The Shell Building downtown is defined by its curved walls and thickly spaced windows. Designer Jeremy Clagett says the architecture lightly mimics the shape of a shell pulled from the sea. He also said securing its preservation helps the city’s future as much as its past.
“It’s not only a function of preserving our city. It’s a function of preserving a high quality city when St. Louis desperately needs it,” Clagett said.
The Shell Building is one of two St. Louis structures being considered by The National Parks Service as additions to the National Register of Historic Places. The Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children building at Washington University School of Medicine is also being evaluated. Clagett nominated the Shell building to the register. He says St. Louis is filled with buildings that would benefit from being listed on the register.
“They’re all worth saving in some sort of capacity and the ones that have the most interesting stories are even more important to save,” he said.
The Shell Building’s story began in 1926 when the Shell Oil Company built it as the company's headquarters. According to Clagett, the building is unique to the time period because it embraced a curved building plot as inspiration for its shape.
Clagett says the nomination is integral in establishing the building’s future and worked with the building’s owner on the nomination. If the building obtains Historic Place status, it will be eligible for the Historic Preservation Tax Credit. According to Clagett this tax credit would provide the necessary relief for the owner to implement major renovations on the building.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Real Estate at Washington University Mary Campbell, says no such renovations are imminent for the university-owned Shriner’s hospital.
“We’re still looking at Shriner’s from putting it on the register because we think it’s a significant building,” said Campbell.
The Shriner’s building was constructed around 1924 by influential St. Louis architect William B. Ittner and was the site of a number of medical breakthroughs in pediatric orthopedics. The site was essential in producing research related to lengthening bones in children.
Like Clagett, Campbell sees the value in the buildings’ narrative.
“It’s a terrific story for the community,” she said.
Although there are no immediate plans for renovations at the site, Campbell acknowledges work could be done on the building years in the future.