Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Naked and The Wed

The wonderful monster of a building in the photo postcard above is St. Louis Union Station. Trains don't stop there anymore, it's now a mall and hotel. The building still looks pretty much the same as in the 1912 postcard. The street was never that wide and the main entrance has been altered but everything else on the outside is remarkably intact. The original roof tiles matched the color of the building's stone, but someone decided to replace them with those Spanish Provincial red tiles. It was not a good decision.

The area in front of the station was a slum for a long time. A bad slum, it extended about 15 blocks to the west. This was not good since the street in front of the station (Market Street, originally Manchester Road) was the main entry way into St. Louis from the west, southwest, and northwest parts of the country. It was not impressive -- a real civic disgrace that such an incredible building should be surrounded on two sides by a slum.

So, the city cleared the slum dwellings across from the station and widened Market Street. Just across Market Street from the station was to be a great public plaza, named in honor of Louis P. Aloe (a leading citizen). In the middle of the Depression his wife wrote a check for $12,500 for a fountain to be the centerpiece of the Aloe Plaza.

She hired a Swedish sculptor (Carl Milles). Some of you will now realize where this is going!

Milles' fountain group "The Wedding of the Waters" symbolized the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers merging just north of St. Louis. Milles had conceived the fountain as a wedding party with a male figure representing the Mississippi River and a female figure representing the Missouri River. There are also 17 water spirits, symbolic of the smaller streams that empty into the two major rivers.

Remember, he was Swedish!

So, of course, everyone in the "wedding party" was nude.

The year was 1936! [Text continues following photos.]

So a great civic debate about "The Wedding of the Waters" ensured. The conservative, Republican, Globe-Democrat was against the whole thing. The liberal, Democratic, Post-Dispatch was for it. They reached perhaps the stupidest solution in the history of all moral, civic, artistic debates: the sculpture would be erected as planned but (are you ready) renamed "The Meeting of the Waters." That's all it took. Them statues could be butt-naked and the male figure could have a winkie, but you could not suggest they were going to do anything by using the word marriage. [I know, it was a solution which ignored the obvious fact that they are, dah, statues and were therefore never likely to actually consummate their marriage right there on Market Street in front of bewildered train travelers from Duluth.]

I bring this all up because after years of driving past the fool thing, I finally crossed the street and had a close-up look. As I gazed at their bronzeness, I wondered what the arguments would be like today -- would conservatives argue that two naked figures would have to be married; would liberals argue that suggesting a quickie or one-night-stand would be just fine; would gays argue that they should be the same sex? What fine fodder it would all make for talk radio.

I added a couple close-up and personal pictures. They are on my server. If they were people and not statues, I would call them a soft R.

1 comment:

The Phoenix said...

Liberals would argue the male statue is illegally searching the other 17 water spirits for WMDs.

Conservatives would accuse the female statue of being an intern and giving the male statue "favors."

I did play "What if..."

What if the male statue was Tom Cruise? It would be jumping up and down on its fish.
What if the female statue were Madonna? It would be saying "Only one guy?"

you get the idea