Monday, January 31, 2011

31/365: No Crowds

'59 Chevy Impala 1

A blustery winter afternoon directly beneath the Arch. Perhaps the figures are two men, maybe father and son. Almost no one else around except me, at the bottom of the grand staircase, lens pointed upward.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

30/365: This Way

Memorial Drive and Market Street BW

Finally, a post on this blog with a new photo, not something from the archives. I shot this yesterday on the Arch grounds, looking west on Market Street from (obviously) Memorial Drive. No one, I mean nobody, knows who is being remembered. The tower of Union Station is in the background, center left.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

29/365: Secret Pleasures

White Castle Lensbaby 2010-01-24

Readers from other countries and some parts of the U.S. may not know what White Castle is, but St. Louisans sure do. I love White Castle. There was one in my neighborhood in Queens when I was growing up and I became devoted to it.

The chain serves tiny, square, steam-grilled hamburgers, so moist and aromatic. Many people look down their noses at the place, as if it were the bottom rung on the fast food chain. (Wrong - that honor goes to the Hardee's / Carl's Jr. chain, headquartered in our city, a major promoter of obesity and cardiovascular disease.) I don't eat there often. It makes me feel a little guilty and heaven knows what's in those burgers (never looked at the nutritional data) but if I need a little cheer-up, it's the best comfort food around.

The entrance looks ominous, particularly in this Lensbaby B&W. Makes me think on the sign on the gates of hell in Dante's Inferno: lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate, or, abandon all hope you who enter here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

28/365: How To Get To Illinois

West End of Eads Bridge

Eads Bridge has been featured on St. Louis Daily Photo several times. I love the architecture. Its arches remind me of a Roman aqueduct with a railroad track thrown in. Tracks, actually, since our Metrolink light rail line crosses the river on the level behind the small arches. This shot was taken from the edge of the observation platform north of the big Arch.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

27/365: Art and Education

Henryk and Art Fan, Citygarden

I met painter Henryk Ptasiewicz when I took this picture and we have become friends. He was doing a sketch of everybody's favorite work in Citygarden, Eros Bendato. The local kids were curious. This girl looked amazed. I hope she learned something.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

26/365: Urban Geometry

Looking north on 7th Street from Market. There is modern architecture, some more distinguished than others, and Louis Sullivan's 1892 masterpiece, the Wainwright Building. It was the first steel framed structure in St. Louis.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

25/365: Overview

St. Louis City Center

Well, it's not New York or Chicago but it's home sweet home. If you squint really hard you could see my office window. They say that Wall Street starts in a river and ends in a graveyard (it's true). Downtown STL starts in a river and then just sort of peters out, but we have that grand sculpture that nothing else compares to.

Monday, January 24, 2011

24/365: Frozen Art

Artica - St. Louis' Burning Man 1

I've had several posts on St. Louis Daily Photo about Artica, the off-kilter arts event held in the industrial debris north of the Arch and Laclede's Landing. This photo is from the 2010 session, held in the winter (never again). People erected this bizarre giant under the high voltage lines that cross the river. It was set on fire the evening after I shot this. Unfortunately, by then I was back in my warm home. It looks like St. Louis' mini version of Burning Man.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

23/365: Think Sun, Speak Spanish

Honduran Dancers 1

Since we just returned to frozen St. Louis from sunny Costa Rica, I thought I'd post something from last summer's Hispanic Festival in downtown STL. Lots of Costa Rica pix over the last week on St. Louis Daily Photo. These ladies were actually from Honduras, but that's close enough.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

22/365: The Wrong Step

Stairs Down To The Mississippi
This staircase, in a state of considerable disrepair, is on the grounds of the Arch. It leads from the garage and river overlook down to the Mississippi. I don't know if they have been fixed since I shot this but the whole thing looks ominous.

Friday, January 21, 2011

21/365: The Law

Circuit Court 4

This building was a federal Depression era construction project. Americans who know just a bit about architecture will recognize the style. For decades. it was the federal courthouse. Then they built a new shiny one and the less well endowed State of Missouri took it over. Now the Circuit Court for The City of St. Louis hangs out here. This view is at the southwest corner of 11th and Market.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

20/365: Silent Night

Eighth Street at Night

I'm posting this photo by way of contrast with this week's images on St. Louis Daily Photo from Tamarindo, Costa Rica. The days down here are full of blazing light, the nights soft, carried on warm breezes. This photo looking north on 8th Street toward the convention center looks hard and lonely.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

19/365: Monuments

Arch 2009-10-24 5

The Old Court House, the Arch and better than average focus. The stars were well-aligned for this shot.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

18/365: Here Comes The Bride

Bride's House 1

Everybody used to come down town to shop, back when there more buses and even trolleys and before the freeways bled the city like a 17th Century barber treating gout. It was still a vibrant scene in the fall of 1967 when I hit St. Louis University and took the bus downtown to buy a radio at one of the department stores. You could outfit a bride. Not so much any more.

