Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Those of us who grew up in Bridgeton knew we were sitting a little more than a mile from a landfill. Most of the time, it didn’t cause us any issues. The landfill had in fact almost no effect on our daily lives. Yet, there would be those few days in the summertime where the miserably humid air actually moved.  On those rare occasions that the wind picked up in the normally stagnant St. Louis summer, it sometimes carried a distinct and sweetly putrid smell. It was only when the wind moved from the west,  blowing just hard enough to sweep over the Missouri Bottom floodplain and up into the Bridgeton highgrounds.  Again, the conditions had to be just right. The smell appeared only on those stupid hot and sticky summer St. Louis days. The kind of days where you could see the fog of humidity discoloring everything  in town into a weird yellowish haze. The kind of days where you wondered if you would ever feel dryness again. You, my fellow St. Louisan, know exactly that level of heat and humidity I am talking about. For us in Bridgeton, on a dank summer day, the wind would carry a fragrance that would make you briefly stop and wonder what Earthly thing could possibly produce such a sickly scent before continuing on with your greater misery about the humidity as you unconsciously fan your shirt away from your skin.

We all knew the smell came from the landfill. It didn’t happen often enough to warrant a laundry list of complaints. The humid weather was more than enough for us to edure. Complaining about the occasional whiff of nasty air seemed a minor detail for stubborn, working and middle class North County residents who prided themselves on surviving brutal summers in St. Louis.

I didn’t know there was anything radioactive there. Neither did anyone in my family. Nor did we know it was a Superfund site until the lawsuits filed by remaining Bridgeton residents over the smell.

The landfill has caught an underground fire and releasing noxious odors that make the putrid odors we endured seem like a brief run through the mall perfume counter. This has become a health and environmental disaster for those in Bridgeton who were not affected by the Lambert Expansion project. Those remaining individuals have already been through enough by having their community dissected and disoriented over the years of Lambert’s encroachment. Now, they face the reality that they are in proximity to radioactive waste. The smell reminds them that there is much more nefarious things decaying in that landfill than annoying odors.

So many questions. How contained is the radioactive waste that exists in the West Lake site?  Did any of it seep into the soil in the years Carrollton existed?  Did the landfill’s radioactive waste seep and contaminate our drinking water, which came from a facility not too far from the site? How did we live decades without knowing that there was radioactive waste in the West Lake Landfill? How bad is it really now for Bridgeton residents?

It is sad that there are still about 400 homes in Bridgeton that has to deal with yet more bad news. According to the Post, the remaining homes are being compensated for enduring continuing odors caused by the underground landfill fires. The EPA contends that the fires have not yet reached the radioactive waste site. I have to wonder what the scale of this disaster would have been like if the 2,000 houses in the area had remained. I am also deeply concerned about what would happen if the underground fires do reach the contaminated section. I am curious what Geiger counters are reading at in the Missouri Bottoms and in Bridgeton area.

The latest STL Post-Dispatch article is here.


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Since Lambert- St. Louis  International Airport has failed to attract commercial jet hubs and international cargo, they’re desperate to do anything for the milk and honey. Honey, it seems, is the first step.

A beekeeper has signed a contract with Lambert to keep bee hives on the property that was once Freebourn Park, leasing the land from the airport for $75 dollars a year. Don’t think all that money is going to help Lambert pay their $1.4 billion dollar debt down. 80% of the $75 annual rent will likely go towards the FAA first.

I applaud the fact that Lambert is working with an individual to utilize the land in a cooperative and eco-friendly manner. Allowing a beekeeper to keep hives on this empty North County land is a great idea and I am glad Lambert is allowing it. Besides, anyone keeping hives during these times of bee colony collapses is a hero in my book. The City of St. Louis already begun patting themselves on the back for adding this project line to their sustainability action list. The fact that the hives have been approved is very telling. The hives are the equivalent of the city conceding to the end of their cargo shipping hub pipe-dream, at least for this year-long contract. I have a feeling that the bees are here to stay and the beekeeper’s contract will be renewed for many years to come.

There isn’t much that Lambert-St. Louis International Airport can do at this point to pay down the $1.4 billion dollars they owe for building their little-used runway. They can’t attract passenger planes. They can’t attract international air freight. They can, however, attract bees. They will soon have the honey and now it’s time to collect the milk. Let’s add some cows to where our ranch-style houses once were.

You can find the Post-Dispatch’s July 8th, 2013 article on the Beekeeping agreement here.

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I want to give my thanks to Mr. Fehrenbacher for being a strong ally for the City of Bridgeton, a vocal opposition of the Lambert Runway Expansion, and a leader in Carrollton’s fight to exist.

