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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Does St. Louis Have a Signature Architectural Style?

Some cities are known for a particular brand of architecture.

New Orleans has its Creole cottages and shotguns; Baltimore's known for its Italianate-influenced row houses; Brooklyn for its brownstones; Chicago for its skyscraper innovations; and so on.

Does St. Louis have a signature style? I suppose the most numerous building type would be a fight between the red brick, foursquare house of the early 20th century and the so-called "bungaloid"--a skinnier, more pared down version of the California bungalow that arrived a bit later on the scene. I guess the best signature St. Louis architectural feature would be the ubiquitous red brick building in general, but I was looking for something more specific.

I could be exaggerating their presence, but St. Louis seems to have lots of Second Empire homes (with their beautiful tiled mansard roofs).

I'd like to elect them our signature style because I think they're some of the most beautiful. I'm especially a sucker for the Second Empire storefront. Check out this Benton Park West beauty at Texas and Lynch--recently renovated, too! Scroll down the street to see the "before" shot, which contains an earlier Google Streetview image of the building in its vacant state.

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Or maybe we should just celebrate having so many different styles to choose from. That sounds better.


STLgasm said...
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STLgasm said...

The answer to this question is YES, absolutely. I would say that our vernacular residential architecture is among the most distinguished in the country. There are a handful of cities that are instantly recognizable to those who are paying attention. If you posted various pictures of Brooklyn brownstones, Chicago prairie houses, Baltimore rowhouses or Boston townhomes, I'd bet that most people who frequent this blog would be able to name each city easily. Certainly the same is true of any perceptive urban enthusiast who has spent any time in St. Louis. Snap a photo of just about any random block of Shaw, Tower Grove, Benton Park, etc. and the housing could not be mistaken for any other city. The North Side and West End seem to have a bit more variation in housing styles (particularly in terms of brick colors), but most of the South Side is solidly red brick. I also think that St. Louis is unique in the fact that the housing types are so incredibly diverse and individual, yet the blocks are still synchronous and share a collective style. It's hard to pin down one housing type to label as our "signature style" but if I had to choose one it would definitely be the 2- and 4-family flat. We are the Red Brick Mama and we scream it on practically every corner-- there is no other. Here are a few photos that I think exemplify the essence of St. Louis vernacular (thanks to my brother, Randy Vines):

Christian Herman said...

I think architectural styles would have to be broken down by neighborhoods. As the City expanded west style changed. There's more Mansards east of Grand. Flat roofs dominate Tower Grove South and west of Kingshighway there's English Tudor Style and Deco buildings.

That's my short answer to a great question.

MattHurst said...

I love this idea, if only because St. Louis helped me fall in love with red brick. I remember there was even a whole blog about STL Bricks: does anyone remember what it was called?

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