River Roads Bulletin

River Roads Shopping Center (remains)
Jennings, MO
If you’ve been patiently waiting for a chance to nab one of those aqua bow ties off the former Stix, Baer & Fuller store, better hurry.

It’s taken well over a year for them to get to it, but now less than a quarter of this section remains, and the bow ties, hexagons and triangles litter the pit of the demolition site.
Above is what I was able to take with me, and the gathering of just these 2 pieces was accompanied by a constant hissing of “shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT!”
Why?

Because having come from a birthday dinner, I was in no way dressed for spelunking into a pit of construction debris. I had on the completely wrong shoes for climbing over fencing and hopping over large chunks of building guts. I was freaking out as I took photos and saw hundreds of pieces of that sophisticated, geometric marvel of wall scattered below. So the wrong shoes be damned, down I went.

One has to park rather far away from the demo site, and when carrying armfuls of heavy ceramic tile, the walk is noticeably long (especially in the middle of July, trust me). And there’s only me, and I’m hopelessly inappropriately dressed. So, I could only salvage the two pieces shown above.
But this is the kind of stuff I had to walk away from! Look, a section still intact enough to get the full picture of how they puzzle-pieced the facade together. It’s sublime! And take a look at that hexagon piece. Dozens of them are lying – intact – all over the ground, looking like MCM birdbaths. I was losing my mind at how much stuff survived the fall, and how little I could save. That piece shown above? Way too heavy for me to carry that far by myself in heels….shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT!!!!

So, if you want some shopping souvenirs, please hurry, because as the demolition work week continues, more and more of it goes into a trash dumpster.

FOUND: Another Phillips 66 Bat Wing

Page Ave. & Vandeventer
North St. Louis, MO

I was tooling down Vandeventer, and was captivated by the building, above (if anyone has info on it, please do share). Only when deciding to stop for more photos of it did I finally see what was across the street…

A previously unknown (to me) former Phillips 66, “bat wing” edition!!
The delight factor gets upped because it’s actually in use. Sure, it’s tricked out with all kinds of multi-colored lights and handmade plywood signs, but that proves its adaptability, and all the extra gewgaws don’t detract from the overall effect.

This Phillips 66 retains all of its original structure, doing business as Sarah Easton Poultry Fish & Egg Market. A small percentage of the avalanche of signage did tout the corner grocery aspect, but the main draw is food. Good-size lunch menu with BBQ, fresh coon and duck, “Fresh Fish, You Buy, We Fry” (click above photo to enlarge for details). What was once the car repair bay is now the take-out counter and kitchen. And there’s plenty of parking.

The majority of 66 Bat Wing’s still in use are in older, Blacker parts of town. There is one still in use as a car repair station at Chippewa & Mackland, in an older, Whiter part of South St. Louis. But the racial and financial politics of North City & County keeps the typical retail/residential developer from plowing everything over, thus allowing buildings like this to remain standing. And since they’re just standing there, why not use them?

I adore this organic form of “adaptive re-use.” It’s not planned, philosophized or politicized by university students and their professors in 100-page treatise that city planners will never bother to read. It just happens because everyone’s left alone to morph naturally. And a building previously designed in the late 1950s to purposely accommodate cars is still going to work in the 21st century, no matter what the new contents. Another case in point being…

Missouri Avenue & 6th Street
East St. Louis, IL
This one is not a new find, just one that’s taken awhile to get proper photos of. And while waiting for that moment to happen, the place finally closed for good.

This Phillips 66 became a catch-all quick shop and liquor store, but the owner spent a lot of time personalizing the site. He turned the repair bays into retail space, covered the original concrete block with stone, created stone planters around the bases of the metal, lattice-work columns and formed an architectural salvage museum…

As nearby buildings were demolished, the owner snagged them for what had to be purely sentimental reasons. The red granite columns (above, center) came from the Tresh Neon Sign Co. building, while the rest of the pieces were taken from the former East St. Louis Public Library. Both buildings were within several blocks of the gas station, and torn down in the late 1980s.

