Take 5: Kevin Amsler and John Schott look at the legacy of Maritz and Young | St. Louis Public Radio

Take 5: Kevin Amsler and John Schott look at the legacy of Maritz and Young

Aug 30, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: You know that house that has caught your eye as you drive down such streets as Southmoor or Lindell or Forsyth? One architectural firm helped define gracious living in the 1920s and '30s. The 150 houses designed by Maritz and Young largely still stand as examples of how one firm worked with clients to produce an array of styles that all had a solid gravitas.

Authors L. John Schott and Kevin Amsler had an insider's view, at least in some ways, before they wrote their new book, “The Architecture of Maritz and Young: Exceptional Historic Homes of St. Louis.” Previously, the two worked together at the firm that came after Maritz and Young. There, the men became friends and got to know the work of the two men they’d go on to write about.

Amsler, a freelance writer, is the author of “Final Resting Place: The Lives and Deaths of Famous St. Louisans." Schott was a project architect for Raymond E. Maritz & Sons for more than 30 years. Together, they got the chance to search the old files they’d once worked around and to discover the people who lived in some of the homes the architects built.

L. John Schott
Credit Beacon archive | 2013

“This was architecture that was more personable, meeting the desires of individual families within their daily lives during the period between the wars,” Schott says. “It was a way of life that no longer exists, much different from ours today.”

Amsler and Schott will talk about their book at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 3 at Left Bank Books’ Central West End location. Before that event, the two spoke with the St. Louis Beacon about what, and who, they discovered. 

Beacon: Raymond E. Maritz and W. Ridgely Young began building homes in St. Louis and St. Louis County in the early 1900s. How did the two shape the way St. Louis, or parts of St. Louis, look and feel?

Schott: Raymond Maritz and W. Ridgely Young studied the Beaux-Arts traditions and brought some of those influences into their designs. Modernism was in its infancy, however, they worked in the design vocabulary that they felt comfortable in. Their traditional designs harkened back to old world Europe so to give a sense of continuity from generations before. The Tudor revival style gave an impression of stateliness and long standing permanence. Maritz and Young residences grace many St. Louis neighborhoods with elegantly proportioned romantic designs that are still admired today.

Beacon: Today, people can drive by many of the duo's homes. What are each of your favorites and why?

Amsler: We are also asking our readers to select their favorite houses and submit their choices to us; more information can be found on our website.  I like the modest Tudor style Edmund O’Donnell House in Ladue for its exposed timber work and cottage-like charm. Though I have to say my favorite is the William Lewin House on Forsyth in Clayton. This beautiful Spanish-style elevation has a stucco finish, small arched window openings, and tile roof. And I could see myself sitting in the sunken two-story living room enjoying its timber cathedral ceiling and spiral stairs.

Schott: One of my favorite house is the Woodson Woods house. (Woods was an executive with Ralston Purina.)  It's a Tudor revival that has a slightly different character from front to rear. From the rear there is a picturesque quality with the various details appearing throughout the elevation and the sweeping view from left to right. The addition connecting the garage to the residence just adds to the overall charm. To note, this may have been the only two-story house to have the master suite on the first floor. Another favorite of mine is the Frank Mayfield residence. It's large. Several features include its solidness in appearance and feeling, the multiple changes in levels following the slope of the site and the many roof ridges again yielding a romantic, picturesque composition.

Beacon: You had access to the architects' drawings and papers for this book. What did you learn in the research process that you didn’t know before?

The Lewin House
Credit Provided by the authors

Amsler: For me, I was interested in researching the lives of the homeowners I didn’t know much about. Though most of them were not household names, many were prominent business leaders and experts in their field.

Schott: One of the things we came to realize was the actual quantity of designs the firm was producing a year. They kept their 40+ employees busy for many years.

Beacon: This book isn’t just about the architects and their homes, but the people who lived in them. Who are some of the memorable people you discovered, and how do their stories fit with that of the architects?

Amsler: Continuing with the homeowners theme, many became lifelong friends with Raymond Maritz and Ridgely Young, a few returned to have a second house designed or additions to their original house. Some of the more well-known owners include Arnold Stifel of Stifel Nicholas, Busch family relatives the Orthweins and von Gontards, and actor Vincent Price grew up in a Maritz & Young house when his parents commissioned a residence in 1923 on Forsyth Boulevard across from Washington University.

Beacon: Since Maritz and Young, what architects have left a memorable stamp on St. Louis?

Schott: In the residential aspect of design, a name that is mentioned a lot is that of William Bernoudy. His work was highly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School of Design. His homes are highly sought after and coveted by proud owners. As Maritz and Young looked to the past with a gracious and formal style of living, Bernoudy was introducing a new gracious and informal style of family life.