Chippewa & January
South St. Louis MO
In comparison to its brick bungalow neighbors, it looks like Johnny Sokko’s Robot. Normally, that kind of contrast would be more than enough to make it noteworthy. But in the 15 years I’ve lived in South St. Louis, no one (even mid-century modern fans) has ever mentioned this little oddball.
Maybe that’s because it is rather understated about its modern precision? Or that even though it’s kept neat and trim, there never seems to be any activity to draw the eye? That last question puzzles me the most; it’s the Gospel Church, a non-denominational congregation, and even when I’ve purposely gone by the place on a Sunday morning, there’s the church, but there’s no steeple with no open door to see all the people.
City records omit any information about the building itself, but with all the brick houses directly around it dating from the mid-1930s, I’m assuming it is basically the same age. The newer, tacked on modern facade has a distinctly mid-to-late 1950s look and materials. The 1959 City Directory lists Public Service Savings & Loan as the front tenant, with Albers Construction occupying the rear of the building. When looking closely at the stainless-steel-under-grey-paint awning (shown above), you can make out the original message: Member -Federal Home Loan Bank System.
The sun shade made of vertical aluminum strips is like the brim of a hat pulled low over a face. Its limited and sedate color palette allows it to blend into the background. All of this contributes to the mystery of the modern cube hiding out in plain sight.