Posted on March 14th, 2013 10 comments
Glasgow Village is a perfect example of an inner ring suburb that sprung up along the City of St. Louis border in the early 1950s. On this map, you’ll see that the last thread of the City boundary (Ward 2) hugs Riverview Drive. When they began developing this land along the Mississippi River bluffs, St. Louis City fire and police personnel were eager to have the homes being built within city boundaries to meet residency requirements. Stories are that they would offer more than the asking price just to have them.
Concurrently, the adjacent County land that is Glasgow Village (early history here) was also being developed. St. Louis County directories show only 3 streets in existence in Glasgow Village in 1951. By 1955, it was complete and filled with homes much like this.
Adhering to the “village” in its name, the new community needed a central commerce gathering place, and construction of Glasgow Village Shopping Center (shown in the map above) began in 1957. There were spots for 15 businesses, including the backside of the building which was accessed on foot.
The 1959 County directory (above) lists the original tenants. Many of these shops regularly contributed to the various Glasgow Village newsletters released by the trustees and the local schools.
Shops like Connie’s Village Dance Studio (which became Marion’s Village Dancing School by 1963) contributed to the close-knit village atmosphere that still prevails in the hearts of GV ex-pats, who regularly converse and contribute at Glasgow Village Friends.
The towering, angular sign at the corner of the shopping center long served as the striking symbol of the village.
And it still stood tall and proud in 2003 when I took the photo above. By then, the majority of the center was vacant, with the liquor store at 104 Glashop Lane (isn’t that a great street name?) pulling in a brisk business. But even in its reduced state, it was easy to understand how vital this place once was to the town.
By its siting, GV is rather remote, which was a great selling point during the suburban migration of the early 1950s. The shopping center became an instant “downtown,” taking care of just about all of the residents’ needs, and all within walking distance.
104 started off as Zimmerman’s Glasgow Pharmacy, part of the Rexall dynasty. And the dry cleaner’s shown above made the news in 1968 when it caught fire.
And just like any small town, the people who once lived there can pinpoint when it happened based on their personal memories.
The Italian American Delicatessen at 108 (above) morphed into Cusumano’s Village Inn by 1974.
And that storied pizza place lives on in O’Fallon, MO. Exactly when they left the shopping center is best left to the memories of the GV Friends, and hopefully they will chime in with comments here. Just as they recently shared information that some of the Cusumano family showed up to watch the demolition of the center. Which is a testament to how much this place meant to everyone who lived there.
The retail side of Glasgow Village was in drowning mode by 2003. By 2011, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was detailing the foreclosure woes of the town. They accompanied it with an editorial piece that tries to pinpoint why inner ring suburbs are having a tough time and (with quotes from yours truly on) how to solve it.
The St. Louis racial divide as it pertains to real estate has been deeply documented, with Mapping Decline being the most exhaustive resource for information on the whys and hows of White Flight and Redlining. Even though the federal government stepped in to ban the practice, the mentality still seems ingrained, transferring from North St. Louis City to North County, and requiring more recent intervention.
But there is never just one reason for decline, so lets look beyond St. Louis’ racial tensions. Along with rapidly advancing conspicuous consumption from the 1980s to mid-2000s that led to ever-bigger homes in far-flung locales, I think there’s topography at play in North St. Louis County.
Starting with the first settlers in 1764, St. Louis development always favored the southern half before the northern half for one very logical reason: the north is very hilly because the ancient confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers created mountainous mass. When it came to build and all you had were shovels and cattle-driven plows to move earth, you’d naturally choose the flattest terrains first.
This hilly topography later limited placement of interstates during the 1950s – 60s, and the rivers are a definitive end to the area. All of these factors combine to give far North St. Louis County a remoteness that does not exist in West and South County, where they can – and do – keep expanding. Look to the fate of Jamestown Mall to understand why through traffic is crucial for retail. It’s also crucial for keeping neighborhoods lively. The more pocketed communities tend to stagnate, and Glasgow Village is, sadly, a perfect example of this.
