_PROJECT CONTEXT and SCOPE

Throughout the 2016 fall term, the “Old Lead Belt” district of Missouri will provide the setting for your work. Located approximately 1 hour south of St. Louis, the district is comprised of a network of small towns closely interspered among the rolling landscape of the eastern Ozarks.  Lead mining in the area dates back to Euro-American settlement and the earliest mining consisted of small surface mines scattered throughout the landscape wherever the lead ore was near the surface.  In the early 20th century the district attracted the investments of American industrialists and- along with advancements in mining technology- the district quickly became the leading producer of lead ore for over six decades. Today, little mining activity remains in the area, but the legacy of lead mining is prevalent in the place names, special events and the landscape itself. Mining has left a complex environmental, ecological, and cultural history that poses significant challenges and opportunities for the future of the district. 

Throughout the FALL 2016 semester, the studio will examine potential future alternatives for a portion of the district including the Missouri Mines Historic Site (MMSHS).  The 25-acre site includes the structures, equipment and site of the former Federal Mill No.3 complex and over 300-miles of (now flooded) underground mines. The MMSHS and the adjacent 8,500-acre St. Joe State Park are managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Both properties were owned by the St. Joesph Mineral Company until 1972 when they were donated to the state. 

 

_SITE DESCRIPTION

The following quote is a description of the MMSHS from Hebrank and Radford's "Missouri Mines State Historic Site, Park Hills, Missouri"   Rocks & Minerals, 72:6, 387-392. 1997.

Built in 1906-07, Federal Mill no. 3 processed lead ore from several nearby mines also owned by the Federal Lead Company. The milling complex and mines were sold in 1923 to the St. Joseph Lead Company (succeeded by St. Joe Minerals Corporation and ultimately reorganized as the Doe Run Company). Almost immediately, shaft no. 17 was raised (from existing mines 600 feet below) and the headframe erected. When the mill was improved and capacity increased to 14,000 tons of ore per day, it became the largest lead mill in the world. By 1933, St. Joe had assimilated all competitors and connected the separate mines. For the next thirty-nine years, the Federal mine- mill was the heart of the Old Lead Belt-the hub of an exten- sive network of interconnected drifts and giant room-and-pil- lar stopes serviced by 250 miles of underground mainline haulage track. During its 108-year history, the district pro- duced a phenomenal 8.5 million tons of lead metal! When the orebodies of the Old Lead Belt played out in 1972 and mining and milling activities ceased, the buildings and sur- rounding lands were abandoned. They lay idle until 1975, when the mine-mill complex and 8,500 acres of land (13 square miles!) were given to the state of Missouri by the St. Joe Minerals Corporation. This donation became St. Joe State Park in 1976. Between 1976 and 1980, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hosted several public meetings in the area and decided that the old buildings of Federal mill no. 3 provided a unique opportunity to preserve yet another aspect of Missouri’s past. On 3 December 1980, DNR’s Division of State Parks and Historic Sites designated 25 acres, including the mine-mill complex, as Missouri Mines State Historic Site. Major development did not begin until about 1983. Finally, on 8 May 1988, Missouri Mines was formally dedicated and opened to the public. The exhibits already completed, under development, or planned document and interpret the impact that minerals and mining have had on the history, economy, and culture of Missouri.
At its peak, the St. Joe-Federal mine-mill complex consisted of twenty-six structures; today only fifteen remain. Relic structures that were directly involved in the handling and processing of ore include the headframe, hoist house, primary and secondary crusher buildings, mill, flotation plant, Doerr thickener tanks, and drier building. Important ancillary buildings still standing are the gatehouse, powerhouse, machine shop, carpentry shop, electrical shop, and supply building. Much of the complex was gutted and then vandalized after the orebodies played out; most machinery was removed. At the present time, refurbishing the remaining ore-processing buildings and shops would prove a formidable and costly task. Near-future plans call for roof repair and cosmetic restoration, historic interpretation, and construction of a walking path around remaining structures. Most DNR efforts and virtually all funding to date have gone into restoration and development of two buildings: a small gatehouse-intended to function as the site’s entry station-and the powerhouse-the site’s main interpretive center and museum. The powerhouse, built in 1907, is unquestionably the most substantial building in the complex. The 230 by 65- foot structure was built entirely of brick and featured high Roman-arch window openings. Originally, it housed a coal- burning steam power plant that provided all of the electricity and compressed air required to power machinery in the mill complex and mine workings below. In about 1930, St. Joe elected to still the fires and purchase electricity from the local utility company. The steam-powered compressors and turbines were removed, and the west half of the powerhouse was developed into change rooms (locker rooms) for the miners and mill workers. Historic restoration of the powerhouse began about 1983, and most major work was completed by 1990. All efforts were made to preserve and interpret remaining historic elements that existed during the years of active operation. As restored, the powerhouse contains about 12,000 square feet of exhibit space open to the public; it is divided into three separate galleries and a small theater.
The theater, which occupies part of the old change-room shower, provides an area for audiovisual presentations. A twelve-minute video depicting lead belt mining and ore processing in the 1950s is routinely shown as an introduction for visitors. The historic site offers educational tours for schoolchildren of all grades, college classes, scout troops, bus tours, hobby clubs, or other groups; arrangements must be made in advance. A small gift shop provides teachers with a place to “stock up” on educational materials at low cost and offers visitors the opportunity to purchase inexpensive mineral samples, rock jewelry, books, and other related souvenirs. Missouri Mines hosts two special events each year. In early September there is a one-day Old Mine Open House, featuring special exhibits and demonstrations. Starting in June of 1998, there will be an annual three-day Missouri Mines Rock Swap & Sell-intended to be the biggest in Missouri and a major Midwestern event; it will be co-hosted by area clubs.
Development of Missouri Mines State Historic Site is far from complete; in fact, less than half of the planned exhibit units are currently in place. To date, historic interpretation has centered around the mine-mill complex and the Old Lead Belt-what happened right here. But the museum’s conceptual plan dictates that all important aspects of Missouri’s diverse mining past be addressed. Future exhibits focus not only on the state’s lead mining industry, but also on Native American mining, zinc mining in the Joplin district, iron and barite mining, coal mining in northern and western Missouri, stone quarrying, cement and lime manufacture, production of industrial sand, and the refractory and structural clay industries. Exhibits more generic in nature will feature the history of mining technology and will showcase some important artifacts of the basic mining processes-drilling, blasting, loading,

In addition to the historic development of the site and surrounding communities, the site can also be characterized from an environmental and human health perspective. Since the start of the industrial revolution, lead and lead-based compounds have become one of the most common minerals in industrial and domestic use. Our exposure to lead comes from fossil fuels, industrial emissions or from use in a wide variety of products including paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing fixtures, batteries, ammunition and cosmetics. Lead can be found in the air, soil, dust and water. Areas near lead mines and lead refining facilities are faced with a particularly complex challenge in that lead mining and refining wastes were typically used as a fill material in road and rail base courses and surfacing,  land development earthworks, soil amendment in agricultural fields or simply stored in large chat piles or tailing slime reservoirs in areas adjacent to the mines and surrounding residential neighborhoods. All of these post-mining effects are prevalent within the Old Lead Belt district.  Given its extensive use and impact on human health, lead and lead-based products pose a public health risk for those who have been exposed to lead, particularly children.  The mining and refinement of lead results in significant and persistent dispersal of lead in the environment.   While the EPA and CDC have established guidelines to lead exposure, their is no "safe" limit to lead. In addition, given the historic role lead has played in the region's development and success, some are less than enthusiastic about changes to their way of life due to lead toxicity. Notably, over 1,000-acres of St. Joe State Park, along with several industrial and residential areas in the  surrounding communities have been designated a US EPA CERCLA site (i.e. Superfund). Clean-up of toxic sites, including the state park, has been met with some hesitate, if not resistance. Meanwhile, eco-environmental toxicology studies indicate elevated lead levels present in many water bodies and aquatic life as well as in local avian, mammal and amphibian populations. 

