Afterdays Media focuses on archaeological views of our contemporary culture. Artifacts, art, or cultural phenomena that picture us in the past tense.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Post Industrial St. Louis, circa 1990

Chris Naffziger at St. Louis Patina will be featuring a site that we explored and videotaped back in 1990. The powerhouse for the United Railways Streetcar Company, located near the intersection of 39th Street and Park Avenue in St. Louis, had been empty for a long time when we began visiting the ruins in the late 1980s. The place was near an old tobacco warehouse, a portion of which we were renting as a painting studio. At the time, we had no idea what the big, empty structure had been used for originally, but we were very impressed by the utterly massive and archaic-looking furnaces and electrical equipment that we saw there. See Chris’s post for the story on the building, and the site as it looks today.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d share some of the post-industrial relics that we dragged out the crumbling structure.

From a bank of at least a dozen such meters, attached to a series of 6-foot-tall slate panels. Notice how the values on the meter had been modified, to accommodate more current. 
In a room on the second floor were dozens of old wooden file boxes, containing company files dating to the 1940s. We didn’t have the heart to disturb this mildewed archive, hoping it would be rescued.
 It wasn’t. 

In one area, the floor was littered with thousands of these iron balls. I have no idea.    

At some point after the building was no longer used as a powerhouse, it must have been leased as a warehouse. What else can explain a cardboard box full of 35mm slides from some sort of behavioral laboratory experiment on monkeys. No kidding. The slides were processed in the 1960s.  

We also shot some video of one of the trips, which took us into a wonderfully weird, labyrinthine basement. Two clips can be seen on our YouTube channel.

My good friend Miles Rutlin (who can be seen in the video lugging a motorcycle battery that powered our lights in the basement) painted a series of pieces inspired by what he saw in the old powerhouse. Below is one of those works, Arrival. I will also post an excerpt of an article I wrote about Miles’ work (as well as another St. Louis painter, Matt Walters) for the short-lived St. Louis magazine Vision (Fall 1992). 

Arrival. Miles Rutlin 1990

1992 Vision Magazine article (click on the image to enlarge)
Article part 2

From abandonment and salvage, to art and media. St. Louis was a garden of such things in 1990....


  1. Great site! You have a very interesting field!

    1. Right back at you! Apocalyptic Fiction is a handy resource...