The iconic sign was a poignant focal point on February 25, 2013 when St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley held a press conference in front of the cranes in front of Glasgow Village Shopping Center. He announced an increased budget to demolish an initial 41 buildings in North County, mostly fire-damaged and vacant homes that had become nuisance properties. GV residents verified that the shopping center had become an insurmountable problem for their community. And so they demolished Glasgow Village Shopping Center.
The County plans to take down more than 100 buildings this year. Glasgow Village Shopping Center was the perfect way to make a dramatic media splash about the “aggressive program.” I have yet to see posted a list of all the properties due for demolition. Even though Doolie stated that “we recognize that we cannot demolish our way to neighborhood stabilization,” a lack of information on what buildings are coming down is troubling. Parts of the City of St. Louis have yet to recover from aggressive demolition during the mid-century Urban Renewal. I hope that the County does not repeat these errors with a misguided Suburban Renewal program.
There was interest in saving the Glasgow Village Shopping Center sign because it is such a powerful symbol of the community. But the demolition company did not have the budget to take it down in a manner that preserves it. Reports came in that once it hit the ground, it was dragged for a bit which damaged the porcelain face of the signs.
The Glasgow Village trustees did cart off one side of the sign that was relatively unscathed. I love the sentimentality that compelled them to save a last remnant, and am keen to know what they plan to do with sign.
There was nothing but torn concrete and straw by the time the photo above was taken on March 9, 2013. Too long a physical reminder of better days, the shopping center is now officially a memory.
Does anyone know of any solid plans for redeveloping this site?
Creating something new and vital here should be as important of a priority as erasing the problems. I understand why demolishing buildings gets media attention, but I hope Doolie and his team will continue to engage in public dialogue about their plans and progress. North County deserves a fighting chance for renaissance.
Posted on August 19th, 2012 8 comments
This sign became…
…this sign. And that fact was consigned to the memory of a select few until it was brought to light by Dean Wieneke. Read his story here.
The beauty of the world wide web is that anyone can find anything, and the family of the men who were Dickerson Motors found the story of Dean finding their family’s sign. They got in touch with me both in comments on the blog entry and personal emails. Which lead to them graciously scanning old photos, which are shared with you now.
Julie Dickerson Chung and Carolyn Dickerson Zerman are the daughters of William E. Dickerson, who started Dickerson Motors, Inc. in 1951 with his brother Thomas E. Dickerson (whose son Don Dickerson provided some of these photos). It was a Lincoln Mercury dealership located at 6116 Natural Bridge Avenue. It was in the shadow of the only remaining gasometer in St. Louis.
Here is that spot today. Note that the building appears to have been sitting on the dividing line between St. Louis City and County.
Dickerson by day…
…and by night. These photos were taken shortly after the dealership opened.
A big day for Dickerson Motors was when actress and icon Debbie Reynolds stopped by the dealership in 1955 to buy a car. She was on her way back to California to marry singer and actor Eddie Fisher.
Above, Bill Dickerson hands Debbie Reynolds the keys to the car she chose. To put it in historical context, Miss Reynolds had just completed filming of the movie The Tender Trap, with Frank Sinatra. It would release in November of 1955.
And Debbie gets inside her new ride to zoom off and marry Eddie Fisher. The marriage would produce actress/author Carrie Fisher, and end tragically when Eddie left Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor in 1959. This is just how her history played out and in no way infers her car from Dickerson Motors played any part in future marital dramas.
Don Dickerson (son of co-owner Tom Dickerson) shared the photo above, depicting the “Hot Rod Lincoln” that was part of the dealership’s racing team. In conjunction with the racing team, Don recalls:
”Before a race, my Dad was out zooming around Missouri to see what the Lincoln could do. He came over a hill at a very high speed and found that at the bottom of the hill was a buckboard with two horses pulling it. He slammed on the brakes but was going too fast to stop, killing two horses and totaling the car.”
To the best of Carolyn Dickerson Zerman’s memory, the car dealership closed around 1957-58. “I know my sister Julie was born around that time and was a “saving grace” to my Dad (above left), who hated to see the dealership close.”
