Benton Park Carondelet Cherokee Street Marine Villa North St. Louis Pruitt Igoe South St. Louis

St. Louis Mythory Tour

Emily Hemeyer helps two people assemble their zines at the Mythory Tour.

On Friday, as part of the epic Southern Graphics Council (SGC) Convention night on Cherokee Street, the St. Louis Mythory Tour made its debut. An expanded version will return soon, as will a new edition of the ‘zine guidebook, printed in a limited edition of 70 for Friday.

St Louis Mythory Tour
a collaborative tour and zine making workshop
by Emily Hemeyer & Michael R. Allen
May 12th, 2011. 6-9pm. Cherokee ReAL Garden. Cherokee Street. St Louis, MO

“[M]yth is speech stolen and restored.”
-Roland Barthes, Mythologies


The built environment of St. Louis reveals itself through our observations, often clouded by nostalgia, ideology and comparison. We look around us and see inscriptions of what we imagine St. Louis to be, be that a “red brick mama”, an emergent Rust Belt powerhouse, a faded imperial capital or simply our home. St. Louis offers back its own narrative mythologies, presented through chains of linked sites with collective meanings. We quickly find that the city’s own presentation of itself is as veiled as our own observation. There is no one St. Louis, but there is no one archetypal St. Louisan.

The Mythtory Tour imagines a landscape of accrued building that has been neglected, in physical form and human consciousness. This tour presents one possible mythology of place centered on traditions of construction converging across disparate neighborhoods and many generations in order to show us St. Louis. Whether you can find this city out there is irrelevant, because using this map you will find some city worth your love and respect.

View St. Louis Mythory Tour in a larger map


Sugarloaf Mound, 4420 Ohio Street

Stone House, 124 E. Steins Street

Lemp Brewery, southeast corner of Cherokee & Lemp streets

Pruitt-Igoe Site, Southeast Corner of Cass and Jefferson Avenues

Kingshighway Viaduct, Kingshighway Boulevard Between Vandeventer and Shaw

Cherokee Cave, Under Cherokee Street at DeMenil Place

U.S.S. Inaugural, Foot of Rutger Street

(Full descriptions and photographs of each location are available in the guidebook. Those interested in ordering a copy can contact Michael Allen at

Benton Park Historic Preservation South St. Louis

Ongoing Work at the Chatillon-DeMenil House

by Michael R. Allen

The Chatillon-DeMenil House, south St. Louis’ oldest house museum located at Cherokee Street and DeMenil Place, recently completed total replacement of its 44-year-old roof.  Even fully-restored buildings need maintenance, and the Chatillon-DeMenil House the existing standing-seam metal roof roof dated to a 1966 restoration and was failing.  Repairs were also needed for the porch columns on the rear of the house facing DeMenil House.  But work had to start at the top, where water enters.

After successful fundraising, the Chatillon-DeMenil House Foundation had the roof replaced this fall. The replacement is a very bright red roof of standing-seam metal. (In a standing-seam metal roof, vertical pieces of metal are joined with raised seams.)  The new roof is faithful to the type of roof put on the house in the late 19th century, after its original wooden shingles were removed.

The Chatillon-DeMenil House is actually the expanded farmhouse of hunter and guide Henri Chatillon, built in 1848.  Dr. Nicholas DeMenil had the symmetrical Greek Revival style front section with its massive columned portico built between 1861 and 1863 (see illustration above).   Architect Henry Pitcher designed the expansion. Currently the house is interpreted as the DeMenil residence with furnishings appropriate to the late 19th century, but its hybrid history is evident and connects the house to many historical events of 19th century St. Louis and the American West.

With the roof again water-tight, the Chatillon-DeMenil House is ready for additional repairs and restoration this year.  The house is closed for January, but tours will resume next month.  Meantime, the Chatillon-DeMenil Foundation continues to raise money for repairs and accept memberships (the basic membership is only $40).  For more information, visit the Foundation’s website at

Benton Park Events

DeMenil Mansion Hosts Fourth Annual Book Sale

by Michael R. Allen

Books and Crannies: our fourth annual used book sale
Benefits the Chatillon-DeMenil House Foundation
Located at the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion, 3352 DeMenil Place, Saint Louis, 63118
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 15 (preview: 8 a. m. – 10 a. m., $5)
Noon – 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 16

DeMenil Place (April 14, 2010) – The Chatillon-DeMenil House Foundation will hold its fourth annual Used Book Sale at the House on May 15 – 16, 2010. This year’s theme will be “Books and Crannies.” Bigger and better than ever, the sale has outgrown our gift shop: for one weekend, patrons will have access to parts of the house usually off-limits to visitors, including our staff-only kitchen (for cookbooks, of course!) and the basement “tunnel.”

Free tours will be offered throughout the sale weekend.

The Used Book Sale is one of the year’s biggest fundraisers, providing capital for ongoing operations and restoration projects. Books are accepted at the House from 10 AM – 3PM, Wednesday through Saturday until May.

The Chatillon-DeMenil House was saved from the path of Interstate 55 construction by concerned citizens. A remarkable community effort resulted in its careful restoration. In 1966 the House opened as a museum interpreting the lives of the French-American families who lived there from the 1840s into the 1920s, and as a rare survivor interpreting the tastes and architectural preferences of the Victorian upper class. For more information on the Chatillon-DeMenil House, please visit or call (314) 771-5828.

Benton Park Churches Events

Pot Pies for Preservation

From Jeanette Mott Oxford:

Epiphany United Church of Christ at 2911 McNair in Benton Park will host a Chicken and Vegetarian Pot Pie Dinner on Saturday, April 10, from 5-7:30 p.m. Reservations may be made by calling 314-772-0263. We had had quite a bit of building repair and maintenance lately and want to preserve our beautiful church as a resource for the community. Please help us meet our expenses while enjoying wonderful food and conversation with others who are committed to the City.

Tickets for adults and children over 12 are $8. Children under 12 may have a reduced price ticket at $5, and children under five eat free. We are a Just Peace, Open and Affirming, Whole Earth congregation. For more information, visit

Benton Park Events South St. Louis

Chatillon-DeMenil House Trivia Night, February 13th

Undated photograph of the Chatillon-DeMenil House by Dr. William G. Swekosky, from the collection of Landmarks Association of St. Louis.

The October 1966 issue of the Landmarks Letter, newsletter of preservation group Landmarks Association of St. Louis, reports on notice of the newly-restored Chatillon-DeMenil House in the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune‘s feature article on St. Louis “glowingly described the Chatillon-DeMenil House.” Furthermore, “[t]hree recent out-of-town visitors to the house said they came to St. Louis to see it after reading the newspaper story.” Over forty years later, the Chatillon-DeMenil House continues to attract visitors from around the nation (although the house is closed for January).

Interior view of the Chatillon-DeMenil House in 1962 prior to restoration, from the collection of Landmarks Association of St. Louis.

St. Louis is very fortunate that the Chatillon-DeMenil House was spared from the path of I-55 through purchase by Landmarks Association of St. Louis (via a gift from Union Electric Company), and that the foundation that assumed ownership afterward has operated the house as a museum for over four decades. Thousands of people have been able to set foot in a fully restored 19th century Greek Revival mansion through tours and interesting programs. We could very well have had greater numbers hurtling over the site at 65 miles per hour if not for the swift, smart work of St. Louis’ early preservation leaders. We all should support the less dramatic stewardship that allows the house to remain an active part of St. Louis’ public life.

That is a roundabout prelude to announcing that the Chatillon-DeMenil House is having a trivia night fundraiser next month:

Trivia Night to Benefit the Chatillon-DeMenil House Foundation

Date: Saturday, February 13, 2010
Time: 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Location: St. Wenceslaus Parish Hall, 3014 Oregon Ave

Everyone’s an expert on something, and a little bit of everything (and anything) can be expected at our first trivia night. 80s TV shows? Come on down. St. Louis history? That could be useful too. Who knows?

Cost is $20 per person, 8 people to a table. Beer and soda provided. Come alone, come with 1 or 2 friends, come with a bunch of friends, just come! Don’t think you have to fill a table to attend!

Doors open at 6:30pm, trivia starts at 7 p.m. All proceeds from this event go to the historic Chatillon-DeMenil House. For more information or to make your reservation, please call Jim Hubbard at 314-578-0798.

Benton Park Historic Preservation South St. Louis

Good News from the Chatillon-DeMenil House: Roof Replacement on the Way

by Michael R. Allen

Tonight, the Chatillon-DeMenil House Foundation hosted its Holiday Party and Annual meeting. The customary good cheer and fellowship always accompanies a short business meeting during which members of the Board of Directors are elected and news is shared. I was overjoyed to hear Board President Ted Atwood announce that the board is poised to sign a contract for roof replacement as soon as next week, and that restoration of the portico columns facing DeMenil Place will follow that project.

For the last few years, the condition of the roof and columns has caused concern among the many supporters of the house. Of course, the columns can’t be repaired until the roof stops leaking. Next year, a new metal roof should be in place and column work underway.

If you have not been to the gift shop at the DeMenil, you will be in for a surprise. The shop has been overhauled. There is a strong new array of items for sale, and the room itself has been redecorated. It’s much better!

The Chatillon-DeMenil House, located at 3352 DeMenil Place, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. One of the local preservation community’s early success stories, the DeMenil was rescued in 1964 from the path of interstate highway 55 by Landmarks Association of St. Louis using a generous gift from Union Electric Company. If you go for a tour during the week, there is a great chance that Facilities Director Kevin O’Neill will give you the tour. Kevin’s knowledge and stewardship are amazing, and one of the reasons the DeMenil is no ordinary house museum.

Benton Park South St. Louis Storefront Addition

Benton Park Building With Storefront Addition Wins Award

by Michael R. Allen

When Landmarks Association of St. Louis awarded its annual Most Enhanced Sites awards on may 15, it included the building at 1814 Sidney Street in Benton Park. Besides receiving a major overhaul and sensitive rehabilitation, the building sports a storefront addition! The house dates to 1884, with the addition built in 1912.

