Mid-Century Modern Subdivision Crestwood Hills

Crestwood Hills Subdivision
Crestwood, MO

On Watson Road at Sturdy Dr. – between Sappington and Lindbergh – is this crazy pair of mirrored buildings (Dental Centers North & South) from 1974. They’re festooned with every 1960s commercial architecture trick – even lava rocks! – as if they picked up all the litter after the mid-century party was over and fashioned it into a house dress. One day I got curious about the neighborhood behind these wacky buildings, so headed down Sturdy Drive and landed in a small subdivision dotted with houses like the one above.

Crestwood Hills lays out in, roughly, the shape of a pitchfork, with the spikes ending at East Watson Rd (aka, Hwy 66), encompassing only 6 short streets. County property records show that all of them were built between 1955 – 1957, but the wide and unending variety of styles gives it the look of unfolding over a longer period of time.

It’s apparent that a goodly number of the homes still house the people who originally bought them in the mid-50s. Then there’s an encouraging handful of homes (like the one above) that have been bought in the last few years by younger generations who know what they have, were happy to get it for under $175,000 in desirable Crestwood, and are lovingly reviving its mid-century modern ranch beauty.

Drive through this neighborhood and you’ll get whiplash from trying to take in all the different types of homes. So it’s better for your neck if you walk it, but there are no sidewalks. That’s one hallmark of a classic mid-century suburban neighborhood – they more often than not did away with sidewalks. Was that a budgetary decision? Or was the love affair with how the automobile could transform every fiber of daily life raging so hard that they imagined no one would need never walk again?

But I do love how the automobile figured into the layout of these homes. Even a fairly typical traditional ranch home like this got the carport. And it’s not just a place to park the car, but also sports a utility shed under the sloping roof and a flower planter, with both anchoring the open end of the house. I also love how this carport lends transparency, as you’re able to peer straight into the backyard.

And in the spirit of no two Crestwood Hills houses being exactly the same, the developers used the same basic floor plan for this home, but changed out several details and finishes to make it wholly unique. I’m guessing that screening in the carport was a later remodel by the owners, which is cool. Several of the homes have turned the carport into a garage, which is a standard renovation. But it’s astounding how many of the original carports remain in tact.

And we pause from all this atomic age fabulosity for the Smith Sturdy Cemetery. On East Watson, between  Gayle Avenue and Fox Park Drive, this tiny little burial ground with, maybe, 50 tombstones, just pops out of nowhere. It’s both disconcerting and intriguing, and because I can find no solid background information, it remains a mystery.

There’s a sub-species of homes in this neighborhood that fascinate me because they have no traditional front door. The designers and/or developers just dispensed with such a quaint notion, and planted a chimney where a front door should be.

And here’s another example of how the main entrance to the home is under the carport. Which underscores the new informality that was middle America in the middle of the 20th century; it was perfectly OK for your guests to squeeze between the cars and the house to knock on the door. Think about how many times you’ve been to someone’s house where they leave the overhead garage door open so you can come through the door that leads into the kitchen, rather than the formal front door. Well, with a house like this, you don’t even have to go through the trouble of opening a garage door and exposing all your junk to the world. It just is!

And because of this odd entrance situation, this may be why so many of the homes similar to this one leave the carport intact, because how else would you get in without going into the backyard?

This home highlights what happens if you decide to mess with the basic floorplan and close up that carport. Follow the fascia line to the right of the chimney and you can tell they added on this covered porch around a new front (well, side entrance, actually) entrance. But the driveway still leads up to what was the carport… so how do they get into their house when they get out of the car?

Every other house in Crestwood Hills is a fairly standard sturdy brick ranch home, which was rather clever of the developers; might as well appeal to the traditional as well as the pioneering and recoup the building money as quickly as possible.  But even with a ranch as traditional as this one, above, they throw in a few modern details that lets it blend nicely with the more adventurous homes around it.

Crestwood was once a boom town, increasing its population from 1,645 to more than 11,000 people between 1950 and 1960. They couldn’t build ’em faster than the folks were moving in, but they tried. This neighborhood went up in 2 years, and I admire the richness of variety and detail that went into such a hasty project.

Of interest is that the more traditional homes tend to have basements (above), while the decidedly modern homes are slab on grade. Though sometimes an unassuming brick and vinyl will also be slab on grade. What made them decide to change it up like that? This makes me think they’re may have been more than one developer/builder mining this neighborhood.  If anyone has any background information on Crestwood Hills, please please fill us in!

