Built St. Louis > > Central Corridor > > MidCentury Modern | Downtown West

Century Electric Building
1831 Chestnut
William B. Ittner Architects + L.B. Pendleton (?)

Horizontal sunshades and window bands contrast with a sharply vertical band of glass block, delineating the building's elevators and stairs and capped by a low-relief Art Deco sculpture. Directly across from Union Station, this ultra-modern building would have been a prominent sight for those arriving by train in the city.

The building was originally a manufacturing plant for Century Electric Co., one of St. Louis's leading electrical manfucturers. The Centry Electric Company made electrical motors of all sizes "from 1/6 to 400 horsepower" - but focused mainly on small motors for fans, etc.

In the 1980s, the building was completely reskinned in the PostModern style. Today the building is home to Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

A National Register form for another of the company's buildings seems to date it to 1942, and it was photographed by 1947 - making it incredibly early for so large and prominent an example of International Style architecture in St. Louis.

The destruction of the building's original skin remains, to me, a horrifying mistake. This would be one of the city's most celebrated MidCentury structures today, were it in its original condition.

  • Additional photos here and here - click on the image for zoomable high-res views.

  • Image from "St. Louis Views", Will Shelly, Publisher.

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