Posted on January 27th, 2013 4 comments
I want to extend a warm thank you with a sloppy bear hug to The Riverfront Times‘ judges who voted B.E.L.T. “Best Architecture Blog.” Here’s the kind words they said about this honor, if you scroll down to the last entry on the page.
I’m touched that they referred to me as a storyteller, because it reflects the personal nature of how I cover a building. Architectural academics can turn people off with dense technical talk about the importance of a building. But if you talk from the perspective of how architecture shapes and affects us, it’s more compelling. The people who created and used these buildings reveals why they are important.
And it’s that personal angle that has brought me the most pleasure from blogging (it’ll be 8 years this May). Arriving as comments and private emails, I get to hear personal stories and memories that were triggered by coverage of St. Louis buildings, great and small.
For instance, I’m having email conversation with a woman who grew up in a house in Jennings that was an important part of my childhood. She’s filling me in about the 3 houses shown above, and we’re sharing our memories of the middle house. I only know these new things because she read this post, and left a comment.
St. Louisans are supremely sentimental, which is great for blog comments. I still hear new old memories from people about the impact Northland Shopping Center had on their lives. 29 comments and counting. Possibly the most commented entry is about Top of the Towers, and along with recipes, their deeply personal memories are fabulous.
And lots of ex-pats Google Rossino’s Italian Restaurant, and I become the one who breaks the bad news that it no longer exists. But then they share a memory, and it’s alive again, for just a brief moment.
B.E.L.T. readers are a generous lot. They know what I like and feed my addiction. Along with memories, they sometimes send photos. Like David Aldrich, who is doing his own research about architecturally interesting J.C. Penney stores. He runs across this photo of the Wellston J.C. Penney, and sends it to me:
I hear from the children who grew up in homes that were demolished for a McMansion. Or for a brilliant change of pace, I hear from someone who saved a home from teardown.
But it’s the people who’ve been reading and sharing for all these years that make it a truly worthwhile pursuit. You have turned what is obsessively personal geekery into something that has historical merit. And that so many of you care so much about these buildings feels like a warm group hug. I am deeply grateful to all of you for taking the time to read along.
Posted on May 20th, 2012 No comments
Check out the B.E.L.T. Tumblr feed. And follow along!
It will serve as a supplement to this blog (which is coming up on its 7th anniversary at the end of May). It’s a place to post quick items on the fly – both my own and others in St. Louis and beyond – and a more friendly place (yeah, that’s a side-eye to Flickr) to post additional photos of buildings covered in a regular blog post.
I like to stretch out and really dig into a building or place, but I don’t always have the time to do it the way I prefer. So rather than create radio silence, the Tumblr site allows me to continue to share all the sights in a more casual style. Please book mark, RSS or follow B.E.L.T. Tumblr.
Oh, you can also find me on Instagram as @toby1319.
Posted on April 29th, 2012 No comments
Ladue Estates is the first mid-century modern neighborhood in Missouri to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. This is such an accomplishment that it even got the attention of Atomic Ranch magazine, who feature the subdivision in the current issue (also marking the first time they’ve covered St. Louis, period).
To celebrate all these milestones, ModernSTL and the fine people of Ladue Estates are throwing an Open House on May 6, 2012, from noon – 3 pm.
6 historic ranch homes will be open for your inspection and amazement.
Me and the photographer – Bruce Daye – of the Atomic Ranch article will be at the ticket tent to sign copies, if you’re so inclined.
$20 for 6 homes in this atomic neighborhood, $10 if you’re a member of ModernSTL. You can join ModernSTL on the day to get the discount.
Here are more details and photos about this event.
This includes a map to Ladue Estates, parking and ticketing information.
If you are MCM ranch home-inclined, you will love meeting the homeowners of Ladue Estates.
If you are a die-hard Atomic Ranch reader, you will love having the pages come to life.
If you’re a regular B.E.L.T. reader, please stop by and say “hello.”