The family does not know what became of the sign after Dickerson closed. In this entry about Ackerman Buick, former employee Tim Von Cloedt said Jerry Ackerman bought out Kuhs Buick on North Grand Avenue and moved the whole shebang out to Dellwood in the early 1960s. The first building on the lot went up in 1964 – so did the sign, now recycled as Ackerman Buick.
Where was the sign from 1958 to 1964? Considering how much information we’ve received so far, there just may be someone out there who knows the answer.
And this whole saga came to light when Dean and his family bought and dismantled the sign (above) to put it in storage at his father’s farm. As of this writing, Dean sold the sign to Fast Lane Classic Cars in St. Charles, MO, who plan to hang it on the side of one of their buildings.
So St. Charles is the newest chapter for one of the busiest, most recycled signs in St. Louis history. And thank you to all of the Dickerson family for being so generous with their photos and information.
Posted on October 23rd, 2011 18 comments
Chambers Road & Hwy 367
Moline Acres, MO
This post about Top of the Tower Restaurant from October 2007 is by far the most-commented entry I’ve ever done. Within the comments, we hear from the granddaughter of Tower’s developer Bud Dallavis, as well as several people who worked there over the years. We learn that it did NOT spin (people confuse it with the former Stouffer’s restaurant in Downtown St. Louis), and a few people share the recipe for Rizzo’s famous Spinning Salad.
A post comment from the end of July 2011 set off alarm bells: Michael Collins went on an adventure inside the Top of the Tower building, and made it all the way to the top and inside the long-vacant Rizzo’s Top of the Tower. He even took pictures! I pounced on him like a puppy to a chew toy, and he gladly consented to share his photos on Facebook so they could be shared on B.E.L.T. All of the photos you will see here were taken by Michael with his cell phone.
The elevator in the Tower lobby no longer goes up to the top floor, but the stairs do. When Michael got to the top, the door to the restaurant was wide open, “and there were no signs stating no trespassing, although I’m sure they don’t really want anyone up there. I don’t really recommend going up there for your own safety.” He told of some strange encounters with questionable people (and dogs) during his time in the building, so I’m heeding his advice, and very grateful that he chanced it, took these photos and shares them to add to the history of a beloved North County restaurant that continues to be held warmly in the hearts of all who went there.
After the adrenalin high of sifting through his photos, I was feeling like Peggy Lee asking “Is that all there is?” This is what the mythical place actually looked like? Really.
My overall impression of Rizzo’s interior is what I call Spanish Bachelor. It’s a term I use to describe a late 60s/early 70s design plague in swingin’ suburbia. It was a hearty embrace of EZ Brick, Chianti bottles with candles stuck in ‘em, blackened wrought iron (real or fake), dark distressed wood, masculine-colored velvets, corduroy pillows and macrame plant holders. It was a look favored by heterosexual single men, and we’d have to ask one of the survivors of this faux-rustic 16th Century Spanish matador design decision what it was meant to convey.
I never imagined that the penthouse showcase of the magnificent mid-century modern tower – all pink metal tubular sleekness – would look like this. In the photo above, the wood paneling on the window columns feels right for a place that opened in 1964.
I’m assuming the ceiling was originally white so that the coffers radiating out from circle center met up with the paneled columns to create a starburst effect.
But the rest of this….?
OK, the place has been vacant for a long time, but we can overlook the neglect to get a sense of what was. And I’m getting the impression that lots of remodeling went on over the years. Or that there was one major sweep of a re-do in 1975…
…because this wallpaper IS 1975 personified. And it has held up rather well, don’t you think?
There is the fantasies that those of us who weren’t alive/participating in that era have, and then there’s reality. My fantasy for Top of the Tower might look a bit more like this series of photos. And maybe it did back in the day. Remodeling and updates happen organically over time, and restaurants – particularly – have to stay somewhat current and fresh to remain open. So we see a wide hodge podge of design fads piled atop one another.
