This update comes with mixed feelings, both grateful and bittersweet. Yesterday Docomomo US announced the recipients of its second annual Modernism in America Awards, and Modern STL is honored to be among them. Our board, members, and partners have won a Citation of Merit for our concerted efforts to save North County’s Lewis and Clark Branch Library. According to the jury, comprised of nationally-recognized architects and preservationists,
The Docomomo US Board of Directors awards a Citation of Merit to Modern STL for its advocacy efforts to save the Lewis and Clark Branch Library in St. Louis, Missouri. The Board of Directors notes the project addresses a typology is often threatened and bridges two things: innovative, passionate campaign with threatened iconic building typology.
As stated by Docomomo US, this is “the only national program that celebrates the people and projects working to preserve, restore and rehabilitate our modern heritage sensitively and productively.” Thankfully, and rightly, the organization considers advocacy efforts that both succeed and fail, for all too often our communities pour their hearts and time into saving buildings against institutional forces too powerful to overcome.
For our part, Modern STL could not be more proud of our own community’s sustained efforts in regard to Lewis and Clark. For more than two years we fought to show the St. Louis County Library how this building was both culturally and architecturally important; that it could be easily expanded to accommodate the system’s stated programmatic needs; that preserving the building would be the most fiscally responsible course to pursue. Our board, members, and partners sent hundreds of emails, penned editorials, held events, testified at public meetings, signed petitions, and garnered national media coverage on behalf of this beloved building. This is preservation at its best, and we are honored to have led this fight.
Docomomo US’ awards announcement, however, could not have come at a more poignant time. St. Louis County Library has accelerated its demolition schedule in order to open the replacement branch by September. Last week construction crews began removing select panels of Lewis and Clark’s famed stained glass windows. Despite our efforts to convince SLCL Director Kristen Sorth to commit to a responsible preservation plan for these masterworks, only some of the stained glass panels appear destined to be relocated in the new building. Broken glass was spotted on site, and the rest, we fear, are headed for the landfill.
Every preservation battle teaches its advocates something valuable for the next go-round; in this case, Modern STL has come to learn that the Saint Louis community harbors some of the most passionate, caring, and thoughtful citizens that any region could hope for. When our next modern landmark is threatened, we know whom to call.