dual personalities

Tag: St. Louis

“Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the universe”*

On November 15, 1872 the Missouri Republican reported that the Mill Creek sewer of St. Louis, already more than two miles long, was nearing completion. The sewer had been begun in 1860, after Chouteau’s Pond had been drained because of “pollution.” Engineers’ reports outlined the difficulties of the enormous Mill Creek project and stated that it was clear “to the most casual observer that St. Louis without her sewer system would be almost uninhabitable at certain periods of the year.” In fact, it was a serious cholera epidemic in 1866 that gave impetus to completion of the work.

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 10.31.24 AM.pngScreen Shot 2018-11-14 at 10.27.27 AM.pngWhen the sewer was finally finished all the way to Vandeventer Avenue in 1890, it was considered the marvel of its time. It measured twenty feet wide, fifteen feet high, and more than three miles long. Wider than a single railroad track tunnel, the sewer pipe was described as large enough “to allow the passage of a train of cars or a four-horse omnibus.”

The things we take for granted, right?

Information from Frances Hurd Stadler, St. Louis Day By Day

*Walt Whitman

The golden stain of time

In June 1874 Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman returned to St. Louis to make his home after an absence of almost 14 years. He had been president of the Fifth Street Passenger Railroad, a St. Louis streetcar company, at the outbreak of the Civil War.

Grateful local businessmen raised $30,000 to build and furnish a home for the general at 912 N. Garrison Avenue.

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 7.53.04 PM.pngThe Shermans lived there for 11 years before moving back to New York City. When his wife, a devout Catholic, died in 1888, she was buried in Calvary Cemetery back in St. Louis. Three years later when the great man died, their children buried WTS (an Episcopalian) beside his wife.

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 7.54.27 PM.pngFor four hours on February 21, 1891, a procession of 12,000 soldiers, veterans and notables marched past mourners on a winding, seven-mile path from downtown St. Louis to Calvary Cemetery.

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The home on Garrison passed out of the family and became a hotel, a rooming house, and after years of decay was demolished without much ado in 1974.

With few exceptions, most of the buildings in St. Louis built before 1890 are gone. What a crying shame! History is important! Are you a member of your local historical society? Do you visit historic sites and support them with the price of admission? What are you doing this weekend?

Discuss among yourselves.

Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever…. For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, nor its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity. It is in their lasting witness against men, in their quiet contrast with the transitional character of all things, in the strength which …maintains its sculptured shapeliness for a time insuperable, connects forgotten and following ages with each other, and half constitutes the identity, as it concentrates the sympathy of nations: it is in the golden stain of time, that we are to look for the real light, and colour, and preciousness of architecture; and it is not until a building has assumed this character, till it has been entrusted with the fame, and hallowed by the deeds of men, till its walls have been witnesses of suffering, and its pillars rise out of the shadows of death, that its existence, more lasting as it is than that of the natural objects of the world around it, can be gifted with even so much as these possess, of language and of life….

–John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture [1890]

The Games of the III Olympiad

That’s right–the third Olympiad. Lest we forget–the 1904 Olympics were held here in my flyover town.


And that is pretty cool. We are, after all, one of only three cities in the U.S. — one of only 23 in the world — to host the Summer Games. And, of course, my flyover university–where most events of the third Olympiad took place–is going to “add another architectural jewel to its historic campus later this year when an Olympic Rings ‘Spectacular,’ a five-ring sculpture, is installed at the end of Olympian Way, on the southwest corner of the Danforth Campus.” Oh boy.

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But why did they ever get rid of the tug-of-war?

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Well, things haven’t changed that much on campus. Still a lot of pink granite and ramparts.



Here’s an article about the “St. Louis’ Olympic legacy” with a lot of pictures.

By the way, did you notice that lacrosse was one of the team events in 1904? Speaking of lacrosse, here’s the boy’s latest video featuring D2 Lindenwood University’s team.

(That was a smooth segue, right?) Still pretty chilly for lacrosse.

Throwback Thursday


Did you know that Lillie Langtry visited St. Louis in January, 1883? Well, she did and she caused quite a stir. St. Louisans, we are told, were “agog over her presence” and why wouldn’t they be? Oscar Wilde, it was said, was inspired by her beauty to write Lady Windemere’s Fan. Daughter of  an Anglican dean, the Very Reverend William Corbet Le Breton, Langtry was one of the first international superstars.

When Col. A.B. Cunningham, an editor of the St. Louis Globe Democrat, was denied access to her quarters at the Southern Hotel for an interview, he stormed past her servants to find the lady breakfasting en negligee with Fred Gebhard, her manager. The Globe ran a scathing story about the actress, claiming that her success was due soley to her notoriety and urging St. Louisans to ban her stage performances as a protection to the city’s morals. Gebhard called Cunningham an infamous liar, whereupon Cunningham challenged him to a duel. After Lillie persuaded Fred not to accept, Cunningham posted placards around town denouncing him as a coward. The city’s other newspapers had a grand time writing of the whole affair, and Lillie’s performances were sold out.