Posted on February 26th, 2012 8 comments
Like many of you, I am a subscriber of Atomic Ranch. It was especially cool to have the Spring 2012 issue land in my mailbox because it verified that I actually did something I’d always longed to – BE in an issue of Atomic Ranch.
The only way to be in an issue is to have an AR-worthy house (and I don’t have that – yet) or contribute a story or photos. I wrote a story and edited photos by Bruce Daye about Ladue Estates, the first mid-century modern subdivision in Missouri to land on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a first for me, and as was pointed out by a faithful AR reader, it also marks the first time any St. Louis home has been featured in the magazine. So, St. Louis was late to the game, but then we overachieved with an entire subdivision. How’s that feel?
It feels great!
In 2003, a black & white photo of mine was printed in the letters section of dwell magazine, which had me bouncing around like Navin in The Jerk seeing his name in the phone book. Shouldn’t be hard to imagine how majorily I’m dorking out to a feature article in Atomic Ranch.
Because I wrote about Ladue Estates in the past, I’ve had the great pleasure to become friends with the neighborhood trustees, and they are the ones who asked me to write the piece for Atomic Ranch. So big bear hugs with sloppy kisses to them for making this personal milestone moment possible. And I’m thrilled to be a small part of the legacy of this amazing atomic age subdivision.
I am also a board member of ModernSTL (as is one of the Ladue Estates trustees!) and we will have a Ladue Estates Open House and magazine signing event on Sunday, May 6, 2012. We’ll share all the details once we have them ironed out. But if this piece of news made a little part of you tingle, mark it on your calendar now.
Posted on November 24th, 2011 1 comment
The only downside to Thanksgiving is it marks the end of reasonable shopping until December 25th. The mere thought of the huckster retail hell that begins with Black Friday causes me real anxiety. That they start Black Friday earlier every year has me contemplating therapy.
If this rings true for you as well, the antidote is to shop local. Buying as much of your holiday bounty from independently owned St. Louis businesses supports your community, your neighborhood and the local folks who’ve stuck their neck out to go against the Big Box tide.
A perfect way to celebrate this Black Friday is to StL two-bird-one-stone it on the local tip by heading to the St. Louis Curio Shoppe between 1 – 3 pm and buy a DVD copy of Bill Streeter’s film Brick By Chance and Fortune: A St. Louis Story.
The Curio Shoppe specializes in selling only St. Louis-produced or St. Louis-centric items. Did you know we have a large group of local soap makers, who make soap so pure you could eat it (if you had to)? Go to there and see for yourself. And it makes all kinds of sense to meet Bill Streeter there and have him sign a copy of his movie; a movie that makes all kinds of sense as a gift for every St. Louisan.
If you can’t make it out for this event, you can order the film on-line. Here’s the PayPal link.
A special thank you to Streeter for giving all of us who appear in the film free copies. You’ve already taken care of a sizable chunk of my Christmas shopping with this generous offering. And thank you for making all of us proud of our Brick City!
Posted on September 25th, 2011 1 comment
“Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus.” – Ken Kesey
How would you like to take a tour of some of St. Louis’ best mid-century modern residential, commercial and spiritual buildings? You can just sit back and leave the driving to Modern StL on October 8, 2011, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
$25 puts you on a bus with either Michael Allen or myself as your tour guide, along with other ModernSTL board members sharing their areas of expertise. It begins at 9 a.m. with a tour of the Ethical Society hosted by architect and Harris Armstrong scholar Andrew Raimist. It ends at 1 p.m. with a narrated tour of Priory Chapel. Between, we cruise through Downtown & Mid-Town St. Louis and some finer residential mid-century modern. Details are still being ironed out, but it’s guaranteed that you will learn, laugh and love the architectural gems of St. Louis even more than before!
ModernSTL was asked by DOCOMOMO to be a part of this nationwide, weekend event celebrating the Modern Movement. The American mid-century modernist symbol is on our river front, so we’re thrilled to finally have St. Louis represented in this 5th annual Tour Day.