It’s assumed the owner has since died, which is why the place went from “For Sale Or Lease” to simply “For Sale” (above photo).

Odd Coincidence: Shortly after taking these East STL photos, I got an e-mail from a man near Kansas City, MO who had just seen my post about the Rockhill Double Bat Wings going down. Seems he’d love to buy one of these buildings to rehab and re-use. Did I know of any available?

It also reminded me of other readers’ comments that a Bat Wing would convert into a killer bicycle repair/sales shop or a hot dog stand. These uniquely shaped and detailed buildings do capture ones imagination, and the ones still working proves they’re easy to convert into whatever function you need it to serve.

RELATED
Phillips 66, Part One
Phillips 66, Part Two
R.I.P. Phillips 66

The Dorsa, "The Ultimate in Mode Moderne"

The Dorsa Building
1007 Washington Avenue, St. Louis MO
The firm of Eames & Young were, essentially, the City of St. Louis’ house architects, and with 2-dozen-plus buildings in a small area, they couldn’t all be spectacular. So, when the Dorsa Company (photo above) took over the building in 1946, no one objected to a face lift. And no one since has regretted the decision.

Even when Washington Avenue was at its shabbiest, The Dorsa was a bright spot so witty and sophisticated that even the thoughtless didn’t think of totally obliterating its essence. All the turn-of-the-century buildings around it sprung back to life, so it was merely a matter of time until the Dorsa was rehabbed. But would new owners restore it to 1902, or leave the Gotham Deco facade be?

The Pyramid Companies bought it, and the 1946 remodel qualifies for Missouri Historic Tax Credits. The upper floors of this building (and 1011 next door) are converting to lofts, and with only a few units remaining while the place is still under construction, it’s a wise move, to say the least. But what would become of the mythical ground floor of the Dorsa?

I say “mythical” because it felt like I needed a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket to experience the mothballed splendor behind the Emerald City facade. Photos of the magical mystery tour produced audible gasping and intense swooning. I longed to go to go inside, where “neon lights will shine for you, Xanadu.”

“And now, open your eyes and see, what we have made is real. We are in Xanadu.”

Paul Hohmann is principal architect for Pryamid Architects, as well as Kubla Khan, because he gave me an expansive Dorsa tour. Days before the blessed event, The Building Collector revealed he had an original, 1946 promotional brochure introducing Dorsa Clothing’s new home at the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation library. Hohman and I had yet to see it when this tour began, so the questions and observations had no answer yet. But it turns out that Hohmann has an instinctive understanding of the place, and an admiration that assures its protection.

After entering from the Washington Avenue entrance , we enter the main sales floor area (photo above). It’s a riot of curvaceous plaster, idiosyncratic offices and alcoves, and a perfect time capsule of an odd moment in retail design.

(Above) The brochure calls the Entree Floor “…the ultimate in mode moderne.” Note that aside from the undulating planters around the base of the columns, all the original features remain intact. Because of construction on the floors above, the entire space is covered in a deep layer of dirt and plaster dust, but Hohmann confirmed that the original terrazzo floor tile is still there and in fine shape.

Even in this dishabille state, I could see a Joan Crawford sales gal peddling accessories to Ladies Who Lunch, a Jean Harlow patron contemplating purchases in the lounge. It looks like a classic Hollywood movie set, a way to be a part of something that never really existed, yet in downtown St. Louis, it does exist!

(Above, looking back towards the entrance) The pair of streamlined, aerodynamic columns are the most awe-inspiring feature of the room. Paul Hohmann is an average-size man, so he (unwittingly) gives you a sense of how colossal the columns are.

Dragging myself away from the The Entree, we come to a hallway featuring a squiggle cut-away in the plaster ceiling (above). All the original neon tube lighting still rests within all the ceiling recesses, and it’s easy to “see” the soft glow it gave to the Dorsa showroom. This type of cut-out, and this form of “moth to flame” lighting reminded me of the fabulous tricks employed by Morris Lapidus at the height of his retail design power.