Monday, January 17, 2011

17/365: The Few, The Proud


Back at a Veterans Day parade, a squad of Marines hits the deck in the middle of Tucker Boulevard and shows what they're made of. Notice that the sergeant has his fingers closed and is doing his push-ups on his knuckles. Tough as nails.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

16/365: Bicycle Repairman

PTC Kickoff 1 (Bicycle Repair)
Besides being the name of a classic Monty Python sketch, you need people like this if you want to do some heavy pedaling. This is a shot from Pedal The Cause, a big fundraiser for cancer research held downtown every year (in better weather than January).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

15/365: Trompe-l'œil

Sheraton Hotel

The French term means trick of the eye. It refers to something painted to look like something else, often on a large scale. This building used to be a shoe warehouse, once a major industry here. (Back when St. Louis was important enough to have two major league baseball teams and Budweiser wasn't owned by Belgians, it was said that our city was "first in shoes, first in brews and last in the American League.)

This building is now a Sheraton hotel and luxury loft apartments. The wall painting precedes that redevelopment. I find it interesting that the statue of St. Louis, King Louis IX of France, is very similar but not identical to the iconic landmark in Forest Park. This one has a sword raised in its left hand and looks to the right. The one in the park is the opposite. Note also the eagle that seems to be flying by the building on the far left.

Friday, January 14, 2011

14/365: Skyline

2010-04-03 Downtown Skyline 1

When I think of a city skyline I see images of New York, Chicago or, more recently, places like Shanghai. Well, we have one of our own, It's dominated by the Arch, of course, but there's more to it than that. This picture was taken from the top of the old water tower in Compton Hill Reservoir Park at Grand and I 44.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

13/365: The President Of The United States

Obama Throws First Pitch At All Star Game

I'm writing this Wednesday evening, having just listened to the president's speech in Tucson at the memorial for those who died on Saturday and the congresswoman who lingers with a bullet wound to the brain. I can hardly find words for my reaction. It's so easy to slip into the formulas of sentimental BS or emotional manipulation in this kind of address. He didn't. His words were about individual tragedy and a national sense of mourning. There was no hint of political recrimination. He spoke to us about loss, resolution and a common sense of honor, all 300 million of us.

This is my only picture of the president, the one time I've seen him myself. He is throwing out the first pitch at Busch Stadium downtown for the baseball All Star Game in 2009, wearing the jacket of the Chicago White Sox, his home town team. At least it's not a Cubs shirt.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

12/365: Snow Mask

Pinocchio's Snow Mask

We had some snow Monday night and it looks like it gave poor Pinocchio a headache. Why else would he need a cold compress over his eyes? The photo is the upper half of Jim Dine's Big White Gloves, Big Four Wheels in Citygarden and obviously refers to the puppet. It's remarkable that two works in Citygarden are about Pinocchio. We saw a detail from the other, Kindly Geppetto, a couple of days ago. You can see a photo of that whole statue here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

11/365: Does Your City Center Have A Ferris Wheel?

St. Louis Skyline With Ferris Wheel

Londoners can emphatically say yes. Parisians have one part of the year. There's a big one on top of a department store in Osaka that's a really cool ride. I can't think of any others in the US but there must be something somewhere. Oh, wait - Navy Pier in Chicago.

We got one. Thing is, it's almost impossible to see from the street. It's on the roof of the wacky-beyond-description City Museum. Not a bad view up there. This blog will head back to the CM one of these days.

Monday, January 10, 2011

10/365: Art That Makes You Sweat

Geppetto Sweats, Too

Can bronze sweat? No idea - I'm no metallurgist. It looks, though, like the puppet master is full of anxiety before whapping his creation in Tom Otterness' Kindly Geppetto, located in the northeast corner of Citygarden at 8th and Chestnut. Citygarden might be my favorite place downtown after the Arch. I can see this sculpture from my office window, albeit from 23 stories up.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

9/365: The Arcade Building

Arcade Bldg 2011-01-08 1

If you listen to me babble long enough, you'd think I've been working downtown since the Harding administration. Actually, Gerald Ford was the incumbent but that's long enough. When I was a fledgling lawyer the Arcade Building was oh so beautiful. The architecture is a neo-Gothic spin on early 20th Century skyscrapers. There was actually a gorgeous arcade down the center, richly ornamented, with two levels of shops. The upper floors contained office space. In time it became one of downtown's ghost buildings, unable to compete with more modern structures.

