I find it really hard to blog and keeping up with what I am doing. Essentially I have a stack of drawings that I haven’t even documented formally and it has become overwhelming. So I have to start somewhere. This is a building on N Market in the St. Louis Place neighborhood. With this one I have managed to capture the building in focus but also the context to an extent. In the background there is the old brewery and the line of houses along North 20th Street.
I know I drew this in the middle of last summer and sat along the edge of a community garden across the street. I’m sure where that garden was, there were buildings of some sort there. Also I am sure there was something right next to the building I did draw – on both sides. Most are gone. Just vacant weed infested lots. St Louis Place is a neighborhood with clusters of buildings/houses and then areas of vast vacant lots that make you question if you are really in a city or not. When I ride my bike through here I am reminded of when I was a kid in Troy, IL and riding my bike out on the back roads in the middle of nowhere.
What strikes me about this place, built in 1898 (est), which used to be a store at ground level and maybe apartments on the top levels, is the cast iron “columns” that are stylized to look like classical columns. A lot of the woodwork is heavily damaged, or missing but what is left looks well crafted and intricate. I notice this more in the woodwork in the dormers. There are intricate patterns and corbeling along the cornice. The mansard roof looks in tact but if you take a look from above via Google Maps, you will learn that the roof is nearly gone. This winter, once the leaves of the trees were bare, more of the building on the west side was revealed and it isn’t pretty. It’s crumbling. The building is literally being squeezed by the trees and plants that surround it. Nature is gobbling it up. It’s hard to imagine people from the neighborhood walking in and buying milk or whatever and walking out, hanging out – it being alive.
When I was drawing a long time resident came out wondering what I was doing (this happens sometimes) and of course I show him what I am working on. In general, it opens up a conversation and he was telling me about the place and honestly I don’t remember much but he does remember when the block I was sitting in and the lots surrounding this building were full. He has lived in the neighborhood since he was a kid in the 1960s. When the neighborhood was sliding into disrepair and people were leaving he bought a bunch of properties for very cheap just to the west of N 20th along N Market and he rents them out. I really wish I could remember more and that makes me think I should record conversations if they consent and take their pictures. Either way, I should keep tabs on this one, for it wouldn’t surprise me if it were demolished soon.