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St. Louis's French heritage still shines through in the massive presence of the Catholic Church, which has left a legacy of fine historic buildings all over the city. Other denominations too have left their mark, leaving St. Louis punctuated by an enormous number of steeples and towers.

Click here to begin touring, or click on any thumbnail below to view that building.

North Side Churches

Central corridor churches

South side churches

The Eads Bridge, the first bridge over the Mississippi this far south, stands immediately north of the Arch.

Laclede's Landing is a small 19th century commercial district on the other side of the Eads Bridge. It's now full of bars, clubs, and other nightlife; it is the last surviving indication of what the original city streets looked like before they were razed in the 1940s for the future Arch grounds.

Washington Avenue marks the northern boundary of downtown; it's due west of the Eads Bridge. Here you'll find several dozen old warehouse and garmet buildings from the 1890s and earlier, all wonderfully elaborate. With widespread condo conversions, Washington has become downtown's most urbane street. The Convention Center is also here, for whatever that's worth. Don't miss the massive Merchandise Mart on the 1000 block. Washington Avenue rewards a stroll out as far as 17th or 18th Streets.

Union Station: Washington Avenue peters out around 18th Street. Turn south on 18th, walk two block, and you'll find the city's former rail terminal, now a magnificent shopping mall. The mall itself is nothing special, but the station's head house retains its magnificent interior and is one of the city's finest spaces.

The City Beautiful strip: aka the Gateway Mall. From Union Station, walk back east, toward the Arch. This is the city's civic corridor, where its City Beautiful schemes came to fruition. The Gateway Mall is an overscaled, underdeveloped strip of park land meant for a city that was teaming with urban residents, which St. Louis no longer is (in part because they were all kicked out to create "green space" like this.) But it's worth a walk, since en route you'll pass a number of notable buildings. From west to east:

If you've followed directions, you're now right back at the Arch.

The Neighborhoods

Delving Deeper
Alright, you've seen all that, or you're not interested in mamby-pamby tourist-friendly stuff. You want the real deal! You want local watering holes! You want urban decay! You want hidden charm! Here ya go.

You're sick of looking at architecture; you just wanna have some fun now.

  • Who took all those photographs?

    Unless otherwise credited, all photographs on the site are my own.

    I started off with a 35mm point-and-shoot in the early 1990s, though very few of those photos are on the site. I got my first SLR, a Pentax K1000 SLR, in 1995 -- a series of them, actually, as I had two stolen from me.

    For many years I used the cheapest film and developing I could find (a necessity, considering that I could easily through a dozen rolls of film in a single day.) I then scanned the developed photos on a Visioneer scanner of dubious stability, with tweaks in Photoshop.

    In 2003 I started switching to digital, and have burned through two digital point-and-shoots, most recently a Fuji FinePix A340. It was a great little camera, light, fast, cheap... but not meant to be dropped on the pavement, a trauma which ultimately proved to be its undoing.

    Now I'm the jubilant owner of a Canon Digital Rebel SLR, the finest, fastest, most powerful camera I've ever used by a long shot.

  • May I use one of the images on your site?

    I generally request a small useage fee if a photograph is being used in a for-profit publication. I'm not trying to get rich or discourage such uses, but I have invested considerable time, effort and money in amassing my collection of images, and feel that some renumeration is not unreasonable. I'm not expensive at all; please ask!

    If you're a student needing images for a class report or presentation, feel free to use images from the site; just be sure to properly credit me and the site in the presentation (which is simply proper procedure for any such reference, regardless of the source.)

    For other purposes, feel free to ask. Odds are I'll say "fine, no problem," but I do like to know where, how, and by who my pictures are being used.

  • Why is there so much stuff about the Continental Building compared to everything else?

    Simple. 1, it's my favorite building in the whole city, and 2, I wrote a big research paper on it in college, so the material was ready at hand.

  • Is there anything on the site about (name of building)?

    Maybe! Check the search function on the site map page. The site map also lists most of the buildings on the site. If it's downtown, it might be on the Historic Downtown or Washington Avenue tours -- check the text listings.

  • What can you tell me about (name of building and/or architect)?

    In all probability, not too much. I haven't lived in St. Louis since 1997; I can't exactly run down to the local library anymore. : ] Furthermore, I really don't have any great degree of expertise on St. Louis's architectural history. The buildings I know the most about, and everything I know about them, are already on the site.

    However, I do have photographs of many of the city's major present-day buildings; if you ask nicely I'm certainly willing to share (for the record, I've never had anyone not ask nicely; the site's readers seem to be a friendly and intelligent lot.) I also have a big stockpile of old postcard scans from Ebay saved on my hard drive, mostly covering downtown from the 1900s to the 1920s, which I'm also willing to share as long as it's for private use.

  • Do you know anything about the building at this street address?

    Again, probably not. The only St. Louis buildings I know by street address are those on the Historic Downtown tour. City Hall's the place to look for information on a specific address.

  • So then where else can I look for answers?

    First try Google. It's the best search engine on the web. If you can't find it there, there's a good chance it simply can't be had on the Internet.

    The Architecture Links page is a list of some of the major architecture-related sites that have proven to be long-lasting and informative. Most importantly, note the list of blogs at the top. Many of them are written / frequently visited by people who are highly knowledgable about the city.

    Other places to try:

  • How can I get into (name of abandoned building)?

    Beats me -- for the most part I don't venture into abandoned buildings. More to the point, regardless of whether or not I condone the practice, in the interest of legitimacy I wouldn't give out such information over the internet even if I had it. If you've made it this far, you're probably smart enough to figure out such things on your own anyway. There are other sites specifically devoted to such endeavours as well.

  • What are the tallest buildings in St. Louis? How tall is (name of building)?