Sure enough, a book on Lapidus’ work revealed a 1945 kids’ showroom (above) using much the same features that triggered my initial comparison. This has me wondering how much Meyer Loomstein – the architect of the remodel – was influenced by the work of Lapidus.

I’ve yet to take a look at the 6 homes in Ladue, MO credited to Loomstein in the early 1950s, so I’m not sure what architectural style he preferred. But in the mid-1940s, Morris Lapidus was making huge design waves for his retail work in New York City. The Dorsa Clothing Co. president states in the brochure that they “cherished the ideal of design-ingenuity,” and uses the word “drama” a few times, so when Loomstein landed the commission, it’s easy to imagine him looking to Lapidus for inspiration. I also detect the influence of Hollywood art directors like Cedric Gibbons and Carroll Clark, which is an appropriate connection to make for the show room of a women’s clothing manufacturer.

And now we move into The Salon (above), which is where Golden Hollywood deja vu really kicks into overdrive. 2 levels of capriciously careening stairs lead down to a clams-on-the-half shell stage. It is so over-the-top, that my brain can’t even process how fabulous it once was, how utterly alien it must have seemed in 1946. And I’m impressed with Dorsa having the guts to bring this kind of glamour to the St. Louis wholesale garment district.

As I mentally glided down the stairs like a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl, Hohmann points out that the plywood covering the slithering stair banisters (above) are not original. The guts do not reveal any electrical fixtures, so he surmises they may have placed potted plants in them, to add another level of texture.

What seems a random pattern of swoops and swirls to the stage is actually a clever way of providing multiple levels of seating and endless niches to display items. And even though there’s much movement, it’s created by clean lines. When considering some of the exaggerated details of the spaces, this feature becomes the grace note within the dramatic tension.

And this, above, is the money shot, showing the overall effect of The Salon.

We see the brochure a few days later, and I’ll be damned, the brochure artist knew it was, too! And I’ll be damned, Hohmann correctly called the potted plant banister! The mural above the stage is gone. Was it bas relief, a mural painted on the plaster, or a painted canvas attached to the surface? Chipping away at the remains may provide some answers.

The fanciful, wood framed mirrors (above), partially shown in The Salon sketch, are still in place today.

And here is The Stage (above). Once you’re up on it, it’s awfully tiny, but then a model didn’t really need all that much room to spin around in. Again, it’s about glamorous presentation, so drama is created with curves and height and color and….

…movement. As I stared at the pirouetting stage, black & white images of Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire gliding through the room ran through my head (there’s that Carroll Clark connection).

To stand on the stage and look out into the room (above) only encourages such celluloid fantasies. It’s such a seductive sight, all this Hollywood excess via burgeoning Midwest sophistication. It’s so fantastical that in the 60 years since its birth, no one has had the heart to destroy it. They may not have used it, but they couldn’t remove it. And that brings us to: What will become of this space?

While Pyramid has modernized the upper floors of the building for residential space, they are committed to keeping this retail space as is. It’s such a rare and alluring treasure, that to gut it out for the marketplace would be criminal.

There is approximately 7,000 square feet of space. That’s plenty of open space, plus 3 enclosed offices, a bathroom and a display window facing onto bustling Washington Avenue. The ultra unique fixtures and look of the space calls for a special kind of retail use. Ideas include:

Clothing Designer An independent clothing and accessories designer could carry on the legacy. Or imagine a collective of local designers sharing the space. As it’s divided into separate rooms, 3 different designers would have ample space for their wares, while all would be able to take advantage of the stage. Imagine the fashion show returning as a promotional staple, and imagine the customers flocking to this destination.

Wedding Planner Now that retirement has shuttered Blusteins Bride’s House, the downtown market is wide open for a wedding planner looking for a grand show and work room. All attendant accessories and services for wedding planning would have room for representation, and imagine the bride-to-be trying on gowns and standing for fittings on the stage.

