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Vintage Video

April 5, 2022
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We’ve heard from a member of the Oppliger family, a son of one of the owners of Jacoby Art Glass, that owned the BAB from about 1945 until about 1975. He shared an AMAZING short video showing the glass studio and the workers making stained glass windows, from sketches thru construction to installation. We can identify the locations in the building in the videos- fascinating to see so many people working there. I was surprised how dark it is, but see how much easier it is to see the colored glass with limited light.

They’ve added the names of the artisans onto the video, which is a bonus. He let us know that they have updated their website and also reminded us that about the materials they donated to the local historical society– we need to make a visit!

Vintage Tiles

January 28, 2022
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Valentine’s Day is approaching- time for a trip to Crown Candy Kitchen to get a lovely box of sweets for my sweetie. (Don’t tell Tom- we mustn’t spoil the surprise!) That got me thinking about one of Forest Gump’s famous quotes. “My mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Where does he shop? You get chocolate. It’s a box of chocolates! Unless it comes from a surrealist or psychopath, most boxes of chocolates are pretty predictable things. A more accurate quote would be: “Life is like a salvaging trip…”.

We might start a day of salvage shopping with an idea or maybe even a list or dimensions when we need something specific like doors or plumbing fixtures. The exciting part of it though, is what appears along the way.

On one trip, the same day as our last door expedition, We saw this:

This mailbox was pulled from Leather Trades Building.

It was part of the building’s original multi-story mail chute, a common turn of the century system that was both amazing to watch and clog-prone. As buildings get updated, these impractical artifacts get removed. Gorgeous, old, solid metal obsolescence? Love!

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Plumbing fixtures

January 25, 2022
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My family appreciates plumbing. Dad worked for American Standard in the plumbing division for many years, doing a wide variety of jobs. My brother, Mike’s, chosen career, not job, more of a calling I think, was as a plumber. Our collective attention to plumbing fixtures extended to discussing the brand and style of restroom fixtures while at restaurants when we were kids. Doesn’t everyone?

Selecting plumbing fixtures for our project is not being done lightly. And I’m expecting and need many helpful suggestions from family experts.

This classic poster by American Standard (literally) elevates the all-knowing plumber. Is he thinking, with his slightly raised eyebrow: ‘You dare to question my authority?’ Watch out for that wrench! He seems ready to knock some philistine’s heads.

We will be purchasing new pieces, like faucets and toilets, to keep with current codes, and to fill in what we can’t find. Tom’s soaking tub, which will have its own tub room, is still being conceived. It will be glorious! However, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate salvaged items in our project. Like most things, older items tend to be more durably made, and to us, more interesting. The EPA reports that over 75% of construction waste ends up in landfills! The fact that these things usually come at a significant discount doesn’t hurt our bottom line, either! Win, win. Here are a few that we have collected, and some we’ve passed up. It may not always seem like it, but we don’t take home everything we see.

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Hello 2022!

January 12, 2022
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Time to take down the holiday decorations- and get some construction started!

So here we are in 2022. What have we been doing? Well, I was reminded that we haven’t posted in over a year. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’ve made much progress on the BAB, but looking back, there have been things accomplished. We’ve got a bunch of updates that we’ll be posting to catch up, plus some new stuff that is getting started.

In this photo, you can see some of the white security cameras next to the first floor windows that were installed over the summer. We’ll need to do a post on those- the recorded videos have provided us with entertainment, as well as some intel on some not so welcome visitors to the neighborhood.

We’ve continued to ‘shop’ for unique and useful items we need for the upstairs construction- plumbing fixtures, tiles and light fixtures. More on that in future posts.

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1928 Drawings

November 8, 2020
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Our phone expert friend, Stephen, was emailing us some information about the door in the basement that is labeled “Operators Quarters”. He thinks it would have separated the lady operator’s support suite- restroom, locker room, etc.- from the operating rooms. There are a couple places on the first floor that have empty door frames that could have been where that door came from. He mentioned that he was looking for existing plans on this site and couldn’t find them. We’ve referenced the blueprints we found, a few times, but we hadn’t posted the set. What we have is from the BAB’s last addition, in 1928. The building was modified in a few places by subsequent owners, but this is pretty close to how it looked when we first saw it.

