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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two Blocks of Florissant Avenue in 1985

While demolition permit numbers show that the peak decade for material building loss in the Old North St. Louis and St. Louis Place neighborhoods was 1970-1980, a substantial slower loss has transpired since then. The cumulative result is that streetscapes recognizable as urban places twenty-five years ago now form desolate landscapes lacking architectural definition.

Two photographs of the west side of Florissant Avenue in 1985 taken by Mary M. Stiritz for Landmarks Association of St. Louis depict the absurd reality that in the near past, the eastern edge of St. Louis Place was marked by the familiar nineteenth century vernacular masonry buildings that typify other sections to this day.

Nowadays, Florissant Avenue is a confused corridor notable for its many vacant lots and the needless wide expanse of roadway that awaits MetroLink expansion. This area was once a vital part of a beautiful neighborhood. In 1985, Landmarks was preparing a survey leading to expansion of the Clemens House-Columbia Brewery Historic District; sufficient physical stock existed here to allow major expansion of a national historic district. Today, further expansion remains a fantasy at best due to continued loss.

Behold the northwest corner of Warren Street and Florissant Avenue, today a sun-scorched vacant lot:

While the architectural context is visibly diminished, the important corner site is occupied by a building that becomes a landmark heralding the site as one for human comfort and exchange. As we rebuild St. Louis Place, we should ensure we have good corners, and not drive-through lanes, curb cuts and fences where the marks of human settlement should be.

The second photograph shows the block of Florissant between North Market Street on the south and Benton Street on the north:

Here was a hybrid row of commercial and residential buildings, all brick but differing somewhat on setback, height and style. There are a few side-gabled buildings, with a mansard-roofed store second in from the corner adjacent to a flounder house with a generous side gallery porch. Dormers abound. There's even a modern Payless Shoe Store at the right of the image. This is a resolutely urban group, friendly to the pedestrian and attractive to the eye.

All of these buildings are now gone.


Doug Duckworth said...

Payless? Wow, talk about good urban planning. And that wasn't even planned by DPZ!

Chris said...

Perhaps Paul McKee should get a big stack of these pictures.

Chris said...

I will admit that Payless is not the most exciting store--and usually is a harbinger of economic downturn in a given shopping district--but it is pedestrian friendly and occupied.

Anonymous said...

Payless Shoes are located...

all over St. Louis

The street scene reminds me of South Broadway near the Off Broadway Night Club.

That area always reminded me of Baltimore.

It would be a cool place to open a beer and soft shell crab place.

Anonymous said...

The payless caught fire mysteriously in the 90's

Chris said...

"Payless Shoes are located...all over St. Louis"

And your point is? There are economically declining commercial strips all over the metropolitan area. Looking at that map again, how many Payless Shoe Source's are in Ladue or Frontenac? My point exactly.

Anonymous said...

Even though there are no stores in Ladue and Frontenac there are stores in surrounding counties. There aren't any aldi's there either. But you better believe that the residents of Ladue and Frontenac shop at the store on Manchester in Maplewood. Just because one lives in those suburbs does not mean they aren't frugal. The entry was about lost buildings. You guys read and comment on every nuance and pick apart every word. I think you guys would serve the residents of the City who feel powerless with your knowledge of the history and the laws. But you are waisting a lot of time makin google maps of Payless locations. Join together and get something done. I am a child of the 60's and a transpalant from StL. I know the power of the media and the ability of the voice of the young to change the course. Try working together. From what I have read you have the ear and support from outside the City that is unbiased. Use that to your advantage. Don't be fooled by those who are capable of selling you out and keep up the GOOD work.

Doug Duckworth said...

"and usually is a harbinger of economic downturn in a given shopping district"

There was a could still be a Payless in Midrivers Mall in St. Peters. I never thought that was in an economically depressed area.

Not everyone can afford Steve Madden or Kenneth Cole shoes.

"Don't be fooled by those who are capable of selling you out and keep up the GOOD work."

Very true. The machine is very effective at co-opting opposition.

Chris said...

Sorry, that's what I do for a living.

Michael R. Allen said...

_I_ want a Payless on Florissant Avenue, even though I usually buy my shoes at thrift stores.

The Payless in the photo shows me that there was commercial activity that was responsive to neighborhood needs. That's the hallmark of urban commercial districts -- shops that cater to those within walking distance.

Driver said...

There are economically declining commercial strips all over the metropolitan area.

Yeah, like Highway 94 just north of Highway 40. Strip malls built, briefly occupied and now emptied. Bustling St. Charles County.