Historic Preservation Hyde Park North St. Louis Preservation Board

Preservation Board Denies Demolition Permits in Hyde Park, Dogtown

by Michael R. Allen

At yesterday’s meeting of the Preservation Board, the board unanimously voted to deny both Hyde Park demolition permits sought by Alderman Freeman Bosley (D-3rd) and the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA). The alderman and the city’s real estate wing wanted to level both of the frame houses at 3953 and 3961 Blair Avenue, which the LRA has owned since 2001. Staff from the Cultural Resources Office recommended approving demolition of the modest but mostly intact Italianate house at 3953 Blair while denying the permit for the rare Greek Revival house a few lots down. While the dire circumstances in Hyde Park may suggest such either-or piecemeal decision-making, what the neighborhood needs is comprehensive planning. Neither building is structurally unsound, and frame buildings of such size and age are becoming rare in the city no matter what architectural style. (Style is important in appraising the significance of individual buildings, although a trivial concern in terms of building successful neighborhoods where many factors must be balanced.) Steve Patterson and I each spoke in favor of preserving the two buildings.

The demolition permit for the house at 6452 Nashville in Dogtown also was denied. The owners paid almost $100,000 for the house only to apply for a demolition permit without a redevelopment plan. Huh? This is one of the city’s most stable neighborhoods, after all, making their application somewhat baffling.

Another good vote from the board was a 4-1 vote (with Mary Johnson dissenting) to defer consideration of plans for two model homes at 1922 and 1928 Whittier in The Ville. Frankly, the plans were terrible in terms of proportion, ornament, size and compatibility with context although Johnson saw redeeming qualities in their “French Victorian” style. Developer Sandra Nobles certainly did well in explaining the need to build on vacant lots in the Ville, but she could not answer questions about the design very well. More time and input from the staff at Cultural Resources should lead to better design.

One noteworthy presence of yesterday’s meeting was that Alderman Terry Kennedy (D-18th), who is a member of the board, was present. This was his first appearance at a board meeting in nearly one year.

Hyde Park North St. Louis Preservation Board South St. Louis The Ville

Preservation Board Agenda Available

by Michael R. Allen

This morning, the St. Louis Preservation Board posted the agenda for today’s meeting. It’s fairly short, actually, and no item is very controversial. Yet who has time to read the whole agenda and the summaries before the meeting if it’s only posted in the morning?

Among the items are the proposed demolition of two city-owned vacant houses on Blair Avenue in Hyde Park, the demolition of a house in Dogtown owned by an investment company, permits for lackluster new houses in the Ville and some appeals related to renovation work in violation of local historic district ordinances.

Also this morning, Steve Patterson of Urban Review posted his thoughts on the Preservation Board: “The Preservation Board A Public Hearing Or Not?”

The Preservation Board meets at 4:00 p.m. on the 12th floor of the building at 1015 Locust Street in downtown St. Louis.

Fire Hyde Park Media North St. Louis

Post Slacks on Coverage of the Turnverein Fire

by Michael R. Allen

The Associated Press had a great story on the Turnverein fire. Which daily papers ran it?

The Belleville News-Democrat, on the front page of its July 6 St. Louis edition.

The Kansas City Star. The Columbia Daily Tribune.

Guess which daily paper did not run the AP story, while also not updating its own scant coverage. That’s right, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which had earlier ran the pathetic headline “Firefighters battle blaze at old athletics complex.”

Once again, the Belleville News-Democrat has better coverage of the city of St. Louis than the Post.

Fire Hyde Park North St. Louis

Nord St. Louis Turnverein Gym Survived Fire

by Michael R. Allen

View of the gymnasium northwest from Mallinckrodt Street. All photographs taken on July 5, 2006.

Remarkably, the 1898 gymnasium facing Mallinckrodt Street survived the blaze that destroyed much of the rest of the Nord St. Louis Turnverein on the night of July 3, 2006. This survival is largely due to its later fire-proof construction that avoided the use of structural timber that the other sections of the complex used. The gymnasium utilizes steel tied into the masonry walls for its structure. The gym floor is supported by steel columns that are cross-braced for durability. These columns support steel joists under a concrete slab floor that adequately carried the weight of the roof debris that descended during the fire. My inspection on July 5 revealed that the floor was stable across the building, with no collapsed areas. I was startled to see how stable the floor was. Of course, the wooden flooring was largely deteriorated before the fire.

View northeast from the corner of 20th and Mallinckrodt streets.

The masonry walls appear stable, except for sections where the parapet walls had deteriorated and lost integrity. A few sections came lose during storms in the spring, and when the roof burned the falling debris knocked lose larger areas of the walls. All four walls remain mostly intact, though. Steel trusses span the width of the building, with each truss tied into the walls. Some girders are no longer tied due to masonry disintegration. However, most are stable. These trusses are braced at two points in the center of the building by lateral steel channels.

Looking north inside of the gymnasium.

Overall, the structural condition after the gymnasium remains good after the fire.

Some additional interior views:

Abandonment Fire Historic Preservation Hyde Park North St. Louis

Nord St. Louis Turnverein Burns

by Michael R. Allen

The following photographs show the state of the Nord St. Louis Turnverein on July 4, 2006 after a major fire brought about and end that long seemed inevitable. These photographs, taken by Claire Nowak-Boyd, depict a destabilized mass barely recognizable as the landmark that generations of north siders loved. Instead, we see charred wooden beams and joists amid the stub end of walls that once rose two and three stories.

Firefighters responded to the blaze at around 11:00 p.m. on Monday, July 3. The cause is undetermined, but fireworks are likely to be involved. Eyewitnesses have mentioned bottle rockets being shot into the building by neighbors, but the Fire Department has no comment.

The fire quickly destroyed the Turnverein’s oldest part, the 1879 building facing Salisbury Street. That part had suffered some roof damage in winter 2004 and its walls were partly toppled by high winds in April 2006. Left exposed, its wooden roof joists were dry; left without a roof, its masonry walls were barely held up at all.

The fire must have been hot enough to spread into the more stable 1890’s additions, and those sections were mostly destroyed except for the 1898 gymnasium facing Mallinckrodt, which lost its roof but retains stability of its masonry walls. Preservation of the shell of this section is still feasible, although the rest of the complex is basically impossible to save.

Lenders were close to foreclosing on DHP Investments, the company that had pledged to rehab the Turnverein before its founder disappeared in April. A rehabilitation project may have happened, but no one will know for sure now. The Building Division will likely begin an emergency demolition in the next two weeks, and will probably take down the entire complex.

Total demolition would be a shame. Although the disparate parts worked visually as a patchwork whole, the 1898 gymnasium could stand as a stern reminder of what once stood at the site. However, the current state of the Hyde Park neighborhood is too grim for such reminders, and is under so much duress that there is no time or money to make careful decisions. The “if’s” in this story are overwhelming. German-Americans who left for the suburbs, the Turner organization, the do-nothing alderman, complacent preservationists, a string of mayors who could care less and Doug Hartmann of DHP Investments all share some blame here. This end easily could have been avoided, but for inaction.

There is no rest for the north side today, or any other. At least one other historic building — this one on North Market Street in Old North St. Louis — burned on the same night as the Turnverein.

Here’s the view southeast from Salisbury at 20th:

The view along 20th Street shows how little of the building’s profile remains:

The view of the east wall of the original building shows that the extent of loss is severe:

The 1898 gymnasium addition lost its roof but retains stability:


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article on July 5 that claims that the fire is a “total loss.” This is untrue, because the steel-structure 1898 gym remains stable and could be reserved.

A neighbor reported seeing the Henry Rollins Band, the Dead Milkmen, Naked Raygun and other bands at the Turnverein during the 1970s and 1980s when promoters booked many shows there.

Historic Preservation Hyde Park Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North

Emigrant Home, Turnverein on Missouri Preservation’s Most Endangered List

by Michael R. Allen

Missouri Preservation, formerly the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation, announced its 2006 Most Endangered Historic Places list at a press conference in Fulton last Saturday.

Among the thirteen places are the storm-damaged Nord St. Louis Turnverein and the Mullanphy Emigrant Home on the near north side of St. Louis. Another St. Louis-area building made the list: the Mark Sappington House in Crestwood, built in 1840 and threatened with demolition for a strip mall.

The list may draw greater attention statewide to the plight of these buildings. Across the state, St. Louis has a strong reputation as a leader in historic rehabilitation efforts, so people may take our forward movement for granted. The truth is that the city’s north side continues to lose buildings at an alarming rate with no end in sight. Hopefully the inclusion of the near north side buildings will show people that great architecture requires political and economic maintenance, even (especially?) in a city on the rebound from decline.

Thanks go to Karen Bode Baxter for nominating the Turnverein and the Emigrant Home at the last minute.

