Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Loss of the William Stix & Elias Michael Schools

The William Stix Elementary and Elias Michael schools were both designed by Rockwell M. Milligan who followed William b. Ittner as Commissioner of Buildings for the Board of Education from 1917 until his death in 1929. Stix was opened in September 1921 and was named for William Stix who was a co-founder of Rice-Stix Dry Goods, which built and occupied the Merchandise Mart on Washington and two annex buildings on St. Charles which are now the 10th Street Lofts and the 1015 Locust Buildings.

A side view of the Stix School

The Michael School was opened in September 1925 and was named for Elias Michael, a prominent civic leader and member of the Board of Education. His wife Rachel Stix Michael founded the Missouri Occupational Therapy Association and after her husband’s death was instrumental in establishing the Elias Michael School for Crippled Children in his memory. The building was the first public school built specifically for children with physical disabilities.

The Michael School was located at the southeast corner of Forest Park Boulevard and Euclid Avenue. The Stix School was just south of Michael and terminated the vista of Parkview Place as it made a slight jog south at Euclid. Today Parkview Place is terminated by what seems to be the building replacement option of choice in St. Louis, a parking garage.

The corner of the Michael School at Euclid & Forest Park

Here is an overall photo of the Michael School from the intersection of Forest Park & Euclid from the Missouri History Museum collection.  The Stix School can be seen behind.

In 1995 BJC and SLPS a land swap deal was stuck in which BJC would secure ownership of the Stix and Michael Schools and SLPS would have a new Stix School built largely at BJC's expense on land BJC owned at Tower Grove Avenue and Highway 40. In 1997 the new school was completed and in the fall of that year both historic Stix and Michael Schools were demolished. The Michael School's programs were transferred to the then recently built Gateway School on Jefferson.

A large new parking garage was immediately built on the Stix site and somewhat overlapping the Michael site. The eight story Parkway Hotel was then built at the corner of Forest Park and Euclid on the remaining Michael School site. A few years later BJC demolished a small three story building east of the hotel and proceeded to pave a surface parking lot.

The parking garage now terminates Parkview at Euclid

There is no doubt that BJC needed space for expansion. As part of an ongoing building program at the BJC complex a large parking structure that had spanned Parkview Place was demolished and the 14 story Center for Advanced Medicine was built on that site.   New parking was needed to replace the demolished garage and there was an obvious need for hotel lodging adjacent to the hospital complex.

A 1995 aerial view showing the location of the two schools

The same aerial view today

Unfortunately there was failure with both SLPS and BJC to see the value of the historic school buildings.  The School Board swapped the historic buildings for a school knowing that they would be demolished setting a dangerous precedent.  BJC failed to make any attempt to incorporate the historic buildings or even portions of them into the new programmatic need to be built on the site.
The Parkway Hotel at Forest Park & Euclid

Sometimes it takes out of the box thinking to creatively incorporate historic structures into contemporary needs. In this case, the parking structure could have been built to the east of the Stix and Michael Schools and extending onto the parcel that is now surface parking. The Stix School could have been renovated as an extended-stay lodge to house families who need to stay near the hospital. The classrooms would have been an ideal size for the small apartment style units in this type of lodging. A new hotel tower could have been constructed on top of the one story Michael building by coring out the center of the building and incorporating the facade and exterior rooms into the lobby and Applebee's restaurant space.
A garage entrance as well as the bridge to the Center for Advanced Medicine could have been slipped between the two historic structures.  Admittedly, the Michael School was fairly utilitarian compared to Stix, and having the hi-rise hotel right on the corner is attractive from an urbanistic standpoint, but the parking garage is no replacement for the Stix School.

A diagram of how the hotel and garage could have been 
developed with the existing buildings

The loss of the Stix and Michael Schools are just one more example of the general lack of stewardship for the irreplaceable historic SLPS buildings by the Board of Education in recent memory. With a Facilities Management Plan written by an out of town and out of touch consultant calling for closing and uncertain futures for 30 buildings on the verge of being adopted by the current board, vigilance will be need to avoid repeating the fate of Stix and Michael.  This Thursday, February 26th the SLPS Special Administrative Board will be meeting at 6:00pm at the Gateway School on Jefferson.  The board will likely be voting to adopt the Facilities Management Plan that evening.


Chris said...

Hospitals can do no wrong, and if you criticize them, you risk looking like some cold-hearted bastard who "doesn't think about children." The management of BJC are mostly a bunch of sprawl living suburbanites who come in for the work shift and leave soon after.

Bad Tim said...

I remember being dumb-founded when I learned about the land swap. The Stix-Michael complex was one of my favorite parts of the city. I used to go out of my way to drive by it.

Now they're repeating this mistake on their own volition, without the pressure of a land-hungry gorilla. I just can't comprehend.

