St. Augustine

It is a rock upon which he built
his church and this rock you hear me
of brown brick and towers and turrets
distinctly Romanesque constructed
when church buildings were made
to look like Mt. Sinai of the hood
afloat on Irish and German and
Italian accents which needed
a rock from the old country
and it still fights the decay
and decline surrounding it
with a clenched fist. 

Photograph: St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, Hyde Park, St. Louis, by Chris Naffziger at
St. Louis Patina.

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The Cathedral of St. Louis

It faces east, this stadium,
this cathedral where
Cardinal Nation worships.
It faces east not because
of Mecca or Jerusalem
but because of New York
and Philadelphia and
Boston and all the other
great and original cathedrals
where Nations worship.
It faces east because
its city ignored Mr. Holmes’
advice and looked back
to where it came from,
not to where it was going.
But it’s Game Day,
the worship hour and
no one cares about Mr. Holmes
or New York or the past or
the future because the moment
is now and the team
is on the field.

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Tuesday in the Rain

Early morning but still night,
thick laden clouds blocking
any vestige of first sunrise,
and the drops pour on Forest Park.
It’s 6:42 a.m., and the rain
erases lane dividers on Skinker
Boulevard, transforming the street
into a river of red taillights
and white headlights.
Intrepid joggers and bikers ignore
the downpour as they move,
glistening in the wet darkness.

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When Cities Still Dreamed

Erected in an explosion of growth and opportunity,
it was Neo-Gothic optimism announcing itself,
if not its host, to the world. Steam and diesel
propelled and pushed and pulled millions
through its platforms and gates, a paroxysm
of humanity eating its food, using its facilities,
buying its books and magazines and newspapers;
train culture was the apogee of print culture –
you needed something to do for those long hours
and days across plains and valleys and mountains.
Like aging silent film star after the talkies, it sat
and drank and brooded as technology superseded
its purpose, rendering it redundant and making its
redundancy its rendering, its heavy makeup and
elaborate sets archaic for a utilitarian age. Still,
it sits and watches, waiting, a reminder
of when cities still dreamed dreams.

St. Louis Union Station was built in the in 1890s, designed by architect Theodore C. Link. At its height, the “Midway” of the station serviced more than 100,000 people a day. In the early 1980s, the station underwent a $150 million renovation, and now includes a hotel, shops and restaurants. The famous photograph of President Truman holding a news paper with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” was taken on a train here.

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The Mississippi to my right
I bike South Broadway north
to Soulard and downtown
a light downhill slope and
coast into a smell-wave
of yeast, fermentation
from stainless cylinders,
brewer’s art and brewer’s science
behind old brick and stone
vented to open windows spilling
out on to the pavement

The wave washes over me and
through me leaving barroom
remnants on its way downriver

Photograph: Anheuser-Busch Brewery, South Broadway, by St. Louis Patina.

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A city lies atop a bed of this stuff;
it is everywhere, easily uncovered
by scratching the thin layer of top soil.

The city was constructed of this stuff,
mixed and shaped and kilned in reds
and yellows by cheap immigrant hands.

The city is made distinctive by this stuff,
in scrubbed dutch rows and bungalows
squatting in the splendor of solidity.

In the 19th century, skilled immigrant labor from Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe was put to work in the construction business, desperately needed the pressures of commerce and housing in a frontier town exploding in growth. And what better building material than the clay beds that lay in large areas beneath the city? And if you made more than you needed, you had the river and the railroads to ship it where it was needed.

There’s a new documentary about this most mundane building material – “Brick by Chance and Fortune.”

And the blog St. Louis Patina posts daily about architecture in St. Louis – and much of that architecture is brick.

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Soulard Market

Ancient she is, at least by American
standards, but what should be
a doddering old dowager is instead
bursting with life, specials on tomatoes,
did you thump the cantaloupes, I love
those big watermelons, apples, peaches
from Illinois, Oregon blueberries,
Michigan cherries and those raspberries
are near perfect. Saturdays are best,
the smells at their most exotic, the music
at its most boom box and minstrel diverse
as people as varied as the produce crowd
the aisles, jam the shops, eat their snow
cones, grab the fresh bread and cookies
and rolls; parking’s always a problem
but that’s okay, we don’t mind, a minor
inconvenience to pay tribute
to the grand old lady with the open arms
and the blue hair.

Started in a meadow in 1779, Soulard Farmer’s Market is one of the oldest continuing farmer’s market in the United States.

Top photograph: Soulard Market by .

Bottom: An old postcard showing the Soulard farmer’s market before the buildings were constructed.

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