Obviously, the restaurant conveyed differently with furniture and lighting. Have you ever seen your favorite bar during the day, exposed to natural and overhead light? Then you know there’s a real magic to low lighting at night. Cocktails help everything along, of course.
But in all the memories that have been shared about Rizzo’s Top of the Tower, it was never about the decor (though the views were a major treat). It was the people who worked there, the excellent customer service, the superior quality of the food, and the sense of specialness all of these things combined created for everyone who went there. We’re now looking at what remains of a place long separated from its magic.
A major batch of thank you goes to Michael Collins for making these photos available to us.
And for all of you who once worked there or ate there on a regular basis, could you please tell us about how the place looked over the years? What did it look like when it opened? What kind of changes were made over the years?
Maybe seeing these photos will spark you memories and you’ll share in the comments as copiously as you did previously. If you have photos to share, that would be excellent, too.
Posted on March 6th, 2011 8 comments
South Kingshighway Blvd & Arsenal
South St. Louis, MO
Well, kind of.
The 1964 addition of the former Southwest High School (now the Central Visual/Performing Arts High School) once sported a notorious mural. A portion of its lush exoticism can be seen above. The mural was an identifier – of a neighborhood, of an area and a great marker when giving driving directions. Shortly after the public school became a magnet in the mid 2000s, they painted over the mural with a dull dark brown that attempted to mimic the brick. The irony of quashing vivid artistic expression on the wall of a creative arts institution was not lost on anyone.
Once the public art was gone, folks like myself who track the built environment started looking through our files to find any pictures we may have taken of the mural. I know I have a full-on shot of it from the mid-1990s because I used to live across the street from the place, and remember walking over to it, purposely to document the mural. For those of you who spent decades shooting film, you also know you have boxes upon boxes of photographs, and who has the time to sift through all that? But it’s been bugging me for far too many years: where’s that mural photo?
While looking for something else, I ran across this photograph. Because of the concert poster in the bus stop shelter (also known, briefly, as a Cher Chapel), the photo was taken in the early summer of 2002. This brief glimpse of the Southwest High School mural removes finding the better photo from my To Do list. Well, kind of.
If any of you know the origins of the mural and the decision to blot it out, please do share in the Comments.
Jim Wirt was one of the students who helped paint the mural, dating it back to 1983. And thanks to Michael Allen for passing along this post with black & white photos of the mural.
Posted on December 27th, 2010 8 comments
West Florissant & Hwy 270
North St. Louis County, MO
St. Louis hasn’t seen the likes of a Venture sign since 1998. But for the holiday shopping season, much like Gypsy Rose Lee peeling and dropping a glove, Venture teases us with a blast from the past.
One question though: after 12 years, Kmart still won’t spring for real signage? Nice job, class all the way.
Posted on November 2nd, 2010 5 comments
Shreve & Lexington Avenues
North St. Louis City, MO
The St. Louis City Talk blog pegged these houses above when covering the Kingshighway East neighborhood (scroll down 40%), and when I said to Matt Mourning that I wish I knew exactly where they are, he said, “I told you about them in January. They’re at Shreve and Lexington.” Within a couple days, Chris Naffziger and I were taking in this scene. St. Louis bloggers do not mess around (except when they forget something told to them 10 months ago – what a drag it is getting old!)
There’s actually 2 perfect rows of these houses, back to back on Lexington and Palm, creating an entire block of mid-century bungalows between Marcus and Shreve. All of them are 1,104 square feet, built between 1962-63, according to City records. The Lexington side also extends one block to the west, where the homes face Handy Park, with half of them of the same vintage, but with a few design variations and a little more space, clocking in at 1,173 s.f. These new homes were labeled the North Cote Brilliante Subdivision.
What makes the compact block of North Cote Brilliante so intriguing is what is across the street from them. Shown above is a good sample of what the residents of the 4700 block of Lexington see when looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows of their mid-century pads. These brick boxes date from 1911-1912, and none of them go over 725 s.f. This is standard for this era of single family homes in this area. It’s the mid-century homes that are out of place, in the best way possible.
