James Clemens House North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Blairmont in Court

by Michael R. Allen

What happened yesterday at the Blairmont hearing?


Blairmont’s attorney, Steven Goldenberg, successfully obtained a continuance from Judge James Dowd of the Circuit Court, claiming that it will conduct an engineering study on the Clemens House and submit that the court. This indicates two things:

a.) Blairmont’s owners are still hiding from the public and preparing some revelation to head off any moment at which their watchdogs might have a clue on their identity;

b.) Blairmont likely is getting ready to justify demolition of the Clemens House with the study.

Rumors have flown here and there about Blairmont’s identity. One source has Blairmont being a northside business family investing the last dollars of a failed empire; another more likely scenario has Blairmont being a front for a well-known suburban developer plotting a large scattered-site housing development.

But I think that I have solved the case: I think that the land is being bought up by relatives of our new police chief S. Jammu. Sound kooky? You say there isn’t a chief named Jammu? I swear that the pieces all fit together to make a convincing story! Either that or Jonathan Franzen is on the joyride of his life.

All kidding aside, Blairmont Associated Limited Company is an irresponsible property owner whose failure to maintain its property warrants the lawsuit filed by the Building Division. If I were an eminent domain sort of guy, I would say here’s a case where it might be wise to use it. Blairmont controls 89 properties and its affiliated enterprise VHS Partners LLC controls an additional 101 properties. Of course, if the plan is to build new houses the powers that be would more likely endorse the effort than try to stop it.

Historic Preservation James Clemens House Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

Over at the Clemens House

by Michael R. Allen

Our latest site update covers a recent theft of cast iron from the James Clemens, Jr. House (also known as the Clemens Mansion).

UPDATE: The hearing of the City of St. Louis vs. Blairmont Associates Limited Company will he heard tomorrow, Thursday December 1 at 1:30 p.m. in the City Circuit Court’s Division 5 in the Civil Courts Building at Tucker and Market. Judge David Dowd will preside. The case number is #054-2163 and the court phone number is 314-622-4342.

James Clemens House North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

James Clemens, Jr. House: Theft

by Michael R. Allen

On Wednesday, November 16, the editors of this site spotted three men and a pickup truck in the front yard of the Clemens House. The men were loading cast iron from the porch of the main house, including the intact pediment. Much of this ornament had fallen off of the porch in the last six months, and the men simply had to lift pieces off of the ground and into their truck. In fact, it appears as if they did not attempt to remove any parts from the porch.

We alerted the police, but nothing came of our call.

Here is what the thieves took with them:

Keep an eye out at antique shops, museums and scrap yards for this unique piece of St. Louis history. While it may turn up locally, the more likely scenario is that it was either scrapped or sold through an intermediary to a dealer in a place where no one will recognize the stolen parts.

Here is what the Clemens House looks like before and after the porch collapse and theft:

The porch on October 31, 2004

The porch on November 25, 2005

Abandonment, speculation and architectural theft — the fate of the Clemens House is very familiar in this city. But how can we send such an exceptional building to an unexceptional death? Our city needs no more architectural bloodletting; we are ready to heal. The Clemens House should be preserved.

North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Northside Speculators by Any Other Name…

by Michael R. Allen

There is a company called VHS Partners, LLC that may be ran by the same people behind Blairmont Associates LC.

Both have the same addresses for tax bills (those of Eagle Realty Company and Roberta DeFiore), the same agent (Harvey Noble) and only invest in north side neighborhoods in the 63106 and 63107 zip codes. The only difference is that most of the VHS Partners’ properties are west of Florissant and east of Grand between Delmar and Natural Bridge, while Blairmont Associates sticks to areas east of Jefferson and west of Broadway between Cass and Branch. Oddly, neither Blairmont or VHS has many properties in depressed Hyde Park. At least not under these names.

James Clemens House North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

James Clemens, Jr. House Today

James Clemens House North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North

Who is Blairmont Associates?

by Michael R. Allen

Today I discovered that the beautiful former Brecht Butcher Supply Company warehouses between Hadley and Florissant along Cass Avenue, immediately north of the Greyhound Station, are owned by none other than Blairmont Associates. Readers may recall that Blairmont Associates is a troublesome and largely anonymous group of speculators that has purchased hundreds of acres in the city’s Fifth Ward, mostly in the Old North St. Louis and St. Louis Place neighborhoods.

Blairmont owns the James Clemens House, the scene of an unfortunate robbery last week. (More on that soon!)

No one has found much about them, as their corporate registration was done through a third party and their mailing address was at Eagle Realty Company.

The city Assessor’s database record for the Brecht buildings gives a new address, however.

According to the record, Blairmont Associates’ address is 4131 Davis Street in Boulevard Heights. 4131 Davis Street is a private residence owned by Roberta M. Defiore, Ph.D., who is employed by St. Louis University and assists the St. Louis Archdiocesan Office of Urban and Community Affairs, the strategic planning arm of the Church.

Interesting. But I still don’t know who Blairmont is. For all that I know, this record is in error and the address is wrong. The record leaves out the customary “LC” behind the name of Blairmont, but that’s probably one of those danged old typos Claire mentioned.

Word is circulating that the city’s Building Division is suing Blairmont over the condition of the Clemens House.