David Rothschild, Vice President of Rothschild Development, purchased the building in 2006 and embarked upon rehabilitation in 2007. With masonry and mansard roof restoration as well as storefront reconstruction, the building looks much better now. Perhaps other buidlings with storefront additions will follow.

Read more about the Most Enhanced Sites here.

Benton Park Collapse Flounder House South St. Louis

Benton Park Flounder Needs Repair After Collapse

by Michael R. Allen

Earlier this month, the flounder house at 2809 McNair (Rear) in Benton Park endured a collapse of part of one of its side walls as well as part of a its front (east) wall. The damage is severe, but the condition is not beyond the reach of some temporary telescoping jacks. In fact, the side wall that bears the roof weight is studded out, so there is a wall in place holding that weight for now. Of course, that wall is made of new soft pine and is not a long-term guarantee of survival. The building needs the corner relayed. No big deal!

As the photograph shows, the flounder consists of an original one-and-a-half story section and an addition at the low end of the roof. Building permits date the original house to 1884, and the addition to before 1900. the house has been vacant for the past five years, with some deterioration and structural problems.

The south side of the buidling has prominent stress cracks, but shows no imminent danger. If the owner doesn’t have fund to repair the collapse, he could remove the addition and restore the original flounder house, which probably had a gallery porch in the spot wher ethe addition now stands. There are always so many solutions that are not total demolition. Will our Buidling Division urge one of these other solutions this time?

A short walk down the alley and back onto Lynch Street, one finds an intact and lived-in flounder house. This flounder has a front-hipped roof instead of the severe side slope seen on others. The group of buildings in which it plays a part is a great example of how diverse forms, styles, materials and setbacks can create a unique urban street face.

Benton Park Mid-Century Modern Neon Signs South St. Louis Storefront Addition

Storefront Addition: California Do-Nut Company

by Michael R. Allen

Yes, the much-mourned California Do-Nut Co. at 2924 S. Jefferson in Benton Park sports a storefront addition. The 1909 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the two-story building as a black smith shop, and building permits suggest that the addition dates to 1920. Here the addition seems to become part of a larger, mid-twentieth-century remodel. The parent building received a coat of stucco, the addition is clad in a Permastone-type material and the enameled neon sign board has an unmistakable modern swagger. The white and green color scheme is also sporty and simple, the hallmark of good mid-century design.

If the donut stands are doing well on Hampton and Watson road, why not Jefferson? Obviously, a little remodeling of that old store is needed, but the end result is an urban version of the roadside snack stand. Alas, a fabled reopening only led to plywood being hung on the storefront.

Benton Park Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North Severe Weather South St. Louis Switzer Building

Storm Update

by Michael R. Allen

Wednesday night was rough on us. The front quarter of the flat roof membrane on the three-story section of our house blew off, pulling up the recovery layer and uncovering the decking. Water poured in, ruining drywall on the third floor and seeping down into the second floor. Meanwhile, my truck was hit by a street tree that fell and the windshield was damaged.

When I returned home, I was able to get a tarp from a neighbor and make a hasty covering although continued lightning cut short my efforts. Our power stayed on long after most neighbors lost theirs, but went out before midnight. It remains off, although just last night I saw lights back on inside of Crown Candy Kitchen, where perishables had been evacuated by distributors.

Yesterday, I stayed home and obtained more tarps from neighbors and set to making a sturdier repair. An ex-neighbor who has been helping friends rehab a building that he sold to them was around and helped me with the work. I used various scrap 2×4’s, 1×4’s and other pieces to nail down the tarps around the edges. I further anchored the tarps with bricks.

At the moment, severe weather has returned and I am at work hoping that my work holds up today. No matter what, we will return to sleep inside of our brick oven tonight to keep thieves away.

Other news from the storm:

Winds took down part of the east wall of the Switzer’s Building on Laclede’s Landing.

Downtown East St. Louis took an incredible hit, with several small historic commercial buildings in states of partial collapse or with severely compromised roofs. The Stockyards area was hard hit, with the old entrance sign bent and the Robertson’s feed store suffering a small collapse. Somehow, the Armour packing Plant and the Murphy Building escaped further damage.

A corner storefront building at Sidney and Lemp in south St. Louis has part of its eastern wall collapse.

Two houses in a lovely Greek Revival row on Howard Street between 13th and 14th streets lost parts of their second-story walls. A commercial building dating to te 1870s in the 1300 block of Benton Street — the old Someone Cares Mission — collapsed; it was already fire-damaged. The nearby Mullanphy Emigrant Home thankfully did not incur further damage.

While officials promised to help evacuate people, seniors down the street at the Jackson place senior center were still sitting around outside while the building lacked power. Ambulances came to the center all day long.

Once again, I was reminded that urban areas have grossly inadequate strategies for coping with summer heat. Winter weather can impair driving, so a lot of emergency planning covers winter storms. Summer heat waves always catch cities off guard, even though they are far deadlier than winter weather.  I can’t believe that over 400,000 people in the region lack power during 100-degree heat.