Central West End Demolition LRA

4470-78 Delmar Boulevard

by Michael R. Allen

A quiet row of survivors sat at the intersection of Taylor and Delmar for years, until this year. These two-story commercial buildings, starting with an odd corner building with a rounded bay, formed an unbroken row in a part of the Central West End that is sadly disjointed from years of demolition, fires and bad remodeling. These find buildings date to the turn of the century, and are comparable to the splendid commercial buildings once found south on Olive Street in the area known as Gaslight Square. Over time, they became rare examples of this area’s commercial stock instead of the lesser variety they would have been when built.

Yet demolition started this year, marring the row. At first, the small building at 4472 Delmar, owned by the city’s Land Reutilization, fell. Next, the owners of the two buildings from 4470-78 Delmar (joined as one parcel) began plotting demolition. These two were executed in solid red brick with spare use of ornamental flourish. The building at 4470 was very plain but had wonderful arched storefront openings at the ground floor, while the building at 4474 had some fine cast iron columns decorating its first floor.

The building at 4474 Delmar Boulevard on March 31, 2005. Photograph by Michael R. Allen.

By July, 4474 was gone. By the end of August, 4470 will be completely gone as well.

The buildings at 4470 and 4474 Delmar Boulevard on August 9, 2005. Photograph by Michael R. Allen.

The two most unusual buildings in the row will survive, but without the context that accentuated them seem less spectacular. The Mae Building, now home to Williams Ornamental Iron Works, will remain at 4468 Delmar. Its white glazed brick facade features a decorative course of green glazed bricks as well as a polychrome terra cotta shield panel. The corner building at 468 N. Taylor will stand, although its being owned by “Kashflo Properties” makes me hesitant to stop worrying about it.

This casual demolition of common historic buildings is prevalent in historic areas not included in National Register of Historic Places or City Landmark districts, since renovation tax credits are not available in these areas expect for individually-listed. In this case, the buildings stood in a part of the Central West End north of Olive Street that is not part of the current district boundaries. May the boundaries soon be extended northward.

The remains of the buildings at 4470 and 4474 Delmar Boulevard on August 9, 2005. Photograph by Michael R. Allen.

Demolition LRA North St. Louis Old North

Dummitt’s Confectionary

by Michael R. Allen

Dummitt’s Confectionary on April 22, 2005.

The decaying confectionery building at 1300-04 Hebert Street in Old North arrived in the 21st century, withstanding arson, demolition and disinvestment since its construction around 1870. The building came so close to a day when someone inspired by the new energy of the neighborhood would have come to purchase and restore it. Alas, the owner was the city government’s coldest shoulder, the Land Reutilization Authority, which wrecked the building in May 2005 after its roof had collapsed.

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.

Demolition Fox Park LRA South St. Louis

Commercial Building at 2652 Geyer Avenue

by Michael R. Allen

The impressive mixed-used commercial building at 2652 Geyer (at Ohio Avenue) in Fox Park was recently demolished. Owned by the City of St. Louis’ Land Reutilization Authority in recent years, the building has long been vacant. The building’s three-story height and rounded corner made it unusual for the neighborhood, while its Romanesque Revival traits place it in a common and significant local stylistic tradition.

The building was indeed derelict, with a collapsed roof, broken windows and deteriorating floor joists. Yet its distinctive presence and solid brick walls were intact enough to convey a sense of elegance to its corner, which was otherwise surrounded by two-story flats. The building’s corner storefront was framed with lovely cast iron columns. The building had a narrow interior light shaft running north-south down its middle. Its five apartments were spacious, and its yard ample. In short, it was ripe for reuse as a vital component to the restoration of the Fox Park neighborhood.

Alas, I walked down the street to catch only part of the rounded corner still remaining and most of the building’s western wall gone. The eastern bays were intact enough to convey some sense of the building’s appearance from Geyer Street, but the elegant corner was torn away above the first floor, and the western bay was completely missing save the first floor corner and part of the second story elevation wall on Geyer.

Colorful pieces of linoleum and 1970s wallpaper littered the ground. A crew of workers was busy making up pallets of bricks, which they would sell to suppliers for $20 per pallet. (The suppliers will sell the pallets to projects for $170 or more each.) One man was breaking apart portions of the fire escape for sale as scrap iron.

Geyer in Fox Park lost a lot of buildings to the construction of I-44 in 1960 and still others to senseless demolition plans that have left vacant lots. Three out of four corners are vacant lots at the next intersection west of Geyer and Ohio, Geyer and California. This is a street that has many dedicated residents but suffers from the disruptive energy of I-44. It certainly does not need the additional problem of demolition, especially of its few hybrid buildings. Surely, another vacant lot here could cause harm — although a shoddy replacement structure may be on the way. Now the street is further damaged and a building has been destroyed without substantial documentation.

Photograph by Robert Powers on October 30, 2004

Photographs by Michael R. Allen on October 31, 2004