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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Notes from Soulard

1) The "Charleston-Style" House at 909 Geyer.

From Soulard

See it, front and center? No, the side wall has not collapsed on this stately Soulard rowhouse. Rather, it's adopted a style known better in Charleston, South Carolina than in St. Louis. If that picture's too small for you, click here.

Charleston has a unique building type that often includes, on either side of the structure, a screened porch on the first floor and a full gallery running the length of the building on the second (and possibly third) floor, creating the effect of a wider house. While in Charleston, this meant better air circulation in a sticky climate, who knows what inspired the builder of this home to emulate such a localized style? Perhaps a native South Carolinian?

Here is an example of the Charleston variety.:

So it's not an exact match, but you can see the inspiration, right?

2) On that same block (900 Geyer), there are parking lots at both ends, disrupting an otherwise very intact historic fabric. These must be built on! And when they are, how about a creative, contemporary take on the smart, clean Federal style so present throughout the neighborhood?

See for yourself:

From Soulard

3) The old Carnegie Library will have a tenant once more! It's a nightclub called, well, the Library. While it's becoming cliche to renovate old institutional buildings into posh rock joints, it will be nice to see the old Lafayette Avenue library in action again. This is good news, overall. Here's to hoping it doesn't mysteriously shutter as did the Lucas Schoolhouse...

Photo courtesy of the Riverfront Times' A-Z Blog.

For those that haven't read Eric Sandweiss's "St. Louis: The Evolution of an American Urban Landscape", the construction of the Carnegie Library was a strategy by the City Beautiful elite downtown politicians to try to forge a unified civic identity out of a city with myriad immigrant groups. Soulard was a so-called "fenced off corner"--a largely autonomous, foreign-born pocket of the city that felt little connection to City Hall at the turn of the century. So, what to do? Well, tear down a block of the immigrant city, make it into a park, and flank it with a grandiose and oh-so-American and in-vogue building style that those foreigners would simply have to proudly rest their fists on their hips and exclaim, "This is St. Louis, and I'm a part of it!"

Future post: Soulard alleys. They're laden with character and provided a secret window into this old city that was so unfettered and therefore feared by the aforementioned City Beautiful politicians.


Jim Barnthouse said...

I'm pretty excited about The Library. Here's hoping it brings some cool Indie Rock acts.

Oh and those parking lots are criminal! They're rarely filled. At least from what I've seen so far in the neighborhood. I do have a feeling traffic will pick up when it gets warmer.

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