James Clemens House Metal Theft North St. Louis St. Louis Place

Have You Seen These Interior Pediments?

by Michael R. Allen

Photograph by Landmarks Association of St. Louis, 1982.

Have you seen this lovely dentillated pediment? It once was the crown of a door casing inside of the first floor hall of the James Clemens, Jr. House at 1849 Cass Avenue in St. Louis.

The four pediments from the center hall door openings are now missing, as these photographs show.

However, the pediments were in place in the following photographs taken by this author on May 13, 2007.

If you have any information about these stolen pediments, please drop a line. Architects at Klitzing Welsch (314-772-8073) are looking for them. It’s urgent, too — they are preparing plans for rehabilitation and need them back! Even one would be very helpful.

Abandonment East St. Louis, Illinois Metal Theft Metro East

Spivey Building Secured, Damaged

by Michael R. Allen

On Saturday, the UEU 314 blog reported that the Spivey Building in East St. Louis was now sealed following what may have been a collapse of building material. Knowing that some of the parapet had already been destabilized and removed onto the rooftop, and also having heard recently that someone absconded with that terra cotta, I called up a neighbor and we drove over to the Spivey Saturday evening.

Sure enough, all access points have been closed up. The method used is quite solid, and I was reassured that the owner (Stacey Hastie of EOI) is taking threats to the Spivey seriously.

A look up at the parapet revealed further spalling at the corner where the terra cotta rib had already been removed. Many pieces of terra cotta lie in ruin at the base of the corner, along with brick and stone coping from the side parapet wall.

However, the condition of the front parapet assembly has not deteriorated significantly since I took this next photograph in September 2007.

Still, vigilance is needed to keep the thieves away from the great buildings of downtown East St. Louis. The snakes have struck before, including in March 2005 when three ornamental keystones disappeared from the Murphy Building the same weekend an out-of-town architectural salvage dealer was in town.

Historic Preservation Metal Theft Salvage

St. Louis Building Arts Foundation Robbed

by Michael R. Allen

Writing in The Platform blog over at the Post-Dispatch, Eddie Roth breaks the terrible news that thieves stole over 1,500 pounds of historic bronze and brass hardware from the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation this week. The article includes some photographs of stolen items.

Please help return these important items to their rightful home, for the public benefit of all and not the private benefit of thieves and dealers. While the thieves make the initial profit, we all know that some dealers make a lot more by fencing stolen property. Keep your eyes open.

Historic Preservation James Clemens House Metal Theft North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

Blairmont Secures Clemens House During Historic Preservation Week

by Michael R. Allen

Blairmont Associates celebrated Historic Preservation Week with the belated action of securing the James Clemens, Jr. House at 1849 Cass Avenue in St. Louis Place. According yo a KMOX radio news report, Blairmont parent company McEagle Properties claims that the Clemens House is under contract to another owner and the work is being done as part of the sale.

The house has sat unsecured for the better part of the last year, with even the front door wide open and unboarded in recent months. Many parts of the building have disappeared in recent years, and during the recent unsecured period millwork began to leave the house.

On Wednesday, May 14, Blairmont had a crew at the site, cutting and affixing fresh plywood for the numerous unboarded windows and doors as well as bricking in a hole in the rear wall of the dormitory wing. (The masonry repair used an incorrect mortar mix for the historic masonry.)

Other work included building a chain link fence across the open front entrance in the brick wall along Cass Avenue, where an iron gate once hung.

The workers did not remove the numerous trees growing out of the original house’s upper floors, not did they take any action to remove collapsed brickwork from the roof and attic of the house. Bricks falling from the taller dormitory have caused significant damage to the house’s northwest corner, collapsing roof joists and causing the third floor to sag. The chapel wing’s condition is severe, with the west wall bowing outward due to ongoing roof collapse.

Meanwhile, the cast iron portico on the house continues to lean away from the house, causing the limestone porch walls to shift with it. The painted sandstone entrance surround and porch on the chapel is eroding badly.

During the work, the city’s Building Division came and issued a stop work order. Oddly, Blairmont did not have a building permit for any of the work. While the law is the law, it’s hard to want to stop any step Blairmont is actually taking to secure one of the city’s most important and most endangered landmarks.

Crime Metal Theft

Dealers Buy Stolen Goods from Scavengers

by Michael R. Allen

Scavengers strip homes in path of Hwy. 40 work – Elisa Crouch (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 3)

What can we expect when this region does not regulate its antiques dealers or metal recyclers? To curb this theft, we need to curtail market incentives to steal. A good start would be requirements for metal recyclers and antiques dealers to get a copy of a photo ID before buying anything from anyone. Thus, the sale could later be reviewed by the police — something that both thief and fence would hate.

Obviously, theft is a crime but this article again neglects to point out that the thieves sell the stolen goods to dealers equally unscrupulous. Mentioning the dealers seems the great unspeakable act in all media coverage of architectural theft.

Central West End Churches Metal Theft

Architectural Heritage Threatened By Metal Theft

by Michael R. Allen

This is St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church at the northwest corner of Pendelton and Olive streets in the Central West End, just west of the old Gaslight Square area. On Friday of last week, church members noticed that the original copper guttering was missing. Then, they noticed that the flashing and other copper pieces from the roof were gone, too.

With limited means and no insurance on the church, the congregation brought out the buckets to endure the weekend’s rain. Hopefully, a more permanent repair can be made with the help of generous St. Louisans and the Lutheran synod.

However, no building will be very safe as long as metal recyclers are allowed an exception under city law that requires dealers of reused items to keep on file a photo ID card of each person who redeems items for cash. With metal prices high recently, thieves have been actively stripping buildings both vacant and occupied, with no end in sight. The Board of Aldermen needs to pass a bill requiring each metal recycler to obtain a photo ID from each customer before paying for their load of metal. That would guarantee that police officers investigating thefts can actually have a basis other than hearsay for investigation, and prosecutors can file charges against metal thieves. Honest scrappers who glean alleys and do gut demolition work would be unaffected. Metal dealers might experience a loss in profits, but would be more protected against charges ever being filed against them for accepting stolen property.

Theft of architectural items is as big a threat to the historic fabric of St. Louis as bad urban planning. St. Stephen’s Church is seriously at risk of sustaining major damage until roof repairs can be made, and that may take awhile. Vacant buildings that have their guttering stolen don’t even have half of the chance of surviving that an occupied building does. We cannot afford to lose buildings so that thieves and metal dealers can make a few bucks; the consequences will live on long after they spend the money.

St. Stephen’s originally was St. George’s Episcopal Church, and was built in 1891 from plans by Kivas Tully. Tully, who also designed parts of Christ Church Cathedral downtown, had conceived of this building as a wing of a larger sanctuary, but that plan was never built. The church is a key part of a pending expansion of the national Central West End Historic District drafted by Landmarks Association. This expansion basically restores the proposed original boundaries of the district north to the alley south of Delmar (but including Delmar Baptist Church at Delmar and Pendelton) and east to Pendleton.

Crime Metal Theft

Get Your Stolen Stained Glass Back!

From the St. Louis Metropolitan Police:

“The Metropolitan Police Department will give area residents the opportunity to view and claim recovered stolen stained glass windows on Saturday, August 13, and Sunday, August 14, at the South Patrol Division, 3157 Sublette beginning at 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Members of the Department’s South Patrol Detective Bureau have recovered a large number of stained glass windows that were stolen from homes throughout South St. Louis over the past year or longer. Anyone that may have been a victim of a burglary where stained glass windows were taken is welcome to view the property at the South Patrol Division this weekend. Victims must provide proof of ownership to retrieve