Central West End St. Louis Board of Aldermen

After Reopening Olive, Kennedy Wants to Close Whittier

by Michael R. Allen

Alderman Terry Kennedy (D-18th) has introduced Board Bill 91, to close Whittier south of McPherson. The lack of north-south arteries across the central corridor reinforces the local divide between the north and south sides of the city. I probably don’t need to mention that the north side is the loser in this split.

On May 7, Urban Review reported that Kennedy had relented and reopened a closed section of Olive Street in the Central West End. Unfortunately, this good act is followed by another proposed street closure in Kennedy’s ward. The problems that street closures create are certainly not limited to one or two in particular; the same problems that the Olive closure caused will occur once Whittier is closed.

Central West End Hyde Park Lafayette Square Northside Regeneration Preservation Board St. Louis Place

Summary of Monday’s Preservation Board Meeting

by Michael R. Allen

Here is a summary of actions at Monday’s meeting of the St. Louis Preservation Board, by agenda item. The meeting started with only two members present, Chairman Richard Callow and David Richardson. Later, members Anthony Robinson, Alderman Terry Kennedy and Luis Porello arrived.


A. 5291 Washington; application for new construction.
ACTION: Deferred due to lack of quorum.

B. 4155-63 Magnolia; application to install vinyl windows on an early 20th century revival-style apartment building in Shaw. Owner Lisa Presley applied to replace 300 wooden windows on the front elevation of this apartment building with white vinyl windows featuring simulated dividers. Normally, this would be unconvincing but the front elevation happens to face the side of the lot with the long, narrow apartment building running from street to alley. An interesting moment came when Presley’s window salesman stated that vinyl windows lasted forever. When asked how long aluminum windows, he said almost as long as vinyl.
ACTION: Denied by vote of 2-1 with Alderman Kennedy dissenting.

C. 3628 N. 14th Street; application to retain vinyl windows installed without a permit. This wonderful commercial building at the southeast corner of 14th and Salisbury in Hyde Park suffered the removal of its wooden windows and a prism-glass transom last year; most windows were evident and likely in condition to be rehabbed. Owner Lisa Hines claimed that although she had rehabbed 16 buildings, she had never rehabbed in a “blighted” historic district where design standards applied. She also claimed that most of the windows werer broken or missing when she bought the building. I presented a photo showing most of the windows in place, without much evident damage; rehabber Barbara Manzara discussed how easy window rehab can be.
ACTION: Denied by unanimous vote.

D. 1912 LaSalle Street; application for addition. Owner Thomas Benignus and his architect Ralph Wafer presented design for an addition to a house in Lafayette Square; Paul Doerner of the Lafayette Square Restoration Committee stated that he liked the design but wanted review by the LSRC Development Committee.
ACTION: Approved by unanimous vote.

E. 2035 Park Avenue; application for alteration and addition of building. At this point, the meeting still lacked a quorum so the item was pushed off until later. Owner Thomas Bramlette wants to rebuild the odd one-story brick church building sometimes called the ugliest building in Lafayette Square. Architect Ted Wofford has designed a graceful Italianate project that will resurrect the low hipped roof form that was found in the Square before the 1896 tornado. Cultural Resources Office Director Kate Shea claimed that the roof was too short and the second-story addition two narrow for a house that sites between two impressive and larger homes and wanted approval to require a taller roof and wider second story.
ACTION: Approved by unanimous vote without stipulations sought by Shea.


F. 4549 Pershing; application to retain light standard in front yard. Owners have installed a bizarre and inappropriate light standard in the front yard of this Central West End home without a permit, in violation of local historic district standards.
ACTION: Permit approved by 2-1 vote with Richardson dissenting.

G. 4320 Arco Avenue; application for demolition. Owner Dwight Hatchett wants to demolish this one-story Forest Park Southeast house. The house, a splendid flat-roofed Romanesque is missing roof decking and its parapets have massive mortar deterioration. However, Hatchett has performed no maintenance and has no plans for redevelopment; he stated that he wants to tear the house down and sell it to neighbors for side yards. Hatchett started his testimony by stating his fear that the building would fall and kill someone — a rather old trick. Opposition testimony came from Manzara, Anthony Coffin, Claire Nowak-Boyd and myself. A motion to uphold the staff denial from Porrello failed, as did a motion to grant approval from Kennedy. Board member Robinson abstained from both votes; he stated that without a roof the house would surely collapse and denying the permit could still condemn the house. He moved to defer consideration for 60 days to give the applicant time to sell the house.
ACTION: Deferred for 60 days by unanimous vote.