Take a look at the aerial map and you see how different they look from their neighbors, with no alley dividing the backyards, and their bright, low-pitched roofs contrasting with the flat roofs all around them. Considering the history and density of the area, it’s natural to assume that similar homes were demolished to build the new houses. But why did they choose to demolish that particular block – plus another near-dozen across from the park – to insert new homes?
So began the research through old City Directories, which showed nothing at all at these addresses even as far back as 1921. In fact, in 1921, Shreve didn’t even exist as a street south of Natural Bridge, and Palm ended 10 blocks east at Clay Avenue.
A 1958 aerial map confirms that the sites in question were indeed blank, with Handy Park taking shape at this time. Turns out Handy Park was dedicated in June 1960 in honor of songwriter W.C. Handy, who matters greatly to blues music, in general, and matters specifically to our city because of his seminal 1914 classic “St. Louis Blues.”
The City made the ordinance to turn this land into a park in 1941, and even at the dedication 19 years later, the houses overlooking the park (shown above & below) were still 3 years away from being built and bought. So why were there sizable swaths of blank land in the middle of this neighborhood for so many decades?
Tired of pouring through books at the library, I took a delayed shortcut and called my father, Richard, to ask what was up with that part of Kingshighway East. His immediate answer: Handy Park was once a quarry. He remembered being 8 or 9 (which would be 1940 or ’41) and going with his parents to visit their friends who lived at Lexington and Aubert Avenue, and being specifically told not to go near the quarry which had recently been closed because some boys had been killed while exploring the site. For roughly 15 years, they filled the site with cement and stone to get it to a point where they could build the park.
His recollection of time period jived perfectly with the City park ordinance, and a quick cyber search verified that indeed there was an awful lot of quarry right there, as shown in the pink dot on the 1904 quarry map, above. According to Stone Quarries and Beyond, it was known as First Quarry, one of three owned by John B. O’Meara. The official address was at Euclid and Ashland Avenues, and limestone was pulled from it starting in 1876.
Which means that these homes on Palm – dating from 1926 to 1935 – had a quarry or a vacant dirt lot as their view until…
…these homes popped up in 1963.
It’s heartening to know that nothing was demolished to make these small, swanky homes, and it’s intriguing that many homes of this type were going in the North Side. For example, Norwood Square – just 1 mile west of here – went up on the site of a former trash dump. And similar homes (which can be seen here at St. Louis Patina) went up on always-vacant land on both Carter and Anderson Avenues – about 2 miles northeast of here – between 1952 to 1961. There’s also San Francisco Court that went up in 1957, and which will be covered in a future B.E.L.T. post.
There was a sizable chunk of new post-war housing being built in North St. Louis, yet all the various versions of St. Louis City history never mention this, even in passing. These new developments were a big deal to the people living in the area. In fact, on this block that you see above, there still resides two original residents who moved in to them when they were brand new in 1962. And note that most of them are in really good condition, which is evidence of decades worth of constant maintenance.
These houses were a big deal then, and they still matter today. Yet they don’t rate a mention in the developing history of North St. Louis. The story is told as if nothing new and inspiring went on in North St. Louis after World War 2. With a sidelong glance to the Urban Renewers, Red Liners and Paul McKee’s of St. Louis, I ask:
Why is that?
Posted on June 10th, 2010 11 comments
2626 Cherokee Street
South St. Louis, MO
The Cherokee Street News broke the news that the venerable Globe Drug store had closed its doors, and got the sentiment right in the headline: 1939-2010. It does feel like a friend has died.
I was expecting a mass outpouring of reports and condolences in the St. Louis press, but so far, only the RFT has jumped on the tragic news. Thank you.
After the initial shock, my first thought was of Sandy Cohen, the son of the Globe Empire begun in 1939. Sandy was born into this store, and it’s the only job he’s ever had. His enthusiasm and love for his working retail museum never seemed to waiver, and if – from his perch in the pharmacy – he noticed you taking pictures and reveling in the atmosphere, he’d cheerfully offer to take you on a tour.
