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Cochran Tower 1228 N. 9 th Street St. Louis (Independent City)

Architectural and Historical Documentation

Prepared for the Saint Louis Housing Authority 3520 Page Blvd. Saint Louis, Missouri, 63106

by

Lynn Josse and Michael Allen Preservation Research Office 3517 Connecticut Street St. Louis, Missouri 63118 (314) 229-0793 lynn@preservationresearch.com

April 12, 2011

Table of Contents

Contents

 

Introduction

1

Information Summary

1

Cochran Towers: Background and early history

2

4

 

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6

 

9

10

12

Figures

Figure 1. Site in 1938

 

12

Figure 2. Site in 1950

12

Figure 3. Cochran Garden site plan

13

Figure 4. Site in 2007

 

14

 

15

16

17

Figure 8. Cochran Gardens under construction

18

Figure 9. Cochran Gardens shortly after completion

18

Figure

10.

Play yard .......................................................................................................

19

Figure 11. Interior of unidentified unit

20

Introduction

Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 1

The Cochran Tower Building at 1228 N. Ninth Street in St. Louis (Independent City), Missouri, has been determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The tower, originally designated A-6, 1 is the only survivor of the 12-building John J. Cochran Garden Apartment public housing project, completed in 1952-53. Eleven of the twelve towers were demolished between 2002-2008. The rest of the site has been built out with a new mixed income neighborhood called Cambridge Heights, funded with a Hope VI award. The new Senior Living at Cambridge Heights facility, with 117 units reserved for the elderly, is located just southeast of the tower. Cochran Tower is nearly vacant, with only four units occupied at the time of this report. This document provides historical and architectural documentation for the building to mitigate its demolition.

Information Summary

Historic Name:

John J. Cochran Garden Apartments, Building A-6

Current name:

Cochran Tower or Cochran Towers

Date of construction: 1951-1953

Original owner:

Saint Louis Housing Authority

Architect:

Hellmuth, Yamasaki & Leinweber (St. Louis and Detroit)

General Contractor:

I. E. Millstone Construction, Inc.

Mechanical & Electrical Engineer:

John D. Falvey

Structural Engineer:

William C. E. Becker

Utility Engineer:

Horner & Shifrin

Landscape Architect: Harland Bartholomew & Associates 2

  • 1 The building designated number six of the 12 towers; “A” indicates that it is 12 stories.

  • 2 Engineers and landscape architect are listed in “St. Louis: High Rise Buildings and Balconies,” Architectural Record, June 1954. p. 185.

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Cochran Gardens: Background and early history

In 1937, the United States Housing Act created a mechanism to fund local development of low-income housing. An enabling state statute was passed in 1939, and the Saint Louis Housing Authority (SLHA) was created later the same year. The city’s first two housing developments, Carr Square Village (MO-1-1) 3 on the north side of downtown and Clinton-Peabody Terrace (MO-1-2) on the south side, were initiated almost immediately.

Construction of new public housing accomplished the dual goal of building decent, affordable housing for the poor while eliminating entire districts that were considered slums. By the end of 1941, construction on these two developments was underway and site clearance had begun for a third (MO-1-3). With the United States’ entry into World War II, emergency funding completed the first two projects, which were then used as temporary war worker housing. 4 These townhouse developments still exist, with alterations. Funding for the third development was terminated.

With the Public Housing Act of 1949, monies for public housing became available again. But by this time, the federal Public Housing Administration (PHA) actively discouraged low-rise projects and encouraged denser high-rise buildings. 5

Months before the new Housing Act was signed into law, the City engaged architect George Hellmuth “and set him on a tour of public housing programs in other cities.” 6 Hellmuth was a St. Louis native from a well-known architectural family. During the 1930s, he had designed a number of buildings for the City of St. Louis. In 1940 he moved to Detroit and worked for the firm of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, where he met his future partner Minoru Yamasaki. In 1949 the two partnered with architect Joseph Leinweber to form a practice with offices in Detroit and St. Louis. 7 Cochran Gardens was the firm’s first major commission.