You may read more about Tom Fehrenbacher on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website article here.

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In case we need yet another reason why Aerotropolis at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will likely not be built anytime soon: Illinois is reaching agreements with China for ground and water transport of Asian goods while Missouri has historically remained focused on solely attracting air cargo at Lambert. While this will not likely replace coastal ports nor do I believe this will have as much of an upward impact on Illinois economies as their local leaders boast, ground and water transport have a better chance of attracting trade partnerships than air cargo. Illinois has once again learned to diversify where Missouri and St. Louis leaders put on their blinders to focus on one option.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (STLToday, December 30, 2012):

The port district’s ability to use roads, rails, river and other modes of transport for goods makes it attractive to local and foreign developers, said Ellen Krohne, executive director of the Southwestern Illinois Leadership Council. The Edwardsville-based council is a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging growth and development in Madison and St. Clair counties.

The new agreement with Wuhan, she said, is also a boon to Madison County and the region because it opens doors.

“It gives the Chinese an opportunity to invest in Madison County,” Krohne said, including opening businesses and hiring workers. The county’s workforce, educational system and geographic location also make it competitive in competing for Chinese trade.”

The rest of the article can be found here.

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to a young woman who also grew up in the shadow of the buyout. Colleen is currently in college and shared many great stories during our phone interview.  Her memories will sound similar to many of us who grew up in Carrollton. Although all of our perspectives are unique, our individual memories highlight the impact this area had on our lives.

Colleen once lived off Parlier Dr., which was considered by many as the Carrollton Oaks side of the entire Carrollton subdivision. On New Years Eve, hours before the dawn of the new millenium, her family made the move to a town near Mobile, Alabama. Her last school year at St. Lawrence the Martyr concluded with the end of the first semester of 1999. On a recent visit back to Missouri, she took a shocking detour to visit her former neighborhood. Carrollton was a place that she knew well as a child but found it almost unrecognizable as an adult. Colleen remarked that the brick subdivision entrance into Carrollton, “it looked exactly the same as I remembered it!” The bowling alley and the shell of the Carrollton Center shopping center stood at Carrollton’s entrance but little else from her memory remains. The Schnuck’s grocery was gone, having relocated to St. Charles Rock Road near Lindbergh. The Corner Drugstore, Dairy Queen, the video store, Telscher Hardware, almost everything in the area that she knew disappeared or changed entirely.  The largest change, of course, is the stillness of the area behind the nearly-vacant shopping plaza that one stood close to 2,000 houses with a handful of schools, churches, and parks.

Colleen’s family first sent her to St. Mary’s Catholic School for Kindergarten. However, that would be the only year she attended St. Mary’s as dwindling attendance and uncertainty of the school’s future led her family to transfer her to St. Lawrence Catholic School. However, her family would learn a few years later that their new school would also be succumbed to the massive buyout program.

The Summer Day Camps at Bridgeton were a popular activity for Bridgeton kids for generations. Colleen shared with me many great stories of attending Bridgeton camps in the summer. She attended camps at O’Connor park for one summer and Freebourn for many more. She recalled her favorite counselors at Freeborn, including Wendy, her counselor at O’Connor park who made Colleen her camp helper. She recalled typical camp stories, like girls vs. boys games, kickball, swimming, and her favorite tree that was so hollow she could climb inside. I too attended camp until the 6th grade, at Gentry Park and then Freebourn. Having also been a young camper, riding the yellow busses everyday to run and play, make crafts, go swimming, and just be kids all day, it was easy for me to visualize her many experiences as my own.

On her most recent return trip to the area in March, she found that Freebourn Park no longer exists. The landscape still has some etchings of its past era as a municipal green space. If one could remember the geography of the way it used to look, you could find the edge the ball field, a rectangle of where a pavilion was, and if you went back far enough, you could find the outcropping of rocks where the playground equipment used to be. The natural features of the area remain exactly the same. The lazy hills and wooded gully that divided the park exist in stark contrast to the artificial leveling of Lambert’s runway across the street. Far in the back of Freebourn Park is still home to a dense forest, whose trails along a clear, flowing creek have surely now been reclaimed by nature.

Colleen’s memories of Carrollton go well beyond summer fun at the parks and the pool. They are deeply a part of how she lived as a young child. She vividly recalls times of playing outside with the neighborhood kids everyday until dark, riding her bikes or skating down the hill of Parlier. Colleen is not alone in saying that Carrollton was a safe place for kids to play outside. Like so many others, Colleen recalled exciting times at the St. Lawrence Carnival. She and I both have memories of the Corner Drugstore and their selection of five-cent candy. One of my favorite stories from her was of the mischief she caused at Schnucks, where she tried to sneak some Jell-O out of the salad bar and caught with swift consequences.

