Abandoned: The Orange School in East St Louis

My excursions into the world are absurd, rife with fascinating mischief, bloated with unexpected adventure, and are always complicated by my compromised (flash burned) vision.

I find this enjoyable but Darren wasn't in the mood today when I turned a corner in east St. Louis, hit a piece of extended rebar from a crumbling sewer cover and blew out a tire. Whoops.

The back story: Last week I was driving along St Claire Ave in East STL when I detoured onto a side street to view the housing stock and saw an abandoned Mediterranean Revival school that had - I thought - orange limestone.

That was really exciting. Limestone was mined and I couldn't grasp what mineral had infiltrated it to produce the orange color. I didn't get out of the car to inspect the building and a week later realized I had been hilariously betrayed by my vision.

When we eventually arrived at our destination I discovered it was an orange glaze on the terra cotta which resonated with the barrel tiles on the roof.

It is exquisite.

We were driving through what was left of a neighborhood. Many of the homes had been razed. Traces of alleys remained, now paths, and sometimes I saw brick pavers but the alleys has been abandoned. Roll out carts were in use on the streets. Every street had deep and numerous potholes.

I stopped to photo an architectural relic and my favorite street hardware: a manhole cover with concentric circles. I was sneezing when I got back into the car and Darren asked if I was allergic to poverty. I sighed.

I saw a telephone phone that had snapped near its base.

We took a right back onto St Claire, I encountered the rebar and boom: an instant flat. I called Triple A then Darren and I strolled the area. I gathered and admired rocks from the train tracks that were laden with minerals: mica and pyrite.

Darren was bored and found an abandoned off ramp behind a chain link fence. A white man driving a utility truck called out to us asking if we were OK. You're in a really bad neighborhood he said. Why, I said to Darren, because only black people live here? We're fine, I told the driver. I have a lot of cash on me, Darren said, all worried we were going to be robbed. Again, I sighed.

An hour later a Forgiveness Truck pulled up and left the engine running the entire 20 minutes it took to change the tire. I'm reflected in its window.

We were now enroute to the Orange School as I was calling it.

I wonder if Michael Allen knows about this Darren wondered as we wandered the parameter of the compound.

Slate steps, I announced as we examined the disintegrating staircase.

Click on any photo to embiggen.

Snapped utility pole:

The Church of East St. Louis.

Excelsior Manhole cover.

Abandoned alley:

Abandoned brick:

Abandoned sycamore:

Abandoned infrastructure maintenance: Exposed rebar:

Abandoned off ramp:

Abandoned flat:

Cute squat hydrant. Working condition unknown but pointless in the midst of abandonment.

The tracks with mineral rich rocks. Thanks Universe!

Thank God I'm Forgiven! So it says on the door.

St Patrick's School and Church:

The gorgeous orange glaze.

Crumbling slate steps. Slate has always been a bad choice for a building material. Sure, slate roofs had up to 50 year life before replacement. That's a good record but slate steps were a bad choice :

The range of color to the bricks chosen for this building represent vision. The muted colors make the orange glaze pop:

Interesting that a building was erected during The Depression:
Lead paint fall out:
St Patrick's Church built in the 50s with some sleek polished granite columns beneath crazy capitals with bee hive, saw, shell, ornate leaves, and crosses.
The back of the school, the convent with a cross on the downspout, terra cotta spindles on what may have been the rectory, and the chimney:
An article I found online that references St Patrick's: http://www.eslarp.uiuc.edu/ibex/archive/nunes/esl%20history/esl_police.htm


Unknown said...

There is another school in the STL area with the same glazed terra cotta, but for the life of me I can't remember where it is located. Oh, well, maybe my wife and I will stumble upon it...again. (Which would make it the third time)

Christian Herman said...

Mike F: Are you thinking of the school on State Street? If so it's also completely abandoned and the roof is gone.

Unknown said...

No, the building we saw was in excellent shape, and in use. I'm thinking Alton, but we also go hiking at Taum Sauk, and some other State Parks in that area, soooo...it could be anywhere in the dozens of places we've been. Damn, this is going to drive me nuts...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like quite a trip! I love all of the photography here, but my favorite from this post is the manhole cover. Great find!

Christian Herman said...

Thanks stlexplorer! I was smitten by the manhole cover also. Perhaps someday we can go exploring together. I'm so pleased you take the time to stop by.

GMichaud said...

Nice tour, yeah I haven't wandered around East St. Louis in awhile, although I was not far from the area not long ago. I was trying to find the site of the old packing yard, actually I was looking for Robertson Farm Supply, turns out they moved from a now demolished probably 1890's building to a new warehouse building totally without character.
East St. Louis was a nice town, not too long ago either.


Unknown said...

St. Francis Borgia, in Washington, MO. My wife and I go out there to Thierbach Farms to pick blueberries (and others), and that's when we saw the 'other' school with the same orange terra cotta.

Charlie said...

Beautiful school and amazing brickwork. Hope it finds a new purpose some day soon.

Unknown said...

stumbled on this page. nice capturing man. i'm a lover of old architecture too

Christian Herman said...

Thanks Kevin Mock. This was my favorite post ev. It's tragic that the school is slowly falling apart.
btw, I'm a woman not a man ;)