Furniture Store The thought of modern furniture and home accessories scattered throughout the Moderne space is very appealing. There is ample wall space and plenty of niches and surfaces for display, and the possibilities for grouping furniture settings is endless. Plus, there’s a side staging and load-out area in the alley for furniture deliveries.

Supper Club The Entree Floor is ready-made for a bar and restaurant, while the auditorium is begging for multiple levels of intimate tables and chairs overlooking the stage. The stage is just big enough for a cabaret performer or small jazz ensemble. The facade and interior of the building already provides built-in atmosphere, making the marketing of the concept a breeze to execute.

Beauty Spa It’s a no-brainer to imagine a full-service beauty parlor and spa inside the Dorsa. Simply walking in the front door broadcasts beauty and fantasy. There are private rooms for massage, tanning and waxing, and plenty of spaces for hair, make-up and clothing. I’m thinking more the beauty salons of old, rather than today’s Zen centers. But spa owners would know better than I how the Dorsa could work for their intents. Plus, the large group of young ladies living downtown would make this an intriguing prospect.

Though dirty and worn, the retail areas are in great physical shape. Scrubbing, scraping, patching and painting would comprise the bulk of revitalization work. Pyramid is actively seeking a tenant wholly engaged in taking advantage of this extraordinary space. A personal tour of the space certainly gets your imagination working overtime, and check with them to see if a new retail venture would qualify for Missouri Historic Tax Credits. Give them a call if you’re curious.

Last, but not least, is the puffy marshmallow cloud atop the auditorium column (above). This is where drama and whimsy meet, at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Washington Avenue.

I noticed a dark magenta peeking through the layers of peeling paint on the ceiling, and a few days later it became clear. Looking at the brochure (and the original envelope it was to be mailed in) showed a brilliant magenta as the Dorsa color, and they simply carried that color from building to brochure. Just imagine that white plaster cloud popping out of a deep hued ceiling, and swoon yet again.

As for the outside of the building, Pyramid is preserving and restoring as much of it as possible. The letters spelling “DORSA” on the front facade were sold to a Chicago antique dealer several years ago. If the budget does not allow for re-purchasing them, exact replicas will return in their place. Some pieces of the terracotta “spider web” to the left of the entrance were found, but trying to recreate that feature is cost-prohibitive. Instead, that well will convert to display windows, which is an added bonus for the future retail tenant.

The dark orange metal window frames on the upper story were installed in the 1980s, but was that the original color? Pyramid research couldn’t locate a good color photo of the 1946 remodel, so they’re defaulting to black frames for the replacement windows. But Hohmann’s heart just isn’t with black frames; it feels like a disservice to the vibrancy of the facade.

And once again, that wondrous, highly-accurate brochure disclosed the facts! Of course the original windows were a red orange, because it perfectly compliments the 2-stories of green tile. The look of relief in Hohmann’s face was touching, and now let’s hope fabrication on the new windows has not yet begun so there’s a fighting chance of banishing the black.

Thanks goes to Paul Hohmann for the tour and his sincere dedication to The Dorsa; Larry Giles for providing a library where treasures like the Dorsa brochure can come to rest; and to Lynn Josse for scanning and enthusiastically sharing the brochure with all of us.

R.I.P. Phillips 66

Here’s the backstory on one of my favorite buildings in St. Louis County.

This morning, I got word from Brett that dirt was being aggressively moved about the former Phillips 66 site at Manchester Road & Rock Hill.

By mid-afternoon, Rick sent me cell phone pictures showing the white, lattice-work towers were now horizontal.

The double-wing Phillips 66 sat abandoned and waiting for an inappropriately long time. And then it came down in less than 5 hours. I suppose a swift demise is preferable to a slow, painful one. But it’s still shocking.

I cut out of work a little early to view the remains, and pay last respects. Even though I knew what to expect, it still hurt.

The demolition crew had swept the shattered pieces of the building into 2 piles that seem much smaller than they should be. At this moment, they had left behind all of the towers. Considering how quickly the crew is demolishing the entire southwest corner of this intersection, these pieces will be gone by the end of day Friday.

