Historic Preservation Mullanphy Emigrant Home Old North

Mullanphy Emigrant Home, Four Years Later

by Michael R. Allen

The fact that this city still has the Mullanphy Emigrant Home is testament to the amazing mobilization of dedicated Old North St. Louis residents, preservationists and civic leaders across the city. This week’s victory for Proposition A in St. Louis County brought much jubilation to advocates for sustainable urban development, and its close coincidence with the anniversaries of the dates that the venerable north side landmark was struck by storms crossed my mind.

The tale of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, located at 1609 N. 14th Street at the south end of Old North, is no less remarkable than the overwhelming passage of Proposition A. In the dark days after the storm wrecked the south wall in April 2006, many observers conceded its loss. The Building Division pushed for emergency demolition, the owner was not certain that he wanted to preserve it or even sell it and the neighborhood had so many other pressing needs that taking on a possible lost cause seemed unlikely. Yet residents of Old North rallied around the battered landmark, which defines the south entrance to the neighborhood and has great historic significance. While only used as a transitional home for westward-moving immigrants for ten years after its 1867 construction date, the Emigrant Home was pivotal in that period. Its Italianate masonry design, by celebrated architects George I. Barnett and Alfred Piquenard, is one of the city’s finest surviving 19th century examples of the style.

Cultural Resources Office Director Kathleen Shea helped fend off demolition to buy time. Swift mobilization of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group allowed for a building sale. Then the hard part: raising money for stabilization and repair. Of course, things would get worse before getting better when a storm inflicted more damage almost one year later in 2007. Still, the preservation effort proceeded against daunting odds and with the generosity of E.M. Harris Construction Company and the Masonry Contractors Association, not to mention countless individual donors. Now, the building is effectively mothballed awaiting reuse as a hostel planned by the Hostelling International Gateway Council.

Here’s a look back at the building’s plight.

On March 31, 2007, the Mullanphy Emigrant Home suffered a second collapse due to heavy winds. The south wall already had a gaping hole, but then the east side and north wall were also partly collapsed. Bracing installed after the first damage held the building together although the open southern end created a wind tunnel effect that probably caused the blow-out damage.

The building was already in rough shape following the south end collapse on April 2, 2006.

From 1900 through the 1980s, the Absorene Company occupied the building and used it to manufacture wallpaper adhesives, cleaners and removers. Absorene altered the building considerable, adding the bump-out stairwell in 1927, removing the cupola and main entrance, and changing the original profile of the front gable. The photograph above was taken by Landmarks Association of St. Louis in 1982 as part of the documentation for the Mullanphy Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places district.

Artist Pat Baer’s drawing presents the original appearance of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home. The outpouring of civic good will and hard work that saved the building — twice, no less — will hopefully restore this appearance some day.

JeffVanderLou Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North St. Louis Place

"NorthSide": Phasing and Ownership

This slide shows the possible phasing of “NorthSide, ” from A (first) to L (last). This slide shows that the first projects will be “employment centers” on the vacated 22nd Street ramps west of Union Station and at the head of the new Mississippi River Bridge. McEagle estimates that the project could take as long as 15 years to reach the final phase — a conservative estimate, in my opinion.

This slide shows ownership. McEagle holdings and proposed holdings (including currently-occupied homes and businesses and the Mullanphy Emigrant Home) are in purple, with public lands in blue. Paul J. McKee, Jr. promised that no property will be taken through eminent domain for any purpose other than creation of an employment center.

More slides available online here.

Historic Preservation Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North

Mullanphy Emigrant Home Stabilized for Winter

by Michael R. Allen

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group recent appropriated funds to complete the enclosure of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home at 1609 N. 14th Street. Although the work did not include further masonry work, the scope resulted in a total air- and weather-tight condition for the building. The Emigrant Home has not been sealed up since the first damaging storm struck it in April 2006.

Workers from E.M. Harris Construction Company boarded all of the building’s window openings, covered the gap between the new south wall and the existing roof, sealed the opening at the top corner of the south wall and sealed the giant hole on the north wall. Since funds for masonry work on the north wall don’t exist yet, a more modest plan was needed. E.M. Harris essentially boarded up the whole opening with framing, plywood and Tyvek wrap. This work included construction of watersheds over existing sections of the north wall, keeping them dry.

Now the Mullanphy Emigrant Home is fully sealed before winter — what a relief! In the current state, the building is stable as it awaits further repairs. Old North has demonstrated that a big building can be sealed up long before funds for major masonry repair are available. Obviously, the materials used are not as sturdy as actual brick and block, but they will ensure the building’s survival. Such stabilization could be implemented on other endangered buildings, including the James Clemens, Jr. House, Carr School and the Fourth Baptist Church.

Adaptive Reuse Historic Preservation Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North Streets

Moonlight Ramble Included the Mullanphy Emigrant Home

by Michael R. Allen

Early Sunday morning, cyclists on this year’s Moonlight Ramble made a north turn to ride by the historic Mullanphy Emigrant Home in Old North St. Louis. The Ramble, organized each year since 1964 by the Gateway Council of Hostelling International USA, is a midnight bike ride held on the Saturday night nearest the full moon in August. Over 15,000 riders participated this year, and each one got to see first-hand what could be an exciting new home for Hostelling International’s local chapter.
While the route of the ride was a secret, word had already spread that this year’s ride proceeds would benefit the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, envisioned as a world-class hostel by the Gateway Council. Hostelling International hopes to continue rehabilitation of the Emigrant Home, hit by devastating storms in 2006 and 2007 and now largely stabilized through the efforts of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group.

The hostel plan would both restore the historic architecture of a building built in 1867 from plans by renowned architects George Barnett and Alfred Piquenard and also rededicate the building to housing the itinerant. The Emigrant Home originally housed immigrants headed westward through St. Louis from New York and other eastern ports. Hosteling International would provide lodging for a different sort of migrant — travelers exploring the United States. If the hostel opens it would be a serendipitous revival of the building’s original purpose.

Meanwhile, residents of Old North are enthusiastic about the prospects for the building’s future, and the legions of travelers who might come through their neighborhood as they travel this country. That enthusiasm was on display in full force last night, and a throng of neighbors (including people from the block facing the Emigrant home) welcomed thousands of riders for well over an hour. To learn more about the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, visit

All photographs by Lynn Josse.

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.

Historic Preservation Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North

Mullanphy Emigrant Home Stabilization Work Making Progress

by Michael R. Allen

The photograph above shows the state of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home today. Workers resumed masonry work yesterday and today will likely have the roof resting on a solid east supporting wall for the first time since last April.

After the south and east walls are laid in block, workers from John Smith Masonry will move to the building’s north end, where another collapsed wall section remains. After that work is finished, further work — including laying face brick and replicating limestone ornament — will come either through a development plan or further donations.

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group still needs donations to cover expenses related to the stabilization project. While the masons have kindly donated labor and materials, the Restoration Group continues to pay builder’s risk insurance on what has been a lengthy (and risky) wall rebuilding project. Please visit for information on making a donation.

Historic Preservation Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North

A Good Day for the Mullanphy Emigrant Home

by Michael R. Allen

I just received this note in my inbox from Karen Heet, Development Coordinator for the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group:

On your way home tonight, be sure to drive by the Mullanphy Emigrant Home where John Smith Masonry had a crew and a crane working to install CMU block on the south wall. They’re almost to the third floor now!

This is great news. This winter’s cycle was so erratic that masonry work was almost impossible to schedule. Since John Smith Masonry is donating their labor on the side from paid work, getting a good day for work has been difficult. This is in contrast to last winter, with the warm streak from November through January.

Historic Preservation Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North

Mullanphy Foundation Reconstruction Underway

by Michael R. Allen

Photo from What’s New in Old North.

Old North St. Louis has made a big step in the effort to stabilize the imperiled Mullanphy Emigrant Home. The foundation of the south wall of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home is in the midst of reconstruction this week. Once the foundation work is completed, masons can begin laying the block that will form the new inner wythes of the walls; face brick will come later. Hopefully by winter’s onset the roof of the building will be supported by masonry walls.

Remember that the greater the progress made, the greater the cost. The effort to stabilize the landmark continues to seek donations.

More from What’s New in Old North: Mullanphy Foundation Begins to Rise

Events Mullanphy Emigrant Home

Mullanphy Benefit Concert Successful

by Michael R. Allen

The Bearded Babies play at last night’s show. Photo by Sean Thomas.

Last night’s benefit concert at the Tin Ceiling for the stabilization of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home raised $1,900. Coupled with the news last week that the St. Patrick’s Day Committee is donating $3,000 to the Historic Mullanphy Alliance and that reconstruction of the foundation under the south wall will start next week, and there is serious momentum afoot.

Music by the Bearded Babies, the Monads and the Red-Headed Strangers began at 8:00 p.m. and kept people dancing, singing and smiling until well after midnight. The concert was the work of Lindsey Derrington (one of my colleagues at Landmarks Association), brothers Jeff and Randy Vines of STL Style renown, Andrew Weil (another colleague) and others. The Historic Mullanphy Alliance’s co-chairs, John Burse and Claire Nowak-Boyd, deserve credit for keeping the effort alive amid countless other neighborhood tasks in Old North and the demands of private life.

Events Mullanphy Emigrant Home Old North

Mullanphy Benefit Concert on Friday

The next Mullanphy Benefit Concert will feature The Bearded Babies, Red-Headed Strangers, and The Monads at the Tin Ceiling (3159 Cherokee) at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, August 17. Admission is $7 at the door (CASH ONLY). All proceeds will go towards further stabilization and rebuilding of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home. Even if you can’t make the concert, you can learn more about the Mullanphy Emigrant Home and make a tax-deductible donation anytime at