Howard Crumbles

Lone One On Howard St.

2325 Howard St

This particular building is in one of the most devastated parts of St Louis city. It is in the St Louis Place neighborhood just north of the infamous, former location of the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex. This once dense neighborhood has some life in some areas but in the blocks just north of Cass, it is mostly vacant lots with a few houses scattered around. Some blocks are cornfields. Not much is left of sidewalks and when looking around it is easy to forget you are just blocks from downtown St. Louis. Few are occupied. At one time, these blocks were full and vibrant but obviously something changed.

I have inquired about what this area was like and what happened. A former resident who lived there between 1939 to 1955 told me that most of the housing looked like the ones in my drawings but more had flat roofs and the architecture was more plain. Not as many had the more ornate mansard roofs. Most had arch top windows with stone sills. Ornamental fences were common to the small front yards so most houses were very close to the street. Most corner structures were store fronts with cast iron facades.

It was a real walking neighborhood where taverns, bakeries, groceries, hardware stores, barbers, confectioneries, drug stores were all within walking distance. He doesn’t remember what stores were on Howard, he says there was a neighborhood shopping group was at 25th and North Market. There was a pool hall, a diner, a dime store, and others. The 18th streetcar ran west on 22nd and east on 23rd. There were entire blocks of two story, two family and four family “flats” that were connected or built touching each other.

He says many of the structures had a three foot “gangway” open from the front through to the back yard. Many houses had wooden back porches with stairs led to the second floor apartments. There were alleys to the rear of the property and most had a wooden “coal shed”. Occasional small cottages dotted the blocks (his home was a 16 foot wide four room “shotgun” brick home on a 25 foot wide lot.) Some houses in the area lacked indoor bathrooms in the late 1940s, with outhouses in the back yard.

He described the area as a mix of elder couples and families with lots of kids. It was also a segregated neighborhood with Cass as the rough dividing line. He remembers when Pruitt-Igoe was new, the people raved about how nice it was. Crime was low. Over time things deteriorated and I have a feeling the downfall of St Louis Place was somewhat connected with the downfall of Pruitt-Igoe. As crime spread through Pruitt-Igoe, it spread into areas surrounding the complex. People who could move, did move. Drug addicts, criminals and people desperate for money started stripping the old houses of it’s plumbing or of whatever could be sold. Within a matter of 20 years or so the neighborhood went from vibrant to gutted and destroyed. HUD tried to build new townhouses but most ended up abandoned. A few stand today along with a few houses from when the neighborhood was a bustling community.

I also talked to a current resident that lives near N Market and has lived there since he was a kid in the early 1960s. He said his family was one of the first black families. He said most of the people were of Polish heritage. I didn’t have too much time to really inquire about what happened in the neighborhood but he said when it was emptying out, in the 1970s he purchased some houses for almost nothing and fixed them up and rents them out now – all on the same block and he lives on that block. It is one of the few pretty intact blocks just north of the old Columbia/Falstaff brewery. He seems to sort of watch over the place and we talked for a few minutes as I drew. I’ll go more into that later when I share that drawing.

So now that you got some background on the neighborhood, I want to go more into this particular house on Howard Street. I think I was struck by this one in that it is all alone but so tall and imposing on the flat, deserted blocks. Standing and then sitting there and drawing it, I felt alone and it made it’s abandonment seem more palpable. I felt like I could feel it’s aloneness. At the same time it’s a rugged survivor – yet destroyed and on life-support. I felt like I was with someone who has had a rough life, survived hardships, seen so much, but is in their last days of life. When I felt that, I had to draw it.

Here’s some basic info. It was built in roughly 1892 and the architectural style seems consistent with that date, I think. The address is 2325 Howard St and is owned by the Northside Regeneration LLC and they are located in O’Fallon, Missouri. Is that a Paul McKee property? Maybe. It is on a 25 ft X 130 ft lot. It also was a reported building collapse on November 21st, 2013. That seems consistent with the google street views that are dated in 2011 and my pictures that are from the summer of 2014. You can go here for more information. I’m not sure when it became abandoned but I am curious to know.

House on Howard from the southeast

Howard Street – Demolished

Up close at the stoop on Howard St

Howard Stoop – Demolished

House on Howard Street in sunset

Howard Street Sunset – Demolished

Looking up at the house on Howard St.

Howard Street – Demolished

Howard St House to the west

Howard Street – Demolished

Engine Co 26

Engine Co. 26

Engine Co 26 / American Timber Company

This was a very early drawing. It was done on a Sunday evening in mid/late June of 2014. The structure is located on the corner of N. 2nd St and Madison St in the Near North Riverfront industrial/warehouse district. Most of the buildings around this are taller warehouses built between 1896 and 1919. When this was built it was a fire station – and probably one of the oldest still standing and is a bit older than the buildings surrounding it. I don’t have an exact date but I would put it at being built after 1876 and before 1892. In 1876 this corner was a stone quarry. I wonder if that stone used on the station was from that same quarry. That’s a cool bit of information.

Click here for a map of this corner in 1876
Click here for a map of this corner in 1892

What drew me to this was how it contrasted with the surrounding buildings, the large Romanesque arches, the corner turret, the stone and brick work and the ornamentation above the second story windows.

Engine Company 26

Engine Company 26

Blue Windows - Demolished

Blue Windows – Demolished

Fire Escape

Fire Escape

Blue Doors

Blue Doors

Spiral Fire Escape

Spiral Fire Escape

Loading Docks

Loading Docks

Warren's Burnt Shell

913 Warren St

913 Warren St

This home grabbed my attention right away. The first pictures I took of this home was on May 3, 2014. First of of all there are not too many homes in Near North Riverfront and the wall on the east side is nearly gone. It looks almost looks like a Gordon Matta-Clark work. Anyway, it’s a quite abject example of decay in St. Louis that’s just left to rot away.

