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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Blink of an Eye

Yesterday morning I walked past the building at the southwest corner of 14th and Washington that once housed Ehrlich's Cleaners. The two-story commercial building is undergoing demolition, and by yesterday morning was reduced to little more than a cast iron storefront and some first floor walls. A one-story building that stood to the west was already demolished. The buildings are being razed for the 22-story SkyHouse residential building.

Something on the remains of the western wall caught my eye. There was a ghost sign! Actually, the sign was too pristine to be a proper ghost. The building next door must have gone up when the sign was still new, and its wall then protected the sign for the next eighty years.

The sign advertised beer, with some words evident -- beer, [dr]aught, bottled. Maybe the beer advertised was from the Lemp or Hyde Park breweries.

After work, I walked past again. However, by 5:15 p.m. there was no sign to walk past, no cast iron front to admire. The western wall and most of the storefront had fallen in the course of the day. I did not take any photograph earlier.

For me, the only extant traces of the sign were the song lyrics in my head, from Neutral Milk Hotel:

What a beautiful dream
That could flash on the screen
In a blink of an eye and be gone from me

I also carried the hope that someone else took a photograph while the sign was exposed.


Chris said...

It's too bad that the cast iron front couldn't have been saved for some other building still standing that could have used it.

That said, those two dilapidated buildings probably outlived their usefulness, unfortunately.

And as someone pointed out at the earlier post, sometimes historic buildings required the tearing down of other historic buildings to be built. Certainly the Old Post Office or the Paul Brown were not the first buildings on their respective blocks.

Doug Duckworth said...

I saw it too.

Skyhouse is architecturally generic and I wonder why it couldn't be on the Gateway Mall.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why it couldn't be on the Gateway Mall.

Probably because the developers didn't own any property on the Mall.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit I kind of like the Skyhouse's design; it's unique to St. Louis.

I quite frankly don't find it generic.

Doug Duckworth said...

Unique to St. Louis means nothing. Like many of our new buildings, it is another design that could be really in any other city. The developers don't own the land but the City does and could have gave it away. We shouldn't be demolishing viable buildings when we have a surplus of underutilized green space. It is an inefficient allocation of resources.

Anonymous said...

"the City does and could have gave it away"

Actually, thanks to Prop P, the City can't sell, lease, or give away park land without a public vote.

I wouldn't imagine the gift of a downtown block to a private developer would do very well at the polls.

Anonymous said...


A new glass and steel highrise condo tower may not be unique in other cities, but it's a damn straight forward sign of our city's market-driven return to a consumer driven, private economy.

Let's hope the project sells well, looks beautiful, and draws more out-of-town developers to this little burg.

Why is it that urbanist bloggers are so down on our city? If you are that unhappy with all that's going on, there are plenty of places for you to go.

Good luck.

Doug Duckworth said...

"Why is it that urbanist bloggers are so down on our city?"

Some have standards and recall that once upon a time St. Louis was the 4th City and to be so again we should go beyond mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Any reasonable person knows that the fastest way for STL city to jump in its citiy places ranked is to merge with STL County. Urbanism has nothing to do with it.

Merge St. Chuck County with STL City and we kick butt.

Doug Duckworth said...

^Now you are simply baiting...

Anonymous said...

It ain't baiting if its true. At 2.6 million, our region's the 18th largest in the country, and outranks Denver, Kansas City, Portland, Cincinatti, Orlando, Las Vegas, Austin, and many other regions.

Doug Duckworth said...
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Doug Duckworth said...

Vancouver city proper isn't big in terms of population but its is extremely urban and ranks as one of best places to live on this planet.

At 545,671 residents they rank 5th In Skyscrapers. Cities like London and Hong Kong, with much higher populations, have fewer tall buildings.

Vancouver's success, both in terms of quality of life and rapid population growth, correlate with making density and walkability a priority. They didn't concentrate on green space, rather they planned density. They built up their Downtown vertically and developed their "riverfront" False Creek. This attracted people to their City. We should follow their model and not worry about merging with the County. That would increase our population numerically but most of what exists in the county isn't actually "city." Moreover, our density statistically would fall.

Skyhouse fits into this idea. Skyhouse should have been built on our vastly underutilized Gateway Mall. Politically such a decision would indicate that perhaps its creation was a mistake. Yet, how long should our City continue to implement a policy which clearly is a grand failure?

Anonymous said...

"Yet, how long should our City continue to implement a policy which clearly is a grand failure?"

How did the topic switch so quickly to the public school district?