Thanks for the memories.

john w. said...

Excellent morphological study and monday morning quarterback play. It's a shame when our great suggestions come after the rubble is being trucked to a landfill.

Dolce said...

This is the first time visiting this site and being a transplant to STL I realize I've missed a lot of the beauty the city once held.

Jeff said...

Wow, truly a blast from the (relatively recent) past. I remember walking by Stix school in back in the early '90s when in high school. How the landscape has changed... I could stomach the Parkway Hotel much better if it wasn't anchored by an Applebee's. Not exactly a good first impression when eastbound drivers enter the CWE from Forest Park Parkway.

LisaS said...

we walked through Stix school the week before it was demolished. at the time, we simply felt the loss of a beautiful building--the terrazzo floors were lovely, the detail of the woodwork wonderful. Now, we feel the loss of a school within walking distance. There are none left for our part of the CWE.

Remiss63 said...

Thank you very much for posting this portrait of the unthinking destruction of our local historical fabric. Those buildings were of such quality in terms of material, craftsmanship, and design that it would be difficult to imagine a new parking garage and hotel ever reaching that level of cultural and architectural expression (regardless of idiom).

Your photographs of the Michael and Stix Schools are wonderful, sad documents. If only the planners, developers, attorneys and executives involved in making such short-sighted decisions based on a cursory evaluation that the old buildings are out-dated and unusable. Their thought is "chuck 'em", we're involved in progress, modernization and creating the future.

MintJulep said...

Thank you for posting the photos of Stix and Michaels, they bring back fond memories from the past.

I started kindergarten at Stix in 1949 and continued through the 4th grade when we moved to Collinsville.

Stix was a beautiful building and I'm very disappointed to hear it is no longer standing. I don't remember very much about Michaels except we ate in their cafeteria every day and then headed to the playground for hop-scotch and games of tag.

It was fun being a kid back then.

Mike Collier said...

Great photos! I attended Stix from k to 8th grade and remember eating lunch at Michael school. I made a career out of the military and was gone from St Louis for quite a while. I was shocked to find Barnes hospital had devoured the schools when I finally made it back. This sure brought back memories.

Anonymous said...

My father, Edward Tanaka is here for dinner and remembers going there from 1929 until 1938 and then went to Ben Blewett High School... he is recalling some of his classmates and how the Principal at the time was Mrs Taylor and prevented Big Barney from picking on the little kids... Dad went on to fight in WW2 with his 2 brothers Joe and Chester Tanaka and now lives up with us in the Chicago area.

lt said...

I am a brazilian architect very
concerned about this issue. I am very sorry about this loss. My twin sister , my little sister and I studied there for about two years , 1957 ,1958. Unforgatable times!!!!!
Stix School was an important part of our lifes !
sharing memories.....

ROOT66 said...

My real name is Phil Key. I graduated from the 8th grade at Wm. Stix School in June, 1956. Many memories were jogged by looking at those photos. Those were truly the "good old days". My teachers at Stix were Ms. Delaney, Van Valkenburg, Merwin, Hines, Ms. Taft, and Ms. Tully taught 8High. Wm. Stix was fortunate enough to have the Stix Branch of the St. Louis Public Library in the NW corner of the bldg. But we did not have a "manual"(shop)for woodworking etc., so we exchanged student with the Marquette School in the 4000 block of McPherson once a week. So cool. We all just walked over there and back. Great class. Great memories. And thanks for the photos of both Michaels and Stix. Elias Michael made us Stix students fully aware of the disabled children in the world teaching us an early lesson about those less fortunate. God, I'm sorry those two buildings are no longer standing. By the way, the original St. John's Hospital was almost directly across the Euclid from Stix, which was at 226 So. Euclid.

Duke Sheppard said...

I went to Stix School in the mid-1970's, and I moved to Colorado about 20 years ago. I was just visiting St. Louis, and wondered what had happened to my beautiful school; searched and found your blog. This makes me sad; such a loss.

Linda Dutchik Evans said...

The existing pictures of Stix are lovely and brought back a plethora of memories for me which date from 1953 to 1957. I attended kindergarten there in 1953-54. Our home was on S. Taylor; an alley existed at the back of Stix and ended on S. Taylor. I remember summer day camps which took place there, too. To learn this beautiful structure has been demolished is so sad. Along with great memories goes a beautiful building. I hope that the historical society was involved in trying to save it and then went down after a heroic fight! Many thanks to those who spent countless hours trying to preserve the memory.

Vanishing STL said...

Linda, unfortunately there was not much of a fight as I recall. BJC orchestrated a land swap and built a new Stix School for SLPS closer to highway 40 and the district basically jumped on the deal. By the time it was announced to the public, the decisions had been made.