This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 29, 2012 - The trolley planned from the Delmar Loop to the Missouri History Museum is bringing information into the area it is designed to serve. Part of that was the subject of a recent discussion at the Regional Arts Commission.
Meredith Hawkins Trautt of the Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis presented “The History of the Delmar Loop Through Architecture.” As part of the trolley project’s required environmental assessment, the research center mapped the Loop’s architectural heritage.
Trautt elaborated on the center’s work in the region: “The Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis (ARC) is a cultural resource management firm. In the simplest terms this means that anytime the federal government puts money into a project it is required under federal law to get an environmental study to assess and mitigate any possible damage to the environment that the project might cause. Part of the environmental study is cultural resources, or anything that gives insight into our cultural heritage.
"In general, our duties are to assess if there are cultural resources within the project area, if the proposed project will have a negative impact on the identified cultural resources, and then make suggestions on what is the best thing to do about this. We report all of our findings back to the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office, and they make the final decision on whether they agree with us and what the company must do to ensure that the identified resources are not inadvertently destroyed.”
From the lions guarding one end to the bustling district just east of them, the Loop offers an architectural contrast unique among many American cities. This contrast serves as the perfect metaphor for a community that likewise is artistically creative, culturally diverse and thriving with commerce.
Trautt commented on the synergy between the community and its cultural resources. “The Loop is known as an area with unique and eclectic shops and restaurants and therefore it gives off a vibe all of its own. But if you take the time and really look at the buildings in the area, you see that they are just as unique and eclectic as the boutiques and restaurants that are in them and every single one of them is a small little window into the history of the Loop. Whether it is the original function of the building, the people who lived there, the architect/contractor, or the architectural style every single building is a standing testament to the varied history of the area. In my personal opinion the vibe that the area has is not due to the businesses located there but the buildings that attract a certain type of business owner to the area.”
The Loop trolley project comes with a goal of encouraging mass transit usage for residents and visitors while promoting economic development and neighborhood revitalization. Construction on the Loop trolley project is expected to get underway later this year.
The Archaeological Research Center was brought in to investigate any property that will be affected by the trolley. Although nothing is being torn down for the project, concerns were raised over the trolley’s impact on the area.
“We were to determine if any of the buildings were eligible to the National Register of Historic Places,” Trautt said, “and if they were, then determine if the construction of the trolley will affect their potential eligibility to the NRHP.”
Trautt says the results of the study, which was completed in 2010, were significant for the Loop trolley project to proceed. “Our survey found 26 buildings along the 2.2 proposed mile tract were already on the NHRP individually or as contributing to a historical district. ARC recommended another 23 properties as eligible to the NHRP. Because streetcars were already in this area by the turn of the 20th century, and therefore were already running when all the buildings were constructed, the proposed trolley would not have a negative impact on the area. In fact, bringing a trolley back would make it more historically accurate.”
Those interested in the results of this survey may purchase a PDF version of the Archival Search and Architectural Survey of the St. Louis Loop trolley report by sending a check for $20 in care of the Archaeological Research Center, 2812 Woodson Rd, St. Louis, MO 63114 with Loop Trolley Report listed in the memo field.
For more information on ARC visit their website.