She also raved about Bridgeton’s annual 4th of July Parade through the whole city. The parade was a favorite event because the entire community came together to build, ride, or watch the colorful floats and to be a part of the music and excitement of the annual festivities just before the city’s large fireworks display.  Of course, the highlight of the parade for kids is always the large amounts of candy and trinkets to be caught from the passing floats. Colleen became popular with other Bridgeton campers when she brought her 4th of July parade candy back to camp to share.

Those happy childhood memories would be forever altered at the announcement that their family’s home was due for airport expansion buyout. In January of 1999, Colleen developed the confidence to try out and participate in the school’s talent show. She had diligently practiced and had such a great time with her final performance that she was sure she wanted to do it again the following year. That was about the same time her parents had been contacted by the airport for the buyout. They used that opportunity to break the news to her that she would be in a different school by the same time in 2000 because their home on Parlier would be lost to the airport. Colleen remembers the tears that tragic news brought to her child self, not understanding why the airport would need her or her friends’ homes.

It was difficult enough for the adults of an entire community to come to grips with Lambert’s ‘disruption’ (a term used often by expansion proponents when referring to the effects of the massive buyout). However, to not only process the uncertainty of the situation (by this time, Lambert’s master plan has been repeatedly altered and not executed), schools and families had the added unimaginable task to explain to children that their community would disappear. Below is an article from 1998 that discusses how many schools were affected and the reactions by officials:

Sun January 25, 1998 C1, C7

St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Carolyn Bower

Airport Expansion Would Uproot 6 Schools; Runway plan may displace 1700 North County students, Teachers, staff wait and wonder

Berkeley High School 8719 Walter Ave. in the Ferguson-Florissant School District; 375 students, 65 staff, Age of building: over 40 years (in 1998)

Caroline Support Center at 67038 Caroline Ave.  in the Ferguson-Florissant School District; 296 Students, 31 staff, building: over 100 years

St. Mary’s Catholic School at 4601 Long Rd. in Bridgeton; 65 students, 15 staff, over 100 years old

Carrollton Oaks Elementary in the Pattonville School District at 4385 Holmford Drive in Bridgeton; 360 students, 40 staff, 30 years old,

Carrollton Elementary in the Pattonville School District at 3936 Celburne Lane in Bridgeton; 377 students 45 staff, 30 years old

St. Lawrence Catholic School at 4329 Dupage Drive in Bridgeton;  334 students, 20 staff, 30 years old

“This is very difficult for children,” said Peggy Grigg, principal at Carrollton Elementary. “Children need a great deal of structure in their lives,” Grigg said. “They need to count on people being there, people taking care of them. Schools are part of that structure in their lives.” Hugh Kinney, superintendent (Pattonville) of the school district said: “We have an opportunity with these challenges to make good things happen for the district. My hope is that it will happen in a timely manner. The hardest part is not knowing.”

At the dinner table and in school classrooms, students have begun to talk abut what airport expansion will do to their school. Mary Hornberger said her first-graders say things such as, “My mom says we have to move somewhere because the airport may take our house, and we may not be able to go to this school.’

Jim Schwab, principal at Carrollton Oaks Elem: “Although we go on and do the best job we can educating students, a dark cloud hangs over our heads. We would like to know what’s going to happen and when it will happen. Then we can start making plans.”

“Why do we have to move? Why do we have to sell to the airport?” were questions that Colleen and more than estimated 2,500 other students (from schools affected by the buyout and students living in homes in the buyout but attend unaffected schools) asked their parents, teachers, principals, camp counselors, and others. The answers to those questions are just as complicated and open-ended as it is today; one that many of us are still trying to find.

Colleen shared with me the last memories she had in her home and with her Bridgeton friends before moving out on New Year’s Eve of 1999. She remembers her mom cleaning the house spotless, scrubbing for weeks in anticipation of the arrival of Mr. Goldman, the home inspector contracted by Lambert. He came around sometime in November, knowing that this would be the last holiday season they would spend in their home. Her parents had two large older dogs that had damaged the carpets. She remembers vividly the effort of replacing the carpets of her brother’s room and steam-cleaning the carpet in her room for the inspection. To her, it seemed so odd to clean and replace carpeting in a home that would be later torn down. Colleen’s birthday was also around that season, so her parents treated her to a dinner at Red Lobster. Afterwards, she was then given a surprise birthday party at the Bridgeton Community Center in a special room overlooking the pools. It would be a last but joyous occasion with her childhood Bridgeton friends. Two days after Christmas, the family began the task to pack their things and have one last garage sale. Colleen can remember that her family took the refrigerator and the oven while the rest of the appliances remained. The home’s specific characteristics; the fireplace, the built-in shelves of the living room, the loft over the garage, a pool and brick patio all had to stay behind.

Colleen’s family made a trip to the area in the spring of 2001. Her vacant home remained standing a year and a half after her family left. Other homes around were in varying degrees of existence, much of which remained the same as she remembered from a few years ago.

On September 7th, 2001, the family passed through the Carrollton area once again. John Calvin Presbyterian Church stood tall, and much of Parlier Street and Bonfils Lane were still there and labeled. Her house, along with her pool, brick patio, and favorite trees were nothing more than a grassy patch of land. However, plenty of other homes remained. Four days after her trip, an event happened which would forever change the way the nation traveled by air. The September 11th attacks put the airline industries and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport into an economic dive that they have yet to recover from. However, by spring of 2003, when the family made another trip into Missouri, they saw a dirt mound that would later become Runway 11-29 encroaching its way to Larchburr Lane, creating a dead-end at Bonfils.

Whether the residents lived in Carrollton their whole lives, or only a few years, it is clear that a declaration of eminent domain has a human impact that is never fully accounted for in initial planning or adequately compensated. The events surrounding a forced buyout of someone’s home and property are life-changing, painful, and span an entire spectrum from being a major inconvenience to the cause of traumatic stress, with everything in between. For every place once occupied, there is a human memory.

Thank you Colleen for sharing your memories with us!

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The Show-Me Institute and nextSTL present a free advance screening of the Battle for Brooklyn, a documentary about the abuse of eminent domain to make way for luxury housing and a stadium.
The screening will be held:
Monday, April 23
7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
The Luminary Center for the Arts
4900 Reber Place, Saint Louis MO 63139

PLEASE RSVP AT: http://showmeinstitute.org/eminent-domain-apr12

Afterwards, we will host a panel discussion about the threat of eminent domain in the Saint Louis area. Panelists include:

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A few desperate individuals are looking under couches and between the seat cushions hunting for money towards rebuilding interest in Aerotropolis. A pot of just $3 million in tax dollars shuffled around in a probably legal but highly confusing manner just to get the Aerotropolis bait funded again. Will this $3 million slip back between the seat cushions as mature trees flourish and the concrete roads that were once Carrollton continue to dissolve back into nature’s reclaim?

According to a confusing series of articles in the Post-Dispatch regarding the (nonexistent) Asian cargo air hub at Lambert, it looks like Aerotropolis proponents will be handed $3 million in yet another effort to lure Asian shipping flights into Lambert.  Where did they get the $3 million in pocket change and how exactly will it be used? Perhaps I can explain how they got the money slightly better than the Post did. How it will be used is unclear to everyone, including those who appropriated the funds.

Due to massive Missouri floods in 2008, Missouri received a large sum of grant money from the federal government for redevelopment of affected lands plus general flood relief. The Lemay area was one of the areas affected by flooding and due to receive grant money. Lemay is in St. Louis County.

However, Lemay has already approved a $3 million appropriation of tax funds from the nearby River City Casino for roadway improvements. Casino money does not have the stringent regulations on how that money can be used as federal grant money does. Therefore, the appropriation of funds from the Casino is more flexible than federal funds.

On April 4th, the St. Louis County Council approved a measure to transfer Lemay’s $3 million Casino funds towards a pot designed to lure air cargo for Lambert. As a trade-off, Lemay will receive $3 million from the feds in flood money to reconstruct their roads and infrastructure.

I admit, this is a clever way of finding money, if somewhat strange. It seems to me that Lambert, together with the RCGA had to really spend some time searching every possible route and talking with every entity to find this money. Shifting millions of funds allocated for other intentions through loopholes should be considered controversial. Re- appropriating tax funds happen in government, but given the final purpose of these funds seems all together desperate.

So, how exactly will $3 million that has been indirectly shifted from the River City Casino be used at Lambert? (more…)

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Finally, some good news! Lately, it seems that the City of St. Louis has been stepping up their plans with local developers to demolish historic homes and buildings for controversial redevelopments, which has caused growing concern among preservationists. However, it seems that St. Louis will soon be creating a list of buildings in the Mid-Century Modern style that hopefully will continue to withstand the test of time. This is a small step, but I feel that it is an important step in the right direction towards historical preservation. I will be curious to see what buildings make the list, and I certainly hope that those Mid-Century Modern examples that do not make the cut are granted extended life through other means.