There is a limit of 100 seats, and reservations are required. So if you’re on the bus, you gotta hurry, and I hope to see you bright and early on Saturday, October 8th. You could bring donuts, that’d be cool…
Posted on July 5th, 2011 3 comments
Bring signs, posters and other items to show how much you love the Spaceship. Hear some knowledgeable folks share their love of the building and voice ideas for other uses for it. There will even be limited edition Saucer T-shirts available!
Let’s all come together to show the Board of Aldermen (who have their final vote on its fate Friday, July 8th) how beloved this building is and why it would be a tragedy to tear it down for unspecified plans.
“There may be plenty of interest in reusing that awesome saucer if it is marketed properly! The building has the ability to be remodeled, adapted, or expanded to meet the needs of a new tenant or tenants,” says local architect Paul Hohmann. “We’ve been in touch with a number of local businesses, who may be interested in saving that iconic building, and we love it so much, we’re working with anyone interested to connect them with the opportunity to preserve it!”
As it stands on public record, the developer sounds adamant that he only wants a new building in its place, and is stubbornly opposed to re-using, remodeling or adding on to the existing building. This seems like a narrowly-focused and short-sighted view point from a developer who has shown creative thinking on so many other St. Louis City projects. Maybe if we all did the work of delivering a new tenant to him, he’d change his mind?
I just got off the phone with recently retired architect Richard Henmi, who was the Associate and Chief Designer for Council Plaza – and the Saucer, specifically – while he was a member of the architectural firm Schwarz & Van Hoefen. He has been closely following all the media coverage about the Saucer (I met him when he commented on my previous post about The Saucer) , saying “I’ve never seen so much coverage for such a tiny building!”
He drove by the building this past Sunday and said, “The 6-inch solid concrete roof has held up very well, though it should be checked thoroughly before doing any work on it.”
What would Henmi like to seen done with the building he designed? He is aware that the developer would like more square footage for more paying tenants, and says that one could add onto the north and east sides of the building while maintaining the integrity of the roof. “It would need to be done carefully, but it could be done.” Henmi also envisions how the roof overhang would make for a pleasant outdoor dining patio, especially by adding low walls and landscaping around it.
He has seen the proposed adaptation on the blog What Should Be, and while he does not agree with the concept, he loves that people’s imaginations have been fired up about the building, and would love to see it become a “Wash U. sketch problem” for the next semester of architectural students at Washington University (where he graduated from in 1947).
Henmi cannot make tomorrow night’s love-in because he is attending a family reunion in California, but once he returns, he said he will do all he can to save the building, as he’s already experienced the sadness of seeing 2 other of his buildings demolished in the past. And he will work with us to go through his drawings he donated to the Missouri Historical Society in 1989, so soon we should have copies of original drawings of The Saucer as designed for its original use as a Phillips 66 in 1967.
See you tomorrow night at the rally to Save Our Saucer. Here’s the Facebook invite for more info. And please remember – this is a positive event about our love for this unique and endearing building, so let’s share only our love and ideas for its future.
Posted on May 18th, 2011 No comments
I know several people who regularly attend the open houses of for sale homes. While some of them are always on the look out for the perfect home to move into, generally it’s the ultimate in window shopping combined with HGTV voyeurism. Meaning, it’s a great hobby to have!
What if you’re really into mid-century modern homes? How would you like if 10 of them were all open on one day? It’d be like a parade of atomic age goodness, or in the parlance of 1950s’ newspaper real estate sections, a “Parade of Homes”!
This Sunday, May 22, 2011, from 1 -4 PM that’s exactly what’s happening. Modern StL board member Ginger Fawcett enlisted fellow real estate agents with mid-century modern listings, and they’ve banded together to have them open and free to the public for 3 hours. Lately, when a choice MCM goes on the market in St. Louis it gets snapped up pretty quick, so coordinating 10 properties like this at one time is a rare feat. It is also the first such event in St. Louis. Lots of groundbreaking here!
