Six Years Pass on Warne Avenue

by Michael R. Allen

The row of houses in March 2005.

When I first photographed these six vacant buildings in the 4200 block of Warne in the Fairground neighborhood in March 2005, I was struck by what a statement they made as a row. Besides the four-flat shown at left, the rest of the group consisted of St. Louis’ bread-and-butter building, the two-flat. The variety of styles in the group could very well have been a textbook illustration of St. Louis’ streetcar-fueled late 19th and early 20th century neighborhood development.  Instead, in abandonment, the row served as a different, disturbing illustration.

The block in August 2009.

By August 2009, the four-family building was demolished. An amazing apartment building across the street was also gone. The rest of the row was in bad shape, although each building was structurally sound. I confess to having low hopes for the group. Located in the city’s Third Ward, the five remaining buildings were owned by the Land Reutilization Authority and outside of any historic district. Had these buildings been inside of a historic district, they would have made a great historic tax credit project for a community development corporation.

The row in March 2011.

In the last three weeks, the row has finally disappeared. These buildings were on the edge of Fairground, located across the street from the O’Fallon neighborhood. Their loss is felt strongest in the O’Fallon neighborhood, where a historic district nomination is underway, by dissolving a visual edge.

Looking down Green Lea Place toward Warne Avenue, August 2009.

Furthermore, the row closed the view down Green Lea Place, which terminates at Warne Avenue. For one hundred years, anyone looking east down Green Lea saw the lovely front elevations of that row. Now, the view will look at nothing. The two corners on Green Lea facing the row, also inside of the Third Ward, are already vacant lots.

Looking down Green Lea Place toward Warne Avenue, March 2011.

The loss of buildings that close street views and frame corners ought to be paramount considerations. Boundaries define our sense of place when they frame or terminate views. Once buildings that form boundaries are lost, neighborhood edges start eroding.

Warne Avenue south of the demolition site.

Fortunately, both north and south of this demolished group, Warne Avenue’s east side retains many occupied buildings. All is not lost.

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This entry was posted in Abandonment, Demolition, Fairground, O'Fallon. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Randy V.

    Holy $#!+!! My dad grew up on Warne, just east of West Florissant. His stories about his old neighborhood are what made me fall in love with the city. How sad.

  • Chris

    What is that man doing in the rubble? Is he stealing bricks?

  • Anonymous

    Chris, that man is one of the demolition crew workers.

  • Anonymous

    It is a shame, the ongoing and continual loss is tragic, Rick has an idea about saving buildings on his site http://stlrising.blogspot.com/.
    Whether his idea would work or not, there has to be a way to slow or stop this demolition. I threw out an idea a few posts back on your site, some idea has to work or at least help.
    As you know, once these are gone, they will never be replaced with anything near the quality.
    One thing I will say, there is unemployment, but not because there isn’t work to do. There is plenty of work, that isn’t the problem.

  • john w.

    “The loss of buildings that close street views and frame corners ought to be paramount considerations. Boundaries define our sense of place when they frame or terminate views. Once buildings that form boundaries are lost, neighborhood edges start eroding.”

    …Couldn’t've said it better myself.

  • Rick

    Reverse gentrification I guess, huh?

  • Rick

    He is trying to clean up the neighborhood.

  • eric

    So Michael, If I we to buy all these houses 6 years ago, let them sit and decay, could I then get huge tax credits/blighted tiffs like McKee has?