Posts Tagged ‘Architecture’


Ash Pits and Coal Chutes

May 9, 2013

Coal powered the industrial revolution in its beginnings in England, during its American continuation in New England and down the east coast.  Coal facilitated the rust belt’s rise, and remarkably remains the dominant source of energy worldwide today.  St. Louis is currently home to several large coal companies including Peabody, Patriot and Arch, but the heyday of coal usage in St. Louis (and the US) is in the past.

Peabody Coal's Mid-Century-Modern HQ

Peabody Energy’s Former Headquarters on Memorial Drive

At the middle of the 20th century most homes in the area were heated by coal (National use peaked around 1940, St. Louis experienced the worst side effects in late 1939).  I’ve heard stories about horse drawn wagons traversing the alleyways of St. Louis and dispersing various grades of coal to its consumers at least until that time.  Some reminders of this era remain, notably the coal chute doors (often marked by brand names like Banner, Schurk, Manchester, Mechanics or Majestic) that can be spotted on houses in every neighborhood of the city and in many parts of St. Louis County.

Historic Coal Chute Doors of Missouri

Coal Chute Doors

Ash pits are slightly harder to notice due to their placement on alleys, but are nonetheless an ever-present reminder of our coal heritage.  The most recognizable and common model of ash pit in the city is P.A. Shorb’s:

P.A. Shorb Ash Pit in a St. Louis City Alley

Ash Pits in-use as planters: P. A. Shorb 1475 Graham

See more photos of these relics below:

Masonic Temple Midtown Albert Groves Grand Center St. Louis University

Coal Chute Door on Masonic Temple on Lindell


Majestic Coal Chute Door

Older in the Gate District:

Coal Chute Door in the Gate District double door swing lock

Adapted to modern usage:

Coal Chute Door in use as a vent in South St. Louis

Ash Pit with Cacti:

Cacti in an Ash Pit in Kingsway East Neighborhood of North St. Louis

For more photos of Coal Chutes and Ash Pits see my flickr set.


Modern Infill in Dogtown

March 5, 2010

Yesterday, since the weather has been so wonderful I decided to explore my own neighborhood, Dogtown, about which I know too little.  My intent was to visit Franz Park and convince myself to somehow make use of its proximity to benefit my health.  Now that I know how nice and close it is, I hope to play a game of tennis there in the near future.  Speaking of nice and close, I live in the Clayton-Tamm neighborhood. Our neighbor in Dogtown is the Franz Park neighborhood, and how nice and close it is!  The one thing about walking around Franz Park that really got my attention though, is the large number of homes that appear to have been built very recently.  Fairmount Ave (between Dale and Mitchell) is the most prominently modern street I walked down,

Modern Infill on Fairmount Ave - Note the Hybrid Escalade parked out front

but other areas like Forest Ave North of Mitchell or Glades on the East side of Forest, or the North-East corner of Forest and Garner also have new homes standing out alongside old ones.

Forest and Glades

Steve Patterson mentions these homes back in December of ’04 on UrbanReviewSTL, and points out that there is no public alley behind this block (I did see one but I guess it’s “private”) justifying the street facing garage (if there’s no alley to hide the garage in where else are you going to put it?).  He is not a fan of the street facing garages and driveways, but I see less of a problem with them when the houses themselves are close enough to the sidewalk to make the street still feel urban (and when there is no alley which was the case for every one of the modern homes I noticed yesterday).  I will admit that the developments on Fairmount are ridiculous but I don’t blame developers for doing what they did.  The rooftop views there are so valuable that they wanted properties that would add to the premium price.

Downtown from an empty lot on Fairmount

I am happy to see new development in my neighborhood and in the city of St. Louis in general and I understand why people would want to live here and the draw of a brand new house over an antique, but personally, I am a much bigger fan of this:

Brockschmidt Place near Tamm

than this:

New Houses on Fairmount

Still, pretty much any house is better than the vacant lot pictured in the foreground above, and new city residents are just fine with me.