Downtown Green Space JNEM National Historic Landmark National Register

Tell Senator McCaskill There’s No Need to Pass Arch Grounds Legislation Now

by Michael R. Allen

On October 3, Congressman William Clay (D-MO 1st) introduced HR 7252, which would downgrade the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds from the current National Historic Landmark status to listing on the National Register of Historic Places and, most important, authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement with the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Trust that would allow the Trust to manage the Memorial grounds and construct a museum there. The Danforth Foundation incorporated the Trust in June, with Peter Raven, Walter Metcalfe and Bob Archibald as the corporation’s directors.

Now, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has felt pressure to introduce a companion in the Senate. Believe it or not, word is that some parties want the bill to pass in the current lame duck Congress, while privatization-friendly President George W. Bush and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne are still in office. McCaskill has yet to cave to the pressure. If she did, and the bill were to become law, a public process already underway for planning improvements to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial would be stopped, and a private vision would be enshrined in federal law.

Clay’s bill is inappropriate on several fronts:

  • The bill short-changes the public, which has yet to see the National Park Service’s draft management plan for the Memorial or participate in the planned 45-day public comment period. NPS has released a summary of its preferred alternative, but has not issued the actual draft General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement. NPS will release that draft in January, with the comment period immediately afterward.
  • The National Park Service has called for an international design competition to be held next year where changes to the grounds could be visualized and a winning entry would be selected by a jury. This process would allow for a wide range of possibilities to be explored. The winning entry might call for something other than a museum on the grounds.
  • Congress should not exercise the power to remove National Historic Landmark status for political reasons (there is a formal process for removing the designation in place within the Department of the Interior).
  • It is an abuse of the purpose of the National Park system for Congress to direct the National Park Service to lease a National Park to a private group solely for construction. We can build a museum at the Memorial — although we already have two there — but we need not cede control to a private entity to do so. Without a public input process, we have no idea if there is support for the museum idea or what sort of museum is appropriate for the site.

    I urge my readers to contact Senator McCaskill (via this page) and tell her that the Clay bill is flawed and premature. Sending the same thoughts to Representative Clay (via this page) would be helpful as well.

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    Historic Preservation National Register North St. Louis People The Ville

    Chuck Berry House Headed for National Register

    by Michael R. Allen

    Photograph by Lindsey Derrington.

    This modest flat-roofed, one-story brick house at 3137 Whittier Street in The Ville is where rock ‘n’ roll was invented. Well, if not outright invented, definitely made into something it had never been before. Chuck Berry bought this house in 1950 and lived there during his most productive early songwriting period. When he sold the house in 1958, Berry had recorded “Maybelline,” “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven.”

    My colleague Lindsey Derrington, Researcher for Landmarks Association, identified this house last year as a landmark worthy of listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Rather than wait for someone else to take action, Lindsey wrote a nomination that received approval from the city’s Preservation Board last week and will be considered by the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation this Friday. After that point, the nomination is likely to face a tough time undergoing review by the National Park Service, which generally does not list in the Register properties associated with persons still living. This rule comes from fear of making hasty historical judgment. Lindsey’s nomination makes the case that Chuck Berry’s importance already has a permanent spot in the history books, even if he is alive and very well.

    Today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch covered the nomination of the house with a front page article; read that here.

    Architects Green Space Missouri National Register

    Springfield’s Park Central Square Contested

    by Michael R. Allen

    The Springfield News-Leader reports on the issues surrounding Park Central Square in downtown Springfield, Missouri. Supposedly designed by famed landscape architect Lawrence Halprin but remodeled in the the years since its 1969 construction, the park is at the center of a dispute between city government.  The city wants to redesign the park and preservationists want to restore the original design. The original design, however, is also contested — some claim Halprin was not the architect of the plan that actually was built.

    Because the city is using federal funding for their redesign, a section 106 review has been triggered. Section 106 reviews, mandated by the 1966 federal Historic Preservation Act, are administered by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and serve the purpose of determining whether sites impacted by federal spending are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. SHPO’s ruling here could determine what the park will end up looking like. If SHPO determines the park is eligible for listing, and advocates for its preservation can get it listed on the National Register, the city’s plans could be derailed.

    Demolition Historic Preservation National Register North St. Louis Preservation Board

    Demolition Comes Twofold to Page Boulevard

    by Michael R. Allen

    On March 19, the Building Division issued an emergency demolition order for the corner commercial building at 5100-02 Page Boulevard, owned by Rosie Love. Love had applied for a permit late last year, and the city’s Preservation Board denied her permit in February. The building is a contributing resource to the Mt. Cabanne-Raymond Place National Historic District, hence review by the Preservation Board. Apparently, the Preservation Board made the matter only a trifle harder for Love, an investor who owns properties across Missouri. Demolition is well underway.

