While digging in the basement for something that’s still missing, I found the artifact shown above. It is a detail of the former Board of Education Building in downtown St. Louis from a photo I took in the mid-1990s. It is rendered in acrylics on a sheet of linoleum 30″ x 22″. It was to be a floor mat for the kitchen.
Yes, a floor mat.
Yes, it’s OK to laugh.
I remember that it was because of everyone’s laughter that I abandoned the project in the first place. This is why it has remained hidden for well over 10 years. Enough time has passed that I now, too, find it hilariously dorky.
But I am not embarrassed at how inspiring this building has always been for me. The shapes, the colors and the textures of this 1893 building by architect Issac Taylor make my heart sing. Learn a little more about it here.
In the days when downtown St. Louis was on life support and my daily lunch walks felt like traipsing through a graveyard, this building always appeared optimistic, as if it knew better days were coming.
The elaborate art deco store front on the Locust Street side was always a special thrill, especially when the Board of Education was still actually in residence. As seen above, kids’ art work in the gracefully curved display windows was disgustingly charming, and just added to the impulse to paint a portrait of the building…. so I could walk on it?
In 2005, the Roberts Brothers erected a few signs promising a new life for the building, and my heart fluttered. But because it stood in the shadow of the scars of the Century Building (to the left in the photo above), cynicism and worry trampled on hope.
But all is now well. The building – now called Roberts Lofts on the Plaza – is fully rehabbed and renovated and nearly full. The art deco store front is even safe and sound. The Roberts Brothers are truly knights in shining armor for rescuing so many worthy buildings and creating new ones, and my heartfelt thanks goes out to them for keeping the Board of Education building forever fabulous.
I wonder if they’d be interested in a commemorative floor mat for the lobby…