Monday, April 20, 2009

Resurrection in the St. Louis Loop

It seems fitting that the new Moonrise Hotel opened less than a week after Easter. The front of the hotel includes one of the few instances in St. Louis where a complete of a portion of a historic building was "resurrected" following demolition. Above is the finished re-construction with the new hotel towering above and below is a photo prior to demolition of the original building (photo from the August 2007 Preservation Board agenda).

The former building housed the Ronald L. Jones Funeral Chapel. The two story portion was constructed in the early 20th century, with the well matched one story addition dating from I believe the early 1980's (there had been a small plaque on the corner of the addition with it's date of construction). During demolition of the building many of the stone and terra cotta elements from the entrance, bay window and some decorative elements near the roof were salvaged and incorporated in the new construction. The re-construction included new brick and a green tile roof matching the original.
Some elements were changed slightly including the windows flanking the entrance, at the one story portion as well as the size of the windows on the second floor. There are differences in the parapets including wall thickness and the awkwardly wide portion at the top of the front parapet where brick had to be used to fill in around the original terra cotta element. Overall though the re-construction is pretty true to form and most people will never notice the slight errors.
Photo from early last year

While there are varying opinions about the merits of reconstructions such as has occurred here, there is no doubt that the "historic" portion of complex blends well with the scale and character of the surrounding area. The new tower is fairly bland and had it been placed directly at the front of the property right on Delmar it would not work well with its neighbors. Did someone really think that black glass is attractive?
While some may not agree with the demolition, beyond the highly ornamented facade the original building was a fairly ordinary red brick box. The demolition, new construction and re-construction in this case allowed for a more urban higher density use (think of how rare this is in St. Louis!) of the site that would otherwise not have been possible. This increase in density is especially desirable with the Delmar MetroLink station one block east.

The revolving moon which crowns the top of the hotel tower


Chris said...

They call that a facadetomy in Washington, DC.

john w. said...

Do you recall if this was an issue with finish floor misalignment, or simply too structurally prohibitive to alter the interior to accommodate the new program? I'm not sure I understand why the original funeral home building was demolished.

Anonymous said...

is anything going on accross the street from moonrise? there is plywood painted white all around an old church

Michael R. Allen said...

I agree with you, Paul, but I can't help but wonder why replicating what was there precisely was an impossible task here. I understand the window changes on the first floor to accommodate the restaurant, but why are the parapet details different?

Vanishing STL said...

One of the reasons they decided to demolish and start over was the floor height, which was a few steps above the sidewalk, which would have resulted in awkward ramps on the front of the building. There were also issued raised with the joint where the old and new structures would have come together (if they kept the front part of the original building). I am confident this could have been worked out though, as it has in any instance where an old building has an addition.

I am rather baffled by the inability to due a true replication as well. I would guess it was lack of experience in documenting and detailing historic buildings by the architect.

Over a year and a half ago, there was a proposal to renovate the church across the street as an african american cultural center with a new 2 story addition to the east on the gravel lot. I would guess they have had issues raising money to go forward, but have not heard anything lately.

brian said...

I agree with all commentary here, but I think you guys are being a little harsh. I am incredibly proud of whoever is responsible for choosing to spend the money to retain this original structure, even in its altered state. For once it appears that money was not necessarily the only important aspect of a new construction project. This is a huge step forward for St. Louis. I'm willing, as I hope you all are too, to look past the small details to see the big picture in this instance.

john w. said...

Brian- no one is discounting the effort made to retain the historic character of the street edge, in fact I believe Paul offered complimentary remarks when describing what could have been the interface between the new hotel and the sidewalk along Delmar had this recognizable piece not provided the mediation. The questions we have are regarding why it was necessary to demolish the original funeral home building in its entirety, if only to replicate what was just removed. You are mistaken if you think that the original structure was retained, because it was not. What you see in the images are the efforts by the design team to recreate from nearly whole cloth the building that was just demolished. What I was asking was why the total demolition was required, if strong devotion to the historic street front resulted in a complete reconstruction of the shell.