To me it looks like it was heavily damaged by a fire – lots of smoke marks and charred wood.i’m not sure how long ago the fire was but if you do a Google Street view, you will find a shot of the house(s) before the fire. The street view pictures I am showing are from October of 2011. It doesn’t seem like it was in too horrible of shape and the lot was fairly clean. Also had a dish attached so my guess it wasn’t too long ago that someone had lived here. How it has changed!

Again, this would have been a part of Old North St. Louis (note: in the past it was called Murphy-Blair) before I-70 was constructed. This one is very close to the highway and you can see it along with a group of abandoned multi-family units that extend to the corner of N 10th St. According to the city, this was built in 1900 and the other ones nearby were probably built around the same time according to this. I’m not sure how accurate all the dates are.

You can check out St. louis Patina’s blog to see some more pictures here

The drawing itself was done on June 28th and It started off nice but as the evening went on a storm was moving on and I had to cut off my drawing session early so a lot of this one was drawn at home. I will also note this was the first drawing I did of this current series/body of work. I think one thing about drawing on location that sticks with me is that it involves all the senses. It isn’t just seeing the subject, I can touch it, smell it (just an old musty, mildew-y sort of smell – like an old attic), hear the surroundings and how quiet and eerily peaceful it is. I didn’t taste it but I image it would taste like burnt and heavily smoked grilled meat.

Warren St May 2014

Warren St May 2014

Warren St May 2014

Warren St May 2014

Warren St June 2014

Warren St June 2014

Warren St June 2014

Warren St June 2014

Under the Elevated

2307 North 9th Street – Modern Screw Products

Modern Screw Products

This graphite drawing was done on June 28th, 2014. I specifically remember it is in the evening and it was quite sunny and hot – like a typical St. Louis summer day. The area was pretty quiet and the only people I saw were a couple cyclists that were probably doing the Riverfront Trail. Also a man passed on foot and looked at my drawing and then proceeded to ask for money. Whenever I go out and do my drawings I don’t carry cash (I rarely carry cash in general) so I had to decline his request. He went on his way.

Anyway I chose this building due to it’s proximity to the elevated railroad tracks which was part of the old Illinois Terminal Railroad. I love the metal scaffolding and also thought it would add depth and would form sort of a frame that would create a focal point that is the building. The elevated rail tracks are not in use anymore and I think is part of Great Rivers Greenway Trestle Project. The idea is to create an elevated bike/walking path that would connect to the Riverfront trail and go across I-70 and at Howard and Hadley in the southern edge of the Old North St. Louis neighborhood. It doesn’t seem much has been done recently – still in planning stage.

As for the building itself, the building is home to Modern Screw Products and from what I know is still in business – you can visit their website here. There is a little bit of history on the website. The company was founded in 1923 and at that time served the mining, railroad and military industries. This would have been a great location due to its proximity to railroads and the river. Today they are a machine show that serves the food industry, refrigeration, sporting goods, and medical industries.

I couldn’t find a date for it being built on the city’s website but on a real estate website it said it was built in 1916. At that time this building would have been part of Old North St. Louis neighborhood but after I-70 was constructed this area became disconnected with the rest of the old neighborhood. Now it’s an area that is commonly referred to as Near North Riverfront. It’s mostly an industrial area with a few homes – mainly abandoned – scattered mostly on the western edge close to the highway.

Just north of this building is North Market Street. This was the widest thoroughfare through the Old North St Louis neighborhood that started at the river and went into the heart of the neighborhood. Goods were routinely carried from the river via horse-drawn carriages, fishermen would travel to the river to fish. It was what connected the community to the river. Today it doesn’t seem as connected due to the Interstate slicing through the community. There is still industry here but it isn’t a bustling area with lots of pedestrians and traffic like I imagine it was up until the 1950s when the area was connected to the diverse and dense population of Old North St. Louis.

2307 N 9th Street

2307 N 9th Street

Before The Collapse

1112 Montgomery Street

Montgomery Street house

This is a home I drew on July 19th of 2014. On the east side of the home is a vacant lot with a few trees scattered about. Behind this house is Warren Street. Warren Street is a curved street that is part of three circular lots that are unique to the neighborhood. These were part of the city’s plans when the city was founded (Old North St Louis was not part of St. Louis proper in it’s early days – it was later annexed by the city of St Louis). One circle was for school, one for the public, and the other for church. Warren Street forms the northern edge of the Church part. Just to the east is 11th Street and then I-70.

I imagine there were homes very similar to this one in the vacant lot in which I was sitting. From what I know this was a very dense area with a large immigrant population. My guess was that it was built maybe in the 1970s but I looked up the address on the city’s website and it was actually built in 1892 and it has an owner. Not sure what the owner is doing with it though.

Since it was built in 1892 that would put it in the Victorian Era but I don’t think it has a typical look of a Victorian home. It seems to have some wood moulding on the archways and in the entry. Also it looks like it had a decorative wood cornice. However it doesn’t have that Second Empire look or Queen Anne or Richardson Romanesque style. I’m guessing maybe is some sort of mix – Eclectic Style that used earlier vernacular styles with some of the decorative elements that would be found of Second Empire or Italianate styles. To me it’s roof looks to fit more of a Federalist style (some next to it have dormers).

So here is my “wild” theory. Many of the older homes in the area probably had a Federalist style and when it was built it needed to fit in the neighborhood but it had to be appealing to its era. Also it would be a bit more modest than typical Victorian Era styles in that this is a multi-family home so I would suspect those living here wouldn’t be wealthy. I am curious to know if the rear portion was part of the home of if those were actually another living space.

1112 Montgomery Rear

1112 Montgomery Rear

1112 Montgomery Front

1112 Montgomery Front