H. 59 Kingsbury Place; application to retain inappropriate windows installed without permit. William Streett, owner of this Colonial Revival home, removed the original 12-over-1 windows and replaced them with casement windows to completely alter the architectural character of the house. His 20-minute defense (what happened to time limits?) was a ludicrous PowerPoint presentation that covered the design of other houses on the street and his personal preferences but did little to address the fact that he violated a local design ordinance. Streett boldly claimed that his house’s hipped roof was borrowed from French architecture and thus muddied the stylistic waters; however, he seemed to have never read the local district ordinance or the National Register of Historic Places nomination that clearly state both the recognized style of his house and the requirement that its original appearance be maintained no matter what Streett may think is appropriate. Opposition testimony came from William Seibert, representing the Central West End Association, and myself.
ACTION: Staff denial upheld by unanimous vote.

I. 1120, 1124 and 1400-02 Newhouse Avenue; application for demolition. The applicant, the Land Reutilization Authority, did not send a representative. In the absence of a quorum, the applicant must be present to waive the right to having an appeal heard by quorum.
ACTION: Set aside for next meeting.

J. 1629 N. 19th Street; application for demolition. This house is owned by VHS Partners LLC, one of Paul McKee’s north side holding companies. However, the demolition is sought by Ald. April Ford-Griffin and the application is the Board of Public Service. The board neglected to send a representative.
ACTION: Set aside for next meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the Preservation Board unanimously voted to enter into the minutes of the meeting the St. Louis Post-Dispatch obituary for Marti Frumhoff.

Central West End Demolition Historic Preservation Hyde Park North St. Louis Preservation Board

Plenty of Demolition Permits on Monday’s Preservation Board Agenda (Updated)

UPDATED: The Preservation Board of the City of St. Louis has published the final agenda for its meeting on Monday.

Among the controversial items are the following appeals of staff denials:

– Demolition permit for a house at 4320 Arco Avenue in the Forest Park Southeast Historic District

– Demolition of houses at 1120, 1124 and 1400 Newhouse in the Hyde Park Historic District

– Demolition of the Blairmont-owned building at 1629 N. 19th Street in the Clemens House/Columbia Brewery National Register District

– Replacement of the historic windows of the house at 59 Kingsbury Place in the Central West End Historic District (the owner has replaced — without a permit — the windows on the Colonial Revival home with Prairie School style windows)

The meeting takes place Monday, May 21, at 4:00 p.m. in the 12th floor conference room at 1015 Locust Street.

Architects Central West End Preservation Board

Preservation Board Meets Tomorrow to Consider Modern Houses on Westminster, Other Items

by Michael R. Allen

The city’s Preservation Board meets tomorrow. The agenda is available with full reports. The agenda features the usual preliminary review of new construction in historic districts, another case of vinyl windows being installed without a permit and several nominations to the National Register of Historic Places (including two on which I am co-author with Carolyn Toft). There are no demolition permits on this month’s agenda.

Perhaps the most interesting agenda item concerns 4257 and 4263 Westminster in the Central West End, where architect and Preservation Board member Anthony Robinson seeks to build two very modern houses.

The meeting begins at 4:00 p.m. in the offices of the Planning and Urban Design Agency, 1015 Locust Street on the 12th floor.

Central West End Demolition Ordinances

Requiem on Washington

by Michael R. Allen

Demolition of the three houses at 4011-21 Washington Boulevard owned by Saaman Development is well underway. See my April 9 post for details and, better yet, see the destruction in person.

On April 11 Paul Hohmann posted photographs of the demolition and insightful commentary to Vanishing STL: Demolition of 4011-21 Washington Proceeds

Central West End Demolition Preservation Board

Demolition Likely to Proceed on Three Houses on Washington

by Michael R. Allen

Word on the street is that demolition is proceeding on the three houses owned by Saaman Development on the 4000 block of Washington Avenue. Read more on Urban Review here in a blog entry from April 2006.

The houses are located in the city’s Eighteenth Ward, represented by Alderman Terry Kennedy, who is also a member of the Preservation Board. Kennedy has opted not to include his ward in the voluntary ward-by-ward preservation review program that ensures that buildings like these receive review for reuse potential.

The houses are also located in the Central West End neighborhood, renowned for its historic architecture and high residential density.

Central West End Forest Park Southeast Green Space

The BJC Park Lease and the Public Sphere

by Michael R. Allen

To all those people who bemoan the fact that some citizens are hesitant to grant BJC Healthcare a 99-year lease of a supposed forgotten corner of Forest Park: please examine the public sphere in the age of neoliberalism. Under policies at all levels of government, the ideal of the public good has become politically gauche. To talk openly about holding the stewardship of park land by our city government over the economic benefit of BJC’s expansion seems a political third rail, when even twenty-five years ago widespread opposition would have been a given, and few city officials would dare have favored a 99-year lease of public land to a private hospital group headed by a real estate developer.

In the past few years, we have watched the public school system sell off or discard assets of the public trust; not so long ago, the public hospital system was dismantled; city government has gone from a collective trust among citizens to provide for their needs to a near-sighted machine for favors, cobbled-together compromises and defensive gestures. Things that should belong to the citizens have been sold off or promised to private interest, and there seems to be widespread acceptance among leaders that government is now a tool for endorsement and acceleration of market forces. Once, government was the check against those forces that ensured that no matter what the city’s commercial fortunes the citizens had good parks, clean water, schools and the infrastructure needed for living.

While the opposition to the Forest Park lease may be more symbolic than anything given that BJC already has a lease on the land it is posed to get, the opposition recognizes the precedent the lease sets for future “needs” by big corporations like BJC. The lease makes law the trend of using city government to aid the powerful at the expense of safeguarding the public trust.

In that light, the lonely votes of opposition cast by Alderman Jeffrey Boyd (D-22nd) and Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury on the perfection of the lease deal are not foolish or ignorant acts. After all, BJC could seriously have chosen many other lands for the expansion project; the site is a red herring of epic proportion. They are the bare minimum we should expect of our elected officials in an age in which the very purpose of democratic government is under attack by hyper-capitalists who have managed to influence our government, nonprofit and intellectual spheres. This attack should be resisted everywhere, but it is especially pernicious on an urban city with relatively scarce resources like St. Louis.

Thankfully, we have two representatives in city government who are wary of the attack on the public sphere. We may every well have a third, if Comptroller Darlene Green votes against the lease when the final and binding vote by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment takes place.

Brecht Butcher Buildings Central West End Collapse Lafayette Square North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North South St. Louis

Examples of Buildings Stabilized After Collapse

Other industrial buildings in St. Louis and elsewhere have been stabilized and rehabilitated after sustaining damage as sever or worse that that sustained by the 1897 addition to the Brecht Butcher Supply Company building. These photos here show conditions at buildings brought back from ruins. Thanks to architect Paul Hohmann for providing these images.

LISTER BUILDING (Central West End, St. Louis)

The Lister Building at the southwest corner of Taylor and Olive was in ruins before its historic-tax-credit rehab. Read more here.

M LOFTS (Formerly part of the International Shoe Company Factory, Lafayette Square, St. Louis)

The “M Lofts” building in Lafayette Square was in a very similar state to the Brecht addition before developer Craig Heller purchased it in 2001 for an ambitious rehab. The former International Shoe Company manufacturing building was a mill-method building like the Brecht, with extensive structural collapse. Heller’s LoftWorks company rebuilt much of the building and converted it into residential space. Read more here

WIREWORKS (formerly the Western Wire Products Company Factory, Lafeyette Square, St. Louis)

A significant portion of the Western Wire Products Company buildings burned after rehab started in 2000. The developers chose to stabilize the affected section and create an inviting enclosed courtyard. Read more here on Landmarks Association’s 2002 Most Enhanced Building Awards page (the building was among the winners).

MILL CITY MUSEUM (Minneapolis)

From the museum website: “Built within the ruins of a National Historic Landmark — the Washburn A Mill — the museum provides a multi-sensory, interactive journey. The story of flour milling — and its impact on Minneapolis, the nation and the world — comes to life through the eight-story Flour Tower and other hands-on exhibits.”

Central West End CORTEX Demolition

O. Morse Shoe Company

by Michael R. Allen

Photograph taken on June 14, 2006 (Paul Hohmann).