Remember the house above that walled in its carport and created a porch on the other side? This is what it most likely looked like before the extensive remodel. And I love how they created a semi-circular drive in the front lawn, an ingenious way to get more cars onto the property while also adding a nice new bit of geometry to the overall look.

Look at the generous screened porch on this one! And how the semi-open porch and the completely open car port are embraced by the sweeping roofline. This 1957 home is 1,344 square feet, but it looks so much larger because of the fine balance of indoors and out.

The square footage of all these homes range from roughly 1,200 to 1,500. Back then, for a family moving from the city, it was a step up in elbow room. Somewhere in the 80s and 90s, it was considered too small. But a little over 50 years later, living in under 2,000 s.f. makes all kinds of sense if you want to pay your utility bills and eat. We’re struggling through a Great Recession, but I call it The Great Reset; we were living too large on money we didn’t really have, but the meter’s been reset and, out of necessity, we’re cycling back down into a more modest and humane way of living. And that’s why homes like these – when they’ve managed to survive unscathed by teardowns – become a great asset: we can afford to live in them and they’re beautiful and well-built. Try getting all 3 things like that in a just-add-water cul-de-sac village in the exurbs!

At 1,924 s.f., this appears to be the largest home in Crestwood Hills, and also the most dramatically modern.  Look at those Neutra-esque bent columns holding up the carport! So cool that it (almost) distracts one from the hideous shutters someone slapped onto the home in later years.

The homes in this neighborhood remain so basically intact 50+ years on that it melts my heart. How did they mange this? Is it because of the wide range of styles? Or that it remained such a stable neighborhood for so many decades? I really need to know! So, again, if any of you grew up in this neighborhood or know anything about it, please share some details.

Save 750 North Taylor in Kirkwood

750 North Taylor
Kirkwood, MO

The 1884 W.F. Warner home in the heart of historic Kirkwood is listening to the tick-tock of the demolition clock, with hopes of a save before the alarm rings.

On the market since 2008, the price has reduced to $895,000, and a new home builder holds an option on it, pending approval of his plans to create 4 new homes on the almost-2 acres of land it has occupied for 126 years.

Read the in-depth report of 750 North Taylor in The Webster-Kirkwood Times.

The Kirkwood Landmarks Commission is trying to save it, and yard sings all over Kirkwood show solidarity. But the trouble with finding a new owner who won’t tear it down is the prohibitive cost of rehabbing and updating it for 21st century living.

Even as the asking price comes down, the rough estimate of $200k for renovation would exceed the home’s value. This is according to the developer who wants to tear it down. He also believes it needs to be a gut rehab. And of course he’d think that, but it’s not necessarily accurate.

Here’s a photo gallery of the interior of the home.

The Warner mansion qualifies for historic tax credits.  Everything about it is an Old House Journal wet dream. And it feels as if Kirkwood residents are approaching the tipping point of tolerating teardowns – this is not their first rodeo.

If the ideal private residence buyer cannot be found, can other options be explored? Off the top of the head: bed and breakfast, Kirkwood history museum, tea room and meeting space…

Because of the surrounding neighborhood, I’m thinking of lower traffic, money-making ventures that would require a tweak to zoning, but would update and preserve the home to be shared with others in a way that could eventually recoup the costs. Maybe the Kirkwood Landmarks Commission could chip in to make this possible?

There can be a Plan B, C or D for this beautiful home, and since Plan A is not working, let’s hope some inspirational wheels of thought are turning in the minds of those who can make a real difference for the past, present and future of Kirkwood.

Cyber Tour of a Mid-Century Modern Ridgewood Home

Ridgewood Subdivision
Crestwood, MO

As described in the (might as well be official) blog of this renowned subdivision, “The Ridgewood subdivision, located in Crestwood, Missouri, is a neighborhood of 258 modern ranch homes built in the early 1950’s. To meet the public’s growing demand for modern homes, successful St. Louis Developer Burton Duenke, in collaboration with architect Ralph Fournier, conceived Rigewood as a modern alternative to the traditional style homes Duenke had been building since 1946.”

After all these years, the homes vary in their states, ranging from immaculately original to slightly remuddled to needs some TLC. The house shown above, on Liggett Drive, is one I enjoyed watching come back to life.

