The Majestic Theatre‘s next-door neighbor, the Murphy Building, is also an eerie edifice, built right around the same time in the late 1920s. Again, there are trees growing out of it, broken windows, and missing keystones in the arches. But, like the theatre, you can glimpse its beauty, and what it must have looked like “back in the day.”
The front entrance, even with its cracks and dirt and unintended foliage is a gorgeous example of the amount of detail that went into the design of this building, as are the once-grand arches above the windows:
These buildings along Collinsville Avenue are haunting. Attacked by time and vandals, and reclaimed by nature, they’re almost beyond the point of repair, and yet they offer a rare glimpse into the past, and a shopping district that was once frequented by happy shoppers, optimistic about the future of their city.
Of all the derelict buildings in East St. Louis, the old Majestic Theatre building is the one that tugs at my heartstrings the most, and it’s not just because it has trees growing out of it (although there are plenty of those).
It was built in 1928 by the Boller Brothers architecture firm, as part of the St. Louis Samuel Komm Theatre chain. When you look at the details on the building, you can see how beautiful it was (still is, really), and how much care went into the design and building of it.
These tiles blow my mind. Not only the sheer number of them, and the different designs, but the color. I can’t imagine that the person who designed it ever would have dreamt that it would fall into such disrepair.
The theatre closed already in 1960, and even though it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, I can’t believe there’s too much hope for saving it…it’s just too badly damaged and overgrown. Like so many buildings in East St. Louis, every time I see this one when we drive by on the interstate, I’m filled with sorrow at the lost beauty and potential.
The Union Trust Company Building in East St. Louis is another building at the intersection of Collinsville and Old Missouri, the last remaining historically intact intersection in East St. Louis, that really intrigues me. It was designed and built in the early 1920s in the Classical Revival style by Thomas Imbs, architect for August Schlafly, who with his brothers, had a banking empire in Southern Illinois. This style was popular with banks beginning in the 1800s because it represented permanence and trust, and yet it was the first (and only) bank of this style built in the city.
The bank went through several name changes, and eventually moved its headquarters east to Swansea. The building was vacated in the mid-1990s, and it still stands empty today, the only former bank of its style in the city.
I don’t really know much about this old building in East St. Louis, other than it appears that it used to be home to Walgreens. You can still the beauty of the store and all its details. It’s another one of those buildings that, even though it’s falling into disrepair, allows you to peek into the past, and picture what downtown East St. Louis must have looked like at one time.
The 12-story Spivey building in East St. Louis is the tallest building and only skyscraper in southern Illinois. The former editor of the Journal, A.T. Spivey, had it built next to his newspaper office, and at one time it housed shops and the offices of prominent doctors, lawyers and other professionals. It was designed by architect Albert B. Frankel in the Chicago School Commercial style, reminiscent of buildings designed by Louis Sullivan, famous for many buildings including the Wainwright Building across the river in St. Louis. Like so many other buildings in East St. Louis, it is now abandoned and crumbling, and yet you can still see what a beautiful building it once was.
The buildings of East St. Louis fascinate me. So many of them are abandoned and being reclaimed by nature, but there are others that are struggling to survive. This one, the First National Bank building (which appears to now house the First Illinois Bank), is my favorite. Even though it, like most of the buildings in East St. Louis, is in some level of disrepair, you can still see its beauty, and it looks like it has a lot of stories to tell. I finally got up the courage to go photograph it for myself:
I’m hoping that this will be the beginning of a project to photograph more of the old buildings in the St. Louis area. I’d also like to learn more about some of St. Louis’s old, often decrepit and/or abandoned buildings, so if you know anything about any of them, please let me know!