Saturday, February 13, 2016

Carondelet Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Carondelet is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system.
It is located at 6800 Michigan Avenue at Krauss Street in the Carondelet Neighborhood.

The library takes its name from the neighborhood where it resides, which in turn took its name from Francisco Luis Hector, barĂ³n de Carondelet, a Frenchman who held the role as governor of the territory of Louisiana during the Spanish Colonial years in the U.S. (source).
The Carondelet branch opened to the public in June, 1908. 
photo source: SLPL Then and Now, circa 1910

The classic Greek Ionic style building was designed by architect Ernest Preisler.
Carondelet is one of seven Carnegie libraries.
The grounds have a small sculpture in honor of veterans of World War I; it was dedicated on May 30, 1924. Carondelet's Memorial which reads:

"To her sons both living and dead who served in the world war".

And on a separate plaque:

"They Fought For Peace In The World"
I can't help but think there was once a flag, or some other structure atop the simple concrete base. I'll add that to my list of "Mysteries of the Library" to follow up on.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Carondelet Branch underwent an extensive renovation and restoration in 2011 and it reopened to the public on June 16, 2012.
An addition to the rear of the building added some space to the interior library and provided an elevator for easy access for all. Parking lines the south and east sides of the building.
For those that visited the library before it was renovated, you know the restoration and renovation is striking. Of all the Carnegie renovations and modernizations, this is my personal favorite. The space is open and bright with plenty of nods to the original grandeur of the building.
The interior paintings and prints that grace the walls in Carondelet are my favorites. They are subtle, fitting of the neighborhood and very humble and real, not unlike the feel I've always gotten in this part of town. 
Carondelet has several charming stone houses

The man in the middle is no other than Henry Taylor Blow, one of my favorite St. Louisans (father of Susan Elizabeth Blow, another of my favorite St. Louisans).
There is a grand mural in one section of the library by artist Robert Rigsby who painted the oil on canvas mural in his studio and transported it to the library. There is a small key in the lower left corner of the mural dated 1906. The mural was carefully restored when the branch underwent renovation in 2011.
The existence of this mural is especially important, as it is the last remaining of three Rigsby murals he did for the library. There was one at the Cabanne and Crunden branches. The one at Cabanne "disappeared without a trace" (source entry below) and the Crunden library which was demolished per the Preservation Research Office from 2011.
The lower level, not unlike the Cabanne Library, has a beautiful auditorium for public meetings and programming, including a series of "Author's Breakfasts" which invite local writers to speak about their latest works.
The auditorium received a high-tech upgrade during the renovation, including soundproofing and modern connections and lighting, all the while keeping the ornate charm of the original building.
The Carondelet branch is a perfect example of how investment in our history pays by preserving these special places for future generations to behold. St. Louis is a city built to be great, and the renovation and restoration of these Carnegie libraries is something we can all be proud of. Previous generations received this gift and our generation paid it forward by updating and restoring these public spaces for future St. Louisans to cherish!

Mysteries of the Library (Carondelet Branch):

  1. Was there more to the "Carondelet's Memorial" sculpture on the grounds?

Cabanne Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Cabanne is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system.
It is located at 1106 Union Boulevard at Cabanne Avenue in the Academy Neighborhood.

It takes its name from the main street in the 1877 Cabanne Subdivision laid out by Dr. John S. Cabanne, owner of a long, narrow strip of land running westward from Union Boulevard. The doctor's home was located on this street (source). This part of the city was claimed by settler Jean Pierre Cabanne.

Cabanne is one of seven Carnegie libraries, it opened in July, 1907. This beautiful building was designed by Mauran, Russell, and Garden Architects and constructed by Harvey and Hall (source).
 photo source, circa 1910: SLPL Then and Now

There is a small parking lot at the rear of the building and bike racks along Union.
The grounds are landscaped and tiered. One could easily make an argument that this is the most beautiful branch in the entire system.
Aside from Central, the entryway is my personal favorite.
 St. Louis Free Public Library 1906
The first floor interior is very similar to the Barr Branch before it was renovated. The wood book shelves are original.
There is a children's area, computer space and adult library.
There is an auditorium in the basement that is very similar to the Carondelet Branch.
Children's programming takes place here as well as other community events.

This library is the last active Carnegie branch to get a modernization re-make. That is both a strength as you can see how the building was intended to be used by its original designers, but it is also a weakness in that it needs a refreshed look. I understand there are plans to eventually renovate this branch.