Architecture Missouri

A Ramshackle Masterpiece

by Michael R. Allen

Welcome to the Family Thrift Store loacted on Fitzgerald Avenue in Gerald, Missouri. Gerald is a small town in Franklin County southwest of St. Louis. The Family Thrift Store building is a tour de force of homemade architecture. Literally, there may be no common American building material not used in the construction of this ramshackle masterpiece. This building has it all — brick, clay tile, concrete block, metal siding, wood, vinyl siding, polished granite, limestone and even a piece of terrazzo embedded in the wall.

The construction uses a lot of plausible leftover materials, but also some salvage parts. Many of these salvaged pieces appear to come from a Roman Catholic Church, with a stone bearing the name of Joseph Cardinal Ritter and a date in 1967. There is even a carved limestone cross — much earlier than 1967 — over the rear garage door.

While the colorful mess of materials is the piecemeal handiwork of a builder, there seems to be a unitary component on the east side, where a brick wall on the first floor uses the matching bricks laid conventionally across its run. This appears to be the remnant of either a destroyed, altered or unfinished building.

The wood-heated thrift store is open to the public, but its wares are not as exotic as the exterior would suggest. The origin of the thrift store building remains unknown to this writer, who would love to learn how the brick wall became an unfinished, gaudy and unique work of folk architecture. Does Missouri have anything else like this? This building is as idiosyncratic, hand-made and strangely alluring as the Watts Towers. All my notions of architectural propriety wither in the face of the Family Thrift Store. I dig it.

Historic Preservation Missouri Missouri Legislature Public Policy

Missouri Historic Rehab Tax Credits May Be Modified

by Michael R. Allen

In this time of Missouri state budget crunching, the state historic rehabilitation tax credits are again under fire. While the threat to cap, eliminate or modify the credits returns every year and is usually soundly defeated, this year is different. Missouri has hard choices to make about the state budget, and Governor Jay Nixon is under pressure from members of both parties to overcome a massive revenue shortfall.

An Associated Press article published February 12 details the renewed hostility toward the tax credits from Republican Senators Brad Lager, a perennial foe of the credits, and Jason Crowell. This week, Lager placed a $150 million cap on the program in a substitute version of economic development bill SB 45, but the substitute seems defeated after lobbying from developers and legislators who understand the benefits of the tax credit. The big threat now seems to be a counter-proposal to reduce the coverage of the credits from 25% of qualified costs to 20%, the percentage of federal historic rehab tax credit. That change would be disastrous to projects already underway that have not yet collected credits, and it is needless.

Of all of the state’s many tax credit programs, the historic rehab tax credit is one of the most successful and most popular. The best part about it is that its use is wide — from big developers to homeowners in north St. Louis to inn keepers in Augusta, the users are a diverse group. The other undeniable good is that the credit is a sure bet for continuing to create skilled, well-paid construction jobs in Missouri. Historic rehab work requires specialized labor that does not come cheaply, and the stimulus for such work in Missouri has not only kept many tradesmen employed but has created new jobs in fields like plastering, masonry and finish carpentry. Workers who were paid entry-level wages to hang drywall have gone on to work on tax credit-financed projects where they gain skills that land them solid pay. In this downturn, we can’t afford to let these skilled workers out of a job.

Meanwhile, the National Trust for Historic Preservation lauds the Missouri rehab tax credit as a model in stimulating small development projects and in creating skilled construction jobs. (The Trust’s page inexplicably features a photograph of the James Clemens, Jr. House in St. Louis in a line-up of otherwise rehabbed Missouri buildings.)

Keep up on the latest news in the Missouri historic rehab tax credit struggle at the Save the Historic Tax Credit website. Contact your legislators immediately and urge them to support the historic rehab tax credit the way it is now — working for Missouri!

Missouri SHPO

Missouri State Historic Preservation Office Turns 40

by Michael R. Allen

Among Missourians celebrating 40th birthdays this year is the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Believe it or not, Missouri’s SHPO was first in the nation to be officially recognized by the Department of the Interior after passage of the federal Historic Preservation Act in 1966. While other states followed soon after, it’s reassuring that Missouri was at the head of the pack on preservation. That is no surprise to those who know that today Missouri leads the nation is use of state and federal historic rehabilitation programs. The “Show Me” state has seen the economic benefits and cultural importance of historic preservation for a long time now.

The full story of last week’s 40th anniversary celebration is on Landmarks Association of St. Louis’ website.

Downtown Historic Boats Missouri Riverfront

A is Not for the Admiral

by Michael R. Allen

While Missouri Proposition A is not directly about historic preservation, there is a preservation-related consequence: the shuttering of the S.S. Admiral on the St. Louis riverfront. First built in 1907 and rebuilt to jazz-age standards in 1940, the beleaguered Art Moderne boat has lost its engine and much of its original interior, but it retains sophisticated, cool lines on the exterior. Of course, the body of the S.S. Admiral is hidden behind an ugly floating structure on the riverfront side, placing the only clear view from the river channel.

Currently, Pinnacle Entertainment owns both the Admiral and Lumiere Place uphill. Pinnacle’s ownership prevents local competition as well as provides a close place where patrons can continue gambling after reaching loss limits at Lumiere. It’s a bad system, and I am not arguing that Pinnacle should continue it.

Personally, I support allowing people to decide what to do with their own money. That support extends both to gamblers looking to lay some money down at a casino as well as casino operators looking to open new casinos. Proposition A doesn’t allow for a free market in casinos. Rather, it acts as a form of protectionism for current operators. The proposition would lift Missouri’s loss limits — the last left in the nation, but would also limit Missouri’s casino licenses to 13. Currently, there are 12 licenses and Pinnacle Entertainment is seeking to secure one for a new casino in Lemay. Obviously, Proposition A is a windfall for Pinnacle and other operators, and a roadblock to competition. I hope that the measure fails and a smarter, competition-oriented policy is adopted. After all, if gamblers will be pouring more money into casinos, they deserve choices.

Back to the Admiral: If Proposition A passes, Pinnacle won’t need the old boat. Dan Lee, head of Pinnacle, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in September that he might move the boat to a new city location temporarily, but eventually ditch it for a new facility that would assume the Admiral’s license. Should that course of events happen, no other operator will be able to buy the Admiral and obtain a gaming license. Any use for the Admiral that does not include gambling probably will fail. Stripped of so many other things, the Admiral has survived. Stripped of a gaming license, the boat won’t have much of a future. The threat to the Admiral is not a good reason to vote against Proposition A, but it will be a consequence of its passage.

Historic Preservation Missouri People

Missouri Preservation Hires Bill Hart as Field Representative

From Missouri Preservation:

Missouri Preservation is proud to announce that William (Bill) Hart has been hired as its first full-time Field Representative. William brings over fifteen years of hands-on preservation experience to his role as Field Representative. William received his Bachelor of Science degree in Historic Preservation from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia with a Master of Arts Degree in Architectural History. William became active in neighborhood preservation issues when he moved to St. Louis in the late 1970s. Through his neighborhood association, he helped to establish a not-for-profit housing corporation to deal with vacant historic buildings. In the 1980s, he worked with Market Preservation, a group which opposed massive demolition of historic buildings in the heart of the downtown. William has restored several historic buildings on his own, and eventually started his own company as a developer and general contractor, specializing in historic buildings. While working as a developer, he received awards from the Dutchtown South Community Corporation, the Home Builders Association of Saint Louis, and the St. Louis Landmarks Association. He has a special interest in documenting vanishing roadside architecture and the preservation of barns and farm buildings in Missouri. William is a native of Perryville, Missouri and currently resides in Saint Louis in the City’s Benton Park Neighborhood.

William will expand the vital outreach services provided by Missouri Preservation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to communities across the state. As an Official Statewide Partner of the National Trust and Missouri’s statewide historic preservation advocacy and education organization, Missouri Preservation provides information, technical, and strategic advocacy services to empower citizens with the tools needed to preserve their historic resources. William will represent both organizations to provide guidance on a variety of subjects including preservation techniques and approaches, fundraising, organizational development, community relations and politics, community development, and the availability of preservation resources.

The Field Representative position has been funded by a $125,000 challenge grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Entitled Partners in the Field, this matching grant had the specific purpose of providing three years of dedicated funding to expand our outreach by hiring a full-time Field Representative. Missouri Preservation recently completed the fundraising for its $125,000 match. We would like to thank our generous donors for making the expansion of our mission-driven services possible: Great Southern Bank, HBD Construction, Inc., Huebert Builders, Inc., Edward Jones, William T. Kemper Foundation, McGowan Brother Development, Raming Distributions, Inc., Renaissance Development Associates, The Roberts Companies, Stark Wilson Duncan Architects, Inc., and Stupp Bros. Bridge & Iron Co. Foundation.
We are pleased to welcome William to our staff and look forward to the expansion of our field service program. If you have a question about an historic place in your community, please contact the Missouri Preservation office at 573-443-5946. Contact information for William Hart will be listed on our website at

Missouri Preservation, known formally as Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation, is Missouri’s only statewide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, supporting, and coordinating historic preservation activities throughout Missouri.

Historic Preservation Missouri Public Policy

Donovan Rypkema: Missouri Historic Preservation Activity Growing Faster than State, US Domestic Products

by Michael R. Allen

On September 11, 2008, noted preservation economist Donovan Rypkema delivered a rousing keynote speech on “The Economics of Historic Preservation” at the Missouri Statewide Preservation Conference in St. Charles. Rypkema’s talk focused on Missouri, where he told the room of nearly 200 people that over $2 billion has been invested in historic preservation since the passage of the state historic rehabilitation tax credit in 1998. The news got even better as Rykema showed that Missouri historic preservation activity has grown at a faster rate than the state and national gross domestic products every year since the tax credit was created. The full text of the speech with its useful accompanying graphs and figures is now online, courtesy of Missouri Preservation. Read the speech here in PDF format.

Agriculture Missouri

Small Victory for Sensible Agriculture

by Michael R. Allen

From the Marshall News-Democrat‘s story “Judge rules in favor of Arrow Rock CAFO opponents”:

The future of confined animal feeding operations in Saline County is uncertain after Associate Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce ruled in Cole County Circuit Court Monday, Aug. 25, in favor of Arrow Rock opponents to Dennis Gessling’s proposed CAFO two miles from the village.

The judgment specifies a 15-mile buffer zone around state historic sites in which CAFOs cannot be permitted and cannot operate.

Architects Architecture Demolition Downtown Forest Park Southeast Historic Preservation LRA Missouri St. Louis Board of Aldermen

Odds and Ends

by Michael R. Allen

MCPHEETERS WAREHOUSES NEARLY GONE: The McPheeters Warehouses on Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, subject of a Vital Voice column of mine published in June, are nearly gone. Demolition started two weeks ago, and now the one-story cold storage warehouse and most of the center building are gone.

SHANK SONS HONOR ISADORE: Peter and Stephen Shank have published Firbeams, a lovely website featuring the residential architecture of father Isadore Shank.

KIEL PROGRESS: In the St. Louis Beacon, Charlene Prost reports on progress in the plan by SCP Worldwide and McEagle Properties to re-open the Kiel Opera House.

VACANT BUILDING INITIATIVE: As featured in a story on KSDK TV this week, Alderman Kacie Starr Triplett (D-6th) has introduced Board Bill 174, which would require owners of vacant buildings to pay an annual registration fee, carry liability insurance and secure all openings, among other requirements. Church and nonprofit property is exempt, but Land Reutilization Authority property is not. More later.

STATEWIDE PRESERVATION CONFERENCE SEPTEMBER 10-13 IN ST. CHARLES: The 2008 Annual Statewide Preservation Conference begins on Wednesday, September 10 in St. Charles. I am co-presenting a workshop with Jan Cameron of the St. Louis Cultural Resources Office entitled “Vernacular Architecture from the Stone Age to the Space Age.” Details here.

DRURY WANTS TO DO WHAT?: At Vanishing STL, Paul Hohmann reports on a bizarre plan by Drury Hotels to demolish the northwest corner of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood for a new hotel. The plan threatens the Lambskin Temple and many historic homes. Drury will present the plans tonight at the Gibson Heights Neighborhood Association meeting, 7:00 p.m. at 1034 S. Kingshighway.

Agriculture land use Missouri Planning Regionalism

Factory Farming in Missouri

by Michael R. Allen

The Joplin Globe published an excellent article on confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Missouri: “Study: CAFOs affect neighbors’ property”. These operations have been replacing traditional animal farms for years — bringing with them debilitating conditions for animals, food packed with growth hormones with unresearched effects on consumers and now problems for neighboring human and animal populations through waste-water run-off. This is not to mention the number of family farms lost through factory farming.

In the St. Louis region, there are many CAFOs in Illinois counties like Monroe and Missouri counties like Jefferson and Lincoln. Urbanists often talk about stopping sprawl through growth boundaries and form-based zoning, but there is a much less frequently-addressed part of the sprawl question. If we stop the creep of the suburbs, what do we want the rural lands surrounding St. Louis to look like? What sort of land uses are sustainable and acceptable, if large subdivisions, strip malls, office parks and the like are out of the question? What jobs will people have?

Healthy agriculture is key to sustaining open land around the metropolis. Currently much of the land within our Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area is devoted to farming. As the energy crisis mounts, that amount of land may not change much. Yet “farming” as we know it has been altered to an unrecognizable world of factory farms, hormones, chemicals and corporations. Does agriculture in current practice serve the interest of a sustainable St. Louis region, or do we want to adopt a model that conserves our rich soil, sustains open space, preserves what’s left of family farms and prevents the poisoning of surrounding land?

Central West End DeVille Motor Hotel Historic Preservation Missouri Mullanphy Emigrant Home Old North St. Louis County

Missouri Preservation’s Most Endangered List Includes Three St. Louis Buildings

by Michael R. Allen

Yesterday Missouri Preservation unveiled its 2008 Most Endangered Historic Places list (follow link for full list with information). President Jeff Brambila, pictured above, announced that the Mullanphy Emigrant Home in St. Louis was being held over from last year due to continued financial needs of the stabilization project. A new foundation and new block inside walls for the south and east sides of the building are complete, but the block work on the north wall, a new roof and brick exterior facing all remain to be started. The Mullanphy is not safe yet.

Also on this year’s list due to financial needs of repair is Fairfax, where the list was announced. Located on Manchester Road in Rock Hill, Fairfax is a minimally-detailed Greek Revival home built by James Collier Marshall in 1841. Out of tune with its auto-centric surroundings, the home was already moved twice to escape demolition. The owner is the City of Rock Hill, which lacks funds to repair the building. Those in attendance at the press conference saw the high level of disrepair on the interior, where holes abound in the plaster walls and ceilings and the original wooden floors are covered with decaying vinyl flooring.

A third St. Louis are building on this year’s list is the DeVille Motor Hotel at 4483 Lindell Boulevard in the city’s Central West End. The modernist motor lodge is an elegant relic of urban renewal era, showing a sensitivity to site and neighborhood context rare for its period. Seems to this writer that the stark modernism of the DeVille shares at least a stylistic tendency with the much-earlier Greek Revival lines of Fairfax. Currently, the St. Louis Archdiocese continues to plan demolition of the hotel for a surface parking lot.

Missouri Preservation went beyond the endangered list and also announced a “watch list” of buildings from previous year’s lists still facing an uncertain future.