LOCATION: 235 Boyle Avenue; Central West End; St. Louis, Missouri
DATE OF DEMOLITION: October – November 2006
ARCHITECT: L.S. Schaffner

The sturdy building familiar to most people as the Shaughnessy-Kneip-Hawe Paper Company Building dates to 1924, when it was built as a factory for the O. Morse Show Company. The architect was L.S. Schaffer, and the factory cost $30,000 to build. At the time, the design was very much on the cutting edge in its anticipation of the Art Deco style, which had yet to be formally identified in America.

The concrete-framed building was two stories tall will a tall basement story, and was articulated in brown brick with projecting piers and large steel-sash windows providing the variation on the base. The building was fairly massive on its two street-facing elevations: it was thirteen bays wide on Boyle and seven bays wide on Duncan. The form was functional and streamline. However, the architectural significance lay in the buff terra cotta ornament found in the frieze under the cornice and in rosettes at the second floor of each pier that feature a projecting lion’s mouth (echoed in other local buildings, notably the Robert E. Lee Hotel, built in 1927). The center five bays on Duncan and the center nine bays on Boyle rose to a somewhat higher frieze than do the outer bays, and the frieze on those sections featured abstract rosettes with conical projections that were somewhat exaggerated in a manner straight out of the Art Deco style. The lower friezes featured intertwined floral elements in a rolling wave pattern that are somewhat abstracted. The terra cotta’s color and execution were dazzling.

The beauty disappeared as part of the CORTEX project. The site was selected by city planners as the site for a new headquarters building for biotech company Solae. This building would be neither the first nor last architectural casualty of CORTEX, envisioned by city planners as a nationally-significant biotech district. The CORTEX redevelopment ordinance encompasses 246 acres and numerous historic buildings in the Central West End and Midtown, in an area roughly bounded by Vandeventer Avenue on the east, Chouteau Avenue on the south, Taylor Avenue on the west and Forest Park Avenue on the north.

There has yet to be substantive public debate on the urban planning aspects of CORTEX. The blighting and redevelopment ordinances for the project, introduced by Alderman Joseph Roddy (D-17th), sailed through the Board of Aldermen with unanimous votes. Most opposition comes from business and building owners who do not want to be displaced. Many people who would have critical perspectives, including architects, planners and preservationists, learned of CORTEX only after it was a done deal.

There was some question as to whether the Morse Shoe Company Building’s demolition would have to be reviewed by the city’s Preservation Board, since the building stood in a preservation review district. CORTEX’s enabling ordinances apparently trumped existing preservation review laws, and the Board never reviewed the permit.

Many people don’t realize what redevelopment powers CORTEX is granted by law. The impact of those powers needs to be debated fully and mitigated so that sensible urban planning and preservation can guide the redevelopment of the area. There is no reason why a building like the Morse Shoe Company building could not be successfully rehabbed as part of CORTEX. No reason, that is, other than the fact that those who might suggest such a course have not been included in planning.

Of course, it’s not too late to have debate and make changes to the big plans for CORTEX.

Central West End Clearance Demolition Forest Park Southeast North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Demolition Updates

by Michael R. Allen


Workers have begun removing the terra cotta ornament from the O. Morse Shoe Company Building at Duncan and Boyle. Apparently, some of the ornament will be “reused” in construction of the building that will replace the venerable shoe factory building: the sleekly boring, sub-urban headquarters building for Solae. Whether or not such reuse is appropriate remains to be seen.


Meanwhile, the clearance of 22 buildings in Forest Park Southeast is nearly complete. The demolitions at the north end of the neighborhood on Chouteau and Donovan avenues has created a large open space that is extremely jarring. Hopefully redevelopment will be swift. To the west, the Laclede Gas Pumping Station G will lose its landmark gasometer but retain its delightful Classical Revival pump house (built in 1910). West of there, the Freund Bread Company site has been cleared since last year, awaiting new buildings that are part of the Pumping Station project.

Overall, though, the neighborhood is looking better than ever. The transformation of Manchester Avenue within the last year has reversed the decay of many historic buildings and led to the openings of several new businesses.


On October 10, the Building Division issued an emergency condemnation for the Brecht Butcher Supply Company Buildings. However, demolition is up to the Blairmont Associates LC of O’Fallon, Missouri, owners of the complex. So far, there is no demolition application at City Hall.