Save the Lewis & Clark Library!

December 12, 2013 , In: Featured Posts, Quick Thoughts , With: One Comment


As a North County resident for most of my life, I’ve been a frequent patron of St. Louis County Library’s Lewis & Clark branch for as long as I can remember. A mid-century gem designed by Frederick Dunn in 1963, its streamline modern design and exceptional art glass windows have always provided a very peaceful setting for reading and learning, but they are now in danger of demolition.

Please check out the following info from Modern STL (which is selling the sweet image above on a t-shirt!), and find out how you can help to save this architectural treasure….

Tell the Library Trustees That You Support Preserving the Lewis and Clark Branch Library

The plight of North County’s landmark Lewis and Clark Branch Library (depicted above in All Along Press’ stunning design soon to be featured on one of our T-shirts) is dire. The St. Louis County Library Board of Trustees has circled its rhetorical wagons around demolition of the Frederick Dunn-designed building, completed in 1963.

Meanwhile, the Lewis and Clark Branch Library has garnered more national attention in the last two months. In October, Next City placed the library on a list of significant endangered or demolished modernist buildings following an article by Modern STL President Michael R. Allen on Chicago’s under-demolition Prentice Hospital. Then the December issue of Metropolis Magazine included Lewis and Clark in an article on modernist buildings worth preservation. The article included a quote from Modern STL board member Lindsey Derrington.

National press ranking Lewis and Clark among landmarks designed by Richard Neutra, Bertrand Goldberg, A. Quincy Jones and Eero Saarinen caught local attention. Still the Trustees of the St. Louis County Library press to tear down Lewis and Clark. In the minutes of the September 2013 meeting of the Board of Trustees is this section:

Regarding Lewis and Clark, the Administration is working with Landmark and the architects at KAI on programming the new building. It is our plan to build a new and bigger branch that will better meet the needs of the patrons as well as the community. We plan to save the stained glass windows and incorporate them into the new building in a prominent location.

Modern STL and preservationists oppose removal of the Emil Frei Art Glass Company windows, because they are integral to the building’s overall design — which is significant for a lot more than its distinctive windows.

According to minutes from the July meeting, KAI (working with Perkins & Will of Chicago) started design work on Lewis and Clark in early August. Details on where the new library building will be built are not public yet, although the Library has retained Centrex Strategies to provide public relations services for the facilities projects. For the Meramec Valley and Tesson Ferry branches, the Library has purchased new sites. A new Lewis and Clark Branch Library need not entail demolition of the old, it seems.

Modern STL offered former Library Director Charles Pace assistance in finding a compromise that would balance the system’s needs with preservation concern. We renew that offer to his successor, Kristen Sorth, and the Trustees. As we await news of the Library’s plans, we ask supporters of the building to take a small step toward its preservation.

TIME TO ACT: Send a copy of THIS LETTER directly to the Board of Trustees of the St. Louis County Library. We especially urge patrons of the County Library system to sound off — even if you do not use the Lewis and Clark Branch, you are a stakeholder of the system and the Trustees’ ultimate decision represents your library system!

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