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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

American City Photos to Exhibit at Missouri Botanical Garden

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2011 at 3:45 PM

4344 Shaw Boulevard, built in 1860, is featured in Sharoff and Zbaren's book. - COURTESY OF AMERICAN CITY: ST. LOUIS ARCHITECTURE THREE CENTURIES OF CLASSIC DESIGN
  • courtesy of American City: St. Louis Architecture Three Centuries of Classic Design
  • 4344 Shaw Boulevard, built in 1860, is featured in Sharoff and Zbaren's book.

Earlier this year, we told you about Robert Sharoff and William Zbaren's American City: St. Louis Architecture -- the first monograph celebrating the city's fabulous buildings since the 1920s. Since then, an endless stream of visitors to our office have admired the copy Sharoff and Zbaren left with us; we literally can't get them to leave when they're so busy leafing through the lovely photos.

Good news, then, for both those curious visitors and our overall productivity: The Missouri Botanical Garden is planning a show in its Ridgway Visitors' Center, highlighting photos from the book beginning June 10. There will be a book signing 11 a.m. to 1 pm. June 11, with more than 70 large-scale images from photographer Zbaren on display through August 21.

And, yes, a few of those photos are actually of buildings on the grounds of the botanical garden. That's not a case of nepotism: Karen Hill, a spokeswoman for the museum, tells Daily RFT that she first met the book's authors in 2008, when they were scouting locations for the book. Zbaren was actually raised in St. Louis, and Hill says the garden's many old buildings were already "on his radar."

Ultimately, two spots within the garden made the book: the Museum Building, which Henry Shaw built to house his botanical books in 1860, and the Linnean House, the oldest continually operating greenhouse west of the Mississippi, which was constructed in 1882.

But while you can go into the Linnean House any day you pay for admission to the garden, the Museum building, the spectacularly beautiful Georgian Classical structure depicted above, is almost always closed to the public.

Hill tells us that, after his death in 1889, Henry Shaw's body laid in state in the building. And after that, the museum he founded used it to get started -- it stored his plant specimens and books. But today, it's just not ready to receive visitors.

"It needs to be restored/renovated," Hill says. "That's something we plan on doing at some point, but when I say 'plan,' we have no plans right now. We'd love to do something with it."

A full-size version of Zbaren's lovely photo, then, may be your best bet. Mark your calendars now. And in the mean time, there's no need to swing by the RFT to read our copy; the book is for sale at Left Bank Books and, for all you naughty people out there who refuse to buy local, on Amazon. (And no, we're not providing a link -- we believe in supporting our community bookstores, thank you very much.)

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