Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Robert Harmon Windows in Danger of Demolition [Updated - demolished]

About 18 months ago I heard about a set of stained glass windows in St. Louis that were set for possible demolition, but there seemed to be hope that a way would be found to save the building, either through building somewhere else, or adding on to the existing building. Destroying a perfectly sound building seemed beyond comprehension.

It turns out that this building is now marked for demolition soon, perhaps as early as May 2014, just 2 months away. Article from yesterday - Library lovers make plea to save two St. Louis County branches,, March 18, 2014, by Leah Thorsen

Andrew Raimist gives the best case for preservation of the building on his blog architectural ruminations - Demolishing Lewis & Clark Library Would be Cultural Vandalism

My general sense of the situation is that there is not much hope, though there is a petition up for saving the building -

One truly unique feature of the windows at the Lewis & Clark Library - the artwork is readable from both the exterior and interior. Mural and stained glass in one. Most people outside of the stained glass profession would not recognize this as highly unusual, but it is, and it is very much worth preserving.

Typical stained glass window where the exterior is effectively a black wall.
Faith Salem United Church of Christ
7348 W. Florrisant Avenue, Jennings - North County -
Architect: Frederick Dunn - Date: 1954

Whereas, in the Lewis and Clark Library windows there is a concerted attempt to make the windows both interior viewed stained glass and exterior viewed mural.

Flickr Set - my images of Lewis & Clark Library from 2012

below the fold - links galore about the Lewis & Clark Library

Links galore - on the history of the building, on Frederick Dunn, the architect, and on Robert Harmon, the designer of the windows.
St. Louis County Library - Lewis & Clark Branch
St. Marks Episcopal, St. Louis
St. Marks Episcopal Church entry on Built St. Louis
Tell the St. Louis County Library to Protect the Lewis and Clark Branch, from the Modern St. Louis Blog, September 19, 2012
Library Matters, the St. Louis County Library webpage on the tax levy bond issue
Lewis and Clark Branch Library Threatened
Built St. Louis > > MidCentury Modernism > > The Emil Frei Stained Glass Company
From the St. louis Magazine website -
St. Louis County Library Seeks to Demolish Historic Lewis & Clark Branch
Typography is often a feature in Harmon windows, as in these Calvary Cemetery Mausoleum windows from 1961.

[update - Facebook post on the demolition of the library April/May 2015 -
very sad. No word so far on the fate of the windows.

images via ModernSTL

May 2015

 [UPDATE: October 10, 2015]
The new Lewis & Clark Library is set to open Wednesday, October 14, 2015. The design of the new building looks dreadful, and the 'salvaging' of the stained glass is pathetic. There are 2 extremely annoying articles about it in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Editorial: Fist pump: St. Louis County Library system brings it
September 29, 2015  By the Editorial Board

New building, and era, for St. Louis County Library
St. Louis Post Dispatch website
October 09, 2015  By Jane Henderson

Both are gloating about how wonderful this all turned out. The thing that most angers me about this is that I love libraries. I really, really love libraries. Libraries, and the people who use them, deserve great buildings. These stupid provincial iconoclasts have destroyed an especially good library building to replace it with a building that has all the charm of a strip mall.

They went from a dynamic, colorful work of modern architectural stained glass like this -

Lewis & Clark windows in now demolished building
to this.

Lewis & Clark stained glass 'salvaged'

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