Yesterday I got an unexpected tag on Facebook from Toby Weiss informing me that Vanishing STL had been awarded Best Activism/Opinion Blog for the 2013 RFT Web Awards! I was quite surprised. I knew that I was a finalist, but had not made it to the awards ceremony on Tuesday evening, and I really had not had any expectations of being selected. Thanks to the judges at the RFT! Toby, by the way, won Best Architecture Blog for her awesome work on B.E.L T.
The comparison the RFT made to Sarah McLachlan's abused pet commercials is pretty spot on. I've been told several times that I publish the most depressing blog in St. Louis and my reaction is usually: Yeah, someone has to do it. Although the last sentence I would somewhat disagree with: What treasures are we destroying in the name of innovation? When a building gets knocked down for something that is innovative, I usually do take note, but I don't find parking lots, parking garages, fenced Biondi lawns, CVS or gas stations to be "innovative".
I find it interesting that all of my fellow finalists also write about the built environment in St. Louis. We preservationists have been fairly active in the last several years, and generally press coverage of the topic has improved during this time. There is certainly a lot of other activism in St. Louis, but the fact that the judges for this award selected a bunch of built environment blogs as the finalists gives me a slight glimmer of hope that the general public may be beginning to see the importance of the nature of the fabric that surrounds us has profound impacts upon us for better or for worse. Do we live in a place, something that someone would bother to stop and photograph or just stop ant take it in? Or do we live in a strip mall or another outlet center behind a 5 lane access road next to an interstate? Do you savor life and enjoy your surroundings as you move through them, or do you clench your teeth in frustration of the brake lights in front of you? You choose.
Sometimes I look at photos like these and think that we have come a long way from the generations that came before us who before us. Today, usually we are discussing the pros and cons of losing one or a few buildings instead of entire swaths of our City like these shots of Mill Creek Valley (photos from the book This is Our St. Louis by Harry M. Hagen and the Western Historical Manuscript Collection).
Then I look at Google maps and see scenes like these from the Jeff-Vander-Lou, Ville and Greater Ville neighborhoods where a very similar result has occured over the last 50 years and very much continues today, and I wonder how far we have come at all.