Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Tornado Hit My Building

Not recently. Don't worry. But, yeah, a direct hit. In fact all of Lafayette Square and much of Soulard were in ruins. Some of you readers over 100 years old may remember this as The St. Louis Cyclone of 1896. In fact, if you are old enough to remember this it's probably best just to go back to whatever you were doing which is likely playing Wii or whatever old people do these days. Actually, now that I think about it, kudos to you for using the internet in the first place! Read on then. You can take it! Maybe you can answer why you guys were calling tornados cyclones back then. Calling it a twister seems old school enough, but cyclone? That just makes you seem out of touch. Anywaaaay...
Soulard Farmers Market In Ruins!

Hmmm. Wow. The Farmers Market got it bad. Perhaps I shouldn't be so flippant about this. Check out this account of the sitch:
The tornado first hit the ground along a ridge in the southwest portion of the city, near the St. Louis State Hospital ("City Hospital"). It next went along Jefferson avenue, through Lafayette Park to Seventh and Rutger streets. Then it moved on towards Soulard and the levee before crossing the river on towards East St. Louis in Illinois. In its wake, the storm left atleast 138 dead in St. Louis, another 118 in East St. Louis. Approximately 85 persons were missing in St. Louis and over one hundred more missing on the east-side. Many of those listed as missing were certainly killed and their bodies either carried away by the wind or by the river, with little hope that the bodies will be recovered. Over a thousand residents were physically injured. The "Cyclone of 1896" has been described as the single most deadly event that hit the St. Louis area in recorded history. In little over fifteen minutes the storm fully completed its course of death and destruction.
Yeah. That's some pretty serious disaster. That's an excerpt from this awesome website accounting much of the disaster with tons of pics. Apparently this was a pretty big deal at the time too. There were songs written about it the lyrics of which can be found on that website! Although it does seem like there were songs written about everything back then. I think my favorite of the era was "Uncle Josh In A Chinese Laundry" by the unforgettable Cal Stewart. I think he won American Idol that year. I'd check, but who cares?
The Roof Is Missing At The Church Of Peter And Paul

One thing I didn't see was a picture of anything very close to me except the pic of the Church of Peter and Paul above and the unrecognizable Soulard Farmers Market. That was until I found the NOAA Photo Library and their awesome collection of weather pictures. There are tons of pictures documenting the scene in St Louis. Can you find your house? Because I did! Behold what is now known as the Smile Lofts:
The Smile Lofts In 1896

This was probably taken from just inside the front door of The Shanti which no doubt was having Bluegrass Saturday and a Ping Pong tournament in the courtyard that day. By the way, it seems very strange to be typing this post from the other side of one of those windows in that picture. History can be soooo creepy. Still, it really nice to see that someone has done something about that gaping hole on the side of the building since then. Really we got it pretty easy here at 9th and Allen. If you check out the rest of the pictures on those sites there truly was a flattening of some of those areas. If I was to take anything funny out of this it's probably the fact that the City Hospital still pretty much looks exactly the same. Here's a picture of what it looks like today:


Angie said...

I did 2 house tours last year, one of Lafayette Square homes and one of Compton Heights homes. The Lafayette square residents had lots of pictures of their houses before and after the tornado. It got me interested in the history of that big twister. Interesting stuff! Hope it doesn't happen again...

Dave said...

Wow, that's mean about the City Hospital. A few years ago it was a mess but now most of it has been fully rehabbed into high-end condos.

Funny thing about this post, the weather channel had a 30-minute feature on "What Will Happen" about a tornado destroying St. Louis. Cracks me up b/c they interviewed people from some small town in Ohio for comparison. Why not look at the cities history for a better comparison?

Jim Barnthouse said...

Yeah, I felt pretty bad about that City Hospital jab because they apparently have done a great job with one of the buildings. The building behind it, however, looks like it got hit by a tornado. I wish I had a picture to show you what I mean. I can't find any of the other buildings post-rehab.