by Michael R. Allen
The original version of the agenda for the January 28, 2008 meeting of the St. Louis Preservation Board included an appeal of staff denial of demolition of the commercial building at 5100 Page Boulevard. This building stands just east of another building whose fate on the same agenda, 5286-98 Page. The final agenda did not include the appeal. Whether or not it returns is up to the owner of the building, Rosie Love.
Curiosity sent me to look at the building. I was pleasantly surprised to find a sturdy three-story building with a mansard-style roof and lovely masonry details. The stepped-down parapet alongside the mansard gives the corner some pizazz, while a terra cotta cornice below the mansard has an eye-catching swag garland motif. The brick cornice on the secondary east elevation adds a less formal vertical line.
What is perhaps most intriguing is the bricked-in storefront configuration on the east wall. Under a continuous cornice with an egg-and-dart pattern are some strange capitals; these top brick false pilasters that run vertically between the storefront opening. Looking at the painted wall closely, one can see the distinct vertical lines between the pilasters and the infill. How wonderful it must have been to have the storefront opened up to both the main and side streets!
The building is, of course, vacant and deteriorating. It’s been empty for some time. Geo St. Louis shows records of an occupancy permit for a convenience store in 1995 and a permit for a “grandfathered pay phone” in 1998.
The front wall has some damage at the cornice line, while missing downspouts on the rear elevation has caused severe mortar erosion. Still, there are no collapsed wall sections yet. Numerous buildings in worse condition have been spared demolition by the Cultural Resources Office and the Preservation Board.
The Academy neighborhood (and the Mount Cabanne-Raymond Place National Historic District that encompasses much of the neighborhood) needs its commercial edges to remain strong. Delmar on the south has become a lost cause, but Page retains many corner commercial buildings like this one and the one at 5286-98 Page, which bookend rows of historic residences. With its proximity to the Central West End and its largely intact building stock, this area is bound to be an emergent rehabbing neighborhood. We need to keep the neighborhood’s buildings around for the new day ahead.