The first plans on file at the SLHA are dated 1950. The complex was designed in accordance with the Modernist principle of siting tall buildings in park-like settings; the building footprints took up only 11.5% of the total project area. 8 A total of twelve towers were constructed. Six were six stories each, two were seven stories, and four were twelve stories. The buildings were arranged across a shallow U-shaped site around the earlier

  • 3 “MO-1” indicates SLHA, the first housing authority in the state (Kansas City’s followed in 1941); after that, projects were numbered in order. Cochran was its third development (after Carr Square Village and Clinton-Peabody Terrace).

  • 4 Joseph Heathcott, “The City Remade: Public Housing and the Urban Landscape in St. Louis, 1900-1960.” Diss. St. Louis University, 2002.

  • 5 Heathcott, 369.

  • 6 Heathcott, 367.

  • 7 The firm was known in St. Louis as Hellmuth, Yamasaki, and Leinweber; in Detroit, the names were reversed. In 1955 the two offices separated; Hellmuth remained in St. Louis and began a partnership with

his associates Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum. HOK is now one of the world’s largest architectural

firms.

  • 8 Mo-1-3 Fact Sheet, on file at Saint Louis Housing Authority

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Neighborhood Gardens complex, itself an experiment in affordable housing which was financed by the PWA in the 1930s (see Figure 3).

Recognizing the potentially dehumanizing effect that could occur as part of such a development, the architects stated:

…we tried to eliminate the stigma often attached to such projects, and it was imperative to avoid a feeling of regimentation. To help accomplish this, the spaces between the units were as carefully studied as the units, building heights were varied, design details such as entrances were individually considered, and primary colors were used on balcony doors. The emphasis on residential quality seems to help eliminate some of the institutional aspects common to such projects and appears to justify a design approach rather than a statistical approach as a basis for planning. 9

Hellmuth, Yamasaki & Leinweber also designed the Captain Wendell Oliver Pruitt

Homes (MO-1-4) and William L. Igoe Apartments (MO-1-5) in 1950. This complex of

  • 33 high-rise buildings was constructed between 1953 1955. It is best known for its

catastrophic failure and subsequent demolition. The firm’s St. Louis successor, Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, designed the George L. Vaughn Apartments (MO-1-6), Joseph M. Darst Apartments (MO-1-7), and Anthony M. Webbe Apartments (MO-1-7a). These later projects opened between 1957 1960.

I. E. Millstone Construction was the general contractor for both Cochran and Pruitt-Igoe. The Stephen Gorman Bricklaying Company oversaw masonry work at both. For Cochran Gardens, the company reported the use of 2.8 million face bricks, 191,000 Spectra Glaze Haydite blocks, and 39,000 glazed tiles. 10

The first buildings at Cochran Gardens were ready for occupation in May, 1952. The public was invited to a three-day open house. On the first afternoon, thousands of

visitors inspected two furnished display units, offering high marks for “general arrangement.” The St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported that “the laundries and clothes drying yards came in for frequent favorable comment among the women.” 11

On May 25, the Globe-Democrat ran a photograph of the Rice family, which had been selected to move in first. Father, mother, and four children were posed in a display living room reading and doing homework together. The photo was contrasted with a shot of the children on the back stairs of their tenement on Cass Avenue, which would shortly be razed during site clearance for Pruitt-Igoe. 12

9 “St. Louis: High Rise Buildings and Balconies,” p. 185.

  • 10 “Stephen Gorman Bricklaying Company” promotional brochure, c. 1955, p. 39. Collection of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation, St. Louis, Mo.

  • 11 “Cochran Apartment Visitors Impressed by Conveniences,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 26 May 1952,

10A.

  • 12 Untitled photographs, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 25 May 1952, 6A.

