Sunday, February 7, 2016

Baden Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Baden is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system.
It is located at 8448 Church Road at Halls Ferry Road in the Baden Neighborhood.

The library takes its name from the neighborhood for which it resides. Baden became part of St. Louis in 1876. The name Baden likely came from the German city of the same name, since it was settled largely by German immigrants. Per the St. Louis City archive:
Several versions exist as to how the name of Baden was chosen, but it is generally associated with the fact that Frederick Kraft, a pioneer settler in 1852, was born in Baden-Baden, Germany. Kraft, operator of a saloon, submitted Baden as the name for the first post office in 1860 and it was officially adopted when he became the postmaster. Kraft's saloon and general store at the southwest corner of Broadway and Bittner Street was called the "Six Mile House" due to its distance from St. Louis. It was the nucleus for the business district which later developed in the vicinity. An interesting sidelight about Baden is that there were several Indian mounds in the area in its earlier years. 
In earlier years residents of Baden obtained library books through a local store where books were deposited and returned for delivery to Central Library downtown. Efforts by the Baden public school groups resulted in the establishment of a branch library in an old mounted police station at 8316 North Broadway in 1928. The building was originally leased for $1 per month. Three community organizations: The Baden Business Men’s Association, Baden School Mother’s Club, and the Baden School Patron’s Association worked to obtain the branch in their community.  (source)
 photo source: SLPL Then and Now

The present library building at 8448 Church Road was completed in 1960 and opened in January, 1961. The cornerstone honors the history of the library, dating back to 1928.
The building was designed by St. Louis Architect John Senne and was built by the Albers Construction Company.
  photo source: SLPL Then and Now circa 1961

The 5,000 sq. ft. building pictured above was renovated, adding an additional 1000 sq. ft. and reopened in 1999.
From the map above, you can see that the library sits on a wedge of sorts, between Church Road, Halls Ferry Road and McLaran Avenue. The way the architects situated the building and the amount of green space surrounding the building along with the simple and effective landscaping seems perfectly suited. I won't be able to convince you with my photos, so if you visit this branch and walk the perimeter of the property, let me know if you agree. The property is perfect.
The building looks much older than it is with a classic look that hearkens back to the early 20th Century. 
The small parking lot doesn't eat up too much space, and the bike rack is perfectly situated right next to the rear entrance.
The interior is compact, yet efficient, providing a children's, teen and adult libraries. The windows on the front of the building provide a lot of natural light.
Like all libraries, there is community information and resources posted for all to see.
The building is impressive enough to want to learn more about John Senne who designed it. Per "find a grave", Mr. Senne was the official architect for the St. Louis Library Board, and in addition to working on a redesigned of the Central Library, he worked on three libraries in St. Louis, Baden, Buder-II (currently the Record Exchange) and the third is a mystery that I will investigate at the Central Library.

Mysteries at the Library (Baden Branch)
  1. Baden and Buder-II were designed by John Senne, what was the third branch?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Marketplace Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Marketplace is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system. It is one of the three "mini-branches" along with Central Express and Charing Cross.
It is located at 6548 Manchester Avenue in the Ellendale Neighborhood.

It takes its name from the 1990's-era strip mall of the same name. There is no bike rack, as this is a nearly 100% auto-centric suburban style strip mall.
The branch is currently located next to a fitness gym which is extremely popular, so the location for a pick up/drop off express library seems fitting in the sense that it is a high traffic area.

Yet, pedestrian access is highly limited as is the nature of the strip mall as a whole.

Like all the branches, Marketplace is welcoming and brightly lit albeit a bit non-descript.

But it certainly does it's job of creating a place for residents in the Dogtown area to pick up and drop off selections from the entire library catalog. There is also a small selection of movies and music in addition to the books.
hubba hubba

Like all libraries, there is a security guard on duty, so it is a safe place for all.

So if you're in the Dogtown area, you know where to drop off or pick up your books!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Julia Davis Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Julia Davis is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system.
It is located at 4415 Natural Bridge Avenue at N. Newstead Avenue in the Penrose Neighborhood.

The branch is unique in that it was the first library to be named in honor of a living person. Julia Davis was an educator and researcher of African-American history. Davis lived to 102 and dedicated her life to teaching and awareness of African-American cultural contributions. She taught for 48 years in the St. Louis Public Schools, 35 of those years at Simmons Elementary in the Ville of her students was Chuck Berry.  Then, on the day she retired in 1961 she established the Julia Davis Fund at the St Louis Public Library, designed for the purchase of books, manuscripts, etc. related to the African-American contribution to world culture.
This branch is dedicated to her collection. There's a comprehensive entry on her life on Wikipedia.
On April 21, 1974, the St Louis Public Library broke with tradition by dedicating a Branch in honor of a living person. On February 14, 1993, the new Julia Davis Branch was officially opened. Built on a land donated by the Commerce Bank, it houses the collection consisting of books, manuscripts, newspapers, art work and other research materials, which document the history and cultural heritage of African Americans and people of African descent worldwide. Davis' initial gift of $2,500 in 1961 was used to begin the Library's Julia Davis Collection of Negro and African Literature and Culture. She also donated her personal collection to the Davis Collection at the same time. 
The ground breaking for a new Julia Davis Branch at 4415 Natural Bridge was held on September 29, 1991. Land for the new Branch, the first Branch of the St. Louis Public Library system to be constructed since 1974, had been donated by Commerce Bank of St. Louis. The 15,000-square-foot building, designed by architect Russell Lewis of By Design, Inc., features a 100-seat auditorium and space for collections of 50,000 volumes. Computers and educational and recreational software packages are available for public use. The Julia Davis Research Collection, now housed at Central Library, was moved to the new Branch when it opened in late 1992 or early 1993. (source)
Katie Moon, Administrative Assistant for Exhibits and Research provided a fantastic summary of her life on the Missouri History Museum blog:
Dr. Julia Davis was a force to be reckoned with, not because she yelled the loudest or donated the most money, but because she knew who she was and had a clear vision and purpose. She was an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things—and in doing so became an amazing example of a life well lived. Our city is a better place for her having lived and worked here.
Julia Davis, standing on the right, poses with other teachers who were trained in black history. Photograph, 1935. Missouri History Museum.

Per the St. Louis Public Library's "Then and Now" series, there are before and after photos of several branches (source). The branch was located at 4666 Natural Bridge Avenue (which opened in 1974):

photo circa 1977

This building is still standing today; from google streetview:

When I drove by, the building was still in use.
Then, in February, 1993 the branch opened in a new building on land donated by Commerce Bank’s Mound City Banking Center. The building architect was Russell Lewis, of local firm By Design, Inc. The general contractor for construction was Altman Charter Company.
The exterior is constructed of white metal panels. There is a large plaza in front of the entrance. Bike racks are well placed near the entrance and the street.
The interior opens up with a tall, open atrium with book returns and display cabinets.
The decor is themed with a jungle/rain forest motif with a stretch of tropical plants between the library floor and the large exterior windows to the east adding to the rain forest vibe. The carpet and Julia Davis collection also uses the palm theme.
The children's area is bright and open with toys, books, artwork, etc.
The chairs have a bird and insect theme.
Julia Davis' collection is toward the rear of the library and is available to all.
Like all the branches, seating is varied and well spaced to accommodate various needs.
Thanks to amazing St. Louisan's like Julia Davis, we have an invaluable collection and centralized documentation of the vast contributions of African-Americans to St. Louis and the world.

Julia Davis is one of three "regional libraries" that currently holds Sunday hours (along with Buder and Schlafly).