Housing Hyde Park North St. Louis Severe Weather

3512 N. 19th Street, Blown Down

by Michael R. Allen

The alley house largely intact, November 19, 2005. Photograph by Michael R. Allen.

The alley house after its wall collapse, April 8, 2006. Photograph by Claire Nowak-Boyd.

The high winds of April brought a cruel fury to the near north side of St. Louis. Spectacular damage sustained on April 2 by the landmark Mullanphy Emigrant Home on 14th Street and the Nord St. Louis Turnverein on Salisbury Street was followed by the total destruction of a smaller building a few days later. Late on April 7, the alley house at 3512 N. 19th Street fell to the winds of the sort that must have inspired T.S. Eliot’s famed quote. The entire western wall, along 19th Street, collapsed and took down most of the roof and second floor, leaving only three walls to contain a pile of rubble that spilled out onto the street.

View of eastern elevation. Photograph by Claire Nowak-Boyd.

The plain two story flat-roofed house stood behind the house at 1530 Mallinckrodt Street, near the head of Garden Street. Construction of the house, which likely housed four households, likely dates to the early 1890s, but the house fell vacant nearly one hundred years later as became part of the city government’s inventory of vacant buildings in 1989. With little interest in Hyde Park in recent years, and even less interest in alley houses, the fine building was only waiting for its demise. No one could have guessed that it would come spectacularly around midnight, just moments before the editors of Ecology of Absence would come upon it while driving home.

View southeast from the corner of 19th and Mallinckrodt streets. The vacant building to the left is privately owned. Photograph by Michael R. Allen.

Sadly, this block has been suffering lately; in October, the Bernard Kettman House at 1522-24 Mallickrodt caught fire and now sits condemned and vacant. Other buildings on the 1500 block of Mallinckrodt are vacant or in disrepair.

Historic Preservation Hyde Park North St. Louis

DHP Got Bargain Price for the Turnverein

by Michael R. Allen

Most sources have reported the December 2003 sale price of the Nord St. Louis Turnverein to troubled DHP Investments at $100,000. Before yesterday, I had not learned the real sale price: $44,000.

Of course, the Turnverein likely needs $3-5 million in work to complete a full renovation — so even the lowest price is a hard bargain. But still, if the previous owners were willing to sell for such a low price, any developer had a chance at the building. I suppose in 2003 DHP Investments seemed like a good developer for the property, although I know almost no one involved in historic renovation work that ever had any contact with the company. I know of no projects that DHP completed.

The good news is that the Turnverein now can be had for at least as low as $44,000, if not much lower.

Hyde Park Media Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North Severe Weather

Media Catching Up on Mullanphy and Turnverein Stories

by Michael R. Allen

Yesterday, Tom Weber at KWMU covered the great effort the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group is putting into finding a new owner for the Mullanphy Emigrant Home.

KTVI Fox 2 News will air a story on DHP Investments on its Monday 9:00 p.m. news program, with the Nord St. Louis Turnverein featured.

Historic Preservation Hyde Park Mullanphy Emigrant Home Old North

Demolition Held Off on Mullanphy, Turnverein buildings

by Michael R. Allen

Jim Shrewsbury, President of the Board of Aldermen, and Barb Geisman, Deputy Mayor for Development want to help preserve the Mullanphy Emigrant Home and the Nord St. Louis Turnverein. Geisman should be commended for stepping in to hold off on the emergency demolition that the Building Division seeks.

The cost of demolishing the Mullanphy Emigrant Home and the cost of rebuilding the wall seem to be the same, and slightly less that the $100,000 that owner Paul Hopkins seeks for a sales price. The results of either approach could not be more different: the loss of a historic building that enhances the near north side and also is a valuable economic asset, or demolition for a relatively worthless vacant lot.

Either way, the city fronts the money for work costing less than the money the owner seeks. How does demolition make sense?

If the owner’s insurance will pick up the demolition cost, it could pick up the cost of rebuilding the wall and enhancing the value of a historic building. However, without a development plan the building may face similar hurdles in the future. What it needs most of all is a change in ownership. Hopkins will have to take a loss to keep the building standing.

As for the Turnverein, there is less certainty on its future but no immediate danger of further collapse, since all that fell were walls already destabilized by a roof collapse. Some bracing on the remaining ports on those walls and removal of the building material inside would buy some time — but, again, we must not stop working to find a real future.

Time is of the essence for a historic assets that are worth something to more people than just the owners. I am glad that some city officials understand what needs to be done.