Posted on October 20th, 2013 4 comments
The St. Louis County Public Library seems determined to demolish the Lewis & Clark branch for a new structure. We need them to reconsider this misguided goal. They can meet all their objectives without tearing down this building. We need to help them avoid making a huge mistake.
The importance of this building was recently covered on DOCOMOMO’s website, featuring killer historical photos of the branch. Next City placed it on the list of 10 endangered modern buildings. And I covered it here when the demolition idea was first touted. Modern-STL has been actively involved since that time in trying to engage the Library Board of Trustees about the importance of this building. Increasingly, it feels like talking to deaf ears.
Come to the Lewis & Clark branch on October 23rd to learn about this building, it’s architect and what we can do to make them reconsider tearing down this building. You can start with the Facebook page. And please join Modern-STL, Esley Hamilton and myself. Event details.
Since we can’t have a face-to-face with the Library Board of Trustees, I’m going public with what I would have shared with them privately - 6 Reasons to Save the Lewis & Clark Library:
1. Don’t Trash Your Legacy
The Lewis & Clark branch is the ONLY significant building left in the St. Louis County Public Libraries arsenal. Important public institutions deserve important buildings – and this is just such an animal. Needlessly trashing your only architectural asset sends the wrong message about learning from, and respecting, history – especially your own.
There will come a day when the County Library will want to celebrate its milestone anniversaries. Lewis & Clark is already a historical milestone at 50 years old. Then comes 75 and 100 years. Look to the St. Louis Public Library system for a template on how that kind of celebration benefits everyone. With this proposed demolition, The County would have no important buildings to celebrate their history because they trashed them.
2. Don’t Trash the History of North County
Lewis & Clark was the first branch built in North County. Great care was taken with making this 1963 building worthy of the burgeoning community it would serve. It was designed with a grace and beauty reflecting the power and aspirations of a new town in a far-flung locale. It was such a pioneering flag plant that the library didn’t erect another North County branch until 1975, letting Lewis & Clark service a rapidly growing community for 12 years.
It being the sole library in NoCo for so long is what makes it an emotional anchor for everyone who grew up there. This is why it’s the only library to make the pages of the popular nostalgia book Cruizin’ North County. New York master planners have no knowledge or interest in the history of St. Louis County (read the entire master plan). It is distressing that the St. Louis County library system also appears to be ignoring this history.
So many other touchstones of North County history have been unceremoniously trashed; the library is an institution that lends weight and importance to the history of the region. Let this one architecturally worthy building represent the history of community and education in North County. Come the 100th Anniversary, you’ll be glad you did.
3. Understand the Difference Between “Old” and Historical
The Library’s Facilities Master Plan document graphs the age of each of their buildings, and bases the needs for demolition for new buildings SOLELY on age (slide above from that Master Plan). They do acknowledge the level of maintenance on all their buildings has been good (and it is). The implication that a new building will solve their future maintenance issues is just absurd.
The Master Plan equates anything over 30 years old as bad. This is a 20th century, developer-driven, irresponsible line of thought that’s oblivious to the rapidly-growing importance of preserving mid-century modernism as the last great period of American architecture.
The Board of Trustees has been educated on the architectural pedigree of the Lewis & Clark building. The importance and benefits of preserving architectural history is a well-documented topic. To continue to willfully ignore that is to willingly court ignorance, which is the opposite goal of a library.
4. Acknowledge the Needs of a Modern Library
Libraries are research-driven environments, and the most shallow research into the needs of the modern library reveals articles in the New Republic and Wall Street Journal about what will keep libraries relevant in these technological times. It’s no longer about having more space to store physical books, but for the existing space to meet new needs. Libraries need to curate knowledge in an age of information overload, and to be a safe and welcoming place for the community to gather.
The Master Plan says Lewis & Clark needs 4,000 more square feet. If – in light of the modern needs of library science – this is still true, why not add it addition to the northeast side of the building? You have the space. An addition would be a way to have your legacy and thrive on it, too.
5. Erect Your New Building Elsewhere
We understand the politics of the voter-approved tax hike; when South County gets a brand new library building so must North County. Agreed. But why does it have to be the Lewis & Clark Branch?
The Flo Valley branch is only one year younger than Lewis & Clark. And more centrally located in NoCo. And is not architecturally significant. This would be a good candidate for an entirely new, state-of-the-art building. The Thornhill Branch (1975) has been pegged for demolition for a new building, as well.
There’s wiggle room in the master plan to meet all of library system’s needs without sacrificing your most prominent historical building.