I was recently part of an exploratory meeting to see if we could establish some type of group that celebrates and catalogs St. Louis’ modern architecture, and one of the authors of the Ridgewood blog volunteered his house for the meeting. When we pulled up to the address given, I cried out, “It’s THAT house? Excellent!”

I had longed to see the inside of the home that was so carefully rehabbed over the past several years, and it did not disappoint. Oh, it was gorgeous and immaculate, and I was wishing I’d brought my camera with me!

Less than a week later, Apartment Therapy provided the photos of this magnificent Ridgewood home. Read about Nathan & Hannah’s home here.

And here’s a shortcut to the full photo tour.

Thanks to Nathan & Hannah for sharing their inspiring home with cyber space, and thanks to Apartment Therapy for having such good taste!

Touring Harris Armstrong Homes

On May 2, 2010, The Sheldon Art Galleries sponsored a benefit tour of four homes designed by St. Louis modernist architect Harris Armstrong. All four homes are within walking distance of each other in the St. Louis County suburb of Sappington, and their ages range from 1937 – 1951. 3 of the 4 homes were actually inhabited by Mr. Armstrong. The home shown above – #2 Sappintong Spur – is the only one of the 4 on the tour that was a commission for a client, the McClure family.

This home dates back to 1937 and is about 75% original fabric. There has been a large and lavish family room and deck added to the rear of the home, which looks great. The rest of the home – including the basement – looks even better.

Click for a Flickr photo tour of #2 Sappington Spur.

Harris Armstrong obviously fell in love with this private street because he designed this home for his family, right next door! From 1938, this is a split level home, and the exterior combines naturalism with the aesthetic of the burgeoning international modernist movement that was emerging on the West Coast at the time.

This home is spectacular, unfolding like a rose! The abundant fenestration, wood built-ins and main level flowing floor plans are clearly modern, while the feel is pure comfort, security and serenity.  This place is currently for sale, with an $800k asking price. It is fairly priced, that’s for sure. It’s gorgeous in every way, and fingers crossed till circulation cuts off that it finds a buyer who loves it just as it is. Especially the tribute to Isamu Noguchi on the ceiling of the master bedroom!

Another great feature while touring this home was finding architect and Armstrong scholar Andrew Raimist at work on his laptop in the den that was once Harris’ home office. He looked so perfectly at home and natural in this setting that I simply took in the scene for several moments before saying hello.

Click for a Flickr photo tour of #3 Sappington Spur.

Harris moved a short walk down the hill from #3 Sappington Spur to this 1951 residence. By now, he was the foremost mid-century modern architect in St. Louis with residential and public commissions galore, so he had earned the right to go architecturally hog wild on his new home. The exterior looks like the perfect halfway point between where his work had been and where it was heading, with the rear elevation resembling an elaborate fort made by neighborhood boys, a childhood fantasy writ large.

The interior is where things go fantastically bizarre in the best way possible. It’s a series of changing levels and cut outs that is overwhelmingly awesome to look at but begs the question: did any of his kids or guests ever injure themselves?  Turns out Harris’ kids were either full-grown and gone or in their late teens when they moved in, so we can assume no children were hurt in the making of this home. As a home one can live comfortably and productively in, #3 Sappington was the clear winner to my mind. But when it comes to jaw-dropping impressiveness, this one wins big!

Click for a Flickr photo tour of 200 South Sappington Road.

While working on the Magic Chef building, Harris’ home office at #3 Sappington Spur was cramping productivity, so it was time for a stand-alone architectural office, proper. In 1948, he moved into his Asian-inspired design, and talk about impressing clients!

Here is the original floor plan of the small office. The dining room shown above was once his drafting studio. When Armstrong retired in 1969, this office was sold and remodeled into a private home. Several wings were added, essentially quadrupling the size of the structure, and for this tour most all of those areas were closed to the public, but as seen from the outside, they blend and/or coordinate nicely with the original office cube.

Click for a Flickr photo tour of 934 Singlepath Lane.

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urbanSTL vs. the ‘burbs

I am so pleased to have an article freshly posted on urbanSTL, a fabulous new one-stop resource for St. Louis news and blogs.

Click over to read my piece, “Crying Over Spilt Milk: The Suburbs Happened, Get Over It!”

Especially loving the timing of this piece being published, as it comes in the rosy afterglow of St. Louis County voting an enthusiastic “yes” on Prop A.  This was a unique moment of Suburban & Urban joining together for a common goal, and this unity feels great!

The seeds of City/County dissension were planted in the 19th century, but come the 21st century it’s time to harvest that crop and whip it up into a bountiful meal so both sides can come to the table. Let’s eat, drink and be merry together as St. Louisans with no geographical suffix, just St. Louisans, period.

Abandoned Church in Creve Coeur

10362 Old Olive Street Road
Creve Coeur, MO

My Easter Sunday thoughts keep going back to this seemingly vacant church building. It’s located in a part of Creve Coeur that is off the beaten path, practically back alley, though the neighbor across the street, Kohn’s Kosher Meat & Deli, has constant traffic because it’s a desirable destination.

This simple, compact brick building with modest mid-century modern flourishes was, according to the corner stone blocked by aggressive shrubbery, erected in 1960 as Immanuel Baptist Church.  The St. Louis Metro Baptist Church Assoc. indicates that Pastor Benny J. King once led services at this address, but is vague about the present day situation.

The St. Louis Genealogical Society lists this congregation as having moved from 5859 Cates Avenue to Creve Coeur, and indicates that it’s still open. But there is no address or signage to identify the place from the road, no signs of life, and no regular lawn care…

…the landscaping is so overgrown one can barely see the church from the street,  and it was mostly impossible to use the set of stairs from the parking lot to the entry. So, is it vacant, or just unkempt? Recently abandoned or the groundskeeper is on hiatus?

St. Louisans are now used to gigantic Catholic Churches sitting vacant across the city and inner-ring suburbs, their presence still casting a heavy vibe in its neighborhood. But this little Baptist church has been camouflaged into limbo, which is a sad way to celebrate Easter.

SPRING 2012 Update

Someone has made a huge effort by clearing out the forest that had grown around it. And now that it’s clear, I could see the cornerstone and confirm the church was erected in 1964. Click to see new photos of the church cleaned up.

Mid-Century Modern Industrial Park

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Lindbergh Warson Industrial Center
St. Louis County, MO

In an unincorporated part of St. Louis county nestled between Creve Coeur and Maryland Heights is an office park that reads like a catalog of mid-century modern commercial architecture.  On North Warson Road at the half way point between Olive Boulevard and Page Avenue is the building above.  It’s always looked vaguely military to me – can’t say why, exactly.  Turns out it went up around 1962 for Continental Textile Corporation of America, so there was nothing weaponry about it, other than – it turns out – this is just the opening shot of a large group of buildings behind it.

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Inside the office park proper, it becomes clear that it was first developed during the boom years of City-To-County migration, and offers a concise diary of how new industrial architecture used to reflect the optimism of pioneering new frontiers and then quickly dimmed to pre-fab profit-margin boxes.   The 1970-80s buildings have no personalities, while the older ones certainly do. In the case of the building above on Research Boulevard, it strived to reflect the product of its original owner in 1968, the Dallas Ceramic Co.

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This 1963 building originally for Dute Steel Supply Company is, oddly enough, defined by wood detailing.

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Next door is this charming bit of California modern, built in 1961 for B.C. MacDonald, and it is one of two buildings that retains the company it was built for.  They have pride in their building; from the skylight in the lobby, to the concrete sun screen to the original stainless steel lettering, it’s all in pristine condition.

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Even more charming, above, is another bit of original signage at the rear, warehouse end of the building.  Note that rather than remove or damage the raised letters, they simply drew a line between the old and new paint colors.

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At 1200 Research Boulevard is this massive building that looks, to me, like the caricature of “Corporate America” as shown in the background of 1960s cartoons (and that’s a compliment!).

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This long and deep horizontal block was built in 1962 for the Butler Paper Company, which may have been a division of the J.W. Butler Paper Co. out of Chicago in the late 19th century.  Regardless of provenance, the building is a reminder that American companies actually once did manufacture actual goods right here in America, and so needed buildings large enough to house equipment, shipping  (dead train tracks still run through the park) and administrative.  On top of that, they considered it good form to present a good face to the public, and reflected that in their corporate architecture.  All of these corporate concepts seem so old fashioned, but it was all still happening 45-50 years ago.

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Stylistically, it appears that the Lindbergh Warson Industrial Center began developing on Baur Boulevard, as all the cherry buildings are on this stretch at the northern end of the complex.  Dierberg’s is smart enough to currently house the headquarters in this handsome piece, which was built in 1958 for the Mid States Gum Paper company.  This place is so big that, in 1963, they shared the space with Minnesota Mining & Mfg.