Some things never change, right? Our expectations of the press certainly…

Anyway, all this talk of Lillie Langtry made me think of the The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) which stars Paul Newman as the infamous Bean,

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who is obsessed with “the Jersey Lilly”. Langtry is played by the beautiful Ava Gardner, who makes a cameo appearance at the end of the film.


The movie, directed by John Huston, is a bit strange, but I saw it again recently and I enjoyed it. There is a lot of humor in the screenplay by John Milius, but the underlying  tone is sad and elegiac and the music by Maurice Jarre supports that. Paul Newman raises the bar once again. So if you are looking for something to watch, check it out.

Meanwhile I’ll raise a toast tonight to the lovely Lille Langtry.

(Information regarding Langtry’s visit to St. Louis from Frances Hurd Stadler, St. Louis Day By Day)

Mid-week look back

Back in December of 1866 a group of men and women met at the home of William H. Colcord to form a church which would become one of the largest and most influential independent Protestant churches in the city, Pilgrim Congregational Church.

A Gothic-style building was dedicated in 1872, but the growing congregation moved to its present location at Union and Kensington in 1907.



The “new” building, an imposing pink granite structure designed by Mauran, Russell and Garden, is not what I think of us as your typical Congregational church, but this is not New England. The OM’s grandmother attended church there, as did his  mother growing up. His parents were married there. I remember going there once. The OM says it was to hear John Anderson, the presidential candidate, speak in 1980, but I have no memory of that event.

Anyway, the church still stands near other distinguished west-end institutions: Soldan High School, designed by William Ittner and attended by Tennessee Williams,


Union Avenue Christian Church,


Westminster Presbyterian,


and the former Young Men’s Hebrew Association headquarters.


The neighborhood is much changed from its former heyday, but the churches keep going. Union Avenue Christian Church is now the home of the Union Avenue Opera, and the church is still vibrant with a strong commitment to remain as a faith community at their urban location.

O Lord Jesus, with whom we have passed another Christian year, following thee from thy birth in our flesh to thy sufferings and triumph, and listening to the utterances and counsels of thy Spirit: Even thus would we also end this year of grace, and stand complete in thee our Righteousness; humbly beseeching thee that we may evermore continue in thy faith and abide in thy love; who liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

–Henry Alford

We all need to hang in there.

(The photos of Pilgrim Church are from Chris Naffziger, St. Louis Patina; the rest from google)

Away, you rolling river

steamboat.jpgTwo hundred years ago the first steamboat arrived in St. Louis on (or around) July 27, 1817. The S.S. Zebulon M. Pike  was a small steamboat, and its underpowered engine needed help from old-fashioned poles in the hands of cordellers before it could tie up at the dock at the foot of Market Street.  This was on the natural riverbank. By the 1830s, the landing was paved with limestone. The red granite levee that still exists was built in 1868-69.

Built in Louisville, the Pike was the first steamboat to ascend the Mississippi River above the mouth of the Ohio River. Its voyage from Louisville took six weeks since the boat could run only in daylight. After the Pike’s arrival, no phase of life along the river was ever the same. Keelboats were instantly obsolete and the voyageurs who manned them soon passed from the scene.0334-0199_heimkehr_der_trapper.jpgTwo months later a second steamboat arrived, the S.S. Constitution. Then the following spring, the S.S. Independence fought its way up the more challenging Missouri River as far as Franklin, about half-way across the soon-to-be state of Missouri.  Next the S.S. Western Engineer, carrying the military/exploration party of Major Stephen Long, went up the Missouri as far as Council Bluffs.St._Louis_Levee._1850.jpgThus St. Louis was transformed into a bustling inland port.

This and that

Tomorrow (June 24) is the 141 anniversary of the formal opening in 1876 of Forest Park here in my flyover hometown.

This 1,380-acre tract had been purchased by the city a year earlier for just under $800,000. Because more than 1,100 acres of its land was forested, the name Forest Park was agreed upon. At the time of its purchase the park was considered ridiculously far from the city–of which it is now a central and integral part. The Republic reported that the opening of the park “was something of a revelation to the public, very many having then for the first time become aware what a really beautiful place the park is, and what delightful possibilities of lovely landscape it possesses.”*


1915 glass plate photo by Thomas Kempland

Well, Forest Park has always been important to me since the days of my youth when we lived just a hop, skip and a jump from it. We never went there without a parent–it wasn’t deemed safe enough, not after our older brother famously lost his fishing rod when some thug took it and tossed it into the pond.  But a trip to the Art Museum or the Zoo was always fun whether planned or spur-of-the-moment. When I had my own children, we also went frequently. There are still a lot of fun things to do there.


In fact, it may be time to venture back for a visit this weekend. (This is opening.)

This also brings to mind memories of the wedding of the boy and daughter #3 almost five years ago…


…which reminds me that a week from tomorrow is daughter #2’s Big Day! And I am freaking out just a little.


