A Preservation Plan for St. Louis
Part II:  Property Types

Period 3 - The World's Fair City & the Automobile (1904-1940)

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Religious Buildings

Religious buildings constructed during the early 20th century were located in residential neighborhoods in the western part of St. Louis, and were often the new home of established churches and synagogues who followed their congregations to the new subdivisions. Their older buildings closer to downtown were often acquired by newer expanding denominations.

Beaux-Arts Style

Although not common, the Beaux-Arts style did appear in ecclesiastical architecture. The First Church of Christ Scientist, at 475 North Kingshighway, was built in 1903, from designs by Mauran, Russell and Gardner. The primary elevation of the church has a projecting central section with a large portico supported by Ionic columns, covering three pairs of entry doors. The frieze above the portico has a central incised stone panel; a roundel fills the gable. Windows are tall multi-light sash under round arches. This was one of the first Christian Science buildings constructed in the world, and is still occupied by its original congregation.

Late Romanesque Revival Style

After waning in popularity during the Victorian period, the Romanesque Revival church style regained popularity. Those churches built after 1900 were larger and with a more dramatic presence.

St. Ambrose Church, designed in 1926 by Corrubia & Henderson, replaced an earlier frame building. A prototypical Late Romanesque Revival design, it has characteristic flat wall surfaces, arched openings and corbelling. The central nave is covered by a high front gable roof with flanking aisles. The main entry is a two-story portal with tympanum, and a rose window set above. A high bell tower is located to the rear. St. Ambrose is still the parish church of The Hill neighborhood.

Byzantine Revival Style

The Byzantine Revival design was used extensively in the design of synagogues, as Jewish congregations sought alternatives to traditional Christian church styles. The primary features of Byzantine Revival design are large domes or turrets, semi-circular arches, flat curvilinear ornament and facades of multiple colors and textures.

The former United Hebrew Synagogue, at 225 South Skinker Boulevard, was designed in 1925 by Maritz and Young, with Gabriel Ferrand of Washington University, who may have been most responsible for the building's unusual exterior detailing. The main block of the yellow brick and stone temple is covered by a large dome, and has a monumental projecting front bay with shaped parapet; within a tall, compound arch are set three round bi-color stone arches, carried by columns with Byzantine capitals. Above the arches is a pierced stone tracery of stylized design. Three entries are placed between the columns, and above them, leaded glass windows with paneled stone spandrels. Set on a high base, the entries open off a large porch, accessed by a double staircase featuring a stone handrail with wrought iron panels. The building now contains the Research Library of the Missouri Historical Society.

An uncommon style for Christian churches in St. Louis, the Byzantine Revival style appears only in the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Michael the Archangel, at 1901 Ann Street. Built in 1928, the small brick church served the many Russian immigrants living in the neighborhood. The central entry is located in a bell tower with rose window, which terminates in a pyramidal roof and onion-shaped spire. The sanctuary has a high dome roof with semi-circular transoms.

Late Gothic Revival Style

The popularity of Gothic church design continued well into the 20th century. However, through the influence of contemporary architectural styles such as Art Deco, both its form and ornament were transformed and modernized. There was an increased emphasis on sharply-defined verticals, and a reduced amount of decoration. Late Gothic Revival church design had two primary subtypes:

  • Streamlined Gothic Style
    The Westminster Presbyterian Church, at 5300 Delmar Boulevard, was designed by Albert Groves in 1916. The rough-faced stone church features traditionally Gothic windows with pointed arches and tracery, except the windows are more elongated and narrow than those found in Gothic churches of the Victorian period. A multitude of slender, slightly articulated buttresses and pilasters terminate above the roof in needle-like spires. The restrained decoration and extreme verticality of the church mark it as a fine example of Streamlined Gothic.
  • Modern Gothic Style
    The Chapel at St. Louis University Medical Center was built in 1933 from the design of prominent Gothic Revival architect Ralph Adams Cram. The building's smooth stone surfaces, with minimal ornament, owes much to the Art Deco and Moderne styles. A high hipped roof caps the building; the front facade has an entry under a compound arch, narrow buttresses, and a blind oriel window. In contrast, a slender spire is elaborately decorated.

Moderne Style

The Moderne developed in the late 1930's, after the Depression had ended the extravagance of the Art Deco style. An architecturally conservative city, St. Louis did not see a great deal of Moderne, particularly before World War II. The Moderne movement broke with historicist styles, seeking to eliminate "excess," and to concentrate on the functionality of building design. It emphasized the form of the building's structure, and was often without ornament-apart from string courses or other elements used to strengthen an impression of horizontality.

St. Mark's Episcopal Church was constructed in 1939 from plans by Dunn and Nagel. The church features a severe design of buff brick, with little adornment. A central entry with a simple pedimented lintel centered on the front facade with small restrained rose windows above, and a stylized representation of Christ to the left of the entry. An asymmetrically-placed bell tower with a narrow steeple is at the rear.

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