Monday, June 15, 2009

Maryland Plaza revisited

The Central West End is a beautiful place, and I think Maryland Plaza is one of the nicest spots in the entire region, if not country.

Months ago, we did a post that touched on the use of cobblestones in city neighborhoods. There was a suggestion to remove them from Laclede's Landing.

In Maryland Plaza, cobblestones have been replaced by smooth stone. I like the new street, but someone commented in defense of the old cobblestone streets. Read their comments here:

Commenter from NYC makes the case in defense of the old Maryland Plaza cobblestones...


GMichaud said...

The cobblestones seem to have fans. I know the street in front of my house is old brick. The street has probably has been brick for decades. My house was built in 1904 and I would not be surprised if the brick was from the same era. It is still a sound street with no need to overlay every couple of years with asphalt.

While I can't speak to cobblestones, it seems to me brick is a better long term solution to city streets, especially side streets, a cost benefit analysis over time would be interesting.

Even alleys, which probably did not the same attention to a base as a street, have lasted until recently. Instead of fix what is there they chip the bricks for bonding purposes and cover with asphalt.

While asphalt is a nice, temporary surface, I'm not sure I see it is as a better solution as compared to maintaining the brick street or alley over time.

While I would think it may be harder to get a good surface with cobblestones, bricks remain an interesting alternative.

(Also note the 4 inch granite slabs that comprised the street in front of the St. Louis Art Museum were just removed last summer. They had been in place, I udneerstand less than 10 years, and an original installation cost of over a million dollars, I'm not sure what went wrong)

I have to agree with one commentator who said the key is the base. You need a damn good base to hand handle the movement of traffic, especially at school bus, truck weights.

Anonymous said...

I posted 2 of those comments in defense of the cobblestones. However, I've been thinking about it and while I wish they could have been restored and incorporated into the new "plaza-scape," maybe it was time for something new.

My love for the West End and romantic notions about it began as a child, growing up hearing my mother and her parents talk about the glorious Central West End of their time. When stores like Saks (when it really stood for something), Montaldos, Peck & Peck and many others made Maryland Plaza one of the chicest places in the country. It was described to me as, "5th Ave shopping with a Madison Ave look."

Growing up in the 80s, I never knew THAT West End. For me, it was treats at Bissingers on Sat morning, ice cream on the corner where Coffee Cartel now sits and Sunday brunch at Duffs. The CWE was an escape from the very staid and dull suburbs of St Louis. As I got older, it became a place to meet friends for coffer or dinner and drinks. Sitting outside on a summer night, sidewalks and cobblestone streets packed with the best crowd St Louis had, was magical and made you forget where you were for a few hours. It reminded me a lot of the Grand Place in Brussels.

I eventually moved there after college, but in the end, even my favorite neighborhood wasn't enough to keep me in St Louis. St Louis desperately needed a breath of fresh air and it seems it is finally getting that. The new Maryland Plaza, minus the cobblestone, is my generation's take on it and if it brings more business, more people, a revived reputation and a new reason to make STL one's home, then, cobblestones or not, it's a good thing.

As my mother lamented the shops in Maryland Plaza fleeing to Plaza Frontenac, some of us lament the cobblestones being removed and the next generation might lament the incarnations Maryland Plaza will take in the future. However, this very special area survives for another era and in the end, that is what's important.