Bear with me.

*St. Louis Day by Day, Frances Hurd Stadler

“It was once in the saddle, I used to go dashing.”*

I recently bought a little book entitled St. Louis Day By Day by Frances Hurd Stadler at an estate sale.


It is a treasure trove of interesting information about our fair flyover city. For instance, I did not know that the famous American artist Charles Marion Russell was born on Olive Street in St. Louis on March 19, 1865. Furthermore, he was the great-grandson of Silas Bent, Missouri territorial judge, and of James Russell, a Missouri legislator and judge of the St. Louis County Court. Who knew?

Silas Bent, you will recall, was the father of Charles, the famous fur trader who was appointed as the first territorial governor of New Mexico. His other sons, William, George and Robert, were also in business with Charles and built Bent’s Fort and other outposts of trade in the southwest. One of his daughters, Juliannah, became the first wife of Lilburn Boggs, who later became governor of Missouri. Their son Thomas O. Boggs, an Indian trader and cattle dealer (who married 14-year-old Rumalda Luna Bent, the stepdaughter of Charles Bent, who was an heiress to land grants in Colorado) built an adobe house on the 2,040 acres grant and established Boggsville, Colorado where our ancestor John Wesley Prowers built a two-story 14-room house at that functioned as a house, a school, a stagecoach station and after 1870 as the Bent County seat.

Anyway, back to Charles Russell. He grew up in St. Louis County, and in 1876 a wax figure he sculpted won the blue ribbon at the St. Louis County Fair. In 1880 he moved to Montana, where he wrangled horses and herded cattle and began sketching western life.


Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flathead Indians hangs in the Montana State House

Charles_Marion_Russell_-_The_Tenderfoot_(1900).jpgjerked-down-1907.jpgwhose-meat-1914.jpg1ec023e99d581bc90c1cc0f02bad50b6.jpgRussell produced about 4,000 works of art, including oil and watercolor paintings, drawings and sculptures in wax, clay, plaster and other materials, some of which were also cast in bronze.


How did I not know he was from St. Louis?

P.S. The C.M. Russell Museum (including the artist’s log cabin studio and gallery) is located in Great Falls, Montana. Add that to the list.

*Streets of Laredo

As the French would say, “de trop”*

Fifty years ago today, the Gateway Arch was “topped off” when the final section was inserted on October 28, 1965.



Hubert Humphrey, V.P. of the U.S., watched the proceedings from a helicopter which hovered nearby. The ceremony had been postponed, so I guess the President was busy.

Today there will be a celebration, but it seems to me, it is being downplayed. Cupcakes will be served.

Anyway, the Gateway Arch (630-foot, 192 m) in Saint Louis is the nation’s tallest monument and has welcomed visitors for fifty years with its iconic, awe-inspiring shape. As envisioned by renowned architect Eero Saarinen, the Arch represents the westward expansion of the United States and typifies “the pioneer spirit of the men and women who won the West, and those of a latter day to strive on other frontiers.”

Pretty cool.

I was in the fourth grade at the time and I honestly have very little memory of the proceedings. Now a project to renovate the arch grounds is underway and will, we hope, be completed by 2017. Stay tuned.

*Cole Porter, You’re the Top

Way back when Wednesday: Steve McQueen comes to St. Louis


Spoiler alert! Crime does not pay!

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery is a 1959 heist film shot in black and white. The film stars a 28-year old Steve McQueen as a college dropout hired to be the getaway driver in a bank robbery. The film is based on a 1953 bank robbery attempt of Southwest Bank in St. Louis.

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It was filmed on location in south St. Louis in 1959 and for anyone who grew up here, it is a fascinating movie, which captures a moment in time, that is gone, gone, gone.

I watched it one Friday afternoon at work–“previewing” it for a film course at school–and my assistant (who is from South St. Louis) and I had so much fun pointing out landmarks–

Planning the heist in Tower Grove Park

Planning the heist in Tower Grove Park

Tower Grove Park! Magnolia Avenue! The Southtown Famous Barr!

Love those St. Louis names!

Love those St. Louis names!

We wondered where the bar was where Steve goes and drinks a Budweiser.


No need for a concealed carry permit in the good old days!

Well, it’s a small world really.

You want to know how small? The film was directed by Charles Guggenheim, who was a neighbor of ours on Westgate Avenue for awhile back in the 1960s before he got famous and won three Oscars for documentary films. His daughter Gracie was a friend of my dual personality. (Actually I don’t think my sister liked Gracie too much, but they got invited to the same birthday parties.) Be that as it may, the point is that there really are/were six degrees of separation between me and old Steve McQueen.

Anyway, Guggenheim’s switch to documentaries was a good move on his part. This movie is not very good, despite Steve’s best efforts trying really hard. Who knew he would become such a star? No one who saw this movie. (Don’t worry, I thought he was terrific!) But I do recommend it to anyone from St. Louis. It is a hoot and a half. You can find the entire film on YouTube.