Local Artist Sheila Harris Displays Paintings of History of Arch Grounds

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The original Old Rock House. - image source
The original Old Rock House.
Sheila Harris, a local artist, will be displaying a series of watercolors starting this Sunday, February 14, at the Old Courthouse. Harris painted nearly 40 portraits of buildings that once stood on the Arch grounds, showing how the landscape of the riverfront has evolved over the course of the city's history.

Back in the 1950s, the city of St. Louis cleared 40 blocks of some of its oldest buildings to make way for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and, eventually, the Gateway Arch. In addition to the paintings, Harris' exhibit will include old maps and photos to show where the buildings once stood.

The paintings will be on display through August 22. Harris will be making several appearances, including one at the opening reception at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Harris is a native St. Louisan who taught art at Rosary High School for 36 years. Her sister NiNi Harris, a local historian who has written nine books on St. Louis architecture, curated the exhibit.

"[We hope to] expand in a different media the riverfront story and bring to life the fact that there was once a wonderful collection of buildings there ranging from simple to ornate and from modest to grandiose," NiNi Harris said in a statement. "We have been so very fortunate in St. Louis, for we tore down a great collection of buildings, but got a great sculpture [the Gateway Arch] and landscape in their place. This is very rare in history and is one of the points I hope the exhibit will demonstrate."

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