Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gaslight Square - Part One

The signs asking for volunteers & sponsors and the pleas for help spray painted on the board-ups could not save Gaslight Square from ultimate destruction. Even the fresh coat of paint applied to the buildings by Patrick Schneider of the Gaslight Square Preservation Society could not bring back the fabled block of Olive centering on Boyle Avenue.
The destruction of Gaslight Square can only be described as one of the greatest losses of St. Louis' cultural history and one of the biggest missed opportunities in the last few decades. I will not attempt to summarize the history of the Square here, as there would be too much to say. Instead, you can follow the links below or read Thomas Crone's: Gaslight Square an Oral History
I have divided this post into two parts to focus of the two major waves of demolition that occurred in recent memory. By 1993 when I took this set of photos of the remaining buildings of the north side of the street, many others in each direction had already disappeared over the years. This included the Musical Arts Building that burned in 1969 after surviving two tornados and another fire in 1962. In 1994 this entire row of buildings met their doom, leaving no trace of the former district on the north side of the street. The buildings on the sough side would last yet another decade (following post).
It seems that most of the buildings in Gaslight Square were simply abandoned after the restaurants and music spots shut their doors in the early 1970's (one lone survivor, the Prestige Lounge stayed open almost to 1990). This row of buildings was owned by the City's biggest slum lord and most notorious applicant of demolition permits, the LRA. As you can see from the photos, the exterior of these buildings appeared to be in good condition, although 20 years of abandonment had surely taken their toll on the roof and interiors. Still though, the buildings were not at all beyond saving for rehabilitation (I will focus more on that concept in the next post), but were demolished anyway.
One of the most photographed spots on the Square, the free-standing columns at the former Smokey Joe's Greecian Terrace in 1993, and 30 years earlier, in 1963 (photo from the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at UMSL). You can see the rest of my 1993 photos of Gaslight on Flickr.

For more information about Gaslight Square see: The Legend of Gaslight Square and two documentary previews on YouTube
To see over 50 photos of Gaslight Square in it's heyday, check out the Western Historical Manuscript Collection Photo Database and simply type: Gaslight Square.
Also, read a fascinating article from Time Magazine, Friday, May 18, 1962: No Squares on the Square and one from the RFT published exactly 37 years and one day later: Lights Out


UrbanReviewSTL said...

The loss of stable buildings in this town is staggering. Gaslight Square, as it was known, could probably never be that again but it could have been an interesting area. These buildings should have been retained.

DeBaliviere said...

Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking.

Gaslightsqyare said...

Same you recoginize Schneider for anything but lining his pockets with charity donations from Gaslight Square. He did nothing but to help his own cause. Remember Gaslight sat there abandoned for 30 years before the documentaries and books brought attention to the area and transformed it.

Ask Schneider what he did with the thousand of dollars he collected in memberships. I have been waiting 8 years for my newsletter and t-shirt.

Anonymous said...

This breaks my heart. I was born and raised in St. Louis, though I left in 1966 at 19 years old, to California. Gaslight Square played a bit part in my coming-of-age years, hanging with the hipsters with my older brother who lived in G.S. All of St. Louis was such a beautiful city, and though it is due to many factors, I am always saddened by how little urban renewal is going on there. I am in San Diego now, and we have an area like Gaslight Square, once decaying, that is thriving more every day. People took a chance in the late 80's and 90's, and downtown SD is totally revitalized. Thank you for this website and your interest and caring. And your photographs are excellent. Kathy Stanis

Anonymous said...


Thanks for erasing the corruption and neglect that the Gaslight Square Historical Preservation Society caused the last 18 years.

michael gollubske said...

I Michael Gollubske Used to be schneider.To the one that commented about my brother patrick . my brother started gaslight squiar a None proffit socity. that means no money was used for him. In who ever wrote this mess if I personaly find out he will be taken to court by me. My brother did all he could do to save gasslight squiar from being demolish.

michael gollubske said...

I am writting this comment to let you know that i have had time to think about what i wrote ,I need to say who wrote this about my brother Patrick Schneider.May God bless you and forgive you.My brother never used anybody he loved gasslight Squire and wanted it to come back. I know becouse that is all he talked about.IT was his little pice of st louis mo.that was his dream.He should be add in the history of gasslight Squire.Nobody else took up the effort at the time.he loved the music it brought and all.He tryed to get other people envolved too. God knows what I am saying is the truth and it will be on his record book.That is if you believe in GOD.So may God bless you.

Anonymous said...

If anyone out there can get their hand on the old "route 66" TV series, episode # 73 - Hey Moth, come eat the Flame - was filmed in Gaslight Square. Great series, great episode, and great scenes in Gaslight Square

Anonymous said...

Is that the same Patrick Schneider that had the Gaslight Painting Company? We paid him to paint my house in the CWE and he never came back. I guess I know now where the painting supplies came from (the non-profit 501c3).

ed said...

My name is ed
My title is a auto mechanic/electronic mechanic

I have known patrick for quite a few years, your claims of patrick making off with your money and stealing from his program is totally false, Patrick put in more time and his own money trying to make this area come back in the eyes of the polictical leaders of the time .
At least patrick tried to make a bad thing get better, Patrick painted ,cleaned up after the people that abandoned their homes for whatever reason, even the city managers would not expend any resources to even help keep the area from blight status . So the next time you open your typeing fingers to be bold enough to leave your e-mail address or even better your phone number and name.
So I can let patrick know he has a upset customer.

Patrick does not have a computer so he could not even read this until now!

Anonymous said...

I joined the Gaslight Square Historical Society in 1995 for $25 and still waiting for my T-shirt and monthly newsletter.

Jim Couzzourt said...

I trained for the early day Peace Corps at St. Louis U. from June through September in 1965. At one point, our group (originally 61, but reduced to about 39 by late Sept.) was "encouraged" to visit Gaslight Square near the end of our training. Many of us were folkies, a few were beatniks, and some were "jazzies." We had a great time, despite the fact that we had a curfew and had to be back on campus by 1:00 am or so. I thoroughly enjoyed the food, the beer, the camaraderie, the mingling with locals, and the great music. If I remember correctly, one of the acts I got to see was Bud and Travis; another was Judy Collins. That all- too-brief visit was a very welcome break in the intensive and restrictive concentration of our (great) training. It beat hell out of the Playboy Club.

William W Ware, Elgin, IL said...

St. Louis or any part of it is not worth saving. Why do it? So the beasts can burn it down and loot from it during the next riot?

Don Buchman said...

I loved Gaslight Square! It was a favorite hangout for me in my college years at Washington University (1957 - 1661). One of my college friends played piano fairly regularly at "The Left Bank" on weekends. A great artist friend of mine, William Gilkerson, had a studio in Gaslight Square in the early '60's. Roaming around Gaslight Square on a Saturday night was a great adventure! Gaslight Square was Saint Louis's equivalent of New York City's Greenwich Village in the late '50's and early 60's. I remember Barbra Streisand being at the Crystal Palace at the start of her singing career. I'll never forget Gaslight Square.