Friday, August 15, 2008

Too much love for brick boxes

One of the most unexpected parts of my move to St Louis is how homesick I have been for Williamsburg. Maybe not the sleepy retiree/tourist aspect of the town, but the colonial fantasyland aspect. It doesnt help that I spent the weeks before my departure at history camp, where life revolves around plantation homes and historic churches. Now I am going through Georgian architecture withdrawal. Don't get me wrong, St. Louis abounds with interesting buildings. This city has a remarkable affintity for Romanesque arches, stone accents, and Gothic Revival churches. My own neighborhood is full of adorable brick cottages. Still, it feels foreign.

Today, perhaps through the grace of God, I got a taste of what I had been missing so much. First there was a detour past the Missouri History Museum on my way to the Metrolink station. Built in 1913 with World's Fair proceeds, it's a dramatic neo-classical difice located in Forest Park. Between the pedimented facade and Lee/Grant exhibition poster, I was getting weak in the knees. I wanted to hug their stately columns and place my fingers in their Corinthian grooves.

My second taste of the Burg came at the end of the day. Today was the feast of the Assumption, and we VSC girls were happy to find a 7pm mass at nearby All Saints parish. We were glad we didn't have to drag ourselves to the 6:30am at the parish next door. As we drove up to All Saints, we noted the charming cupola and very confusing parking space alignment.

Inside, All Saints was like a time capsule, a cornucopia of 1930's Colonial Revival styling nearly untouched by 1970's "renovations." The octagonal nave's decor surely had been influenced by the 'Burg, as it overflowed with walnut paneling and neo-classical elements. On the side altars and main reredos, the columns, scroll work, and broken pediments could have been ripped from any of WM's Sunken Garden buildings. The elaborate wallpaper (yes, wallpaper in a church) would easily be at home in the George Wythe house. Clearly, someone was trying to bring the style of Colonial Williamsburg to University City.

While the woodwork was a taste of Tidewater Virginia, the stained glass was a creative take on the usual iconography. Round windows depicted scenes from the life of Mary (Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Assumption). The taller ones each displayed one of the Beatitudes, and appropriate theme for a church dedicated to the communion of saints.

Overall, I liked the church, although I got distracted by the feeling that I was worshipping in a museum. As we drove away, I resolved to return and photograph the building. Maybe I could even start a study of St Louis church architecture.

Too bad a fellow blogger beat me to the punch. The guy who writes "Rome of the West" has already documented All Saints for his own extensive church collection. Oh well, I didn't have my tripod here anyway. Dang, he must have a lot of free time and new-convert fervor.

No comments: