Fox Park Lafayette Square North St. Louis Old North Preservation Board South St. Louis

Preservation Board Approves Fox Park Expansion, Denies Old North Demolition

by Michael R. Allen

Yesterday the St. Louis Preservation Board met with members Richard Callow, Melanie Fathman, Mike Killeen, David Richardson, Anthony Robinson, David Visintaner and Alderwoman Phyllis Young present. The most likely contentious matter on the agenda was consideration of the expansion of the boundaries of the Fox Park Local Historic District accordint to the boundaries below.

Fox Park Neighborhood Association President Ian Simmons explained the purpose of the expansion simply: to put the entire neighborhood on equal footing for design review and development potential. Four other people spoke in favor, including DeSales Housing Corporation Executive Director Tom Pickel. Mark Whitman spoke against the expansion with great conviction, stating that he found the expansion to violate the United States Constitution and to represent gentrification of the southern part of the neighborhood.

The Preservation Board voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of Aldermen approve the boundary increase. The next step is introduction of the boundary increase as an ordinance at the Board of Aldermen by Alderwoman Young and Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett. The ordinance will get a committee hearing before the full board considers it.

The Preservation Board also unanimously approved on a preliminary basis the above design for new construction at the southeast corner of Lafayette and Mississippi avenues in Lafayette Square (1922-24 Park Avenue). Designed by architect Paul Fendler, the new two-story building would combine retail on the first floor and residential space above. The board approved a different plan for the site two years ago.

Another interesting case was the return of a front door replacement at 2841 Shenandoah Avenue in Fox Park. After last month’s stalemate on the matter, Andrea Gagen on the Cultural Resources Office staff located a supplier who could provide an acceptable paint-grade wooden door for less than the cost of a door that the owner wanted to install that did not meet the Fox Park Local Historic District standards. The owner asserted that the supplier contacted by Gagen could not make the door he wanted for the cost she stated, and that installation using his contractor would cost $500 regardless (an amount that is incredible for such worl). The Board then voted 4-1 to uphold staff denial of the first application.

The Preservation Board also unanimously upheld the appeal by Louis Ford of denial of a demolition permit for 3219-21 N. 20th Street, pictured above. Located in Old North and the Murphy Blair Historic District, the house has been vacant for years. Ford purchased the house to keep it secured from criminal activity. Ford stated that he would save the house if he could find money for work, but he had no interest in endlessly keeping it boarded and stable. Perhaps the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group would be able to accept the house as a donation.

Demolition Downtown Lafayette Square Preservation Board

Neighborhood Involvement and Two Preservation Board Decisions

by Michael R. Allen

Among other things, the Preservation Board of the city of St. Louis hears appeals from property owners who have their demolition permits denied by the professional preservation planning staff of the Cultural Resources Office (CRO). However, use of that power to do the right thing does not always lead to preservation of historic buildings. In the past, this writer has covered the impact of the city Planning Commission’s statutory power to overturn Preservation Board decisions on appeal. That’s a route used by owners bent on wrecking their old buildings. Make no mistake: The appellate power of the Planning Commission and the power of the “emergency” demolition permit remain substantial obstacles to smart preservation policy in the city.

However, in this country, private owners have broad and legally-defensible property rights. Even with the best policy, owners can still take down sound, significant buildings. Hence, there are other paths taken by property owners in the wake of the Preservation Board’s upholding denials of CRO appeals. Here are two divergent outcomes.

2217 Olive Street (Downtown West)

The old two-story commercial building at 2217 Olive Street in western downtown is best known for its last tenant, the Original Restaurant. Built as a house in 1888 and converted to commercial use in 1929 following the widening of Olive Street, the building was vacated in the mid-1990s. The owners sought a demolition permit that was denied by CRO. In September 2007, the Preservation Board upheld denial on appeal. In January 2008, the Preservation Board rejected a new application for demolition, despite a growing hole in the roof. The building was still sound under the definition established by city preservation law.

The owners put a small for-sale sign on the building, but gravity took its course. The hole grew until most of the building’s wooden roof and floor structures collapsed. The walls started failing. In September 2009, the owners again applied for a demolition permit. This time, CRO approved the demolition permit application due to the severe deterioration of the building.

