Friday, October 1, 2010

Hiding in Plain Sight

12th & Chouteau 1925.jpg
I was recently looking at a collection of historic Route 66 photographs including St. Louis when I stumbled upon this view above of 12th and Chouteau from 1925. I immediately thought of the nearly blank orange brick box that sits at the northeast corner of the intersection. The way it hugs Chouteau and the entrance of the Tucker Boulevard viaduct heading into Downtown had always made me suspect that it is older than it looks, but never did I imagine that the building began its life as the beautiful neoclassical bank pictured above. According to City property records, the bank was constructed in 1924.

At some point, in the late 1960's or 1970's the building became part of Checkerboard Square, the headquarters of Nestle Purina, and was sheathed in orange brick to match several other buildings on the corporate campus.

A steel security door centered on the blank brick front of 1111 Chouteau gives little clue of the former columned grand bank entrance. Only the projection of the center of the facade follows the form of the hidden architectural details.

The seven double height arched windows which faced Tucker and no doubt opened into a grand 2-story banking hall have been reduced to a series of brick bars giving the building the appearance of a jail.

Picture 30.png
The east facade is not much better, with the brick bars continuing at the ground floor and a thin slot of strip windows at the second floor, which was likely inserted into the bank hall.

I wondered what could be housed in this horribly re-muddled brick box? Maybe computer servers?, maybe the campus maintenance department? There is no signage on the public facades of the building even indicating it is part of Purina or what it contains. I was quite surprised to learn after a quick Google search that 1111 Chouteau is home to Checkmark Communications, Nestle Purina's in-house creative communications and design agency. What!? The staff of "creative communications and design agency" of a major corporation are housed in this thing? Maybe there would be more creativity going on if the orange brick skin was ripped off and those wonderful large windows opened again.


STLgasm said...

Paul, you must be psychic. I just passed this building yesterday and wondered what the hell someone was thinking when they built this block of horror. I had no idea that there's actually a beautiful historic building underneath that psychosis-inducing monstrosity. Someone should definitely be arrested for allowing this to happen. That said, at least it still fills the corner street grid, which is more than can be said for the other corners at 12th & Chouteau.

A.A. said...

Egads! This might be the worst make-over ever. The 'creative' minds there should revolt and demand a re-design.

Anonymous said...

is it possible that the original facade is still intact underneath the bricks?

BC said...

Wow....that's a crime

Fowler Jones said...

The new facade is longer than the original. Just sayin'.

Janet said...

Just FYI the agency is called Checkmark.

Daron said...

Right, it is longer in the back. Is that an addition or another building that was modified?

Chris said...

But note the slight protrusion on the front of the Chouteau facade. It comes out the same distance as the original pediment.

Vanishing STL said...

Adam, yes it might be possible to remove the orange brick sheathing. There would likely need to be re-building of the projecting cornice band which was likely hacked off. The was done to the former Post Dispatch Building at Tucker & Olive. It had been sheathed in aluminum curtain wall. Here's an old image of the building:

Fowler, yes, the building has been added onto at the rear.

Janet, thanks for catching my typo!

francis said...

Geez, your site is too depressing. I can't believe the atrocities that are allowed to occur in demolishing or "modernizing" all the buildings you mention.

jstriebel said...

Is there any thought that Nestle/Purina might actually be open to such a restoration, or is that more of a dream?

Vanishing STL said...

I don't know. I would bet no one has ever asked them. I would also bet that since it was altered some time ago... I would guess sometime in the 1970's that most there probably have no clue that there is something under the skin of the building.

It would be a fairly pricey restoration, since I would guess that anything projecting from the face of the building would have been chiseled off.

Janice Schroeder Beebe said...

Just let the brick robbers know and it will be stripped real fast!