I have an interest in history, especially St. Louis, MO history.
I have an interest in architecture, especially St. Louis, MO architecture.
As a result, I really, REALLY enjoy getting to work in old buildings.
Last week and this week we get to do some work in a building on the near north riverfront, which is a part of town I bet not many people venture through. Highway 70 did a fantastic (<--- sarcasm font) job of segregating it from the rest of the city, and given the area's age, industrial nature and decline, its glory days as an industrial and commercial hub were long, long ago.
But, many of the old buildings still stand (and, many do not), and there is in fact life in that part of the world. It's a little bit desolate, and sometimes it smells like somebody lit the Mississippi River on fire, but still...there's life, and any chance I get to go work there, I'm sort of like a kid in a candy store. I explore the buildings. I check out the posts and beams and windows and floors and ceilings. I climb stairs until there are no more left to climb. I try to imagine what the buildings were like with literally hundreds of people making things with their hands, and then walking or taking a streetcar home after work.
We're doing some work for a client in what was, in 1909, the Columbia Can Co. factory. The can factory was built in 1902 or 3, and may or may not have been initially built as a facility for the Mound Coffin Co. Currently, the building houses a t-shirt printing company, a group that builds/sells pallets, some kind of dry food warehousing and who knows what else - the place is MASSIVE. Everything about these old buildings, architecturally, is amazing but in a larger context, the architecture of the neighborhood and the companies that employed thousands of people in factories of all shapes and sizes is equally impressive.
You won't find many people - if anybody - living in this area anymore (see those small structures along Broadway? Those are houses, or were in 1909.), and a lot of the buildings are gone or have been replaced with more modern facilities (all of which are godawful ugly). The train tracks have mostly vanished, save for a single line or two here and there.
But there's still life here. It's not glamorous, and sometimes you have to look pretty hard to see it, but I like knowing that an area that played a large role in making St. Louis everything that it is, and has since been essentially forgotten, still has life.