    Copied from an informative email sent to me by one ELB78@aol.com (later Rastanx4@aol.com), and enhanced by Slickwell@aol.com, here are some of the tallest buildings in St. Louis along with their architect and date of construction. Note that the Gateway Arch (1965, Eero Saarien) is the tallest structure in St. Louis at 630 feet, but it usually isn't counted among the tallest buildings.

    #1: Metropolitan Square, 600 feet, 42 stories. HOK Architects, 1988. According to this website, it ranks as #396 among the world's tallest buildings. Some interesting figures on that page, incidentally... New York City has 586 buildings over 90 meters in height. Chicago, 256. St. Louis, 14.
    #2: One Bell Center, 588 feet, 44 stories. HOK Architects, 1986.
    #3: Eagleton Courthouse, 557 feet, 27 stories. HOK Architects, 1999.
    #4: Firstar Center (formerly Mercantile Bank Center), 485 feet, 35 stories. Thomson, Ventulett & Stainback, 1976.
    #5: Laclede Gas Building, 400 feet, 35 stories. Emery Roth and Sons, 1969.
    #6: Southwestern Bell Headquarters, 398 feet, 26 stories. 1926.
    #7: Civil Courts Building, 387 feet, 13 stories. Klipstein and Rathmann, 1930.
    #8: Bank of America (formerly Boatmans, Nations Center), 384 feet, 31 stories. 3D International, 1981.
    #9: One City Center, 375 feet, 25 stories. HOK Architects, 1986.
    #10: Sevens Building, 312 feet, 24 stories. 1969.
    #11: Park Plaza, 310 feet, 27 stories. 1930.
    #12: Pierre Laclede Center, 309 feet, 23 stories. Smith and Enterzoth, 1970.
    #13: 500 Broadway, 282 feet, 22 stories. Smith and Enterzoth, 197?.
    #13: Continental Building, 282 feet, 22 stories. William B. Ittner, 1929.
    #14: Equitable Building, 275 feet, 21 stories. HOK Architects, 1971.
    #14: Bank of America tower 275 feet, 22 stories. HOK, 1976.

  • What is a good guidebook to St. Louis architecture?

    George McCue's "A Guide to the Architecture of St. Louis" (1989, University of Missouri Press) is THE definative field guide to the city's buildings. It covers all sections of the city proper, and devotes several chapters to St. Louis County and even one on Illinois, across the river. It's a bit dated, as it's over ten years old, but still quite useful. I'm not sure if it's still in print, but here's a link to its entry on Amazon.com. If you're feeling less global and more local, Left Bank Books is a great local bookstore in the Central West End whose friendly staff would be happy to track down a copy for you. Give 'em a call.

    Another rich source of information is the guide's predecessor, "The Building Art in St. Louis: Two Centuries". Also by George McCue, its third edition is only 8 years older than the Guide, and it contains many more entries (albeit with much less information on each.) You can probably find a used copy on the Internet. Try the following resellers: Abebooks, Alibris, Bibliofind, and Bookfinder.

    A third recommendation is Landmarks Association's "St. Louis: Landmarks and Historic Districts", by Carolyn Toft and Lynn Josse. This book, revised in 2002, is far more up to date than the previous two, and is not a field guide but a full-sized book with numerous beautiful color photographs and rich background information. As a recent publication, it's available at most local bookstores or through Virginia Publishing.

  • Would you be interested in an article/old photograph of one of the buildings on your site?

    Oh lord, YES. I would be eternally in your debt.

    In particular, I am looking for good pictures of the following demolished buildings:

  • Who the hell are you, anyway?

    From a St. Louis perspective, I'm a 1996 Washington University graduate, originally from Louisiana. After Wash U, I moved to Philadelphia, then to Milwaukee for architecture graduate school at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. I graduated from UWM in December 2003 and eventually wound up in Chicago. Before Wash U, I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana.

  • Why do you maintain this site?

    Because the architecture of St. Louis simply blew me away when I first saw it and continued to do so for as long as I lived there. There's nothing like it where I came from, and even after travelling to many other cities, I have to say that St. Louis's architecture and urban landscape still beats out that of almost any American city of similar size.

    What really got my goose, however - what has always struck me as totally unfathomable -- was how much of the city was being left to ruin. I wanted to preserve all these sad old buildings somehow -- archive them, record them, make them available to the public, show people what was going on in the city. All the ancient decaying shells deserved some kind of memorial... even the ones that weren't gone yet.

    The earliest version of the site came about in late 1996 when I was first thinking of creating a web page, and considered what I could contribute to the Web that would actually be original and unique as well as interesting to me personally. This being back in the days before comprehensive search engines like Google.com, I hit on the idea of gathering together every link on the entire web that related to the city's architecture -- kind of a one-stop shop for St. Louis building information. Hence the links section on the main page. Shortly thereafter came a page of various buildings I'd seen demolished, another for abandoned ones (the long-defunct Lost St. Louis I & II pages), and a third for the Continental Building. Inspired by the "sequential tour" format of the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit site, I revamped, unified, and expanded all these in early 2000, bringing the site more or less into its current format.

    Having started the project, I've been unable to let it drop, even after moving away from St. Louis. A combination of nostalgia, anal-retentiveness, moral outrage, sense of duty, and love for the city keeps me going. I drop by St. Louis whenever I have an excuse to do so -- whether driving back home to Louisiana or visiting friends who are in town. That wasn't very often when I was in Philadelphia, but I've been back many times since moving to Milwaukee (a scant 6 hours up the road) in August 2000.

  • So are you ever moving back here?

    Well, I'm not really planning on it right now... but never say never. There's still a lot of other places I might want to live, too: New York, Boston, maybe even Philly again; who knows.