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Like all of the other original tenants at Cochran Gardens, the Rice family was white. SLHA’s first developments were designed to be segregated by race: Clinton-Peabody, Cochran, and Igoe for white families and Carr Square and Pruitt for black families. This policy was struck down in federal district court in the 1954 landmark case Davis et al v. St. Louis Public Housing Authority. In 1955, SLHA began the process of desegregation. 13

Later History and Cochran Towers

By the end of the 1960s, SLHA had completed all of the high-rise housing projects that would be constructed in St. Louis: Cochran Gardens, Pruitt and Igoe, Vaughn, Darst- Webbe, and Arthur A. Blumeyer Apartments (MO-1-9). Blumeyer also included townhouse-like buildings alongside its four towers.

In 1969, after a series of rent increases, residents of the city’s major public housing projects organized a rent strike that lasted for nine months. One of the tenant demands was a more substantial stake in the management of the city’s public housing. Two tenants were appointed to a reconstituted Housing Authority board. In 1973 and 1974, tenants took over management at Carr Square Village, Darst, Webbe, and Clinton- Peabody. In 1976, the SLHA turned over management of Cochran Gardens to the Cochran Tenant Management Corporation. Under the leadership of charismatic activist Bertha Gilkey, the Cochran Gardens model received national attention.

By this time, plans were underway to convert A-6 into a facility with housing for the elderly and office space. A five-story brick-faced addition was planned at the west

elevation. The project was partially funded with a grant from HUD’s Target Projects Program. Plans dated December, 1976 still show the addition; by 1977, the addition had been removed from drawings. 14

Plans for the conversion were drawn up by St. Louis architect Eugene J. Mackey & Associates. The final design included 22 efficiency units and 110 one-bedroom apartments. Twenty-two of these were designed with accessible features such as wide passages and adjusted outlet height. Amenities included first floor spaces for laundry, crafts, games, television and vending. 15

The most significant of the exterior alterations involved enclosing the balconies, one of the original character-defining features of the building. These open-air extensions of the original living rooms were encased in copper, creating prominent vertical bays projecting

  • 13 The attorney who won the case, Frankie Muse Freeman, is considered a civil rights pioneer. In 1955, SLHA hired her to implement its desegregation program.

  • 14 Plans on file with SLHA; “Cochran Gardens Comprehensive Modernization” undated typescript, n.p., from files of SLHA.

  • 15 Saint Louis Housing Authority, “The St. Louis Housing Authority Welcomes You to Cochran Towers…”n.p. c. 1979.

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from all four elevations. A promotional brochure stated that this feature embellishes the exterior design and also increases apartment floor and window space….” 16 The newly rehabilitated “Cochran Towers” opened in 1980 as senior citizen housing.

In June 1998, the SLHA terminated its contract with the Cochran Gardens Tenant Management Corporation. A year later, consultants announced that the eleven family housing buildings of Cochran Gardens had failed a federally mandated viability test. 17 The City later reported that

Unit designs were obsolete, the building design and site layout fostered criminal activity, extreme levels of environmental hazards such as mold and asbestos were present, roofs chronically leaked, and building systems fire safety, elevators, mechanical and heating systems were breaking down…. 18

Cochran Towers, the subject building, was considered a separate project. 19 The northern five buildings of Cochran Gardens were demolished in 2002-2003; demolition of the remaining six was completed in 2008. With the completion of the Senior Living at Cambridge Heights development on the site of two of the Cochran Gardens towers, the Cochran Towers building has been almost completely emptied and awaits demolition.

  • 16 Ibid. Plans and photographs indicate that this alteration in fact decreased window space.

  • 17 Section 202 of the 1996 Omnibus Consolidated Reconciliation Act required that public housing complexes of over 300 units with more than 10% vacancy be evaluated. A test is set forth to compare monthly operational expenses against the cost of issuing Section 8 vouchers to tenants; retention of such projects are only allowed under limited circumstances:

PHAs will meet the test for assuring long-term viability of identified housing only if it is probable that, after reasonable investment, for at least twenty years (or at least 30 years for rehabilitation equivalent to new construction) the development can sustain structural/system soundness and full occupancy; will not be excessively densely configured relative to standards for similar (typically family) housing in the community; will not constitute an excessive concentration of very low-income families; and has no other site impairments which clearly should disqualify the site from continuation as public housing.(62 FR 49576 § 971)

  • 18 City of St. Louis, Missouri. “City of Saint Louis Five-Year Consolidated Plan,” 2004, chapter 3. p. 42.

