Times-Herald (Vallejo)



75 members, who will pay about $12 a month to join.

“It's all kind of just a blank canvas,” he says.

In the late 1980s, the United Hebrew Congregati­on, the first Jewish congregati­on west of the Mississipp­i River, was eyeing a larger space in Chesterfie­ld. The Byzantines­tyle house of worship on Skinker Boulevard needed a buyer.

But who would be in the market for an ornate temple topped with a 40-foot copper dome and completed before the Great Depression?

Around the corner in Forest Park, the Missouri History Museum was bursting at the seams, flush with photograph­s and artifacts, newspapers and oversized reference books. It needed a storage solution, one that would keep its items safe but accessible.

“We had been looking for some time,” says Emily Jaycox, a librarian with the Missouri Historical Society

Library and Research Center.

The historical society — with funds from a tax increase and private donations — spent about $10 million on the purchase and restoratio­n, including a 54,000-square-foot storage annex.

When the library was dedicated in 1991, Rabbi Jerome Grollman remarked that the blond-bricked custodian of local history “has always been, and now shall remain, a house of learning.”

Every day, Jaycox says, visitors pore over maps, manuscript­s and original documents. Whispers resonate around the rotunda in hushed echoes.

“We have a lot of people doing history of their family, or interested in the history of a building or a neighborho­od,” she says.

Not at the moment, though. The library closed in August to construct “high-density” shelving to accommodat­e its growing collection. It is expected to reopen next month.

Jaycox can't wait. “People love being in this space that is so well cared for,” she says.

Prospects for ambitious developers or out-of-thebox craftsmen are growing. Decades of suburban sprawl and a washingawa­y of religious identity has left corner churches, landmark cathedrals and century-old synagogues without worshipper­s, especially in the urban core. A 2020 Pew Research Center study found that 30% of Americans identify as religiousl­y unaffiliat­ed, compared to 5% in the 1970s.

Vacancies are expected to skyrocket this year when the Archdioces­e of St. Louis reduces its 178 parishes by at least half. They will join a stock of previously closed Catholic churches, mostly clustered in the city and its nearest suburbs.

Some churches have already buckled under the weight of neglect. A few have had short-lived second acts, such as St. Boniface in Carondelet, which operated for a decade as the Ivory Theatre before being donated to a nowshutter­ed charter school.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States