The front elevation of the Bernhardt Winkelman House at 1936 St. Louis Avenue has become a quiet cultural icon for visitors to the near north side. No other front wall in that area may be as much-photographed, with a possible representational life without end. There is no doubt that the diminishing state of the built environment has enhanced the visibility of the three-story stone-faced house, but there also is a certain decorative quality possessed by the front elevation that is notable in its own right. To state that the faÃ§ade is beloved would be an understatement, but also an assertion closer to the fact of the building’s status than any more formal descriptors. The Winkelman House, imperiled though it may be by current circumstance, may well be the popular emblem of the St. Louis Place neighborhood’s store of high-style residences.
Officially, the Winkelman House is a contributing resource in the Clemens House-Columbia Brewery Historic District (NR 7/22/1986). Built by German-born wholesale grocery merchant Bernhardt Winkelman c. 1873, the house contributes to two areas of significance identified in the 1986 amendment to the District nomination: Architecture and Ethnic Heritage. In 2009, owner Northside Regeneration LLC (which purchased the house in 2005) placed the property on its list of “Legacy Properties” identified for preservation — a list required as part of the city’s master redevelopment agreement with Northside Regeneration.
St. Louis is built of brick — and glass. With the abundance of churches, this city has a fantastic supply of stained glass windows. I recently attended the session on identifying and preserving stained glass at the Missouri Preservation Conference. The talk was given by Stephen Frei of Emil Frei and Associates. The company was founded in 1891 by his Bavarian great-grandfather Emil and has been run by the family ever since. They are the leading provider of stained glass in St. Louis most definitely, but are also largely important to the Midwest as well.
Congress first authorized the federal historic tax credit for fiscal year 1978 in order to provide a return of 20% of the qualified expenditures of rehabilitating historic buildings to developers whose projects produced income. In creating the program, Congress recognized both the needs of older towns and cities with aging historic buildings — passed over by decades of federal mortgage guarantees that sucked wealth out to suburbs — and the demands of a nation facing high costs of energy and the limits of natural resource depletion, which could turn to its existing buildings.
The Historic Tax Credit Coalition’s Third Annual Report on the Economic Impact of the Federal Historic Tax Credit, released this month, reports that the program has been a success. Between fiscal year 1978 and fiscal year 2011, $99.2 billion has been invested in historic buildings. Over 2,200 jobs have been created due to the program’s stimulation of construction work and materials fabrication — not to mention its sustenance of professions including architecture, finance and law. One of the figures from the report shows the huge, positive impact on the program since its creation and just in the last two fiscal years alone.
The federal historic tax credit’s use provided a boost to Missouri’s economy as well. According to the report, in fiscal year 2011 the program led to $368 million of investment in Missouri. That investment created 2,500 jobs and $163.2 million labor income amid a recession that has seen a slowing of new construction. Coupled with Missouri’s model state historic rehabilitation tax credit, the federal historic tax credit is a jobs leader for the state — and a mechanism that has led to resource conservation, historic preservation and retention of sense of place.
Last Monday, the Preservation Board denied developer Kevin McGowan’s appeal of a denied demolition permit for the Cupples Station warehouse now known as Building 7. At the meeting, Cultural Resources Office Director Betsy Bradley, who denied the demolition permit, recommended that McGowan focus on stabilization of the damaged warehouse’s walls. Architect Paul Hohmann, who has worked on many rehabilitation projects that have involved structurally-damaged buildings, testified at the meeting that it might be feasible to brace the walls from the exterior. Such work could keep the building standing, allow the closed streets around the building to be reopened, and cost not much more than the estimates $675,000 demolition cost.
At the Preservation Board, attorney Bill Kuehling represented City Treasurer Larry Williams, and offered the dubious proposal in which the Treasurer’s Office would repay the $1.4 million that McGowan owes Montgomery Bank only if the building were demolished. Ostensibly the Treasurer is trying to protect its revenue from the hulking parking garage adjacent to Cupples 7, but inoffer its plan it is calling for the demolition of an official City Landmark. That a city official would ask a city board to not follow a city ordinance’s directions is absurd.
However more absurd were assertions by McGowan’s attorney Jerry Altman that stabilization of Cupples 7 would cost at least $8 million and would necessarily involve structural reconstruction and a new roof. That is not what the city is demanding, and sets up a false dichomtomy between expensive reconstruction and demolition. The middle path is simple, and probably costs less than the money the Treasurer wants to loan McGowan — maybe even closer to the over $300,000 that McGowan owes the city in unpaid property taxes. This is where leadership from the city, especially Mayor Francis Slay, could set a path toward a reasonable plan for stabilization of Cupples 7.
In Louisville, city leaders required developers to safeguard three small, threatened facades on Main Street. The three 19th-century buildings at 615-21 Main Street are part of a cohesive 19th century block face, and their loss would have created a huge visual break. When developers proposed to build the Office for Metropolitan Architecture-designed Museum Plaza behind the buildings, the city made the developers stabilize the cultural resources they had purchased for the larger project.
Now that Museum Plaza is dead, at the least the city ensured these facades are retained for future development and the Main Street corridor’s architectural character remains intact. The developers even bragged about the stabilization when they announced that the project was over. Despite the cancellation of Museum Plaza, which would have brought world-class contemporary design to Louisville, the city still has a cultural achievement.
In the case of the facades, parts of the side walls and foundations are retained to provide backing support. The stabilization work consists of steel members placed between these walls and the facade to provide simple and effective bracing. The project was straightforward — as stabilization always is.
For the moment, the storefront openings on these three facades have become an open-air gallery for artist Chris Doyle, who has installed photographs from his project Scenes from the Underglow. Behind the facades is temporary surface parking — a functional use that is screened from Main Street. In the next decade, something new and creative will rise in that space. Cupples 7 is not quite as easy a project, but unlike the Louisville buildings it has the benefit of being freestanding and not connected to other buildings.
Louisville’s city government recently forged a compromise with another developer that will stabilize facades on historic Whiskey Row. Damaged buildings will be demolished, but the facades will be retained to maintain integrity of the streetscape. Again, that’s a a pretty simple undertaking, and one that will benefit future generations as well as the property’s developer. That’s what happens when city government makes historic preservation both a priority and — most importantly — a practice.
One of the major components of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s restructure plan, Preservation 10X, includes a focus on the identification of and subsequent advocacy for 100 “National Treasures.” These resources are meant to be historic places of national significance, or that raise national preservation issues.
Since this program is going to be a major initiative of the Trust, and many individuals have been providing suggestions as to what the name should be, the Trust has decided “…to use data-driven research to help in making this name decision to give us the best chance for success.” In short — they want input! According to an announcement by President Stephanie Meeks, “…the name needs to be a proper noun (no verbs). It needs to be short and memorable. It needs to convey the importance of these places and signal the commitment of the Trust to their protection. We are asking friends close to the Trust to provide name ideas that we can test in our upcoming research. If you have suggestions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 23.”
Deb Sheals, Chair of the Public Policy Committee of Missouri Preservation, sent out the following statistics on Missouri’s state historic rehabilitation tax credit program.
Between creation of the program in 1998 and September 2011, the Department of Economic Development measure the following activity directly created by the program:
More than $6 billion in redevelopment
20,833 jobs (not counting construction jobs on $6 billion worth of redevelopment)
The parapet of the one-story commercial building gasps out its date of construction, 1918, as the old building heaves under its new addition. What can one say about this project? At least the owners saved the existing building. At least the owners traced the contours of the historic building’s front parapet end blocks and pediment, and its stepped side parapets. Why, the only parts of the original building that are covered up are the roof and the rear wall!
Readers are always asking what is the status of the James Clemens, Jr. House complex, which includes the mansion designed by Patrick Walsh (1860), a dormitory addition (1887) and the chapel wing by Aloysius Gillick (1896). The complex has been owned by Northside Regeneration LLC or its predecessors since 2005, and two years ago was the site where Mayor Francis Slay signed into law the master redevelopment agreement for Northside Regeneration.
Northside Regeneration had partnered with experienced historic rehabilitation developer Robert Wood Realty to redevelop the Clemens House as senior citizen apartments with a small museum component. However, on January 1, the developers failed to make their deadline for selling tax-exempt low-income housing development bonds authorized by the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC). The developers told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that other options for the historic buildings would be explored as well as re-application to MHDC.