6. Apply Emotional Intelligence to the Master Plan
The Master Plan that launched the system-wide need for renovations and demolitions repeatedly emphasize how important each library is to its community. But the Planners are from New York City so they fail to recognize the historic and sentimental touchstones of this building in this community. Clinging blindly to this document seems a stubborn stance for bolstering egos rather than community. A successful master plan considers the head and the heart, the numbers and the people who want to be more than statistics bolstering a bottom line.
The County library has only one building that perfectly represents its moment in history with a grace that still inspires the pursuit of knowledge and community. This building presents the County library with an opportunity to one day have their St. Louis City library headquarters moment: past, present and future knowledge all in one admirable package of civic architecture.
The County library has educated us for decades. The Lewis & Clark branch building is their chance for a poignant, teachable moment that inspires pride in the community it serves.
All they have to do is respect it by letting it stand.
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.
Posted on February 7th, 2011 1 comment
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet or hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds, but it sure did mess with Tropicanniversary!
Snow and ice canceled our first date, and having to accommodate league bowlers who also got snowed out messed up the second date, so we’ve moved everything to a (hopefully) less snow-filled mid-March. March 15th to be exact.
Like our streets, everything remains iced so it stays fresh for you in March. The same great raffle prizes (like retro bowling shirts and kitchen accessories), the same reduced bowling rates (.95 cent shoe rental, for starters) and drink specials await us all. We’ll also announce a special Members-Only house party that takes place at the end of March. So plenty of reasons to sit tight until Mother Nature gets it right.
Official Modern StL T-shirts and decals also debut on March 15th. Keep track of the event on Facebook, and we’ll see you soon!
Posted on January 16th, 2011 No comments
On February 2, 2011, from 6 – 9 PM, Modern StL celebrates the 50th anniversary of Tropicana Bowling Lanes. For us, the owner is reserving half the lanes at reduced prices. There will be amazing raffle items, a history of bowling slideshow and drink specials. You also have the chance to buy our first official swag:
Here’s the Facebook invite. We hope to see you there!
Posted on November 11th, 2010 No comments
If you love Mid-Century Modern architecture in general, and St. Louis’ stash of MCM specifically, then set your sites on this coming week. You have 2 opportunities to be with others like you.
Modern StL makes it social debut on Thursday, November 18th, from 5 – 8 PM at Atomic Cowboy. Our group has put together 25 atomic-minded gift bags which will go the first 25 people who join up. There will be a raffle for two Geneva Jelly Watches. Meet the people who want you to be a part of celebrating St. Louis MCM (that would be the Board Members), and mix and mingle with other folks who absolutely have the best taste in design and architecture because they came out to support Modern StL.
I am very honored to be invited by the Landmarks Association to be the closing act of their Mid-Century Modern Master Series. On Sunday, November 21st at 3 PM at Landmarks, I present St. Loves MCM: Embracing Recent Past Preservation. This venerable organization describes it best on their website:
From Mad Men to Design Within Reach, it seems as if America is embracing mid-century modern (MCM) with a passion. With the Arch as out global calling card, it’s time for St. louis to embrace and protect its MCM heritage. Join Toby Weiss as she showcases some of St. Louis’ best MCM buildings and looks at ways to ensure their preservation.
The lecture will begin at 3:00 PM in the classroom at Architecture St. Louis at 911 Washington Avenue, Suite 170. Seating is limited to 50 people. We strongly encourage reservations as we cannot guarantee seating without one. To reserve a seat, please call 314.421.6474 or email: email@example.com.
It is always a great pleasure to hear from and meet B.E.L.T. readers because we all have so much in common. Now in November, we have two chances to “Gabba gabba, we accept you, one of us!” I hope you can make it to one or (preferably!) both events.
Posted on September 3rd, 2010 1 comment
The Arch is the global icon of modernism, and it is the front door of St. Louis. We have a glorious collection of mid-century modern buildings and neighborhoods, and we’re overdue in celebrating and protecting these assets.
This is why we have formed a new non-profit group – Modern StL. We strive for the identification, education, preservation and celebration of St. Louis Modernism. We have plans for many different types of events (how would you like a walking tour of Ridgewood with some words by its architect Ralph Fournier?) and seminars, and swag, and on-line forums and… the possibilities are endless.
The group met for the first time in June, and we’ve only recently incorporated with the state of Missouri. So we have a lot of work ahead of us to make everything official – including levels of membership and our first major event – but in the mean time, we invite you to explore our website in progress: