Hodgen School Under Demolition

by Michael R. Allen

Historic View of Hodgen School. Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1884.

The Hodgen School rose from the good soil of St. Louis in stages starting in 1884. Then, 128 years later, the St. Louis Public Schools destroyed it. The Hodgen School displayed no signs of stress, decay or lack of reuse potential. Its limestone foundation and brick walls were sturdy, and its ornamental details — carved limestone blocks, rounded bows, sheet metal cornices — all were proof of the prowess of St. Louis craftsmen during the Gilded Age.

Do the blows dealt by the demolition team’s sledge hammers match the precise gestures by stonemasons long ago? Of course not. Yet they exemplify the change in attitude from the era in which St. Louis’ aspirations were palpable in the designs of architects like Otto Wilhelmi, who designed Hodgen’s main section. Today, as Hodgen School falls to create playground space serving an underwhelming replacement building, we can see this city’s casual disregard for its own future. The St. Louis Public Schools’ choice to use funds raised by the sales tax for building renovations is a travesty.

The underutilized park wast of the new Hodgen could have accommodated a playground. The old Hodgen building was deemed eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places by the State Historic Preservation Office last year, based on an eligibility assessment prepared by Lindsey Derrington of Preservation Research Office. National Register listing would have allowed historic rehabilitation tax credits to be used for reuse. The building’s views of the Gateway Arch and near south side location made it a likely — if not immediate — candidate for reuse. Sustainability — embodied by reusing second-nature resources that include whole buildings — ought to be a value that the St. Louis Public Schools teaches its students.

The Special Administrative Board raised $150 million for building improvements through Proposition S in August 2010. Voters did not know that any of this money would be used to demolish a historic, National Register-eligible building — a use that does nothing to help education in a struggling school district. The district instead could have raised money by selling Hodgen School, which taxpayers had already renovated at a cost over a half million dollars around 1990. The Special Administrative Board not only wasted money today, they wasted money spent 22 years ago. Yet St. Louis is not alone, which is why statewide advocacy group Missouri Preservation categorically placed School Buildings of Missouri on this year’s statewide Most Endangered Places List. That listing and the Hodgen demolition should make St. Louisans mindful of what built record of our values we are giving to the next generations.

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This entry was posted in Demolition, North St. Louis, Schools, SLPS, South St. Louis. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Adam

    i especially like how the SAB couldn’t have cared less about people’s pleas to save this building. i don’t believe they even acknowledged all the people who wrote/called in about it. all they care about is their shiny new parking lot. do any of them actually live within city limits? is there any way to get rid of them, or to take away their power to destroy valuable buildings at will? i would also like to see them held accountable for this misuse of taxes.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    why does St Louis continue to destroy its history? And then people complain that we have nothing interesting here. Pathetic.

  • SuzyF

    This building was damaged by the 1896 tornado, but was rebuilt.  There is at least one photo of a group of people, including some children who must have been students, standing in front of the damage a day or so after the tornado.  What a shame

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1153414668 Eric Matthew

    Should have a lawyer look at how the tax money was actually used vs. what was stated it would be used on. The city needs a good preservation-based lawsuit. Everyone is emboldened by the shady character in the big hat in midtown. Someone needs to prove them otherwise.

  • http://www.preservationresearch.com Michael R. Allen

     Did you write a letter? Did you get a response?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1153414668 Eric Matthew

    Also, it would seem to be a huge case of mismanagement given the fact that SLPS is set to receive a bunch more students since the closure of the charter schools.  They can’t complain that they have no place for them after they tear down perfectly usable school houses that have a clear path at rehab funding (two paths, actually).  This mismanagement should also be investigated.

  • http://www.preservationresearch.com Michael R. Allen

    So sad that we discard what our ancestors toiled to give us.

  • http://www.preservationresearch.com Michael R. Allen

     Hmm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1153414668 Eric Matthew

    http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/editorial/article_b0d3b826-c658-5b50-ae6c-255b1b251368.html
    It is highly questionable as to whether demolishing perfectly good buildings is a legitimate use of tax funds when the stated intent was the opposite.  I would really like to figure out how to get information from SLPS on how they stated this money would be spent.  I don’t know enough about the issue to know if they had planned on demolishing this building prior to obtaining the funds via Prop S.  If they did and did not clearly state so then that would be deceptive and would be cause for investigation.  If they did not then the public should have some recourse to authorize this change of intent.  If someone were to receive a grant or a loan you could not just change the intended use of that grant or loan without consulting with the funder.  If you lied or were otherwise deceptive in order to secure the funding then I would think that would be punishable by law; perhaps some jail time as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1153414668 Eric Matthew

    It looks like demolition cost about $350,000.  The new signs in front of the schools saying that prop s funding has been used cost over $66,000.

    A contract with Hankins Construction to provide signs in front of the 
    schools listing the Prop S work to be made.  The work shall begin on 
    April 1, 2012 and completed by August 1, 2012 at a cost not to exceed 
    $66,784.32 ($51,150) that includes a  7.483% (10%) contingency of 
    $4,650.

    Source:  http://www.slps.org/cms/lib03/MO01001157/Centricity/Domain/3/2012/4-5-12%20SAB%20-RESCHEDULED%20FROM%204-12-12.pdf

  • samizdat

     ”…we can see this city’s casual disregard for its own future”. Not only its future, but its past, as well. All down the line, from the clearance of the riverfront for the Arch, years prior to any concrete proposals for its stead, to the demolition of Mill Creek Valley, upending and uprooting thousands of lives, this town has continuously turned its back on its past. Almost as if the people who lived here were ashamed of it, and wished to wipe clean the landscape, as if to erase the memory of it. However, one cannot eliminate the past, as if it were some monumental palimpsest. One can only conceal it, shade it with cheap words and ill-thought deeds, and the corruption of the spirit of public service seen specifically in the actions of the Special Administrative Board. These appointed lackeys, these pestilential pustules, these parasitic apparatchiks, these mongrel, mangy curs, have in our stead, in replacement of the people, brought down another piece of our cultural, architectural, historical, educational past without a single cognitive thought to share amongst them.  Their benighted ignorance, so carefully and purposefully cultivated in the insular world of the businessman class, is merely a consequence of the attitudes of many of those who see themselves as our Betters, called upon as if by holy writ to oversee our lives and our society, without regard for history or common sense.

    Of course, one could say much of this in description of the entirety of today’s political and business elite. Clueless, out of touch, ignorant, without shame or conscience to temper the ill-bred schemes of ideologues and charlatans.

    A pox upon their houses.

  • Anonymous

    Infuriating.  Detroit is currently demolishing a gem of their own– Mackenzie High School: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4140/4763729991_07391b2ba2.jpg

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.kelley.311 Stephen Kelley

    I went by HODGEN GRADE SCHOOL today (7-19-12) and was shocked!!!I knew it was to be torn down but GEE I spent all my younger years ….ALOT of history is going away,so sad!!!Steve Kelley

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.kelley.311 Stephen Kelley

    I went by HODGEN GRADE SCHOOL today (7-19-12) boy was I ever shocked!!ALL of my younger years were spent there! Great memeories from the 50′s…..the good,bad and the ugly.Great times  and fun times during the summer months.There was a pool for us on those hot summer days,some of the best years of my life !

  • Urbanista

    I live a few blocks from this lovely old building. There is some justice, at least, in how amazingly difficult this structure was to demolish. I get to watch both Pevely and Hodgen go down, and they ain’t going down easy!