Tell the Library Trustees That You Support Preserving the Lewis and Clark Branch Library
The plight of North County’s landmark Lewis and Clark Branch Library (depicted above in All Along Press‘ stunning design soon to be featured on one of our T-shirts) is dire. The St. Louis County Library Board of Trustees has circled its rhetorical wagons around demolition of the Frederick Dunn-designed building, completed in 1963.
Meanwhile, the Lewis and Clark Branch Library has garnered national attention in the last two months. In October, Next City placed the library on a list of significant endangered or demolished modernist buildings following an article by Modern STL President Michael R. Allen on Chicago’s under-demolition Prentice Hospital. Then the December issue of Metropolis Magazine included Lewis and Clark in an article on modernist buildings worth preservation. The article included a quote from Modern STL board member Lindsey Derrington.
National press ranking Lewis and Clark among landmarks designed by Richard Neutra, Bertrand Goldberg, A. Quincy Jones and Eero Saarinen caught local attention. Still the Trustees of the St. Louis County Library press to tear down Lewis and Clark. In the minutes of the September 2013 meeting of the Board of Trustees is this section:
Regarding Lewis and Clark, the Administration is working with Landmark and the architects at KAI on programming the new building. It is our plan to build a new and bigger branch that will better meet the needs of the patrons as well as the community. We plan to save the stained glass windows and incorporate them into the new building in a prominent location.
Modern STL and preservationists oppose removal of the Emil Frei Art Glass Company windows, because they are integral to the building’s overall design — which is significant for a lot more than its distinctive windows.
According to minutes from the July meeting, KAI (working with Perkins & Will of Chicago) started design work on Lewis and Clark in early August. Details on where the new library building will be built are not public yet, although the Library has retained Centrex Strategies to provide public relations services for the facilities projects. For the Meramec Valley and Tesson Ferry branches, the Library has purchased new sites. A new Lewis and Clark Branch Library need not entail demolition of the old, it seems.
Modern STL offered former Library Director Charles Pace assistance in finding a compromise that would balance the system’s needs with preservation concern. We renew that offer to his successor, Kristen Sorth, and the Trustees.
As we await news of the Library’s plans, we ask supporters of the building to take a small step toward its preservation.
TIME TO ACT: Send a copy of the following letter directly to the Board of Trustees of the St. Louis County Library. We especially urge patrons of the County Library system to sound off — even if you do not use the Lewis and Clark Branch, you are a stakeholder of the system and the Trustees’ ultimate decision represents your library system.
Here’s the letter as a PDF.
If you receive a response, let us know in the comments section below!
New ICONS Designs Coming Your Way Soon!
Modern STL is excited to announce that our new ICONS OF ST. LOUIS MODERNISM designs are IN! For this second round of homage to local MCM landmarks, we pay tribute to Frederick Dunn’s threatened Lewis and Clark Branch Library and to the whole of Ralph Fournier’s incredible residential canon. Many thanks to All Along Press for, yet again, envisioning these buildings so perfectly.
St. Louis’ Citywide Survey of Non-Residential Mid-Century Modern Architecture
In early 2012, the Cultural Resources Office of the City of St. Louis began an intensive city-wide survey of all Mid-Century Modern non-residential architecture constructed in the period from 1946-1975. Peter Meijer Architect, P.C. of Portland served as primary consultant, with contributions provided by former Trust Modern director Chris Madrid French.
At a public meeting on February 11, 2013, the project allowed for crowd-sourcing of evaluations. Participants in the meetings were able to “vote” for buildings among 41 selected to help shape the final 25 buildings that best embody the period. The Cultural Resources Office announced the 25 buildings on June 24, 2013.
At the conclusion of the project, the survey facilitated these actions:
- The project recorded the locations of over 2200 buildings throughout the city and with a photograph.
- The project recorded 200 buildings on the standard Missouri state survey form.
- The project recorded 41 buildings in more detail on those forms.
- The project identified 25 buildings that are especially representative of the period.
The survey report, soon to be released to the public, includes three contexts:
- St. Louis, The Gateway Years, 1940-1975
- Architectural Trends, Forms, Materials and Expression Important in the St. Louis School of Modern Movement Architecture, c, 1940-1975
- Modernist Architects in Practice in St. Louis, ca. 1945-1975
The Cultural Resources Office has posted many of the materials from the “St. Louis Modern” survey online here.
Frederick Dunn: St. Louis Modernist (A Night at Lewis & Clark Branch Library)
“Frederick Dunn: St. Louis Modernist” – A Night at Lewis & Clark Branch Library
Date: Wednesday, October 23
Location: Lewis & Clark Branch Library Auditorium, 9909 Lewis-Clark Boulevard in North County’s Moline Acres
Join Modern STL and St. Louis County Preservation Historian Esley Hamilton for his lecture “Frederick Dunn: St. Louis Modernist” at Dunn’s historic (and threatened) Lewis & Clark Branch Library.
A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Dunn was one of St. Louis’ earliest advocates for Modern design. His works, including St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (Nagel & Dunn, 1939) and the National Council of State Garden Clubs Headquarters (Dunn & Stinson, 1959), are among the best in the region.
Lewis & Clark Branch Library is no different; completed in 1963, it features incredible stained glass windows by artist Robert Harmon of Emil Frei & Associates and is by far the most architecturally significant building in the St. Louis County Library system. It is also, coincidentally, slated for demolition under SLCL’s 2012 Facilities Master Plan.
Arrive at 7pm to experience Lewis & Clark at its sunset best, and after a (quiet) stroll through its interior head downstairs to the auditorium for the lecture at 7:30pm. At the conclusion of Mr. Hamilton’s talk he and Modern STL board members will host a brief discussion of Lewis & Clark’s fate and what you can do to help prevent its demolition!
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