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

Update on Turnverein and Mullanphy Buildings

by Michael R. Allen

The Building Division has issued emergency orders of condemnation for the Nord St. Louis Turnverein and the Mullanphy Emigrant Home. These orders would bring about demolition. The Building Division is waiting a few days before proceeding to see if staff at the city’s Cultural Resources Office or other interested parties can put together plans to stabilize both buildings. These plans inevitably involve changes in ownership, and normally cannot be effected too fast.  If you can help, call the Cultural Resources Office at 314-622-3400.

The owner of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, Paul Hopkins, does not want the building to be demolished. He is interested in any reasonable offer for his building. To arrange to make an offer, please call Sean Thomas at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group at 314-241-5031.

Hyde Park North St. Louis Severe Weather

Nord St. Louis Turneverein Damaged by Strong Winds

by Michael R. Allen

On April 2, 2006, a wall of severe weather struck St. Louis, causing tornadoes to form in several areas. The near north side was hit very hard, and one of the most notable buildings sustaining damage was the Nord St. Louis Turnverein. Unfortunately, winds ravaged the most vulnerable part of the abandoned landmark: the original portion, dating to 1872, that had suffered a roof collapse two years earlier. The roof of the gymnasium fell inside during heavy winter snows in 2004, leaving the brick walls unanchored. As water continued to enter the brick walls, it created major bulges in the east and west walls. During the strong winds on April 2, these bulges led to extensive wall failure because the walls had no structural anchor.

Historian and preservation consultant Karen Bode Baxter and engineer Alan Scott toured the building on April 5. Baxter reports: “Without a roof, it was bound to start having wall problems, it was an opportunity just waiting for a strong wind.
The good news appears to be that the damage was isolated to one section of this larger complex and the remainder of the building does not appear to be insurmountable. Most of the complex does not appear to have major structural problems, at least according to the initial inspection by the structural engineer.”

Without urgent action, the building could be demolished and lost forever. Also hit on April 2 was the Mullanphy Emigrant Home just south in Old North St. Louis.

Photographs taken immediately after the storm struck.

Abandonment Historic Preservation Hyde Park North St. Louis

New Photographs of the Nord St. Louis Turnverein

Photographs from February 5, 2006 (Michael R. Allen)

Exterior Photographs from March 11 and 14, 2006 (Michael R. Allen)

Interior Photographs from March 14, 2006 (Michael R. Allen)

Ghost Signs Hyde Park North St. Louis

International Protection

Does anyone know where one can find this sign?

Hint: It’s in St. Louis, north of Delmar Boulevard.

Hyde Park North St. Louis

Goodnight, Bremen

by Michael R. Allen

Bremen Bank, Broadway at Mallinckrodt in Hyde Park. Photograph taken at 10:13p.m. on January 21 by Claire Nowak-Boyd.

Historic Preservation Hyde Park Theaters

Hyde Park Theatre May Get Face Lift

by Michael R. Allen

Thomas Crone continues his intriguing Dead Theatres series with a photograph of the vacant Hyde Park Theatre that is apparently undergoing some tuckpointing work. According to Crone’s conversation with a passer-by, it seems the tuckpointing project is part of yet another hair-tearing scheme: the theater will be rehabbed while a lovely and much earlier building across the street will be torn down for a parking lot.

Fire Hyde Park North St. Louis

One of Hyde Park’s Oldest Houses Damaged by Fire

by Michael R. Allen

The fire-damaged Kettman House on November 17, 2005.

An early-morning fire struck the house at 1522-24 Mallinckrodt on a cold day in October.  One of the earliest houses in Hyde Park, the building at 1522-24 Mallinckrodt was originally built by brickyard hand Bernard Kettman in the 1850s. Kettman, who was born in Hanover, Germany, leased the lot from Ann C.T. Farrar until he was able to buy it outright in 1863 for $1,440.00. In the meantime, he built the house and occupied it with three other German families whose fathers worked in the brickyards. Kettman later built a nearly-identical building at 1520 Mallinckrodt, which still stands.

The Kettman House in 1981 (far right). Photograph by Mary M. Stiritz for Landmarks Association of St. Louis

The simple building in the Federal style, was initially two rooms deep with four apartments and an attic. Access to the lower apartments was from the street while access to the upper apartments was through rear stairs and gallery porches. Later alterations have reconfigured the building into two adjacent two-story dwellings, which now have separate owners.

Rear of the Kettman House on November 17, 2005. Note that the gallery porch plan still exists in modified form (exterior stairs are missing).