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Once, not too long ago, prescription medicines were dispensed by doctors on an as-needed basis, rather than pushed in elaborate and expensive marketing campaigns.  Pharmaceuticals were a much smaller – and far less glamorous – industry back in 1962 when Upjohn Co. built this place at Baur & Lindbergh.

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Here’s the other building that still houses the company it was originally built for.  Compton & Sons moved into this building around 1963.  It’s a low-key, unassuming affair, but as with B.C. Macdonald shown previously, they have kept up with detailed maintenance that allows them to keep most all of the original fabric and…

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…they’ve kept the original signage!  Which is now showing the special patina of age only available on old-fashioned lettering, and I love that they are letting it keep its personality.

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This low-slung dark beauty seems to go on for days.  It was built in 1963 for the installation department of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company.

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The public entrance has some interesting details, like the inset concrete grills (which were originally painted white and then blue) and how the half wall creates an outdoor lobby that directs one to the front door.  Also of note is that the angle of the parking spaces perfectly parallel the angle of the half wall on the far right of the photo above, which is one of those small, but great, touches that architects throw in for the amusement of people who pay attention to those kinds of details.

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This horizontal slash on the horizon is so crisp and smart, that I don’t even mind the white blinds obscuring the picture windows because it adds to the geometric flow.

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Move up closer to this 1962 building and admire the simple but compelling tiled fascia running vertically down the length of the building, and how that pattern flips horizontally inside the entry way, and be not surpirsed that it was the originally the home of St. Louis County Tile, Inc.

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For pure “wow” factor, this 1959 jewel wins Best In Show, and I’d love to scoop up the western end of this building and make it my new home.

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The aqua tile and metal panels with black tailored frames are to die for.  The little windows inserted into the plate glass grid are still operable, and one was even open on this fair weather day (which is so retro!).

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Whomever originally designed this building for Abbott Laboratories excelled at visually delineating administrative from warehouse while retaining the theme with the kind of sophistication (and a dash of glamor) usually reserved for private residences of the same era.  This is the building that first caught my eye when cutting through on Baur, slowing me down enough to then notice what other treasures were around it (of which some have been left undepicted here so you might discover them for yourself).  It remains the building I have the biggest crush on.  But the building I genuinely love the most is…

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1355 Warson Road, built in 1957 for General Electric Company.   This is like a text book of good mid-century modern commercial architecture; it expertly combines massing, texture and detail to create a distinguished modern face for what was already, at that time, a venerable corporate institution.

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Here we’re looking at the public facade of the building, and even when you turn the corner, there is much detail delight in the geometric concrete side entrance.  What isn’t shown is how utterly massive this building is, stretching on down the street for what seems like a tiny village.  They needed the space because they were manufacturing appliances, and because of the era, it’s easy to see how GE investing in this much acreage in the county is what spurred other manufacturers to fill in the land behind them.  And to this day, the former GE building sits calmly atop the highest point in the park, like the title page of the book on last great era of American manufacturing.

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Though occupied, the building needs some maintenance love and care, while just a real good scrubbing would reveal its understated splendor to passersby.  Which might then cast a spotlight on the whole industrial park, and it needs it.  Many of these buildings shown here are vacant, with for sale/lease signs in front… bad economy and all.  It is the only example of an architecturally worthy industrial park that I’ve seen. Do you know of any others?

A Magical Winter Wonderland

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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…

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

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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.

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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.

The Fall of Modernism

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As in the autumn season… or much of St. Louis mid-century modern residential architecture is in the autumn of its years.

Above is a post-Halloween autumnal tableau of a wonderful home at the corner of Berry Road and Big Bend, adiposity in Webster Groves, buy more about MO.

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The rest of these low-slung beauties that seem to have been designed with this time of year in mind are in the Ridgewood subdivision in Crestwood, MO.

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Learn more about Ridgewood at this marvelous site.

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These technicolor marvels of Mother Nature and Modern Man were all photographed within 5 minutes time within a 2-mile span.  No need to drool over MCM living in coffee table books and TV shows, just get in the car and drive around St. Louis.  And soon the leaves will be gone, which will make it even easier to spot the ones usually hidden under lush mounds of forestry, so keep an eye out.

