ST. LOUIS – Richard Sprengeler, a fine art and commercial photographer, took pictures of the ghostly remains of American sculptor Bob Cassilly’s last work, Cementland. Sprengeler’s pictures are on display at the main branch of the Central Library in Downtown St. Louis.

He said that he stumbled upon the site after meeting a drone photographer on Laclede’s Landing, who provided him with information about the entrance to Cementland.

Sprengeler said he had a passion for capturing urban decay and architectural marvels. That drove him to explore the neglected site.

“As a fine art photographer and as a commercial photographer, I capture a lot of architecture, it’s kind of my specialty,” he said. “I’ve been photographing St. Louis for 40 years, and I’ve done all sorts of different aspects of St. Louis and the most recent one I’ve been doing urban decay. This kind of fit right in with the urban decay theme, it was an abandoned industrial site that’s just neglected turning into a garbage dump.” 

Sprengeler said that he made multiple visits to the site, but it was a dangerous place to be. There were numerous holes in the floor, holes in the sides of buildings, and debris. Graffiti was all over the buildings in the pictures he took, which may mean he wasn’t the only one to go to Cementland since it closed.

“It was the largest cement plant in the country at one time and just the scope of the project that he was taking on was incredible. He worked on it for 10 years before he died,” Sprengeler said. “And I wonder if he was still alive could he have worked on it for another 20 or 30 years, he probably never would have finished it because the scope of the project was so big.” 

Cassilly’s plans included constructing massive mounds, bridges, and a castle complex, all using salvaged materials.

“He built a castle complex in reference to feudal Europe. There was a Chinese pagoda down in the lagoon that was referencing ancient China, yet he had plans to build 150-foot-tall Mayan pyramids that was never realized because he died,” said Sprengeler.

“There was a huge lagoon that he built in the middle of the property that he intended people to be able to canoe around the site and into the buildings. There’s a a tall smokestack that was over 200 feet tall. He was building a circular staircase up the smokestack all the way to the top so that people could go up to the top and throw rocks off. He was a kid at heart. He never lost that joy, that fascination,” said Sprengeler.

Cassilly has also created other projects in St. Louis, such as the City Museum

“I’ve been a Cassilly fan for 30 years since I discovered the City Museum when my daughter was young,” he said. “I was a big fan of his work and then to be able to document this, I thought was a big thrill. A friend told me that it just got sold to somebody and the new owners are going to take ownership of the site and it was probably going to be destroyed.” 

The photo exhibition, featuring the abandoned industrial site, has a closing reception scheduled for September 21st, with the exhibition itself ending on September 22nd.  

“If something came into his head, no matter how outlandish, he would go ahead and do it,” said Sprengeler. “No matter how hard it was.” 

Cassilly died at age 61 on the grounds of Cementland. Beelman Truck Co., which bought the land for $1.4 million, now owns the former Cementland site.