Happy Spring my friends!
It is no secret that I am passionate about saving historic buildings. I consider them works of art and after all, architecture is about people. Our built history is created by people and it is people that give life to brick and mortar.
Instead, one of the key reasons I created my coffee table book, Hand Painted Homes – An Artist’s Pen and Watercolor Journey Across America, (which I released in 2021) was to raise awareness of the fact that hundreds of historic homes and buildings are being torn down every day in this country. I decided to document beautiful vintage structures before it was too late. Sadly, many of the homes that I feature in my book, no longer stand today.
Last August I moved to St. Louis MO, a city rich in stunning historic architecture. I knew full well that it also had a huge problen with abandoned homes and buildings. And while the city and preservation advocates have worked diligently over the years to improve this situation, today out of a total of 129,500 properties, a whopping 25,000 are considered vacant and abandoned.
As I drive around the city, it breaks my heart to see crumbling and discarded buildings, however their beauty and form can still be seen behind their mask of despair. Regrettably, in many cases, the time for valiant action to save these old beauties has long since passed. I have noted that once they fall into the abandoned and neglected stage, it is not only the elements that keeps them under siege. To add to their misery, they are attacked and plundered by those seeking to obtain any value they can still be extracted from them.
“Love Me Don’t Leave Me” Series
This series includes homes, a school, early city factories, and also this Gothic Revival style church built in 1896.
As an artist and lover of history, I decided to shine the light on the plight of these forgotten relics with my Love Me Don’t Leave Me series. My aim is to show their haunting beauty and a give a tiny glimpse of some of the stories that still might hide within their walls.
This is a mixed media piece. I started with a black and white photo that I took, then added four different artistic mediums to create the exact effect I wanted, including ink pen, watercolor, acrylic paint and colored pencil.
This piece is entitled “Keeping the Candle Burning.” Peer more closely and you will see why.
A little bit of history regards the Church. The former St. Augustine Catholic Church was built to accommodate the growing number of German immigrants arriving into St. Louis. It was designed by German-born architect Louis Wessbecher and had a congregation of more than 2,000.
A rectory was constructed in 1928 and St. Augustine continued to support a large parish until the mid-20th century, when sadly the neighborhood began to decline. In 1982 the property was purchased in 1982 by Christ Baptist Church, and then to the Last Awakening Outreach Center, and was in use until 2014.
In early 2020, a non-profit organization, Project Augustine, purchased the property. It’s goal is to restore the church and repurpose the space as a community center. The project is challenging however as St. Augustine is in peril due to theft, vandalism, and decay that occurred during the time that the church was vacant. The estimated cost is $10 million with the immediate goal of repairing the roof and securing the structure.
In October 2020, St. Augustine was listed on the Missouri Historic Places in Peril list I, for one, hope that efforts to save this old beauty will not fall short of the intended goal. Hopefully my artistic depiction of the church will help spread the word that it needs urgent help. More information on Project Augustine and how you can help can be found at:
Until next time,