  • 19 City of St. Louis, Missouri. “City of Saint Louis Five-Year Consolidated Plan,” 1999, chapter 3. np.

Description

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Cochran Tower is a twelve-story residential building, one of four that were originally built at the 18-acre John J. Cochran Garden Apartments site.

Site

Originally one of twelve high- and mid-rise buildings on an 18-acre site, Cochran Tower now stands as the sole survivor amid a setting of two and three story multi-unit housing to the north, east, and west. Housing to the north and south is new construction, part of the Hope VI project which has already replaced the other Cochran buildings. Southeast is the three-story Cambridge Heights building, which has assumed the senior housing function formerly assigned to Cochran Tower. To the east, the three-story Neighborhood Gardens complex is recently rehabilitated. Directly across 9 th Street to the west, the row of 19 th century housing that stood at the tower’s construction has been razed; the site is now a playground for the Patrick Henry School.

The first story of Cochran Tower is elevated above street level. At the front (west)

elevation, a concrete drive enters the site from either side of a concrete retaining wall and is graded to be level with the front door at the top. To the north, the paths that once ran

between towers have been replaced by an extension of O’Fallon Street. At the east side of the building, a curved drive from O’Fallon Street descends along a curved concrete

wall to access steel basement doors. At the center and south end of the building, the first floor is at grade. A concrete terrace with permanently installed benches is sheltered from the grassed remainder of the site by a concrete wall which extends southeast from near the center of the building and returns partway at a 90 degree angle. This landscaping was designed as part of the late 1970s project which converted the building from family housing to senior housing. A concrete path runs along the outside of the wall southeast to the fenced edge of the site. As the patio runs alongside the east elevation it is punctuated by small flowering trees. The site is fenced at the east along 8 th Street. The southern end is fenced along the rear of the lot; the fence connects to the tower at its southeast corner.

Exterior

The exterior of the tower is clad in variegated matte red brick. The dumbbell-shaped plan is asymmetrical: the southern wing is longer than the northern wing. The two wings are twelve stories; the center connector is thirteen (including a penthouse for elevator and other mechanicals).

At the long façade which faces west, there are six bays to the left (north) of the recessed center section, and seven bays to the right (south). Spacing is irregular; the four outer bays at each side are evenly spaced, with a wider expanse of wall between these and the bays to the center of the building. Projecting copper bays ascend from the second to the twelfth floor at the innermost bay of the north and south wings at both the east and west

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elevations, and at both bays of the narrow north and south elevations. Windows at the wings are one-by-one slider pairs. First story windows are bricked in at the north end of the west elevation; at the south end, the five center first story windows have been replaced with glass block.

In the 1970s renovation, many other original openings were bricked in. At each story next to the copper bays, a small bricked-in panel indicates the location of original kitchen vents. At the center connector section’s east (rear) elevation, the original configuration of two smaller windows flanking the staircase and a larger window to the right in the public area was changed; only the center window opening is still in place. This window and the larger window to the right were separated by a panel of stack bond sharing the sill; these panels are intact.

A long canopy added over the west driveway shelters the main entrance, located at an atrium-like addition that fills in the recessed center section of the floor plan and serves as a foyer for the building.

Interior

The glassed-in atrium foyer at the west elevation has a tile floor which extends into the lobby and hallways at the south wing. The original exterior walls are intact. A glass door at the south leads from the foyer into the lobby in the original south wing. Major features of the first floor plan remain as drawn in 1977 for the conversion to senior housing (see Figure 6). To the left is a U-shaped front desk. Offices line the south wall and the north end of the east wall; between these are a cafeteria space and mail room. The elevator lobby in the center section of the building retains its original plan, with elevators along the west wall and an enclosed concrete staircase mirroring it on the east. Past them at the north end of the center section, unprogrammed common space has windows to the east and west. At the north end of the first story, a central hall has doors to either side leading to a craft room, restrooms, and (at the north end of the building) a laundry room. There is also an exercise room at the west side of the hall; this room has a wide opening from the hall instead of a door.