After the former Del Taco ‘Flying Saucer’ on Grand was spared the wrecking ball, many local preservationists have been calling on local governments to save other important area Mid-Century marvels. Like any other historical architectural style, Mid-Century Modern is indeed irreplaceable. I am glad that the City of St. Louis is finally listening. The general appearance of these structures reflect an era that was comfortable, spacious, and carried futuristic thoughts with hints of the optimism in modern life after World War II. In their quirky, sleek, minimal, sometimes jarring, or somewhat abstract nature, these buildings were deemed outdated and fad-like far too soon and often fast targets for redevelopments. Saving the Saucer is just as important as saving a 100+ year old landmark as buildings in this style will offer future generations interesting historical architectural destinations.

I am very glad to see that St. Louis is willing to preserve more Mid-Century marvels beyond the Saucer. Its about time our St. Louis leaders recognizes the importance of preserving our great buildings if we are to retain the character of our City. Whether  Mounds built thousands of years ago by the Mississippian tribes, a Victorian mansion, an Edwardian corner shop, or a 1950s era dwelling, we need to ask ourselves if we are truly preserving our history, art, architecture, and overall way of life for our future generations to appreciate. It is true that not everything can be saved. Yet, we must not recklessly destroy every example of existing architecture while assuming any site is ‘not as important as something else out there.’ Extinction is forever.

I am also hoping that local prominent preservationist and fellow blogger Michael Allen is awarded the consultant job on this important task force. Michael Allen has been a driving force of preservation in the St. Louis area, a voice for the history of St. Louis, and a valuable resource for current events in local preservation. His blog, formerly Ecology of Absence is now the Preservation Research Office.  I encourage you to bookmark it and check it often!

One of my favorite blogs for Mid-Century Modern goodies is Toby Weiss’ site, B.E.L.T. I too encourage you to bookmark this site and see for yourself how wonderful Mid-Century Modern truly is!

More information about the survey can be found at this article on STLToday.com.

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Check it out! She did an absolutely beautiful job!  Congrats Becky, and thank you again for all your hard work in putting together such a moving piece!



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This post contains portions of a letter sent to all Bridgeton city residents by former Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Director Donald W. Bennett in 1989.

Airport expansion will not destroy Bridgeton!

In the weeks since the airport planning group announced they had narrowed the study for Lambert expansion to 4 alternatives,  misinformation and rumors have been rampant. In retrospect, we should have said nothing until a final plan was developed.

First, please do not jump to conclusions. The final recommendation for airport expansion will be made in mid-October. Given the preliminary work I’ve seen, I am confident that many of the fears and concerns being expressed will be found to be unwarranted. Bridgeton will be totally destroyed are simply not correct.

Second, this letter is a general mailing to the residents of Bridgeton to address fears of airport expansion. We deeply regret that there will be some displacements. I can assure you, though, that the number one priority in reviewing the four options in the minimum disruption of community life. Specifically which properties will be needed for airport expansion will not be known until a final recommendation is made.

Third, those who need to move will be dealt with fairly and sensitively. Since property purchases began several years ago, we have successfully purchased over 1500 homes through separate negotiations iwth individual property owners. In addition to a fair purchase price, there are a host of other services provided to make the move for homeowners, renters, and affected businesses as easy as possible.

If we do nothing and let the center of air travel move to other states where airports are expanding, Lambert will slowly be strangled. That means we will ultimately lose jobs when that happens. The total negative impact on the entire community will be far worse than having to buy a number of homes for Lambert expansion.

Expansion of the airport is a painful decision that will, unfortunately, affect some people. We all understand this human factor and are pledged to work diligently to minimize the impact on those who must be affected. But  to do nothing, or try to move (the whole airport) elsewhere, would be unfair to the people of our region today and destructive to our children’s future.

In 1989, I was a young kid. Now, in the year 2012, my former classmates and neighbors who stayed in St. Louis are paying on the increasing debt load for a barely-utilized path of concrete that opened 5 and a half years ago. According to Bennett, the plan that was supposed to save our generation’s economic future was the very thing that has given us a $1.4 billion debt burden and left us with a runway that would have better luck hosting local drag races than commercial jets. Mr. Bennett was correct in saying that Bridgeton would not be completely destroyed. However, eliminating half of the city of Bridgeton and the entire community of Carrollton during an exasperating 20 year period is not exactly what most people today would consider “diligently minimizing impact.”

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