Sandy would point out that the place was a 905 liquor store before his family took over, and iron grills over the vents in the ceiling confirm that this 1913 building was the home of a long-gone, sorely missed St. Louis cheap buzz tradition, from 1937 – 1953.
A Sandy tour gave you backstage access, which in this case is a ride in the original, unadulterated freight elevator up to the 2nd floor. The door loudly slid open to reveal a vast, dark area used for storage, with still-decorated Christmas trees and unopened Easter baskets scattered about.
And then comes the reveal of a bowling alley?
Sandy wasn’t quite sure if there actually was a bowling alley in the building, or if this was just a rescued relic from elsewhere that found a permanent home in the Globe Museum.
The business office truly was a scrapbook of the history of the Globe, and of the Cohen family, both blood related and extended.
The rendering of the St. Louis cityscape (above) was commissioned by Joe as a way to feature all 4 Globe locations. As of this writing, the variety store on South Broadway near Soulard, and the wholesale warehouse at Clark & Tucker in downtown St. Louis remain open. The Globe variety store a couple of blocks west of 2626 Cherokee closed in the mid-90s.
Among the hundreds of photos on the walls is a shot of this store when it was 905 Liquors.
And here’s the same ceiling fixture still in place today.
One of Sandy’s favorite mementos is a letter he received in 2008 from someone confessing to having stolen candy from the store when they were 10. They apologized and sent along this dollar to pay for what they took.
Globe Drug was one of those rare birds: a still-vibrant, direct link to the past. History has personal meaning when you can physically trace the connections and experience a small slice of what life was like before it hit warp speed, before it was corporate, before rat-a-tat gloss suffocated neighborhood personality.
We’re at the reverse of needing to advance the population; the earth is suffering the damage of too many people at one time. So the modern need for offspring seems an instinctive drive for immortality. Globe Drug felt like a slice of immortality, St. Louis style. I can feel the heavy sadness of Sandy Cohen and family as they pack up 57 years of life and cart it out of this building. And even as the neighborhood comes back to life all around it, all of us will feel the emptiness as we pass by 2626 Cherokee.
From a Suburban Journals article on the office wall:
“Who says that you can’t go back? In the “hurry, hurry” world of today’s super conglomerate drug stores, Globe Drugs…stands proudly as proof that quality and commitment to its customers needs still make a difference. …the Cohen family has worked hard to keep the nostalgic atmosphere that you would have found when FDR was in the White House… So, go back. Go back to a time when a variety store was the cornerstone of a community.”
Posted on March 22nd, 2010 4 comments
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.
Posted on May 11th, 2009 8 comments
Sunday, May 17, 2009: Film and Walking Tour
This was the Future: Mid-Century Modern Architecture on Lindell Blvd.
Begin inside the Chase Park Plaza Cinema, 212 N. Kingshighway
Have a mid-century modern morning in May! A screening of the new short documentary San Luis: This Was the Future tells the story of the threatened San Luis Apartments. After the 10 minute film, Toby Weiss of beltstl.com and Michael Allen (ecology of absence) will lead a walking tour of the many mid-century treasurers along Lindell Boulevard, where modern design flourished between World War II and the 1970s. The walk will run from the Chase Park Plaza Hotel to Vandeventer and back, so be prepared for serious walking.
See a free movie, take a free tour, get a little exercise, get a lot of knowledge… there are worse ways to spend a Sunday morning! Please do join us Sunday if you can. Michael is the brains of the outfit, I’ll be the “little song, little dance, a little seltzer down the pants.” It promises to be a good time.
Posted on April 18th, 2009 7 comments
Towards the effort to save the San Luis, a documentary was made in 48 hours over the first weekend in March 2009. I was honored to be asked to be a part of this adventure, and a big round of applause to everyone involved. You’re all brilliant.
There are plans for a proper screening in May during Preservation Week (details forthcoming), but you can watch it now. It’s less than 8 minutes long, so watch it a couple of times, and pass it around. It’s an easy way to raise the profile of a building longing to be spiffed up and returned to its glamorous life.