Lewis and Clark’s Stained Glass Windows Must Be Salvaged
As our ongoing efforts to save the Lewis and Clark Branch Library have stalled in the face of St. Louis County Library’s repeated refusals to consider alternatives to demolition, Modern STL is – albeit grimly – turning its attentions towards preserving the building’s incredible stained glass windows. Internationally recognized artist Robert Harmon, whose work for Emil Frei & Associates graces dozens of modern churches throughout our region, wove these vibrant glass panels into the curtain wall wrapping around the library’s main and side facades. They are unparalleled in subject and execution, presenting patrons with the figures of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark with Sacagawea, their Shoshone guide, joined by geometric patterns, swimming fish, and a leaping buffalo.
St. Louis County Library’s leadership has publicly expressed its intention to reinstall Harmon’s work in the new branch building, set to open sometime next year. The Board of Trustees’ September 2013 meeting minutes state that, “Regarding Lewis and Clark, … We plan to save the stained glass windows and incorporate them into the new building in a prominent location” (see the full minutes here). Library Director Kristen Sorth was quoted in an otherwise unfavorable March 20th Post-Dispatch editorial as stating that “the windows will be preserved ‘and prominently displayed’ in the new library branch.”
While promising, no details about this plan have been released. Modern STL’s primary concerns are that the windows are de-installed and reinstalled properly, by experts, and that they are relocated in total, not in part. To that end, Board President Neil Chace and Board Vice President Michael Allen sent the following letter to Director Sorth; while we’ve had no response, with your support Modern STL plans to do all we can to ensure that some part of Lewis and Clark survives.
Please email both Lynn Beckwith, Jr., President of SLCL’s Board of Trustees (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Kristen Sorth, SLCL Director (email@example.com), to tell them to publicly guarantee that all of Lewis and Clark’s stained glass will be preserved. Whether reinstalled in the new library branch or given to a more appreciative steward, this glass must be saved, and we need to hold SLCL’s leaders to their word!
On May 1st nextSTL reported on Covington Realty Partners’ proposal for a 14-story apartment tower to replace Schwarz & Van Hoefen’s 1962 landmark Optimist International Building at 4494 Lindell Boulevard in the Central West End (read about it here). We’ve since learned, however, that the Central West End Development Committee’s recommendations against granting tax abatement for the project have caused the developer to walk away, meaning that the Optimist Club’s graceful New Formalist colonnades may be around for years to come. This tentative stay of execution for yet another of Lindell’s modern gems is particularly important in light of 2009′s demolition of the San Luis Apartments (1963) across the street and the impending demolition of Society for Crippled Children Building to the east (1948).
Photographer and Modern STL volunteer Krystal Maurer prepared the following photo essay to document the Optimist Club’s elegant design. Here’s hoping that the building’s next suitor will appreciate it for its beauty and reuse potential rather than as a tear down for replacement.
Krystal Maurer is an elementary school teacher and aspiring photographer. She is passionate about mid-century modern design and architecture and enjoys photographing both. She lives in St. Louis with her mini schnauzer, Pepper.
The St. Louis County Library Board of Trustees and County Executive Charlie Dooley remain steadfast in supporting demolition of the Lewis and Clark Branch Library, and we seem to be running out of ways to change the impending demolition. Still. we have found massive support for preservation from around the country. From library patrons in Moline Acres to the editors of Dwell magazine, it seems that everyone except the trustees understand the value of retaining and expanding Frederick Dunn’s masterpiece.
Here is one of our more recent letters of support, from the board of DOCOMOMO US.
On May 14, Sugar Creek Ranch, developed in the 1950s by Burton Duenke with houses designed by Ralph Fournier, received one of this year’s Kirkwood Landmarks “Favorite Buildings Awards” in the category of “Neighborhoods of Distinction.” The Neighborhoods of Distinction are for “an area of architectural significance and character that has maintained its integrity for 50 years or more.”
The Kirkwood Landmarks Commission and Architectural Review Board presented the award at the Kirkwood Train Station. The press release can be found here. Former Modern STL Board Member and Sugar Creek Ranch resident Amy Burger nominated her neighborhood for the honor. Modern STL salutes Sugar Creek Ranch on finding its rightfully honored place among Kirkwood’s many historic neighborhoods.
Matt Duenke, the son of Burton Duenke, along with his wife drove up to accept the award on behalf of his father. Duenke is also a builder, and he and his wife live at Lake of the Ozarks in the very last house Burton Duenke built, near the senior Duenke’s own Tan-Tar-A development. Matt Duenke was honored and humbled at how much people remember and respect his dad’s work, according to Burger, who snapped the photo shown above.
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