If you’ve driven northbound through St. Louis on I-55, you’ve seen this building. It’s nestled in the curve of the exit ramp that leads you onto the Poplar Street Bridge, and it’s been a point of interest for many years.
I’m not sure what it was in its original lifetime, but some time ago it was abandoned. First it stood vacant for a long time, and then it was boarded up; I guess they took out the windows for use in other buildings. Throughout this time, it slowly became overrun with graffiti. Very artful graffiti; someone spent a lot of time working—or playing!—on the exterior of this structure.
There was talk, I think, of the building becoming some kind of artists’ center. Whether the vision was for a place where artists could live and work, or whether it was to be some kind of gallery, or maybe just a large installation of some kind, I don’t know.
A few years later, the boards came off the window-holes, and the building was revealed as just a skeleton; everything had been stripped out except for the main structural pieces and the outside walls, which were, of course, still covered with graffiti. It seemed like this might be a step in the process of it becoming the rumored arts building, but then it just sat that way for months. Maybe years; it’s been hard to judge the passage of time with this seemingly immortal structure.
This morning when I drove by, though, I noticed some activity inside the skeleton; a backhoe right in the middle of it. I was getting off on the Memorial Drive exit, so I took a quick right to see if I could circle around the backside of the building to see what was happening. I found a street I’ve never been on before—S. 2nd St., according to Google Maps—and parked on the east side of the building, where I took these pictures (clicking on the thumbnails will produce a larger view).
Yes, there’s definitely some backhoe activity taking place here. But whether it’s actual building demolition, I can’t say for sure. One loader was actually bringing dirt to the site from a block or so to the east, so I don’t really know what’s happening. Honestly, I can’t even say that the building itself looks any worse today than it did six months ago—from the other side, it has looked this emaciated for a while.
I’ll take a stroll past there during lunchtime in the next few days to try to learn more.
Update, February 7: I just came upon this Riverfront Times blog post with a story and photos of the demolition. That post, in turn, links to a history of the building, called Powell Square, that fills out the story.
Update, February 15: It’s still…coming…down.