Whatever is going on, Blairmont may want to come forward and tell Fifth Ward residents the who, what and why they want to know — before suspicions run too deep.

Brecht Butcher Buildings North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North

Brecht Butcher Supply Company Buildings

The Brecht Butcher Supply Company buildings stand at 1201-19 Cass Avenue at the very south end of Old North. Built from 1890 to 1917, the complex is a robust landmark awaiting an uncertain future. The complex is now owned by the mysterious Blairmont Associates LC.

James Clemens House North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

James Clemens, Jr. House

by Michael R. Allen

The Clemens House and chapel in 1908. Source: Archive of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

LOCATION: 1849 Cass Avenue; St. Louis Place; Saint Louis, Missouri
DATES OF CONSTRUCTION: 1858 (main house); 1888 (addition); 1896 (chapel)
ARCHITECTS: Patrick Walsh (main house); Aloysius Gillick (chapel)

Photograph from October 31, 2004 by Michael R. Allen.

What name does it take for a building to escape dereliction in Saint Louis? The historic home of James Clemens, Jr., an uncle of Samuel Clemens, sits vacant and decaying just northwest of downtown — with no future in sight. The lovely Italianate house is probably the only surviving house in Saint Louis with substantial cast iron ornament (all ornament is cast-iron on the original home), and certainly the last remianing house with a cast-iron front portico. Contrary to the opinion of naysayers who state that the home is worthless because Mark Twain likely never visited the house, the Clemens house is a valuable part of the city’s cultural heritage. After Clemens died, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet acquired the house and built substantial additions, including a graceful chapel. Their additions did not diminish the beauty of the large fenced lawn, a tranquil green space in what was once a highly dense neighborhood. They left the building in 1979, and a series of different social service groups occupied the building into the 1990’s. Maintenance fell off, leaving the interior in poor shape when the last tenant moved out.

Dormitory wing photograph from October 31, 2004 by Michael R. Allen.

The Berean Society used the original house as a homeless shelter through 2000, but did not perform needed renovation work. A Buddhist group bought the buildings in 2001 for use as a retreat center, but never raised sufficient funds for renovation. The buildings began showing spectacular signs of disrepair — the chapel roof and ceiling started collapsing, the porch on the mansion began separating from the house — until the city’s Building Division condemned the buildings. After a brief period of ownership by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority, World Trading, Inc. purchased the buildings. The company announced no plans for the property, and for a few weeks in fall 2004 the front fence entrance on Cass Avenue sported a for-sale sign with phone number. The property sold to a mysterious group of real estate speculators organized as Blairmont Associates LC. The Building Division has sued Blairmont for the condition of the house and their inability to perform basic maintenance; the case will be heard December 1, 2005.
Porch photograph from October 31, 2004 by Michael R. Allen.

Built St. Louis has a collection of exterior and interior photographs from 2003: James Clemens House

James Clemens House North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North

Seeking Blairmont

by Michael R. Allen

Just saw this post (copied below) on Craigslist. It’s great to know that someone wants to save the James Clemens, Jr. House. It’s distressing to know that Blairmont Associates LC is causing yet another annoyance to a rehabber; Blairmont owns many properties on the Near North Side of St. Louis and is notoriously hard to reach. No one can find out anything about Blairmont except that a man named Harry Noble supposedly owns the company — but even that isn’t verified. A search through the Missouri Secretary of State’s corporation registry reveals that the “CT Corporation System” registered the name “Blairmont Associates LC” on behalf of an anonymous party or parties.

Many of Blairmont’s properties seem to be vacant lots in Old North St. Louis, St. Louis Place and other neighborhoods, although the company recently purchased a vacant St. Louis Public Schools property at 2333 Benton.

Other people report needing to make agreements with Blairmont to repair shared utilities or utilities that run through Blairmonnt properties, and having difficulty finding a phone number.

If you know anything about Blairmont, please post a comment here and maybe we’ll be able to help Lyra and others who are interested in contacting the company.

Contact info for Blairmont Associates LC?
Reply to:
Date: 2005-06-19, 1:58AM CDT

Do you know how I can get in touch with a company called “Blairmont Associates LC”? aka Blairmont Associates, Blairmont Associates Limited Company.

They buy and sell property in St. Louis, and they currently own (bought just this April) a house on Cass Avenue that I am *REALLY* interested in purchasing… the Clemens House. I have fallen in love with this abandoned house, and intend to restore it to it’s old glory. The house’s history is intriguing (Buddhists, nuns, insanity, and the title of “the Taj Mahal of St. Louis”), and the history of the family that built it in 1858 – James Clemens, Jr – is even better (James Clemens Jr was Mark Twain’s uncle, and helped found the city’s first electric company and first bank, among other things). The house itself is beautiful, but dying, and I want to help this city landmark return to it’s golden days.

Problem is, Blairmont Associates LC’s last address is on Olive Street, and they are no longer there. I have been unsuccessful in finding their current address, or their phone number; although I do know that they are under a corporation based in Clayton called “CT Corporation System.”

If anyone out there has any info on the address, phone numbers, owners/officers of this company, or anything I might have missed, the information would so very appreciated! Please contact me (Lyra) at