26 September 2010

Last Gasps of the Morton D. May House

Today I gave a slide talk on Morton D. "Buster" May's home designed by Chicago architect Samuel Marx. It was constructed in 1941-42 and constituted an early, excellent example of International Style architecture in the Saint Louis suburbs.

Morton D. "Buster" May's House at 2222 South Warson Road, Ladue, Missouri (1941-42). Photograph by Hedrich-Blessing.
I covered many issues surrounding the house including:
- The special challenges of historic preservation of modernist architecture including land speculation, preservation ordinances and property boundary modifications.
Paul Hohmann photograph of interior (July 2005).
- The important contributions of Morton May to Saint Louis including his extensive art collections largely held by the Saint Louis Art Museum, his dedication to seeing the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial project from the city's riverfront implemented and his contributions to the business community by making the May Company one of the most progressive department stores in the country.
Photograph including Mayor Tucker (far left), Vice President Nixon and Morton May (far right). May was chair of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Committee.
- Overview of Samuel Marx's architectural career, furniture designs and art collections including his restaurant and hotel interiors, museums and galleries as well as residences. Marx's careful integration of architecture and interiors received special emphasis.
Glass coffee table with book display shelves below designed by Samuel Marx.
 I was asked to show some video clips that were taken by Saint Louis architect Paul Hohmann before the house's demolition. Here's a link to the first of two videos he posted to YouTube. Below is a photograph from the same time.

Photograph by Paul Hohmann posted to Flickr documenting the house prior to its demolition (July 2005).
Compare the above photograph taken by Hedrich-Blessing of the house in 1942 with this image of the house before it was demolished. The house was fundamentally unchanged. It had simply been a victim of a combination of lack of maintenance and real estate speculation.


  1. I'm sorry I missed the talk. I'm pretty new to this town so still feeling things out and trying to balance school. Sadly, I always seem to find critical small things that give meaning to places just before they are destroyed/rendered meaningless. Time to break out my copy of Modern St.Louis.

  2. I met the owners, it was 100% lack of upkeep maintenance. Think chinese food restaurants....always dumpy dirty and not well kept...

  3. the owners were korean but still dirty and no lack of taste.


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