Mid-Century Harris Armstrong Demolition in the Central West End

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Harris Armstrong - South Parish Hall demo

I was surprised when an architect friend mentioned to me that Harris Armstrong’s 1954 International Style South Parish Hall (attached to Trinity Episcopal Church) at Euclid and Olive has seen significant demolition. I’m not sure how this one slipped by without public notice. Looking at the site now, precious little of Harris Armstrong’s building remains.

Harris Armstrong (1899 – 1973) was the foremost modernist active in St. Louis. He designed the 1935 Shanley Building in Clayton to international acclaim. He was the architect behind the 1938 Grant Medical Clinic, the 1946 Magic Chef Headquarters (with Isamu Noguchi) and the 1962 Ethical Society.

Harris Armstrong - Magic Chef / U-Haul{Magic Chef headquarters (now U-Haul) by Harris Armstrong on South Kingshighway}

Armstrong’s South Parish Hall was a classic mid-century design which through choice of materials blended gracefully with the earlier stone gothic church.

South Parish Hall:

Harris Armstrong - South Parish Hall demo

Harris Armstrong - Trinity Episcopal Chuch South Parish Hall

Harris Armstrong - Trinity Episcopal Chuch South Parish Hall

The stated reasons for the demolition were that the Harris Armstrong design was too small to fit the needs of an active congregation. The structure needed a new roof and lacked the modern kitchen and restrooms required by current users. Renovation was estimated to cost in excess of $100,000 and would have failed to address the need for increased space. The new structure designed by Jim Riddle aspires to maintain something of Armstrong’s aesthetic. A $700,000 building permit was approved last November.

Harris Armstrong - South Parish Hall demo{rendering of new South Parish Hall}

I wish them the best. But I still grieve the loss of a once-shining midcentury gem by one of our city’s greatest architects.

Trinity Episcopal Church South Parish Hall Campaign Brochure – St. Louis by nextSTL.com

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  • Ihanaf

    Champagne aluminum and bronze glass. I hope (and pray) they know what they are doing.

  • The loss of this modernist addition is unfortunate, however I’m fairly certain it was NOT designed by Armstrong. For some years I believed that it was as the address is listed in the Armstrong Archives, however when I examined the drawings he prepared at the time the work consisted entirely of interior renovations.

    I believe the addition was actually designed by modernist architect Fred Dunn who did a great deal of work for the Episcopal Dioceses. Once I understood the addition as Dunn’s, things began to fall into place. One can see connections between his use of masonry and glass at Trinity in comparison to the Steinberg Rink, Lewis and Clark Library and the Morton May Residence Addition in Brentmoor Park.

  • STLEnginerd

    So they started demolishing on the walls WITH the pendant lights on…???? Isn’t step one of demo cutting power, at least if I ever did it I think that would be my first step.

    • Mike F

      Holy crap, you’re right! WTF?!

      Glad we still have the Ethical Society on Clayton.

      • kjohnson04

        When I opened the post that was the first thing I noticed. Wow. That seems safe.

  • Kate Lovelady

    Sorry to hear about this, although I understand the needs of a growing congregation. BTW, for anyone interested in this type of architecture or in Armstrong, the Ethical Society of St. Louis will be having an architectural tour of our building on April 25, 2015, as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of our amazing Armstrong building. (It may have been designed in 1962, I don’t know, but we had our first meeting in it in 1964 and officially dedicated it in 1965.) And/or anyone is welcome to come by anytime to see it.

    • Mike F

      My wife and I were married by an officiate from the Ethical Society. Jim, if I remember correctly. Big, barrel-chested guy. Couldn’t have been nicer.