Above, it looks like a leg bone sticking out of an open grave. OK, a little dramatic, but these kinds of things can happen at a wake.

The last business in this building was Windshields & More, and they kept the place in perfect condition. After they were made to leave, it was shocking to realize just how strict they were with maintenance. Within 3-4 months, all the white paint started peeling, with rust seeping through. The royal blue trim grew dingy. But all the exhaust fume erosion couldn’t mar the lines of a building that always looked like a bird starting its ascent.

And now, the bird’s wings are mangled in the concrete dust.

My digital card filled up fast, and I stood in the heat with vehicles roaring all around, deciding if I should walk back to the car to get another card and continue on. Then I got lost in lengthy contemplation and sadness, finally broken by an SUV honking in my ear. Coming back to reality, I realized I didn’t have the stomach to finish this task. After documenting the crime scene, I’d paid proper respect to a lovely building, and once the rush hour traffic clears, and the sun sets, the Double Bat Wing can finally rest in peace.

Phillips 66, Part 2

Manchester & McKnight, Rock Hill, MO
On the southwest corner of this ugly and congested intersection is a trim-line geometric bird waiting for flight.

It was built in 1963 as a Phillips 66 gas station. It was a rare species of their New Look line: The Double Canopy. Only the suburban intersections with the greatest promise of heaviest traffic got Bat Wing Deuce.

In the early 1960s, Rock Hill fit that description; today, times that by 150. This intersection is littered with unsightly power lines, traffic lights and signs, clunky after-thought storefronts and new-fangled retail devoid of personality. In the midst of the chaos is this light, delicate space age bird.

From an ariel view, you can see the bat wings, see how startling its appearance must have been back in the day, and how utterly alien it has become today.

I’ve spent years trying to get the proper picture of the building, a way to convey its movement in stillness. I put a wide-angle lens on the film camera, and stood in the middle of the intersection on an early Sunday morning… less chance of being plowed down by angry SUVs. But I just can’t capture the essence. A light pole or warped blacktop always mars the airy lines.

My mind’s eye always erases the ugliness around it, and all I see are those delicate lines. To my eyes, it’s a beautiful sight. To other drivers, it’s lots of honking because I missed the light turning green.

After Phillips 66 vacated, a chain called Windshields & More took over, and it was impeccably maintained. That indicates the owners appreciated their unique and functional building. Once while taking pictures of the place during business hours, one of the younger employees crossed the intersection to ask what I was doing. I told him I was taking some more in a series of photos of the place.
He gave me a queer look, and asked, “Why?”
“Because it’s a gorgeous building,” I said. “Look at it. There’s no other building like it.”
The kid stares back at it, squinting as he sees the building rather than just the place he works.
He finally says, “Huh. It is kinda weird, ain’t it,” and then lopes back across the street.

Because I love this building, that means it Must Come Down. My adoration equals destruction; it’s a strange Architectural Super Power I’m cursed with. I’d much rather have the ability to levitate or will a Triple Crown winner. But anyway…

Rock Hill is one of those land-locked municipalities. They’ve used up all the land, and have no new ways of generating income other than raising taxes or demolishing existing commercial and residential properties to build newer, bigger retail. Rock Hill decided both the northwest and southwest corners of this intersection should be in the hands of Novus Development. So, Windshields & More cleared out, and the Double Bat Wing has sat vacant for almost a year while Novus drops the ball.

In the Spring 2005 issue of SCA, Cliff Leppke wrote: “Today, original Harlequin stations are a scarce resource on the commercial landscape.” The first week of February 2006, the heavy machinery moved in to bust up concrete. Soon, they’ll bust up the rare Double Wing Bird, my El Condor Pasa…
“Away, I’d rather sail away, like a swan that’s here and gone.”

RELATED: Phillips 66, Part 1

Phillips 66, Part 1

Chippewa & Macklind, South St. Louis, MO (in use)
For several years, I’ve been fascinated with the bat-wing buildings found during travels. I once mentioned “finding another one,” and my father filled me in that those were formerly Phillips 66 gas stations. It was easy to figure the era of the buildings; there is none more mid-century car-centric than those bat wings.