At present, both sides are rental units. I had attempted to purchase the house at 1518 Mallinckrodt Street and had spent some time getting familiar with the block. When I asked an occupant of 1524 Mallinckrodt if she owned her home, she replied emphatically that “I don’t own that rat hole.” Thinking that I was an investor and not a prospective owner-occupant, she wanted to rent 1518 Mallinckrodt from me. While her comments may be an exaggeration, they indicate some level of neglect of this building in recent years. The fire damage has rendered both units unlivable, but neither owner has taken the time to board the building. The next buildings to the west are an abandoned bungalow and alley house both owned by the LRA. Across the street are two large abandoned four-flats with substantial decay, one owned by the city and another owned privately. The decay seems to have taken root here, and the fire is almost expected. I regret that I was not able to take the risk to put down roots of another kind on the block.


Stiritz, Mary M. and Jane Porter. Hyde Park District City Landmark Certification. Landmarks Association of St. Louis, 1981.

Hyde Park McRee Town North St. Louis Preservation Board Shaw South St. Louis

At the Preservation Board Today

by Michael R. Allen

The agenda for today’s St. Louis Preservation Board meeting contains some interesting items. Under the item “4104-54 DeTonty” we find that McBride and Son wants to retain some of the existing buildings on the block. Still, McBride wants to level two great Craftsman-style four-flats that, while derelict, are structurally stable enough for rehab (and vastly superior in materials and detail to any new houses I’ve seen in the city). Under “4008 N. 25th Street” — one of two Hyde Park items on the agenda — the Cultural Resources staff is urging preservation of a sound, small fachwerk (part brick, part timber) building that Alderman Freeman Bosley wants demolished.

Abandonment Historic Preservation Hyde Park North St. Louis

Neglecting the Nord St. Louis Turnverein

by Michael R. Allen

The scars of historical neglect are visible on every corner of the north side, but few of them make one’s jaw drop faster than the crumbling red brick hulk running from the corner of Salisbury and 20th streets all the way south to the corner of Mallinckrodt and 20th. This is the Nord (or North) St. Louis Turnverein, and it may very well be one of those buildings that even its admirers never mention in the future tense. Its ownership has passed to a negligent owner and it has suffered major roof collapse since going vacant nearly one decade ago. Yet it remains a powerful symbol of the lost ethnic heritage of the Hyde Park neighborhood — which hopefully has a future despite its many setbacks.

Hyde Park began as the German-founded town of Bremen in 1844, and for the first 100 years of this area’s development, Germans were involved in every aspect of civic life here. Despite annexation by the city of St. Louis in 1855 and an influx of immigrants of other nationalities, Hyde Park retained a distinctly German character. The Germans created businesses, wholesale companies, factories and saloons, built great homes and introduced some institutions of a progressive bent, from kindergarten to the St. Louis Philosophical Society (a Hegelian group that published the Journal of Speculative Philosophy from the neighborhood). Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of German social ideals was the founding of the Nord St. Louis Turnverein in 1870. (“Turnverein” is German for gymnastic society.) The members, popularly called Turners, formed the association not only to promote physical health but to promote socializing and civic participation among the working and upper class Germans of Hyde Park.

In 1879, the Turnverein built its first building at 1926 Salisbury fronting Hyde Park itself. This two-story red brick building was built in an Italianate style with a half-mansard parapet wall on its symmetrical five-bay front elevation. Storefronts for rental income faced Salisbury in the two bays to the east and west of the center doorway. Behind the front elevation sat the large gymnasium with its arched roof. This stately building, designed by architect H.W. Kirchner, still stands and has suffered the most damage of the portions of the Turnverein complex.

The new building opened one year after the Turnerbund, the national coordinating organization for Turner societies, moved its office to the temporary Hyde Park home of the Nord St. Louis Turnverein. St. Louis Turners played an important role in the national organization, and were notably progressive in their outlook. They urged passage of successful resolutions calling for the direct election of United States senators (years before that actually occurred in 1913), child labor restrictions, workplace and health inspections and the right to recall and referendum. The Nord St. Louis Turners pushed for adoption of physical education in the St. Louis Public Schools, which was established in 1883. They also advocated installation of public playgrounds around the city.

The Nord St. Louis Turnverein served as a popular civic center for German Americans living on the north side. Widespread use necessitated additions to the first building. A three-story Romanesque Revival addition built in 1893 behind the first building included a bar, meeting rooms and lounges. The addition featured a center arch proclaiming the name of the Turnverein. An 1898 gymnasium addition in the same style facing Mallinckrodt Street, connected over the alleyway with a bridge, expanded the Turnverein building to a full block in length. Turner Oscar Raeder designed the additions while Turner A.H. Haessler served as contractor.

The Turnverein prospered for decades into the Twentieth Century as the acknowledged center of German social life in the neighborhood. The Mallinckrodt Chemical Company, owned by the German Mallinckrodt family, held its board meetings at the Turnverein into the 1980s despite the availability of fancier locations with air conditioning. However, German culture in the city declined following World War I, through political suppression as well as inevitable assimilation. German Americans also joined the flight to the suburbs after World War II. By the 1960s, the Turnverein was renting its space to other organizations, including Veterans clubs. Regulars held on, and the bar remained a good, safe place in the neighborhood for a drink. The bar had no tolerance for fighting, but would serve minors who were employed at the factories on the north riverfront. As former underage patron told us, the Turners figured that anyone “doing a man’s work could have a man’s drink.”

In the early 1980s, the Turnverein enjoyed some renown as a venue for punk rock shows that drew young people to Hyde Park, some for the first time. A nascent rehab effort in the neighborhood and the shows seemed to indicate a better future for the Turnverein, but neither lasted. In 2000, the Nord St. Louis Turnverein closed its doors for good. The buildings already had many problems from deferred maintenance, and quickly deteriorated. The Turners sold the buildings to a non-profit that wanted to revive the buildings for a cultural center, but that group dissolved and somehow DHP Investments LLC ended up with ownership. They have done nothing to repair the buildings; in fact, they allowed the roof on the first gymnasium to collapse and have left the doorways wide open. Inside, the wooden floors have buckled, joists sag and even exterior brick walls have spalled to the point of failure. The condition is so poor that rehabilitation will surely cost several million dollars. Still, much of the interior retains original features and could be made to be very attractive again.

Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr., whose ward includes the Turnverein, has expressed interest in using eminent domain to remove the buildings from the ownership of DHP. Bosley has no specific details on who would then own the buildings and how they would be restored, but he has told constituents that he would like to see a comedy club open in the Turnverein. Whatever happens needs to happen now. The Germans are not returning in large numbers to the now mostly African-American neighborhood, but their grand hall is part of our polyglot heritage that honors everyone through preservation.

Photographs from May 20, 2005 (Michael R. Allen)

Some Turnverein Documents

Abandonment Hyde Park North St. Louis Schools

Irving School in Hyde Park

by Michael R. Allen

The Irving School at 3829 North 25th Street, named for popular 19th century writer Washington Irving, has stood at the western end of the Hyde Park neighborhood for 134 years. Opening in 1871, the school was the St. Louis Public School District’s second school (Clay School, also located in Hyde Park, being the first). Originally, this elementary school had a staff of six teachers including one who spoke German for teaching the many neighborhood children who did not yet speak English. The presence of the German-speaking teacher was a conscious effort to get the many German families in this neighborhood integrated into “mainstream” civic life. This was no easy feat — after all, Hyde Park was originally laid out only a few years earlier, in 1844, as the town of Bremen and remained heavily populated by Germans.

Not surprising is the fact that the architect for the main building of Irving School was German-born Frederick W. Raeder, then serving as the District’s first official architect. Raeder was a recent transplant, too, having arrived in town in 1867 from Germany. His design, a plain yet stately red-brick original Italianate building, has a striking unique feature: each of the twelve classrooms was located at a corner. This move to ensure that ample light reached the classrooms led to the three-story height and the many large windows.

As part of his work with the District, Raeder later designed Gratiot School as well as Des Peres School, site of the nation’s first kindergarten. The two-story Des Peres school building, completed in 1873, is still extant in Carondelet, and bears some resemblance to Irving. Gratiot School, located near the intersection of Hampton and Manchester avenues, housed the district’s archives for many years until it was closed and sold during the 2003 round of school cutbacks. It still stands.

Irving School was expanded in 1891 and 1894. A three-story addition built on the west side of the original Irving building is almost indistinguishable in material and style from its parent structure. The kindergarten building, which added eight rooms to the building, adds a gentle stylistic difference to the complex. With a rusticated stone water table, catalog-ordered ornamental brick and arched windows, this addition is a modest Romanesque Revival endeavor that harmonizes with the older building.

Irving School still in use, 1978. (Source: Landmarks Association of St. Louis Collection.)

In 1994, the District closed Irving School. The District placed the complex up for sale in 2003, but has yet to accept any offer.