Unseen STL History Talks September 2023
Stories from the National Building Arts Center
Let’s explore the rich tapestry of St. Louis's architectural history at the next Unseen STL History Talks on September 21st. If you're a fan of St. Louis history, architecture, or the materials that went into building this city, you won't want to miss this event!
Let’s welcome the National Building Arts Center!
This month, we will offer a deep dive into the National Building Arts Center (NBAC), also known as "the coolest preservation organization you've never heard of.” We are excited to welcome Michael Allen and Emery Cox to speak about their work and the amazing NBAC collection.
The NBAC, located just across the river in Sauget, IL, boasts the nation's most extensive and varied collection of building artifacts, complemented by a research library. This collection is a testament to the American built environment and the history of how it all came to be. The Center's mission is to leverage this vast collection to educate the public on the building arts, addressing everything from design to fabrication, with a massive collection of architectural pieces saved from the wrecking ball.
The evening's talk will revolve around the origins of the NBAC, decades of collecting by its founder Larry Giles, and the treasures the Center houses. We will learn about ‘urban archaeology’ and why it is so important to save and salvage pieces of architectural history.
One anticipated topic is a little history behind the Little Liberty statue that the Center recently acquired from Brooklyn, NY (pictured above).
Additionally, attendees may hear a little about a controversial recent acquisition to the NBAC collection, and the NBAC’s first-ever curated exhibition (currently at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis until February 4, 2024).
For those eager to delve deeper into the world of the National Building Arts Center, you can learn more on the NBAC’s official website as well as the previous Unseen St. Louis article “Rescuing Architecture.”
This month’s Unseen STL History Talks will be held on Sept. 21st at Spine Bookstore and Cafe, located at 1976-82 Arsenal, from 7-9 pm (doors open at 6 pm).
An architectural historian par excellence, NBAC’s Executive Director Michael Allen's interests include historic preservation practices, American and European modernism, and the political economy of the built environment. Since 2009, he’s been the Director of the Preservation Research Office, a consultancy that has worked across ten US states on projects of all scales. He’s a Lecturer in American Culture Studies at Washington University and a Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. In 2018, the National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized his work. He holds a B.A. in Literature and History from The Union Institute and is a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Heritage at the Ironbridge Institute for Cultural Heritage at the University of Birmingham, England.
With a background in public libraries spanning two decades, Emery Cox joined the NBAC team in December 2021. As the Archives and Collections Manager, he oversees an extensive collection of printed materials and assists researchers. Emery's diverse academic background, ranging from physics to political science, adds a unique flavor to his role at NBAC.
We’re very honored and excited to welcome Michael and Emery to Spine for this talk, and we hope you’ll join us for an evening of exploration and appreciation of the architectural wonders that define our city.
Unseen STL History Adventures
In addition to our monthly history talks, you can now join a new Meetup to visit locations of historical importance across the St. Louis Metro area—and make new friends along the way!
Unseen STL History Adventures will be visiting the area’s museums and exhibitions as well as many sites where the history actually happened. (And one of our adventures will be to visit the NBAC!)
I hope you’ll join us! Join the meetup and be automatically notified every time I schedule a new adventure. Joining the meetup is free, though some events may have a nominal charge.
And for even more history, be sure you follow Unseen St. Louis on Facebook for a wide range of other local historians’ investigations, videos, articles, and events.