As many of the area's old commercial structures began to be converted to apartments and condos, a grand plan was created to convert the Arcade Building to residences and restore the shopping arcade itself. Construction was under way when the real estate crash hit. The developer went bust. Now it sits on the corner of 8th and Olive decaying, reminding us of what was and what might have been.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

8/365: Willis


I met Willis when I was wandering around the bleak area north of the Arch as sunset approached. He struck up a conversation, asking me about my heavy photo equipment and what I was doing. He told me that he sleeps in a cardboard lean-to between garages in the nearby entertainment area, Laclede's Landing. I asked him if the cops hassled him and he said, no, they know he doesn't cause any trouble. Not surprisingly, he asked if I could help him out to get something to eat. I did, knowing that such donations do not always turn into solid nourishment.

My intent was to shoot this entrance to the riverfront bike and walking trail in front of an old power plant. Willis asked if I would like to take his picture and of course I said sure, if I could use it on the web. He seemed flattered by this but a little confused about what he should do. A short time later I drove home. He walked.

Friday, January 7, 2011

7/365: Tough On Crime

St. Louis Motorcycle Cops

A squadron of St. Louis motorcycle policeman rides down Market Street during a parade. I shot this from the steps of the old Municipal Courts building. This photo is one of the most viewed of all time among the 3,700 images I have on Flickr. Some people think cops in black leather jackets riding Harleys are pretty hot.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

6/365: The Big Cheese

Big Throwed Muzic 1

On occasion I drive around the old industrial areas north and south of the Arch, looking for something to shoot. One time I came across these guys, shooting their own music video along the floodwall. After introducing myself, I learned that the group was called Big Throwed Muzic. The big man in the white tee shirt is Big Cheezy, impresario of Mo Cheddah Records. I'm not, um, well versed in hip hop but I thought they were pretty good.

It occurred to me that I should define what I mean by downtown for purposes of this blog. Locals will understand. So, roughly, the Mississippi on the east and Jefferson on the west, Cass on the north and Chouteau on the south. I reserve the right to bend these boundaries whenever convenient.

Big Throwed Muzic 4

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

5/365: The Supreme Plumber

Supreme Plumbing

One of my favorite downtown buildings, located on S. 4th Street opposite the White Castle. Since this picture was taken three years ago, the facade has been partially defaced by graffiti and signs pleading for redevelopment. When it was published in St. Louis Daily Photo on January 14, 2008, the original caption read:

And lo! Supreme Plumbling was created, and it was established on Fourth Street, in Saint Louis, Missouri, nigh unto the White Castle, somewhat close to the shadow of the Arch, and all the other plumbers gave way, yielding to its supremacy. The Supreme Plumber, wizened wise man of the faucets and drains, giving and taking away the waters of life, flashed the peace sign and grew his beard yet further unto the sidewalk. He gathered up his pipes and attached them to a single Great Bowl. He filled it with a magical substance that the Powers of Darkness strove to suppress. He put fire to the bowl and drew upon it, blowing its smoke upon his companion in wisdom, Elbow Joint the Owl, who thereupon straightaway entered oblivion.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

4/365: Old Man River

Arch 2009-05-09 - 6

Here's a popular shot taken in May, 2009. The Mississippi River is the reason for St. Louis' existence. 75, 100 or 150 years ago, long before the Arch, rows of commercial buildings downtown tumbled down to the edge of the levee and the waterfront was teeming with steamships. Now you can take a ride on an excursion boat like the one here. Check out this interesting and concise history of our riverfront.

Monday, January 3, 2011

3/365: You Could Even Say It Glows

Downtown Office Buildings

An early HDR experiment. Looking northwest from Kiener Plaza, the buildings are Metropolitan Square, St. Louis Place and Bank of America, apparently bathed in radiation. I still use HDR a lot but I've adopted a quieter style (like yesterday's picture and the banner photo above) and in often black and white.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2/365: Court House, Winter


View of the Old Court House, facing west, with a winter coat on the small park between it and the Arch.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1/365: Welcome To Downtown St. Louis 365

Arch 2009-06-19 #3

I need a new project, as my mother used to say, like I need a hole in the head. But there are all these 365 photo blogs floating around these days and I have such a big inventory of downtown pictures I thought I'd give it a shot. I've worked in downtown St. Louis for 36 years (sigh), seen changes for better and worse and gotten to know it very well. It contains both beauty and urban grit. Let's have a look.

Some of these images will not be new. Many will have appeared on my St. Louis Daily Photo Blog, now nearly four years old. From time to time, we'll also examine what happens to my haunting grounds in 2011. It's a year-long look at the place I know the best.