by Michael R. Allen
Here’s the “mini mansion” at 1501 Palm Street in Old North in better days. Rather, here it is in slightly better days. The photograph dates to July 1972, and was taken by a volunteer surveyor working on the Heritage/St. Louis project. Heritage/St. Louis was an all-city architectural survey coordinated by Landmarks Association of St. Louis that nearly succeeded in documenting every historic building in the city (and many others) with a photograph and short evaluation sheet. Between 1970 and 1975, volunteers surveyed thousands of buildings, leading to more intensive later surveys and eventual National Register historic district nominations across the city.
As the photograph shows, the house was then occupied and not boarded. Wooden sash are intact, as is a recessed entrance foyer. The cornice is in place, as is part of a cast iron fence. However, the surveyor who took this photograph noted that the condition was only “fair” and the future was uncertain. This was long before Paul McKee’s holding company purchased the house, and even before it sat vacant for 16 years. Even while occupied, the house was not in great shape.
The reality of the near north side sinks in: the work needed goes beyond remediation of recent dereliction. Many of these houses have been in disrepair for thirty years or longer. Most houses in Old North marked “fair” or “poor” in the Heritage/St. Louis survey are gone, and many that would have been were gone before the surveyors arrived. What we now have is a remainder of building stock, and the vacant buildings we now have require extensive repair. Fortunately, this odd little house has survived to an age where there finally is massive rehabilitation efforts underway in Old North.
(For more information on this house, read “The “Mini Mansion” on Palm Street Needs Urgent Assistance,” November 26)