St. Charles Rock Road, St. John, MO (in use)
Having the Phillips 66 key did not help me track down any solid background information about the buildings. I was pretty much alone in my fascination for them, until my pal Darren Snow discovered my solitary hobby. He went through old St. Louis city and county directories from the early 1960s, and meticulously wrote down all Phillips 66 addresses. Much gas was used tracking down old gas stations.

Lucas & Hunt Road, Velda Village, MO (in use)
A few other like-minded folks were intrigued by my minor obsession, and began reporting back every time they found one. From East St. Louis to Hannibal, from Wisconsin to Indiana, the bat-wings were still out there. When not completely abandoned, they’re in use as some kind of car repair outfit. There’s no escaping the function of this very specific architecture.

North Lindbergh @ Hwy 70, St. Ann, MO (demolished)
I amassed a lot of photos of a lot of remaining 66 Canopies. If I had limitless free time, I’d dig them all up for this narrative. If someone wants to pay me to do something useful with those photos, I’d plow through years of negatives and files. But this being the real world, we’ll stick with a smattering of Bat Wings.

Old Halls Ferry Road, Moline Acres, MO (vacant)
I learned to accept not knowing much of anything about the wings, other than what could be observed from all the specimens found. But it did seem odd that such a widely circulated, corporate-sponsored architecture was so woefully overlooked. Via Internet, I could see someone’s restaurant menu collection, but nothing on Phillips 66’s mid-century look? How absurd.

But everything changed come spring 2005…

The Bat Wings landed on the cover of the Society for Commercial Archeology‘s magazine, with an 8-page article inside! The thrill of digesting writer Cliff Leppke’s detailed info on something that had long puzzled me was a dork’s delight… Gabba gabba we accept you, one of us, one of us!

To take financial advantage of the automobile revolution, Phillips 66 updated the look of their stations twice during the 1950s. Come 1960, they introduced “The New Look” of the “butterfly canopy,” a style they sold to station leaseholders as Harlequin. Designed by architect Clarence Reinhardt, “the canopy was a widely circulated symbol of architectural playfulness, (and) archival records indicate that Reinhardt was particularly inspired by early Los Angeles area drive-ins.”

The wings were designed to point into heavy traffic and convey to motorists a “distinctive look of action, busyness… a spacious, more appealing appearance.” The “propulsion age air flow design” featured an abundance of fluorescent lighting because now more drivers were out at night, plus this safety feature – along with the new vibrant colors – would appeal to women drivers. The populuxe Harlequin 66 became ubiquitous in and around the new suburban frontiers, those post-WW2 cities that rapidly developed just outside a traditional big city’s borders.

Highway 70 service road, Columbia, MO (vacant)
According to sociologists and Madison Avenue, America’s frenzied love affair with the automobile was more like a casual fling. “In 1968, Phillips began testing environmentally attuned ranch-style service stations. According to Phillips marketing engineer Cliff Sousa, ‘people’s attitudes about commercial architecture shifted.’ The gas station became a symbol not of progress but of what was wrong in American life.”

The arrival of the mobile home required taller canopies. The switch from full-service to self-service pumps required wider canopies to shelter consumers from the elements. “Phillips advised dealers to install mansard roofs on New Look stations, to repaint them with dark earthtone colors…” In less than a decade, the Phillips 66 look went from stiletto to earth shoe.

Once the 66 information damn burst, it became easier to find Bat Wing photos from across the nation. Roadside Architecture has a great page of Wings. The Kentucky Heritage Council put them in an Oblong Box category. What also emerges is a reverence for the double bat wing 66, and rightly so. Rock Hill, MO has just such an impressive creature, though the clock is ticking down to “time’s up.” That tale will be illustrated in Part 2.

