Drug store giant CVS wishes to build a new store at the southwest corner of Lindell and Sarah avenues in the Central West End. There is a Walgreens store on the same block, but the most troubling part of the proposal is that CVS wants to demolish two historic buildings.
These are buildings from our recent past. At the corner, we have one of the first buildings designed by then-fledgling firm Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum – a sleek three-story International Style office building from 1956. Next door is a two-story modern building from 1960 that once housed the Easter Seal Society.
The corner building has individual architectural merit, but the other one may not. Those two are among the 36 buildings built or refaced on Lindell between 1941 and 1977. Four of these are in the Colonial Revival style and the rest are proudly modern. The CVS plan raises the issue of protecting this context. The modern architecture on Lindell is a collective architectural achievement composed of some stunning landmarks and a lot of supporting players. All are equally important in creating the context. Alas, we just lost one of the landmarks, the San Luis Apartments.
The modern buildings are on almost every block of Lindell from Grand to Kingshighway. Those who travel the whole street know how the ensemble imparts a distinct character. Preserving that character wasn’t an issue until recently. Now it needs to be a priority. CVS should find another corner for its store, and city government should aid preservationists who want to develop a comprehensive preservation plan for Lindell’s modern buildings.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Michael Allen is an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant working in private practice. Most recently he served as the Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, the region's historic preservation advocacy organization. He is also editor of Ecology of Absence, a website with accompanying blog that documents and analyzes changes in the built environments of St. Louis, Chicago and other Midwestern cities. His articles on architecture and policy have appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Beacon, St. Louis American, Arch City Chronicle and Omnitectural Forum. In addition to his professional work, Allen has been rehabilitating a house in the city's Old North St. Louis neighborhood for the past two years.