doll houses? Or pictures of you with your doll house?  I’d love to share your time travel doll house moments.

Moloney Electric in Walnut Park


It was a January 2nd phone conversation with my Father, and I don’t recall what got us on the topic, but we started talking about Walnut Park, a neighborhood in North St. Louis.  He began reminiscing about what that neighborhood was like well over 40 years ago, and named all of the companies and manufacturing firms (like the Chrysler plant, the small ammunition plant, etc.) in the area, and how all those employees populated the Walnut Park neighborhood.

As is the topography of his amazing memory, my Father started rattling off the names of companies, street by street, a list of by-gone firms that either folded, merged or moved their operations outside of American soil, and how this killed the vitality of the surrounding area.  There’s no disputing that population density follows jobs.

As my Father walked down memory lane, he stumbled on the name of the long-time electric company on Semple Avenue.  He described the building, what they manufactured, but that he couldn’t remember its name brought the conversation to a close.  On January 3rd, there was this brief message from him on my answering machine: “Moloney Electric.  The name of the place on Semple was Moloney Electric.”

On January 9th, he calls me back to say that the site of the January 8th ABB shooting IS the old Moloney Electric building.  A search of Moloney Electric brings up a history of acquisitions which eventually resulted in ABB at its present St. Louis location.

Considering our earlier conversations about the building and the tragedy that took place shortly thereafter, I think I’m going to lay off for a little bit on having these types of historical conversations with my Father, Built Environment Nostradamus.

A Magical Winter Wonderland


Today on my lunch hour, I cut through some parking lots to avoid the traffic at the Kirkwood Rd. & Big Bend intersection, and I saw some cars coming out from a road I’d never noticed before.  It turned out to be the way into the Vianney High School campus, and since it all looked so pretty and peaceful in the snow, I meandered a bit just to see what there was to see.

After admiring the seasonal appropriateness of a snowman gleeful in the falling snow (above), I saw this…


… which then turned into a large yard cram-packed with sculptures!


So many sculptures frozen in the snow, and so surreal that I had to double check that I was in real time, rather than a day dream.

There were no other cars around, no people to be seen;  I was totally alone in what looked like the day care for Laumier Sculpture Park, which is somewhat nearby.  It was just the sound of snow falling on a lawn filled with larger-than-life, fanciful shapes, a magical winter wonderland tucked into the pocket of a bustling town.  Time stood still, and in that moment it was pure joy.


Turns out I’d stumbled upon Marianist Galleries, which is filled outside and in by the works of Brother Melvin Meyer.   Is St. Louis filled with so many artful opportunities that this little place can’t compete for attention?  Or do they purposely keep this place under the radar?  Either way, I found a bouquet of sunshine on a snowy day, and am looking forward to spending another lunch hour inside the gallery.

“Your Christmas Shall Be Merry”

Alton, Illinois, 12.24.09

Alton, Illinois, 12.24.09

“Christmas time!  That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused – in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened – by the recurrence of Christmas.

“There are people who will tell you that Christmas is not to them what it used to be; that each succeeding Christmas has found some cherished hope, or happy prospect of the year before dimmed or passed away.  That the present only serves to remind them of reduced circumstances and straitened incomes – of the feasts they once bestowed on hollow friends, and of the cold looks that meet them now, in adversity and misfortune.

Alton, Illinois, 12.24.09

Alton, Illinois, 12.24.09

“Never heed such dismal reminiscences.  There are few men who have lived long enough in the world who cannot call up such thoughts any day of the year.  So do not select the merriest of the 365 days for your doleful recollections.  Draw your chair nearer the blazing fire – fill the glass and send round the song.  And if your room be smaller than it was a dozen years ago, or if your glass be filled with reeking punch instead of sparkling wine, put a good face on the matter and empty it offhand, and fill another, and troll off the old ditty you used to sing, and thank God it’s no worse.

“Dwell not upon the past; reflect upon your present blessings – of which every many has many – not your misfortunes, of which all men have some.  Fill your glass again, with a merry face and contented heart.  Our lives go on, but your Christmas shall be merry, and your new year a happy one!”

-excerpt from Charles Dickens’ first Christmas short story, “A Christmas Dinner,” 1835
South St. Louis, Missouri, 12.24.09

South St. Louis, Missouri, 12.24.09