The site is now paved as a parking lot, while a vacant lot next door (where a 19th century residential stone retaining wall and steps remain) is being seeded with grass. One notable aspect to the loss of 2217 Olive Street is that there was no objection — or indication of support — by downtown organizations, property owners or residents. The only forces working against demolition were the Preservation Board and CRO, joined by preservationists including this writer who testified at the two public meetings. Neighborhood investment in the decision would have strengthened the preservationist case and helped facilitate a sale of the building. Alas, downtown lost another retail storefront — for now.

1624 Dolman Street (Lafayette Square)

In August 2009, the Preservation Board considered the appeal of the CRO denial of a demolition permit application for the house at 1624 Dolman Street in Lafayette Square. The Zumwalt Corporation, erstwhile seller of overhead doors located to the south facing Lafayette Avenue, owns the row of which this house is a part. Zumwalt attempted to rehabilitate the row before, but abandoned the project.

Early last year, the front wall of the house collapsed. There was no serious structural failure to the building since like most every bearing-wall building this one had its joists running between the side walls. The front, unanchored to the building, bowed out until it lost the compressive strength needed to remain standing. No big deal — this happens a lot in the city, and our masons know how to close such wounds.

Yet Zumwalt decided to see if demolition would be possible. The company was met with fierce neighborhood opposition, and a half-dozen residents testified against the demolition at the August 2009 Preservation Board meeting. The Board upheld denial with no votes to the contrary.

The Zumwalt Corporation, which apparently is a good neighbor, then proceeded to rebuild the front wall. Now the row is intact and sound, and someday will be rehabilitated. Those who think that every Preservation Board denial will be met with a continued press for demolition should take note, but those who would infer that all’s well that ends well with a Board denial are misled by this example. What is apparent is that strong neighborhood support for preservation is key to actually saving buildings.

Academy Neighborhood Demolition Lafayette Square North St. Louis Preservation Board Shaw South St. Louis St. Louis Place

Preservation Board to Consider Five Demolition Proposals on Monday

by Michael R. Allen

The preliminary agenda for the St. Louis Preservation Board’s regular monthly meeting on Monday, November 24 is now available. The agenda contains five demolition proposals.

Three proposals are preliminary reviews requested by the Department of Public Safety, seeking condemnation for demolition on private properties located at 1824 Warren Street in the Clemens House-Columbia Brewery Historic District (St. Louis Place), 5115 Cates Avenue in the Mount Cabanne-Raymond Place Historic District (Academy) and 3927-29 Shenandoah Avenue in the Shaw Historic District. The fourth preliminary review is requested by a homeowner for a historic garage at 1106 Dolman Street in the Lafayette Square Historic District.

Then there is a staff denial of a demolition permit for the frame 19th century house at 4722 Tennessee Avenue in Dutchtown South. A different owner went through the same motions last year, and in June 2007 the Preservation Board upheld staff denial of the demolition permit. The current owner, New Life Evangelistic Center, is a tenacious organization, so this may be the most contentious item on the agenda.

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.

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.”

Infrastructure Lafayette Square Planning South St. Louis Streets

More Evidence That Street Closures Are Stupid

by Michael R. Allen

A friend who lives in the Eden Publishing Building at Chouteau and Dolman streets in Lafayette Square shared the following anecdote. Dolman Street is needlessly closed just south of Chouteau, allowing access to the parking lot behind the Eden building but no through traffic. Last week, landscaping crews came out and planted shrubs in the little grassy area formed between the cul-de-sacs created by the street closure. Since the shrubs went in, a truck that once drove through the street over the closure must be taking a more delicate route. Deep ruts caused by truck tires since have appeared slightly to the right of the shrubs, forming a curve that avoids the new plants.

Demolition Lafayette Square South St. Louis

House at 1100 Dolman Street

by Michael R. Allen

The house still standing (at right) on March 14, 2005.

This old house at 1100 Dolman Avenue in Lafayette Square, at right in the photograph above, suddenly collapsed in August 2006, after years of vacancy and furtive rehabilitation efforts. Rest in peace.

Abandonment Lafayette Square LRA South St. Louis

Eads House

by Michael R. Allen

The so-called Eads House at 1922 Chouteau Avenue in Lafayette Square was owned as investment property by James B. Eads, designer and builder of the famous Eads Bridge in St. Louis. Built in 1872, the mansard-roofed Second Empire originally was divided into two townhouse-style units but was later further divided into four units. The building has stood empty for at least 25 years, and has begun to fully collapse. The Chouteau facade seems intact but a walk around to the alley elevation reveals that the building is in need of desperate help. Homeless people still sleep under the building’s sturdy front steps, though.