I’m always trying to find new things to do when we visit Chicago, so when we were up there last month, I decided we should visit the Chicago Cultural Center, located at 78 East Washington Street (which is also the corner of Washington and North Michigan Avenue):
It was built in the late 1800s as the city’s central library. That fact is still rather obvious:
The architecture of the building is fantastic, but what it is probably most known for are the two stunning Tiffany glass domes:
There are so many other fantastic details, including mosaics, lamps, and beautiful quotes everywhere:
I’m so glad we finally had a chance to walk through this beautiful and historic building!
The highlight of our day in downtown Chicago last month was the Wendella Lake and River Tour. I last took this boat ride when I was in the 5th grade, and I was excited to do it again as an adult, and share the experience with the Fab Five. We were not disappointed…we enjoyed the fantastic views of the city, both from the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, learned a bit about Chicago’s history and the architecture we saw, and enjoyed lovely lake breezes! We also had an amazing narrator along the way…he hit the perfect balance between facts about the city and personal stories to give context to those facts…I don’t think we’ll ever forget learning about the “Dime Piers!”
This was a fun trip, and gave us a chance to see the city in a completely new way. I highly recommend the tour if you’re ever in Chicago…just make sure you don’t forget the sunscreen!
Another distinctive architectural style found in several neighborhoods around St. Louis is the “gingerbread style.” These houses are impossible to miss, with their steeply-pitched roofs and charming, fairy-tale appearance. The most impressive thing about these homes, however, is their uniqueness. For block after block, you can look at dozens of homes, and never find two that are exactly alike, from the stone and brickwork, to the placement of chimneys, to they types of glass in the windows. And as beautiful as these houses are right now at the very beginning of spring, they’re even more spectacular lit up for Christmas, just like a gingerbread village!
When you hear the term “Painted Ladies,” it’s likely that the first thing that comes to mind is that famous row of houses across from Alamo Square Park in San Francisco. St. Louis also has a neighborhood full of these beautiful and colorful Victorian style homes, centered around Lafayette Park, the oldest park in the city of St. Louis and west of the Mississippi River. Although much of Lafayette Square was destroyed by a tornado in 1896, the neighborhood retains its historic charm, and has recently experienced a burst of revitalization.
The Missouri Pacific Building, located on 13th Street near the Central Library, is another beautiful old building in downtown St. Louis. Construction on the 22-story giant began in 1926 and was completed in 1928. As its name suggests, it was originally home to the now-defunct Missouri Pacific Railroad line. One of the most unusual features of the building is the use of “setbacks,” an architectural style popular in the 1920s and 30s.
There are many beautiful art deco and gothic details on the building.
It’s not just a broad building, but tall as well. You really get a sense of its height as you look up past the setbacks.
Did I mention the amazing details? Here you can see two railroad workers on either side of an engine, and an eagle, the symbol of the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
The building has been renovated, and is now home to the Park Pacific Apartments, as well as a few restaurants. Hopefully, this means the building will continue to be a St. Louis landmark for many years to come!
Last week, I shared some pictures of the St. Louis Public Library Buder Branch. This week, I’m taking a look at the former home of that branch of the library, a mid-century modern building that now houses The Record Exchange.
This building, like the current Buder Branch, is located on Hampton Avenue. It was built in 1961, and it shows. I love the corner details on the roof:
There are tons of details on this building, including aluminum brackets and even funky lamps in the (very small) parking lot:
The details on the railings out front are amazing, but this one, which has square elements on a curved piece of railing, is my favorite:
This is another great little St. Louis treasure that I hope will be with us for a long time!
The St. Louis Central Library is like a cathedral for books. It is a truly remarkable building. But even before I saw that library branch, I was intrigued by another member of the St. Louis Public Library family…the Buder Branch at 4401 Hampton.
This was actually one of the first buildings I noticed when we moved to St. Louis over 15 years ago, probably because it was located right by the Target store at which we first shopped. The turquoise details, the windows, the unique shape all make it a very notable structure.
The interior, while modern, also fits the exterior of the building perfectly.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the library is the spiral staircase, which goes from the basement to the third floor, and is flanked by curved windows made of wavy block glass.
The library wasn’t the first resident of this building. It was originally built as the Hampton Bank of St. Louis in the 1950s (which explains the mid-century modern vibe), and was also home to Missouri Savings and Loan and the Metropolitan Sewer District of St. Louis. The library moved in in 1998, relocating from another mid-century modern building on Hampton which now houses the Record Exchange. It’s good to see this unique building serving the community and busy with students, families, and other people who have a love of books and learning!
Although I photographed the STL250 cake there in 2014, I never actually visited the St. Louis Central Library before this August. The Fantasy Maps exhibit drew me in, however, and we also took a tour while we were there. I was back again last week, and I’m astounded by what an amazing building it is, inside and out!
The building (actually buildings, as it is a group of five separate buildings that are joined), was a Carnegie library designed by Cass Gilbert, and was first constructed in 1912, and renovated to be completed in time for the 100th anniversary in 2012.
The brick plaza out front lets you know you’re in a special place:
Our tour began in what used to be called the “Delivery Room.” There are so many beautiful details on the walls, the ceiling…even the lamps!
There are many different rooms in the library, and they are all stunning:
Intricate details abound:
There are Gorham stained glass windows and skylights (one of which was recently rediscovered!):
The children’s and teen areas are bright and colorful, and seem like fun places to be:
The part of the building that faces Locust Street has a more modern feel (a relative term for a building over 100 years old), inside and out. I especially love the use of subway tiles on the interior walls! The tiles themselves may be old, but they’re so timeless, they play up the contemporary, urban vibe:
There is a cool marker in the exact center of the library:
Here’s another look at the beautiful exterior, which includes names, sculptures, quotes, fountains, and more stunning lamps:
You could spend all day in this library, and not even come close to noticing all the details. The guided tour is an excellent way to learn about what you’re seeing, and I highly recommend taking some time to take a walk through the building to see how beautiful the design is and discover the library’s importance to St. Louis!
One of my favorite buildings in St. Louis is the Shell Building, located at Locust and 13th.
Built in 1925 as the headquarters of the Shell Oil Company, the building has a unique, rounded footprint, which both mimics the Shell logo, and fits the way Locust Street curves at this point in the city.
There are lots of great details on the building, including shells everywhere…even etched into the glass of the first floor windows!
The building has been renovated, and I’m glad to see it being actively used and anchoring an interesting neighborhood in the downtown west area of St. Louis!