 

_PROGRAMMATIC CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

The project context and scope for the semester will focus upon the consideration of alternative futures of a landscape that is emblematic of the Anthropocene. Significant programmatic challenges and opportunities are readily visible at the outset. Some of these are noted below. Additional programmatic issues and additional programmatic specificity will need to be identified throughout the first portion of the project.  Preliminary programmatic considerations include:

 

LEAD LEGACY:  For much of the 20th century, lead mining was seen as beneficial to the community and the primary mining company, St. Joseph Mineral Company, was viewed by many in a benevolent manner and often referred to as "Uncle Joe".  However, for much of the past two decades, public awareness of the toxic legacy of lead has been heightened not only from the visible historic lead mine structures and tailings piles, but also the continued presence of US EPA contamination assessments and associated legal actions, ongoing site remediation and toxic clean-up activities,  public health education campaigns, lead-poisoning side effects for a portion of the population, media reports and numerous public meetings. It remains to be seen what impact the toxic legacy of lead may have on the future identity, health and economy of the Old Lead Belt generally and the future of the MMSHS site specifically. 

MINERALS vs MINERS:  The MMSHS has dedicated much of  its interpretive theme and space to geology, including the extensive collection of rocks and minerals from a former St. Joe Mineral Company administrator.  Given the site's status as a State Historic Site, it is surprising that there is little emphasis on the cultural history and geography of the site, the historical development of the Old Lead Belt and its national importance, or the distinct industrial architecture. Questions exist on how to more fully embrace and share the important cultural heritage of the MMSHS specifically and the legacy of the Old Lead Belt. 

OFF LIMITS: The MMSHS contains over a dozen visually prominent former mine/mill related structures along with  massive earthworks (slime pond/tailings dam) derived from mining and material processing. The weathered mill architecture exhibits an industrial character that is visually striking as well as an important industrial archaeological resource. However, visitors to the MMSHS are often surprised and disappointed to learn that nearly the entire site and all buildings except one (the powerhouse) are off-limits to the public.  Site access restrictions are a result of unsafe building conditions, a legacy of industrial contamination, and lack of investment in site improvements.  Questions can be asked pertaining to how to effectively balance site access, remediation, public safety and fulfill the original vision of the MMSHS. 

NECESSITY OF RUINS: Landscape cultural geographer JB Jackson once noted that the maturation of a culture is reflected in what a society does with its ruins. The Old Lead Belt is fortunate in that mill structures were left in place and not demolished like so many other 19th and 20th century American industrial sites. That said, it has now been over forty years since Federal Mill No.3 ceased operations and nearly thirty years since the site has been open to the public. The MMSHS programming does not reflect current approaches to programming that are found in some of the more successful post-industrial heritage sites.   Over the past several decades many notable examples of post-industrial site rehabilitation have emerged, often with programming that challenges and extends traditional "historic" tropes of preservation.  Questions emerge regarding how to balance existing programming, site access, and potential new programming to enhance the viability of the strong heritage afforded by the MMSHS.  

ANTHROPOCENE PARADIGM: Many scholars have noted that the Anthropocene's significance has more to do with its potential paradigm change in human-environment relations. This paradigm shift has opened entirely new perspectives on how we measure and otherwise comprehend the world around us, particularly those anthropogenic transformation of the landscape. Scholars have began to consider anthropogenic processes and cycles of material flows and landscape processes in areas that were previously a scientific "blind spot".  For example, urban geomorphology, novel ecosystems, planetary urbanization and other themes of the Anthropocene are emerging and offering exciting new potential. Given the processes of materials of lead mining, questions emerge relative to how the Anthropocene may radically reframe the complex issues of the Old Lead Belt and potential open new considerations and alternative futures for the district.