Appreciation Of A City’s Architectural Details: St. Louis

Red Brick & Terracotta:  St. Louis Architectural Details
Red Brick & Terracotta: St. Louis Architectural Details

On a recent “Road Trip” to St. Louis, I returned perhaps as a tourist, but also as a past resident of 10 years within the city by the Mississippi River. Having always been enamored with the craftsmanship and architectural details that adorn the buildings and distinctive structures with a wealth of history behind them, I was compelled to share the journey of some of the photographs composed from behind my lens…

Of course, a ‘snapshot’ of history is always required… St. Louis (French for Saint Louis) sits on the eastern border of Missouri. In 1673 European exploration by French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette began as they traveled through the Mississippi River Valley. Five years later La Salle claimed the region for France as part of French Louisiana. In 1764 Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau founded the city of St. Louis. Of additional historical interest, from 1764 to 1803 European control of the area west of the Mississippi was held under the authority of New Spain. In 1880 St. Louis was transferred back to France and sold 3 years later to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The following year, the Lewis & Clark Expedition would begin from St. Louis’s riverfront, which would be flooded by steamboats arriving in 1818. By the 1900 census, St. Louis was the fourth largest city in America. In 1904 the city was host to the World’s Fair, known as the “Louisiana Purchase Exposition” and the 1904 Summer Olympics. St. Louis is certainly a city filled with history and a variety of architectural influences. St. Louis’s architecture is said to reflect French Colonial, German and Early American among the Modern architectural forms of influence. The historic fabric of St. Louis is emblazoned with a multitude of original, significant and historic facades of stunning architectural interest. Ornamentation of stunning design and details, for certain. One only has to look closely, or “look up”, to appreciate the bevy of details that is embedded among the buildings of any city…

And of St. Louis? The architectural details that cover the city are vast. The compilations include only a few of the “jewels” the city holds. One of which is the 1891 “Wainwright Building” by architects Dankmar Adler & Louis Suillivan (Adler & Sullivan). Among the ranks of the first skyscraper in the world, the architechtural style based on the Palazzo style (Italianate architecture), bears ornamentation that graces the building including a frieze below the deep cornice (Pictured above/ top left corner). The typical Sullivan design embellished in terra-cotta (hard-fired clay) molded into ornamental elements (resembling a celery leaf foliage) is considered a formalized yet naturalistic design. Decorative patterns that vary in design and scale with each story of the building. Stunning details in architecture, for certain.

Exterior Details Of St. Louis, Missouri
Exterior Details Of St. Louis, Missouri
Elegance In Details:  St. Louis, Missouri
Elegance In Details: St. Louis, Missouri
Structures & Ornamentation Of St. Louis, Missouri
Structures & Ornamentation Of St. Louis, Missouri
Arches & Decorative Masonry:  Appreciating St. Louis
Arches & Decorative Masonry: Appreciating St. Louis
Spectacular Interiors:  St. Louis Landmarks
Spectacular Interiors: St. Louis Landmarks
Magnificence In St. Louis:  Embellishments Of Opulence In Design
Magnificence In St. Louis: Embellishments Of Opulence In Design
Interior Designs Of Magnificence:  St. Louis, Missouri
Interior Designs Of Magnificence: St. Louis, Missouri

And of a few of the interior architectural gems embellished with splendid and marvelous architectural details? Compelled to share, indeed. Included in these mixed interior compilations is St. Louis landmark named for the city’s namesake, King Louis IX of France, built in the Byzantine tradition, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The Romanesque structure with its soaring domes, soffits, arches and lunettes, is said to hold the largest mosaic collections in the world. With the groundbreaking that began in 1907, the gilded and mosaic installation that began in 1912 was completed in 1988. Over 75 years and the contribution of 20 artists. Ornamented with 41.5 million glass tesserae pieces (small squares of stone, colored or clear glass backed with metal foils or gold leafing) in more than 7,000 colors, covering 83,000 square feet. The Italian style mosaic work include an installation by Tiffany and Company. Absolutely stunning and wondrous. Another historic landmark included within the interior compilations (and exterior compilations) is the St. Louis Union Station. Of note, St. Louis was considered the world’s largest and bustling railroad terminal during the late 1800’s. Constructed in 1894, Architect Theodore Link, said to have been intrigued by French castles, designed the station and the Art Deco styled hotel called “Terminal Hotel”. Breathtaking. Featuring a gold-leafed “Grand Hall”, Romanesque arches with a 65 foot barrel-vaulted soaring ceiling and stained glass windows are clear provisions of a stunning elegance of the past. A period of grand architecture, for certain. Lastly, the “Old St. Louis Courthouse” (originally built in 1826) underwent renovation with an Italian Renaissance cast iron dome layered with copper designed by architect William Rumbold in 1861. The interior is thrilling. The ornate design of the rotunda is consistent with the Greek Revival style of the 19th century architecture. Each level of Greek Revival columns and pilasters with the four ornamental balconies under the circular dome progressively become further ornate and complex. To stand and gaze upward is awesome. Dignity in architectural design. Of further interest, the four lunettes within the dome’s interior, painted by Carl Wimar, depict four events in St. Louis history. A history of architectural beauty, indeed.

Magnificence In Steel:  Eero Saarinen's "Gateway Arch"
Magnificence In Steel: Eero Saarinen’s “Gateway Arch”

Of course, one cannot focus on architecture of St. Louis without a nod of architectural appreciation to its monumental and towering gift to the world. The St. Louis Gateway Arch. And of course, I simply had to photograph this modern, iconic emblem of St. Louis in “black and white”. The culmination of modern architecture within a jeweled, historic city. In 1947, architect Eero Saarinen won a national competition and the coveted prize of constructing a memorial monument to Thomas Jefferson and the pioneers for who marked St. Louis as the “Gateway To The West”. Saarinen’s magnificent stainless steel gesture, the “Gateway Arch” is a focal point at the city’s riverfront and beyond. The shape of the Arch is termed a catenary curve (the shape that a free hanging chain takes when held at both ends). With steel supplied by the Pittsburgh-DesMoines Steel Company, the Gateway Arch project began in 1963 with the last piece put into place in 1965. imposing magnificence in sheets of metal covering concrete, the structure towers 630 feet (63 stories) above St. Louis. Of additional interest, the steel “legs” at the base are 54 feet with the top spanning 17 feet. 142 stainless steel sections prominently reflect the sun’s rays off the surface of this streamlined, soaring wonder of architecture. Simplicity of design that leaves one in awestruck wonder. Appreciation of strength, grace and remarkable design…

Architecture Of Distinction:   The "Old St. Louis Courthouse"
Architecture Of Distinction: The “Old St. Louis Courthouse”

As with any city, the architectural details are present for all to view and appreciate. Perhaps it is merely taking the moment to “look up”. Scan the world around you for beautiful details that were created with care and with the intent of creating appeal within design. Forgotten details, perhaps, but possessing a history to appreciate. To revel within. Survey the world that surrounds you for the beauty that exists. Details to be appreciated. Observe and examine and consider the details of magnificence and grandeur or the simple details that adorn the building’s of history’s past. Appreciation of architectural details, indeed. Life and what it is filled with is beautiful….



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