Tom did this diagram to show when and where the additions were completed, with some redlines that show updated information.
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Doors

November 1, 2020
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One of the things that reflects quality and substance are doors, whether on a device, a car or a building. It is a part you touch, the thing you personally interact with. I remember shopping for my first boom-box when I had my own room in college. It was really important to me that the cassette tape compartment was solid and well designed- a soundless slow glide, not a plastic-y clack slap. I wouldn’t have know how to explain why at the time, but it makes sense to me, looking back.

Still have it- don’t need the cassette player any more but the radio blasts the same tunes I used to listen to when I got it, but that’s now an ‘Oldies’ station, of course.

When we built the apartment, we spent time looking for and found interesting doors to reuse. It was unappealing to buy flimsy pre-hung doors and put them along side the steel fire doors in this building. High quality new doors are amazing but out of our budget. We also think something shiny new wouldn’t blend with the surroundings. We like patina. It tells a story.

The steel fire doors were painted to look like wood and are appropriately looking their age.
We have some special doors in the BAB
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Metal Cabinets

October 29, 2020
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As the drawings are progressing (so slowly), the mechanical and electrical systems area the biggest chuck of work that we need to figure out. We’ve enlisted experts to help, more on that later.

We are still doing inventories of the stuff we’ve ‘collected’ over the years- metal cabinets, doors, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures and many bits of interesting random stuff. Now, we are coming up with ways to use these items. In our apartment project, we were the general contractor, so if we found something interesting, we’d throw it in the truck and work out the installation on our own. Now, we have to give instructions to the professional general contractor, so we need to document how we want things done. We will still do many things on our own, but there are some things that will need to be detailed in the documents. First up, metal cabinets.

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Jacoby Studios Archived

September 4, 2020
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We heard from historian friends that the Oppliger family had donated their Jacoby Studio’s materials to the Carondelet Historical Society. The Society placed some of the artifacts in a exhibit, right before closing for the duration of the pandemic. NiNi Harris wrote a detailed article about Jacoby and their donation for their winter newsletter. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the collections or the exhibit but we’ll visit as soon as they reopen.

Thanks for the shout-out, NiNi! Love this old photo of the building with a gas street light.

AIA ‘Tours’ the BAB, again

August 13, 2020
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Several years ago, we hosted a tour of the BAB as part of St. Louis Design Week, soon after we moved into the apartment. AIA St. Louis helped to organize that program and has been eager to have its members revisit the BAB, ever since. With the current ‘situation’, a number of organizations have been looking for ways to engage members while staying safely distant, so virtual BAB tours are happening.

The first tour we gave was a ‘happy hour’ at the request of my gym, back in May. Tom and I walked around with a phone on a selfie stick and talked as we went. It was awkward, lots of camera movement, we lost the signal in the basement, but folks seemed intrigued.

The second tour was in June for CREW St. Louis, an organization I belong to, that was also looking for virtual programs. This one was meant to be an informal program, called a ‘CREW Conversation’. Because this was for a professional organization, though, we wanted something a bit less informal than the live self-stick version. We created a video and cut in some voice-overs to explain the building’s history, our project, etc. For that one, we didn’t know how to successfully play a video over the zoom platform. At an earlier program they tried playing their video thru a shared screen, but it was choppy and the sound quality was terrible. So, for our tour, we decided to share a link in the chat box after the live introduction. That, too, was a bit awkward, with 26 minutes of silence and some people not sure how to leave the zoom and go to YouTube, we lost some participants along the way.

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Viral Mint

June 10, 2020
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Our little mint patch was posted on the St. Louis Reddit site (which I’m not on) and drove a whole lot of people to the blog.

It started with a question: “Anyone know the backstory Read more…