The second through twelfth floors were remodeled in 1978. The north wing of each story left many divisions of the two one-bedroom units (closest to the elevator) intact, although the kitchens were moved from the exterior wall to a location along the interior hall. The two three-bedroom apartments at the north end of the hallways were split into an one- bedroom and an efficiency apartment; the one-bedroom retained the original kitchen location at the north wall and the efficiency kept the original bathroom location at the south end of the unit. The north and south units (but not the efficiency apartments) have small bumpouts off the living rooms which are the enclosed former balconies.

The south wings nearly reflect the north. Because the original layout included two two- bedroom units instead of two one-bedroom units (the reason that the south wing is a bay longer than the north), the conversion allowed for three one-bedroom units. The center

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units on both the east and west were designed to meet the needs of the disabled, and later modified further to meet ADA standards.

Interior walls are generally painted white; hardware and fixtures are not original.

The basement (also considered the ground floor on plans, as opposed to the first floor above), is the best place to see the concrete structure of the building. The north end of the basement is divided to contain mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems. The south end is used for storage; the large telephone panel is also located at this end of the building on the wall backing up to the elevators.

The penthouse contains additional mechanical systems, primarily related to the elevators. A concrete balcony adds additional mechanical and storage space.

The rubberized roof has two large steel ventilators at either wing.

Alterations

SLHA’s original fact sheet for the John J. Cochran Garden Apartments indicates that original windows were casements rather than sliders. The balconies were enclosed with vertically continuous copper bays in the late 1970s, making them extensions of the living rooms. At the same time, the original entrance was altered by enclosing the first story’s recessed bay (between the two wings) in glass and adding a large canopy over the driveway. Most of the bricked windows were also filled at that time. The rear (east) elevation was originally at grade; only later was the northern end of this elevation excavated to provide ground-level basement access. Most interior alterations were also completed at this time, dividing two- and three-bedroom units to become one-bedrooms and efficiencies.

Bibliography

Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 9

Brodt, Bonita. “Tenant Management No Public Housing Cure.” Chicago Tribune. December 10, 1986. accessed at www.articles.chicagotribune.com on April 5, 2011.

City of St. Louis, Missouri. “City of Saint Louis Five-Year Consolidated Plan,” 1999.

City of St. Louis, Missouri. “City of Saint Louis Five-Year Consolidated Plan,” 2004.

City of St. Louis, Missouri. “Saint Louis Consolidated Plan Five-Year Strategy,” 2009.

“Cochran Apartment Visitors Impressed by Conveniences,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 26 May 1952, 10A.

Heathcott, Joseph. “The City Remade: Public Housing and the Urban Landscape in St. Louis, 1900-1960.” Diss. St. Louis University, 2002.

Kusmer, Kenneth L. and Joe William Trotter. African American Urban History Since World War II. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Meehan, Eugene J. The Quality of Federal Policymaking: Programmed Failure in Public Housing. Columbia, Missouri and London: University of Missouri Press, 1979.

“St. Louis: High Rise Buildings and Balconies.” Architectural Record, June 1954.

Saint Louis Housing Authority, “The St. Louis Housing Authority Welcomes You to Cochran Towers…”n.p. c. 1979.

“Stephen Gorman Bricklaying Company” promotional brochure, c. 1955. Collection of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation, St. Louis, Missouri.

.

Untitled photographs. St. Louis Globe-Democrat. 25 May 1952. 6A.

Wesley, Doris A. and Wiley Price. “Jean King Chavis.” Lift Every Voice and Sing. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1999. 181.

Wilkerson, Isabel. “From Squalor to Showcase: How a Group of Tenants Won Out.”

The New York Times. www.nytimes.com

2011.

