Built St. Louis > > Recalled to Life || Midtown > > The Continental Building

Continental (minus the "Life" in its title and on its facade) went through a long period of mild ups and downs. The building was still the finest office space in the city for many years; though both tenents and owners came and went, the building maintained a decent rate of occupancy through the 1960s. In 1966 Mayer A. Cervantes was involved in a flap over ownership; on tax forms he had failed to report being an owner of the building when taxes were due on the structure. Occupancy declined throughthe late 1960s and early 1970s.

By that time, the building was beginning to show its age. More importantly, flight to the suburbs and a general excess of office space inthe city had drawn tenants out of the blighted Midtown area. The last tenants left in 1973; the building was closed up and its utilities shut off in 1979. It was then that the building's tragedy truly began.

Careless failure to drain the building's water pipes caused them to burst in the winter of 1974, resulting in considerable water damage to the lower floors. But this was just the beginning of the indignities the building was to suffer. In 1980 the Continental was stripped of its furnishings and much of its trim and decor; much of it has been lost for good. Over the following years, vandals worked their way into the building, compounding the damage.

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Post-Dispatch, 9-27-74:
Continental Building Flaws

...The problems facing Continental renovation stem not so much from its original construction but from the advancement in building codes and fire saftey regulations on skyscrapers since 1930.

For example, the steel and concrete superstructure of the building was rated in excellent shape after 44 years and the exterior of the building, despite being dirty, is in generally good condition. The walls, windows, and roof have held up over the 44-year span.

But the building was not designed with any consideration for earthquakes or todays's stringent fire saftey regulations on high-rise buildings, the report said.

The defects in the building's interior, according to the survey, include:

(1) All the ceiling tiles are made of combustible materials.

(2) Of five elevators in the building, four are operable and original 1930 equipment. They require manual operators and are unventilated. Ventilation is required in the St. Louis code today.

(3) The building totally lacks either a fire alarm system or voice communications system. Stairways between floors are not continuous.

(4) There is no emergency power system to operate essential equipment in the event of a power failure or fire.

(5) The existing lighting and power system lacks sufficient capacity to meet present day standards.

In addition to the code violations, the study found that the building is heated by steam radiation and all equipment is 1930 vintage; steam pipes show evidence of condsiderable leakage,; a major portion of the building's insulation is in poor condition; and a 1936 air conditioning system is obsolete...