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Most Enviable: The Clayton-Forsyth Bldg.

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8230 Forsyth Boulevard
Downtown Clayton, MO

If Downtown Clayton is like a jewelry box of full of mid-century modern architectural gems, the Clayton-Forsythe Building could very well be the most beloved piece.  It opened in 1954, and still broadcasts a clear Beverly Hills/West Hollywood glamour signal.

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The best way to experience the allure of this 3-story building is by driving up Forsyth toward Maryland, and deep in the curve this beauty extends a languid hand to pull you in for a shoulder hug and air kisses.   And the movie star buzz continues with a design that flows with the bend in the road, siting that sidles seductively into an incline, and adding an “e” to the last name it shares with the street it graces.

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When it first opened, the prow of the ship shown above, was Colony Children’s Clothing, and a stroll down its geometric promenade took you past the Lazy Susan Restaurant, the Clayshire House of Beauty (which remained until 1985) and Gold’s Pharmacy, among others.  All of these shops have a front, street-level entrance plus a back entrance accessed via a flight of stairs from the parking lot. Again, the designers were smart about the siting, putting the parking in the rear valley of the property, and as you drive down the ramp it feels like the building grows before your eyes.

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As seen from the Forsyth street-level, the lobby remains as it was when it opened 55 years ago: understated California cool.  It’s all about the blend of materials, sparse lines and abundant natural lighting, and that the public areas have remained unscathed for this long is a major miracle worthy of major gratitude.

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From 1955 – 1963, the basement and top floors were occupied by physicians and dentists, and an unusually large number of architects and artists, which makes sense when you consider the freewheelin’ vibe of the building.  By 1968, some intrigue entered the scene when all but one architect left and the Shane & Assoc. detective agency took over 3 rooms of the top floor.

Because of its location, the Clayton-Forsythe appears to have had no problems attracting tenants.  The 21st century has shown the highest rate of sustained vacancies, and I wonder if this might have something to do with owners more concerned with the financial potential of a new building on this site rather than maintaining the building they already have.

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There was talk in January 2008 of this building being torn down and replaced with a retail/condominium development, which was conveniently timed to the news of new office buildings going up in this block.  But preservation’s best friend – a crappy economy – came to town, and it looks like those plans are on hold for the moment.  In the meantime, even though the building’s management firm advertises it as an “enviable place to call home for your business,” they are doing as little as possible to protect their investment.  Minor water damage is starting to appear and regular maintenance is being deferred, which is a classic way to repel new tenants and make the case for demolition due to deterioration.

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I’m hoping the greed and laziness of a tear-down mentality is something that expires along with our country’s false prosperity.  Quantity (of assumed equity for massive square footage) over quality has brought economic trauma to our country (i.e., the mortgage crises), and it goes hand-in-hand with how we now view real estate and architecture.  It has resulted in the warped notion that buildings can never be as valuable as the land it stands on, so why bother with preserving or creating worthwhile architecture when one theoretically stands to gain by knocking down a building to optimize the worth of the land?  But with that house of cards taken out by a few stiff breezes, maybe there will be a more realistic appraisal on the value of tangible commodities that already exist, like the Clayton-Forsyth Building.

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From the late 1940s to the 70s, Downtown Clayton usurped Downtown St. Louis by creating a brand new urban density in the shortest time imaginable.  It is the classic example of mid-century modern architecture symbolizing the sleek new power structures.  Block after block, the Clayton business district epitomizes the strength, optimism and prosperity our country experienced after World War 2.  It is the historical text book of The Good Life Through Modern Living, and that seems worthy of preserving for future generations.  American cities finally saw their way clear to preserving previous high points of our evolution (in Missouri we call it the Historic Tax Credits), so there’s no reason to overlook our last best chapters, right?

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Downtown Clayton has enough fiscal options that it can seriously consider holding on to some of the finer examples of its mid-century history, and time has shown that concerted preservation brings tourism dollars because Americans love their history.  The Clayton History Society gets what I’m saying, as they include many important MCM buildings (both dead and alive) as an integral part of the Clayton story, so I’m not making this up, I’m just thinking ahead.

The Claytonian debate over short-sighted gain vs. long-term value could begin with the Clayton-Forsythe Building. It is too fine an example of the worth of this place and this type of architecture to be blithely dismissed.  Long live this most enviable building!

See more photos of this building here.

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