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During a bright sunset, the curved concrete walls of the former DeVille Motor Hotel sparkle at the corner of Taylor and Lindell in the Central West End. The white and black modern lines are punctuated by glistening spots
that look like embedded jewels. I'm not exaggerating; the walls actually have pieces of quartz mixed with the aggregate concrete.
This detail is just one of the elegant features of the landmark motor hotel, better known now as the San Luis Apartments. Opened in the 1963, the DeVille was designed by New Orleans architect Charles Colbert, a resolute modernist. This is Colbert's only work in St. Louis.
Colbert designed the building to dazzle. The form is split between three wings of different heights, with contrasting sections of the sparkly cast concrete and large windows composing an intriguing abstraction. What may be most ingenious is that Colbert shielded the parking - this was a motor hotel after all - from genteel Lindell to maintain the quality of the pedestrian experience. Overall, the place has a cool, sophisticated modern look.
The Archiocese of St. Louis now owns the old hotel, and has used it for elderly apartments until early this year when it relocated the tenants. This move came after the Archdiocese announced that it was considering demolishing the building for a surface parking lot. Such a plan would erase a graceful and unique part of the Lindell Boulevard streetscape, replacing it with an empty spot. Placement of a parking lot on Lindell Boulevard dishonors the great architecture of that street, including the Cathedral that shares the block with the building. The streetscape deserves something better - like the building that's already there.
(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.