Published: June 11, 1988. Accessed: April 5,

Photographs

The following information applies to all photographs:

1228 N. 9 th Street Cochran Tower St. Louis (Independent City), MO March, 2011 digital files: Missouri SHPO

  • 1 Exterior, facing NE photographer: Michael Allen

  • 2 Exterior, facing SE photographer: Michael Allen

  • 3 Exterior, facing west photographer: Michael Allen

  • 4 Exterior, facing NW photographer: Michael Allen

  • 5 Entrance, facing SE photographer: Michael Allen

  • 6 East elevation, facing west photographer: Michael Allen

  • 7 Foyer, facing north photographer: Lynn Josse

  • 8 Lobby, facing south photographer: Lynn Josse

  • 9 First floor elevators, facing southwest photographer: Lynn Josse

    • 10 First floor north hall, facing north photographer: Lynn Josse

    • 11 Staircase, facing south photographer: Lynn Josse

    • 12 Second floor hallway, facing north photographer: Lynn Josse

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  • 14 Unit 203, facing east photographer: Lynn Josse

  • 15 Unit 204, facing northwest photographer: Lynn Josse

  • 16 Unit 211, facing southwest photographer: Lynn Josse

  • 17 Unit 211, facing northeast photographer: Lynn Josse

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  • 18 Common space (elevator lobby), seventh floor, facing west photographer: Lynn Josse

  • 19 Basement, facing south from elevator lobby photographer: Lynn Josse

`

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Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 12 Figure 1 Site in

Figure 1 Site in 1938: Neighborhood Gardens block at right is largely cleared for construction. The site of Cochran Tower, at the left side of the center block, is still occupied by tenements and alley houses. (Source: Sanborn Map Company, 1938.)

Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 12 Figure 1 Site in

Figure 2 November, 1950: The site of Cochran Tower has been cleared. The building (center block, top) is sketched in from plans. (Source: Sanborn Map Company, 1950.)

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Figure 3 Original site plan of Cochran Gardens, showing drying yards and play areas. (Source: SLHA)
Figure 3
Original site plan of Cochran Gardens, showing drying yards and play areas.
(Source: SLHA)

Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 14

Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 14 Figure 4 Site survey,

Figure 4

Site survey, 2007 (before O’Fallon Street was opened along the north side of the

property, right). (Source: SLHA)

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Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 15 Figure 5 Original typical

Figure 5

Original typical floor plan for twelve-story buildings at Cochran Garden Apartments. (Source:

Architectural Record, June 1954, p. 186)

Figure 6 First floor plan (Source: SLHA) Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12,

Figure 6

First floor plan (Source: SLHA)

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Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 17

Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 17 Figure 7 Floor plan

Figure 7

Floor plan and reflected ceiling plan, floors 2-12 (source: SLHA)

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Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 18 Figure 8 Cochran Gardens

Figure 8

Cochran Gardens under construction, camera facing SW. Sign reads: "John J.

Cochran Garden Apartments/ MO-1-3 A Project of St. Louis Housing Authority and the City of

St. Louis/ These homes are built with aid under the low-rent program of the Public Housing

Administration Housing and Home Finance Agency"

(Source: George McCue Photograph

Collection; State Historical Society of Missouri, Research Center-St. Louis)

Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 18 Figure 8 Cochran Gardens

Figure 9

Cochran Gardens shortly after completion, camera facing SW. (Source: George

McCue Photograph Collection; State Historical Society of Missouri, Research Center-St. Louis)

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Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 19 Figure 10 Exterior photo

Figure 10

Exterior photo of play area #7 shortly after completion. Cochran Tower is the

tall building in the background to the right of the path. Photo faces south to downtown. Small

sign at bottom right reads “Please keep off grass.” (Source: George McCue Photograph Collection; State Historical Society of Missouri, Research Center-St. Louis)

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Saint Louis Housing Authority Cochran Tower recordation April 12, 2011 Page 20 Figure 11 Interior of

Figure 11

Interior of unidentified unit just after construction. (Source: George McCue

Photograph Collection; State Historical Society of Missouri, Research Center-St. Louis)