The 10 homes you can view (and buy, if you’re so inclined) are:
- 2 Sleepy Hollow in Olivette
- 36 Stoneyside Lane in Olivette
- 41 Oak Park Dr. in Creve Coeur
- 8 Graybridge Lane in Ladue
- 1220 Kenmore Dr. in Glendale
- 2409 Saint Giles in Kirkwood
- 1735 Ridgewood in Crestwood
- 1309 Honeywood in Crestwood
- 1901 Wilson in Chesterfield
Look for these signs at the entrance to neighborhoods and in the yards of the for sale homes, and enjoy!
Posted on May 10th, 2011 5 comments
Creve Coeur, MO
May 7, 2011
Modern StL teamed with the residents of Ladue Estates to present an Open House & Tour of their neighborhood. It turned into a gorgeous spring day, and over 75 people came out to tour the inside of 5 open homes and take guided and self-guided tours of the entire subdivision.
“The Kitchen” (as it’s come to be known by anyone whose ever seen photos of the original GE teal blue metal kitchen in #3) was a major draw, to be sure. But the comments from those who toured all 5 homes was about how completely different each home was, and how beautifully it highlighted the eternal allure of the post-war ranch house, a thoroughly American architectural style.
One of my favorite comments was, “$10 is way too cheap for this event. I’ve been to other home tours that charged way more for a lot less. You shoulda charged $20, at least.” (It was $5 for Modern StL members; if you wanna take advantage of this kind of savings in the future, become a member!).
The Ladue Estates trustees – Mario Conte, Lea Ann Baker and Suzanne Walch – knew long ago how special their subdivision was, being untouched by tear downs and McMansions, and that it had a certain magic that made it a real world paradise. With Lea Ann leading the charge, they spent 3 years working on the application that would land Ladue Estates onto the National Register of Historic Places in May 2010. This is the first mid-century modern neighborhood in Missouri to make the list, and one of very few in the United States.
The induction ceremony in October 2010 was a milestone moment that made one hopeful that mid-century modern architecture might be spared the callous and rampant destruction that took out far too many turn-of-the-20th century buildings in St. Louis (and nationwide). Watching the genuine enthusiasm and joy of the tour attendees was a sweet moment, fanning the optimism that there are plenty of us around who “get it,” and that our newest – and last – wave of historic homes will be cared for and loved for decades to come.
A day of appreciation like this is one of the reasons Modern StL formed in the first place, less than a year ago. There are many other worthy MCM StL neighborhoods that deserve an event like this; we’re lucky to have them and hope to feature them in future events.
As for Ladue Estates, I had the pleasure of working with the Trustees on a feature article for an upcoming issue of Atomic Ranch magazine. I’ll be sure to let you know when that’s available. And they are already contemplating throwing another event like this in the future. Imagine these beauties decorated for Christmas….? It’s a thought!
Posted on April 27th, 2011 No comments
Modern StL is teaming with the Trustees of Ladue Estates to present the first ever Open House and Walking Tour of the first-ever Missouri mid-century modern neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places!
Saturday, May 7, 2011
10 am – 2 pm
Ladue Estates, Creve Coeur MO 63141
$10 admission – $5 for Modern StL members
5 Homes Open To You
#1, 2, 3, 11 and 14 West Ladue Estates Drive are opening their doors. See an original teal GE metal kitchen. See how excited we are to be able to share these 5 gorgeous homes with you!
Guided Walking Tour
At 11am, noon and 1 pm, two Ladue Estates residents (Lea Ann Baker – who did the Historic Registry application – and architect David Connally) give a guided tour of the homes on West Ladue Estates Drive.
Self-Guided Walking Tour
The other 2 streets that make up this historic neighborhood are open for you to swoon through. With a paid fee, you will receive a brochure with neighborhood highlights.
This is a thriving, private neighborhood, so please respect their homes and park only on the East Sides of the 2 streets shown on the map above.
The tour begins at #2 West Ladue Estates (shown as X on the map above), which is also one of 5 homes open to you. Pay the fee here and begin your journey into an atomic-age wonderland! $10 fee the day of the event – $5 for Modern StL members. Rain or shine.