The plan was to ride a little around downtown East St. Louis and then over the Eads Bridge into downtown St. Louis. That happened but not everything went as planned and overall it was sort of a terrible ride.
First of all I am getting over a bad cold and on top of it I had a migraine. My headache was literally making me feel nauseated. I was going to soldier on though. I started at the Metrolink station and made my way through the cold, barren streets and noticing a lot of bulldozed rubble and dirt in many lots. Piles of broken concrete, stone, brick, and giant holes in the ground. There has been a lot of demolition in the downtown area. I couldn’t think of what was there. I don’t know what the plans are to replace what used to be there. I do know where the old Murphy Building was and I was very sad when that was torn down. To say that East St. Louis has suffered some tough times is an understatement.
There are two fantastically spectacular ornamented structures downtown that I really like. One is the Ainad Temple and other is the Majestic Theater. Both were built in the 1920s and feature colorful decorative tiles but are very different. The Ainad Temple’s decoration is more Arabic looking with some trim that looks like Arabic calligraphy. The entrance features rounded arches and Arabic columns. The Majestic Theater is grand and vertical with colorful tiles and intricate patterns and ornament. It is said to be the style of Spanish Gothic and designed by the Boller Brothers – known for their theater designs in the early 20th century. The theater is very unique looking but it was also special in that it was the first building in East St. Louis with a modern air conditioning system and it was the first theater in Southern Illinois to show “talkies”. The theater closed in the 1960. It’s crazy that it has sat abandoned for more than 56 years! It still stand but peppered with graffiti and weeds growing out of the facade.
I was also interested in the Spivey Building – the only real skyscraper in the city. It is 12 stories and is abandoned too. In fact you can see straight through the building at certain angles as most of the windows are broken out and the building looks gutted. It is also peppered with graffiti and is mostly in shambles. It still retains it architectural beauty though. It was built in 1927. It seems like the 1920s were good times for the city. Like neighboring St. Louis, it hit it’s peak in the 1950s and the decline since has been sharp. It was designed by Albert B. Frankel and features terra cotta spandrels that vertically separate it’s windows. It has an asymmetrical entrance and The top of the building features a two-story parapet with terra cotta decoration that surrounds the windows and seven capitals at its peak. The building was named after A.T. Spivey, who was editor of East St. Louis’s newspaper the Journal. The building next door must have been where the actual newspaper was located – it features a vertical sign that says Journal.
From there I headed over to the Eads Bridge to cross into St. Louis. I don’t have to stress how important the Eads Bridge is and I won’t. Right now there is a lot of construction on the bridge. There is a pedestrian walkway and it’s absolutely not made for bicycle traffic. It is narrow and riding across was treacherous with broken glass everywhere. I stopped for some pictures. The view of the Gateway Arch and the riverfront areas on both sides is great. This is where my bike ride was ruined.
I was approached by a guy who proceeded to creep me out and I really had no chance to get away. I don’t like being in a position where I can’t ride away if being approached. He tried to give me money and solicit sex from me. I wasn’t having it and just kept on talking and trying to get me to “hang out” with him. My idea is to try to get away by politely turning him down and just nudging my way out and saying I have to go and I’m on a time limit and have somewhere to be. It was annoying and frankly could have been dangerous. I didn’t feel particularly scared at that moment but after I got out and rode away thats where my mind starts going over the situation and I realize that I could have been in a dangerous situation. The more I thought the more I was really not enjoying myself. I was thinking that I have to cross that bridge again and he could be waiting for me. In fact when I got off the bridge I stopped for a min and I noticed he had turned around and was coming in my direction. I sped off and weaved through he downtown canyon. From there I just wanted to go home. I did make it over and back to my car without seeing him which was relieving.
The big thing I took from the ride mostly was maybe I should carry some mace.