Some of my most fascinating discoveries are made by chance. This article was born out of pure serendipity. It happened while I was searching for another topic. I have written in the past about the unfortunate fate of and the beautiful palaces for learning that still line the streets of St. Louis. Some schools are still in operation, others are closed. Others have been renovated and some have been demolished. My late-night discovery of a 1988 Landmarks Association of St. Louis document, which had been digitalized and posted online, proved to be revelatory. There was a whole generation of beautiful but now increasingly forgotten school buildings in this area before William Ittner blessed us with his creations.
The Lyon School, the oldest of these buildings, is now protected for perpetuity. It sits in the middle of Anheuser-Busch Brewery. This brewery understands the importance of this tiny but highly historical building. As I read the long report, I noticed other Neoclassical and Romanesque Revival creations of architects like August Kirchner. They all date well before Ittner’s Tudor Revival creations. The final report’s unofficial summary: Many buildings have been lost that could have been used for new purposes, while many others remain in limbo hoping to be saved. Below are some examples of the most unique schools that were either saved, lost, or endangered.
Carr Lane School
The Carr Lane School, which was built in 1870 and named for the first mayor of St. Louis in 1871, was one of the first educational buildings in the city. It is not known who the architect of this school building was, but it was likely designed by the same person who drew up the plans for the almost identical Carondelet School in 1871. Although neither of these buildings was designed by George I. Barnett you can still see the Neoclassical influence in the temple pediment roofline and dentillated cornice. Carr Lane had been abandoned by its owner in 1988 and was showing signs of disintegration. However, its remarkable durability still shines through. Similar to the nearby, and sadly demolished St. It was a relic of a historic Irish American neighborhood whose commercial and residential legacy had been destroyed by Pruitt-Igoe’s urban renewal projects. The school was originally intended for residential redevelopment at the time of the survey. However, a quick look around the neighborhood today shows that it was demolished. It was not to build a new school that would benefit the neighborhood, but rather for a vacant parcel that remains undeveloped thirty years later.
Washington (Euclid). School
This 1890 school was originally named after George Washington, but it has been renamed 1131 Euclid Avenue. You can see the evolution of architecture in St. Louis in the public schools. August Kirchner was a German American architect. The Romanesque Revival was his choice. It was popularized by Henry Hobson Richardson, but it was also loved by German architects who considered it a pure Teutonic style. Many of the German-American beer barons in St. Louis used this style in what we call Rundbogenstil. They used the heavy, round Roman arches that are typical of the Romanesque Revival. Washington School is no exception: The front portal features massive, architectural stone masonry blocks. The flanking windows evoke a Romanesque church or a Roman triumphal arch. For a comparison, see the Cupples House located on the Saint Louis University campus. This school, and its stylistic counterparts like Froebel School, and Gravois Park, which was also designed by Kirchner, worries me. These schools are beautiful and in the community, but they are getting older. They will be “obsolescent” in the future.
Grant School in Tower Grove East, a Kirchner-designed school located on Pennsylvania Avenue, made the transition to school. The smaller 1893 building was no longer required by the community, which is already served by Ittner’s Shenandoah Elementary. The building was converted into apartments and now fits the community’s needs. Living spaces are much more important than ever, so corner shops are being converted into residences. There’s just one thing I wish had been done better: the old schoolyard-turned-parking lot left stumps of lots along neighboring Minnesota Avenue, and they have proven difficult to develop.
This school raises a question on which I strongly disagree with the St. Louis Public Schools’ appointed Board. Although historic buildings are protected in large parts of St. Louis, they are not allowed to be demolished in the school district. Even though I am an educator, it is not my primary job to fully understand the difficulties SLPS faces. The 1884 Otto Wilhelmi-designed demolition of Hodgen was a serious mistake. It would have been simple for a private developer, located just one block from Lafayette Square’s historic district to remove any asbestos or lead from the school and convert the building into apartments or condominiums. This would have made a nice profit. Let’s all hope that the impending return of the elected school board will avoid these regrettable decisions in the future.