In October 2008, the Preservation Board unanimously voted to grant preliminary approval to the Roberts Companies’ plan to demolish the two small historic buildings at 921 and 923 Locust Street. At the time, the Roberts Companies had an arrangement with Hotel Indigo to open a new hotel in the historic former warehouse at 917 Locust, and wanted to build a covered entrance, lobby and restaurant addition on the site of the two buildings to the west. This plan was changed after the first rendering appeared to make what appeared to be a two-story building that fully concealed the driveway.
The Hotel Indigo plan had lots of support, but Landmarks Association of St. Louis and architect and advocate Paul Hohmann presciently opposed the demolition plans. Now, nearly three years later, the buildings sport for-sale signs, Hotel Indigo has pulled out of St. Louis and possibilities have emerged. Sometimes, the sky does not fall when a demolition is approved.Â Sometimes, the sky does not have bank financing and shovel-ready plans.
The Roberts Companies are offering all three of the buildings that were to compose the Hotel Indigo. The center building is a handsome three-story brick building with generous fenestration typical of early 20th century Commercial style design. This building dates to 1916, when Martin Monti took out a permit for the building with Nat Abrahams, a prolific minor designer, as architect. The building housed sundry tenants over the years including the Leppert Roos Fur Company and Leacock Sporting Goods Company. This is a bit player in a scene starring lavish terra cotta and penthouse corner offices, but a fine building ready for reuse. Even the absence of windows — oddly removed a few years ago — has not led to any damage.
The little timbered folly at 923 Locust Street on the corner gets the most attention of any small downtown building. The Tudor-inspired cladding corresponds to a 1947 building permit taken out by Fischer Optical Company, which must have had the clear vision of a slipcover that would delight and intrigue passers-by into the 21st century. This cover has led to years of speculation as to the date of the building underneath, and rumors of antebellum origin. The scale of the building suggests an old age, but the record is not suggestive. The Badaracco family, later to spawn the last citywide Republican officeholder in aldermanic president Joseph Badaracco, took out a permit to building this building on August 14, 1897. (We have a historic photograph of the building which we will post in a later article.)
The twelve-story building at 917 Locust Street is now completely vacant, but from 1989 until 2008 was the St. Louis Design Center. The Design Center attempted to lure design-related tenants into one building with shared spaces. (Two asides: Paul J. McKee, Jr. was one of its developers, and Landmarks Association had its office there for many years.) This slender but richly-detailed building was built as a warehouse for Scruggs, Vandervoort and Barney department store in 1913. In the building’s design, architect Harry F. Roach mirrored the bay divisions, fenestration and even specific ornamental details from his massive Syndicate Trust Building across the street (1907). Scruggs, Vandervoort & Barney was located in the Syndicate Trust and Century buildings, so the clear reference made sense — as did the sealed-but-still-extant underground tunnel connecting the department store to the reinforced concrete warehouse annex. Scruggs used the building as late as 1950, and remained in business across the street until closing in 1967.
One of the great things about the north face of the 900 block of Locust Street is that it presents a continuous row of historic buildings. Isaac Taylor’s massive Renaissance-meets-Romanesque Board of Education Building (1891) anchors the corner, and a slender old building clad in polished granite in 1946 — a simple mid-century slipcover par excellence — stands between it as the old Scruggs warehouse.
Until 2004, the other side of the street also presented a continuous face of historic architecture in the conjoined Century and Syndicate Trust buildings, but we need not dwell on why that is no longer the case. To the west, despite the 1971 cladding that conceals Mauran, Russell & Garden’s 1920 Merchandise Mart Annex at 1015 Locust, both sides of the street are continuous rows of historic buildings. Hence, Locust Street between Ninth and Eleventh is quite a unique vestige of old downtown, and the group of buildings that includes the three now for-sale is essential to retaining a sense of place eroded in much of our downtown.
Introduction to Historic Preservation at Washington University
“Introduction to Historic Preservation” will be taught again this fall at Washington University on Monday evenings. This class will give an overview of the theory and practice of historic preservation and is being taught by architect Jeff Brambila, former board president of Missouri Preservation. For further information go to http://ucollege.wustl.edu or contact Jeff Brambila at email@example.com.
American Architecture at University of Missouri-St. Louis
Lynn Josse of Preservation Research Office will be teaching “American Architecture” (ART HS 2279) this fall at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. the course is a survey overview of American architectural movements, styles and architects from 1600 to the present. Prerequisites: Art 1100 or consent of the instructor. For more information, go to http://umsl.edu/academics/index.html.