Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Signs of Our Recent Past Are Now History

One of two St. Louis Centre signs still fully lit over the 6th &
Locust mall entrance in 2005. Photo by Claire Nowak-Boyd

Recently I had lunch with one of the developers of the re-construction of St. Louis Centre. I asked what was was going to happen to the the one remaining large sign over the mall entrance at 6th & Washington, and he said that he was not aware that anyone was going to save it. It's twin at 6th and Locust had been destroyed recently as demolition crews began to dismantle the malls exterior.

The remaining sign at 6th & Washington awaiting destruction early last week.

Having heard that the smaller version of the Lindy Squared mural had been salvaged for re-installation elsewhere, I was surprised that no one had taken notice of the large lighted signs. I contacted the Building Arts Foundation, and they were interested in salvaging it for their collection, but lacked the funds to do so. I then called local artist Bill Christman, who also did not have the means to salvage it. Some individuals who are trying to start a sign museum were also called, but they thought the sign was to "new". Finally I had a friend contact Bob Cassily at City Museum. Surely he would be interested, right? No, he said it should be ceremoniously destroyed.

The entrance and sign at 6th & Locust were ripped out several weeks
ago so that debris from interior demolition could be easily removed.

Like most everyone else, I am thrilled that the hulking sky bridge is now gone over Washington Avenue and look forward to the same at Locust. It is frustrating however that many people do not recognize more recent parts of our lives as being part of history. Even the National Register of Historic Places says that a building should be "generally at least 50 years old" to be considered historic, although they will consider properties that have "achieved significance within the past 50 years if it is of exceptional importance". It is convenient for people to say that we should completely forget that St. Louis Centre ever existed. They would rather not admit that we collectively took part in something that was in the end a failure.


Daron said...

Man, this is too bad. Those signs should have been saved.

Great ideas and effort on your part.

Any idea what's happening with the President Casino signs?

Chris said...

I have a sentimental attachment to 1980's era shopping malls. You're right, Paul, pretending like Saint Louis Centre never existed denies the fact that most of us at one time streamed through its doors, excited to see a new building in downtown. All these people pretending now that they always hated it are disingenuous.

I personally think the Saint Louis Centre sign to be interesting stylistically, and inventive in its use of lights.

They managed to save the Schnuck's Dairy sign downtown...

G-Man said...

Pardon my naivete, but if the crews are destroying the sign anyway, why would there be a cost issue? What prevents someone from just loading it onto a truck?

Vanishing STL said...

The demolition crews will typically cut something like this up in pieces with a torch and let them drop to the ground. Demo crews are not trained in being careful with fragile items. The cost would be in hiring a crane truck to come do the lifting.

Good question about the President signs Daron. Although I'm more concerned about the Admiral heading to the scrap yard.

Robert Powers said...

And there's the inherent danger of relying on "history" as the prime arbiter of value. The sign had value because of its design. It shouldn't really matter whether it's old or not.

Michael R. Allen said...

The National Register of Historic Places does not require buildings to be 50 years old to be listed. That is a persistent myth. The Register does require that a building demonstrate exceptional significance to be listed before it turns 50 years of age, a requirement that has led to the assumption that there is a "50 year rule."

Following Rob's point, history alone is not our only guide. That's why the modification of St. Louis Centre is not troubling to me, but also why I would have saved the signs.