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Nov 2001 / the ordinary eye :: email this story to a friend

South Grand Lost
1976 photos by Walter F. Gunn
Text and 2001 photos by Brian H. Marston

According to a myth that's popular in certain circles, Grand South Grand was a desolate wasteland before Tim Boyle's City Property Company arrived on the scene. These photos tell a different story, one of a dense urban commercial district thinned out by demolition. It's the familiar story of beautiful architecture being replaced, sometimes with more prosaic structures, usually with asphalt. The roll of film Walter shot that day in '76 also makes it obvious that there are more empty storefronts now than there were then and that South Grand has seen a lot of great businesses come and go.

The senseless demolition isn't behind us. As I write this, 3541 Hartford is being torn down to make way for ten new parking spaces directly across the street from the enormous, unused Commerce Bank lot. Building by building, brick by brick, St. Louis is being loaded onto pallets and shipped to parts unknown. With each demolition, the city looks a little more like everywhere and nowhere.

[Click on a thumbnail image below to enlarge it.]

Description Then (1976) Now (2001)
Northeast corner of Grand and Arsenal. Buildings lost: 4
Northeast corner of Grand and Hartford. Where'd the second story go?
West side of Grand between Hartford and Juniata. Now showing: Attack of the Killer Parking Lot
The Ritz: R.I.P.
Southeast corner of Grand and Juniata. Then: Gianino's Pizza, a bowling alley and Saleem's. Now: You guessed it — a parking lot.
Looking northeast toward Grand and Juniata. Note the missing building north of Jay International (Elias).

Walter F. Gunn is a sculptor and writer and 35-year resident of Grand South Grand. His career in things creative includes ten years in the visual arts as owner of a design and gallery business (Arsenal at Michigan) and as publisher of an art magazine (Ars Actus). After ten years in the performing arts as founder of the Sheldon Arts Foundation, he is now pursuing a dual career in the literary arts and public art design.

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