RELATED: Phillips 66, Part 2

For Immediate Release


Copy of a 1980’s display window poster

From the Ecology of Absence news desk:

DOWNTOWN FAMOUS BARR WILL REMAIN OPEN WITH MORE VISIONARY NAME

SOUTH COUNTY-Downtown St. Louis’ historic Famous-Barr store will remain open, say officials at Federated. Federated, a large conglomerate, recently purchased the May Company, a local conglomerate that owned Famous-Barr.

As part of a national campaign, the name of Famous-Barr will be changed. Sources at Federated have said that early on, the plan was to change the name to Richard M. Daley’s Chicago Marshall Fields. They cited the fact that Chicago’s history is more important than St. Louis’, as evidenced by the fact that Chicago is bigger, contains more money, has taller cheaply built buildings, and is larger than St. Louis.

However, the plan to change Famous-Barr to Richard M Daley’s Chicago Marshall Fields has been scrapped, citing that the new name still contained some historical merit of some sort, and that historical merit is bad for profits. Federated Spokesman Bort Stunt stressed that, “Nothing has ever happened before now, except for baseball and plastic columns on houses. There were also ice cream and cars, which happened in the 1950s, and trucker hats, which happened in the 1970s, but that’s it. Nothing is going to happen after tomorrow, either.”

In that progressive line of thinking, Federated has drafted a new name for the Downtown St. Louis store: Francis Slay. “We wanted to name it after the insightful, door-closing dealmaker that made it possible for us to keep our Downtown location open, despite incredible odds,” said Stunt at a press conference Monday. “We want to express to everyone in St. Louis City that we are doing them a gigantic favor by not cruelly and pointlessly shuttering their store, and no single person has understood that better than Mayor Francis Slay, except possibly his pet newt Richard.”

The renamed Francis Slay store will feature different products than what Famous-Barr currently sells. Federated plans to completely axe the children’s department, in accordance with local budgeting policies, which will have all children moved out of the city as early as fall 2006. The section will be replaced with an extensive selection of taupe, off white, and bone colored polo shirts, in a bold, visionary move that is intended to predict the rapidly changing demographics of Downtown and of the city itself. “We want to be on the cutting edge,” announced Stunt, “and we do mean cutting.”

But even more than interior changes to the new Francis Slay store, St. Louisans will notice the extensive exterior changes. Federated plans to increase parking near the store, citing that Famous-Barr’s parking garage “is sometimes as much as 40% occupied” and that the extra spaces soon to be available in the Century Building Memorial Parking Garage under construction on 9th Street are “simply too far away to walk, at a whopping two blocks’ distance.”

In order to make shopping Downtown convenient and pleasant for its customers, the Francis Slay store will feature an unprecedented 49 square blocks of parking. The lot will stretch from the former Lucas Park, across the former art galleries on 10th and Locust Streets, over to the former Richard Serra sculpture on the Gateway Mall, and up to the front door of Francis Slay. It will feature up to eight trees, although the Federated Planning Department has yet to finalize the number of actual trees to be planted. The lot may preserve as much as four percent of the existing street grid, though that number is also still on the drawing boards.

There will be one other prominent new feature to the exterior of the Francis Slay store. In an effort to draw more attention to the store, a new sign will be located on each of its four sides. The four signs will be identical. Instead of touting the store’s name, they will simply and elegantly consist of an image of Mayor Francis Slay’s head. Stunt said, “We wanted to pick something that symbolizes power, profit, and prestige, and could think of no other symbol more evocative. We almost chose a picture of one of Francis’s dogs, but decided to save that for the new dog day spa and salon that will replace Harris Stowe University.” The four heads will feature glowing eyes which change color according to the number of buildings being demolished that day on the North Side, to let shoppers and Downtown drivers alike know approximately how much progress is happening in the city that day. Designer Sally Patronage wrote in her press release that the changing eyes will give passerby “the opportunity to feel the heartbeat of the city at any given moment. …as we all know, Francis Slay is the lifeblood of this city. We would be nothing if he did not heroically keep all of our businesses open, like they should be anyway.” To help portray the idea of keeping a beat, the signs will rotate and whistle every hour, on the hour.

–AP