Just before Christmas of 2002, Bob I and bought a Victorian storefront in a small quaint business district on South Broadway. We were excited to learn from the former owner (a neighbor and an amazing artist) that it was built by a family of tailors from Germany in 1896. He said the tailors created many of the outfits worn by the wealthy attending the 1904 World's Fair in Forest Park.
We spent the next few years renovating the building, trimming it in red and green, landscaping the adjoining garden, developing our photography business and meeting our new neighbors.
I was honored to be elected President of the Chippewa Broadway Business District Association, one of the oldest business associations, having been formed in 1923. In 2008, the board and members took on the task of making Christmas a little brighter in the neighborhood, which was going through tough times. With the help of the local firemen and their ladder truck, we strung lights on the flag pole in the median in front of the bank and decorated the fountain as well. Many of the businesses along South Broadway and Jefferson put Christmas decorations in their windows and lights on their buildings. Suddenly, the neighborhood came alive with the Christmas spirit and there were lights everywhere.
Bob and I designed and built this beautiful Victorian Village Christmas display for the window of our storefront. It was inspired by the train displays in the former Famous Barr department store in downtown St. Louis. Bob built two levels for the 12' x 5' window platform, wired the buildings, two bridges, streetlights and moon. I searched online for buildings that would represent stores that once existed in the historic business district. We spent hours creating the snow-covered mountain landscape on a ping pong table in our studio. After the buildings were in place, I added a waterfall, trees and sparkling snow.
Early one frigid December morning, we pushed the display into the window and opened the curtains. It featured two On30 trains traversing through tunnels and over several bridges, an animated skating rink and waterfall, along with a church, hotel, Globe newspaper building (Bob was a staff photographer for the Globe-Democrat, a major daily that shut down in 1980), pharmacy, post office, restaurant, department store, toy store, men and women's dress shop, general hardware store, music shop, police station, people and animals. There's still room for a bank.
The display was taken apart two years ago and all the buildings and accessories were put in boxes to sell on eBay. So glad I procrastinated. This year, I decided to rebuild the display in memory of Bob.
It was a fun project to work on during a recent snow storm that had closed all the schools and many businesses. It was also a challenge trying to figure out where all the buildings went and which light went with which plug on a daisy chain. Good thing Bob numbered all the tracks for the trains.
This is a photo of the rebuilt display in the window with fresh snow and a few more lights to brighten the streetscape along South Broadway. It's heartwarming to see little kids get excited watching the trains and hear parents reminiscing about their childhood train sets around the Christmas tree.
I shot a video of the display in 2009, which is still available on YouTube. Click the photo to watch. It's about 2 minutes long.
Happy Holidays from our house to yours,
Photographer / Artist