Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Silk Exchange

The Silk Exchange in 1902 from the St. Louis Architectural Club - Annual
Exhibition Catalog from the collection of Landmarks Assocation

Designed by architect Isaac Taylor, the buff brick and terra cotta Silk Exchange Building was completed in 1902 at the southwest corner of Tucker and Washington.  The building's name came from the Silk Exchange Realty Company, which leased the building in 1907.  The owner of the company was a merchant of velvet and other silk fabrics, though he occupied only a portion of the ground floor.  The remaining floors were sub-let to various small manufacturers of clothing, millenry, fabric, buttons, lace, embroidery, etc.

Photo from the building's National Register nomination in 1981

In September 1995 the Silk Exchange had a disastrous fire and much of the main load bearing masonry facade along Tucker Boulevard collapsed into the street as did about a third of the width of the narrow building.  

Unlike many that have either burned or had their interior structure collapse from extensive neglect and deterioration, the damage to the Silk Exchange was so extensive that even if the Missouri Historic Tax Credit had been in place in 1995, it is questionable as to whether it would have been eligible due to the high percentage of loss of the exterior of the building.  

The remains of the building were ordered to be demolished immediately and was cleared in an astonishing five days.  Spirtas Wrecking Company's website lists the Silk Exchange as one of their "Milestones".

Detail of the lower ornamentation along the Washington Avenue facade

Although scorched, the Washington Avenue facade remained fully intact.

Several years after the fire, when the adjacent building at 1204 Washington was redeveloped for offices and residential lofts, the lot was paved for parking with a small pocket park at the corner of Tucker and Washington.  The parcel remains in ownership by the City's Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, with the parking leased to the adjacent building.
Prior to the collapse of the real estate market, there were a few proposals for new construction on the site.  The Nadira Place proposal above would have been mostly residential.  The proposal would have had garage parking at the ground and second floors exposed for the majority of the facade along Tucker, which would have been very unfortunate.

A slightly smaller but more interesting design by Trivers would have offices with retail/commercial space taking the entire ground floor.  With the site's key location at the intersection of two major streets at the heart of the Loft District, there is no doubt that there will be further proposals for new construction when the economy finally rebounds.

No comments: