Archive for the ‘st. louis’ Tag

Eads Bridge, St. Louis

Historically one of the major crossroads of America, the city of St. Louis holds a vast number of architectural treasures from the post Civil War period until the 1960s. The Eads Bridge, still one of the major crossings of the Mississippi River, was one of the major engineering feats of 19th century United States, along with other superlatives like the transcontinental railroad, the Erie Canal, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The bridge is located at a narrow point between downtown and East St. Louis, Illinois, and was built after a protracted battle against steamboat operators, during the aftermath of the disastrous Civil War. Construction began in 1867 and was completed eight years later, in 1874. It was the first major steel bridge built, and pneumatic caissons were used for the first time (at a major human cost). 141 years later, the bridge is still in use, with MetroLink trains on the lower level, and a refurbished deck hosting automobile, bike, and pedestrian traffic.

Aesthetically, the bridge is a balance of the delicate and muscular, with heavy stonework on the ends, and a dense network of steel in the three arches.

Detail of steelwork and west anchorage.

Detail of steelwork and west anchorage.

Eads Bridge, looking east from Laclede's Landing.

Eads Bridge, looking east from Laclede’s Landing.

Wainwright Tomb, St. Louis

Louis Sullivan designed three tombs, two in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago (and one of his designs went into his own tombstone in Chicago). The third, the Wainwright Tomb, is in historic Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, an oasis of calm in the city’s rather rough north side.

Commissioned on the occasion of Ellis Wainwright’s wife’s untimely death, and completed in 1892, the overall plan is a severely simple design, with a small terrace, and the tomb itself, capped with an un-ornamented dome. The ornamentation is some of Sullivan’s best. The interior is full of spectacular mosaics and very colorful, but I didn’t get to go inside, as it’s opened only on rare occasions. The materials and ornamentation are similar to the Getty Tomb in Chicago, although quite different in overall plan and shape.

Wainwright Tomb, front facade

Wainwright Tomb, front facade


Ornamentation detail


Terrace, door, and dome


Door, detail

Outside of Chicago, St. Louis has three designs by Sullivan, with the landmark Wainwright Building downtown, the heavily modified 705 Olive St. Building, and the Wainwright Tomb.

Adler and Sullivan’s Wainwright and Guaranty Buildings

I had the chance to visit both of these masterworks of Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, two early skyscrapers, one located in St. Louis, the other located in Buffalo. I suppose that they’re grouped together by the date of the two structures, and the similarity of materials.

The earlier of the two structures is the Wainwright, built in then-boomtown St. Louis in 1891. This is one of Adler and Sullivan’s earlier works, completed several years after their landmark Auditorium Building in Chicago. This building expresses mass and verticality at the same time. The overhang of the roof lends it a strong presence, while the unadorned columns are unabashedly vertical elements that make it appear taller than its 10 stories. The signature decoration of Sullivan is muted, in contrast to the Guaranty Building.

Wainwright Building, cornice

The contrast of the vertical and the horizontal

The Guaranty Building, completed in 1894, lies in a particularly distinguished corner of a distinguished downtown Buffalo, just down the street from all sorts of Art Deco jewels, and next to a Daniel Burnham creation. To me, the Guaranty Building is the more aesthetically pleasing of the two, more vertical in its sweep, especially with the outward curve of the structure at the top, and the wonderfully detailed carvings on the upper floors. The overriding feel here is delicacy. The columns in the Guaranty Building are decorated, in fact, the entire facade of the building is decorated, and the overall effect is that the steel frame of the building is very nearly exposed. The building comes across as almost precarious, nearly naked. It stands taller than the Wainwright by a few stories, and like Sullivan’s other structures, appears to grow out of its foundation.

Prudential (Guaranty) Building, Buffalo

Detail of the facade

Street view, note the decorative elements at the top