A Bitter-Sweet Ending for the Campaign to Save the Lewis & Clark Branch Library


Lindsey Derrington


Modern STL


Newsletter, Advocacy, chapter, Library, St. Louis
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Update by Lindsey Derrington

Docomomo US Friend Organization Modern STL led the hard-fought campaign to preserve North St. Louis County’s Lewis and Clark Branch Library from 2012 to 2014. The library, designed by Frederick Dunn, FAIA with stunning stained glass windows by nationally-prominent artist Robert Harmon, opened to acclaim in January 1963. Less than fifty years later, however, it was marked for demolition and replacement by the St. Louis County Library Board of Trustees. This was because of its age and in open disregard of its reuse potential, which Modern STL demonstrated through sustained outreach efforts focused on the building’s excellent condition and ideal suitability for a financially-responsible addition to meet SLCL’s stated programmatic needs. Modern STL’s board, members, and partners are the grateful recipients of Docomomo US’ 2015 Modernism in America Awards Citation of Merit for their efforts, but the timing is bittersweet.

Docomomo US’ awards announcement, however, could not have come at a more poignant time. St. Louis County Library has accelerated its demolition schedule in order to open the replacement branch by September. Construction crews have started removing select panels of Lewis and Clark’s famed stained glass windows. Despite our efforts to convince SLCL Director Kristen Sorth to commit to a responsible preservation plan for these masterworks, only some of the stained glass panels appear destined to be relocated in the new building. Broken glass has been spotted on site, and the rest of the panels, we fear, are headed for the landfill.

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