    Eastward, at the southeast corner of Page and Kingshighway, demolition will soon commence on a large three-story building owned by Roberts Brothers Properties. A motorist struck the corner column in the notched-out storeftont entrance, leaving the upper two floors unsupported. Rather than repair the damage, the owners let gravity do the work. Brick began falling last week, and now the Building Division has granted a demolition order. A wrecker’s signs adorn the plywood fence around the site, including sections in front of two adjacent buildings that have no structural damage.

    More wealth drained from north St. Louis…

    Architecture Historic Preservation LRA National Register North St. Louis Wells-Goodfellow

    Two Craftsman Buildings in Wells-Goodfellow

    by Michael R. Allen

    While photographing a building across the street for work, I stumbled across this Craftsman gem on Ridge Avenue (just west of Hamilton Avenue) in Wells-Goodfellow. The size of the brackets on the porch end of the roof is incredible. Brackets, half-timbering and wide gable roofs were hallmarks of the Craftsman style, which was part of the revival style craze that dominated American residential architecture between 1890 and 1930. The Craftsman style drew upon the Arts & Crafts movement as well as historic rural European vernacular styles. St. Louis has great examples in north and south city, especially west of O’Fallon Park and in Tower Grove South.

    Coincidentally, this home is only a few blocks from one of the city’s most prominent Craftsman landmarks, the Wellston Station at 6111 Martin Luther King Drive.

    Photo by Rob Powers for Built St. Louis

    I don’t know much about the house on Ridge, but I co-wrote the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Wellston Station. The Station was built in 1911 and designed by Martin Arhelger for the St. Louis Transit Company, the streetcar arm of United Railways. United Railways held the monopoly on mass transit in the city until 1963 when it was subsumed into the Bi-State Development Agency.

    Under its wide roof, the Wellston Station provided covered boarding, and a shelter with waiting rooms and toilets, for the first fixed-track streetcars on Easton Avenue (now MLK). Wellston Station was the destination for the last streetcar run in the city’s history: the run of the Hodiamont street car in 1966. For years after that, the building served as a bus shelter, but the grandeur was out of scale with cash-strapped Bi-State. Bi-State aimed to convert the building to a farmers’ market, but in 2006 abruptly turned it over to the Land Reutilization Authority. In May 2007, the National Park Service placed the Wellston Station on the National Register. That designation has not yet led to redevelopment, although a burger joint still rents the front end of the waiting room area. (The waiting room has always had a storefront at the street side.)

    Two Craftsman gabled buildings in Wells-Goodfellow — one a domestic building, the other a remnant of a once-robust public sector economy. May they both be part of the city’s future.

    Mid-Century Modern National Register St. Louis County The Ville

    National Register News

    Wagoner Place in the Ville is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More at here.

    Meanwhile, Landmarks Association reports on its pending nominations of the Saratoga Lanes building in Maplewood and the Usonian Harry Hammerman House in Ladue. More here.

    Historic Preservation National Register North St. Louis Preservation Board The Ville

    Three Buildings in the Ville Coming Down — For New Houses?

    by Michael R. Allen

    Today the City of St. Louis Preservation Board voted to approve demolition of three buildings in the Ville at 1820, 1822 and 1826 Annie Malone (see the Cultural Resources Office staff report here). Given the spate of demolition in the Ville since Alderman Sam Moore (D-4th) took office earlier this year, sadly that’s not noteworthy. In fact, the Board already considered and denied permits for two of these buildings just three months ago.

    What is interesting is that during testimony Alderman Moore made several puzzling statements. Generally, the alderman was somewhat hostile to Cultural Resources Director Kate Shea, who supported demolition although with a noticeable lack of conviction. Shea recommended approval of the demolition with the stipulation that the alderman and neighborhood groups work with her office to create a preservation plan. In response, Moore said that he would come back every month until all of the derelict buildings in the Ville were demolished. Moore stated that residents of new homes in nearby Ville Phillips Estates demanded the demolition. He went on to say that the cleared lots where the three buildings stood would become part of the subdivision.

    The original developers of Ville Phillips Estates were none other than Taylor Morley Homes and Preservation Board Vice Chair Mary “One” Johnson, who did not recuse herself from the consideration of this item. (Johnson is no longer involved with the project.) In fact, Johnson made the motion to accept staff recommendation and demolish the buildings. Her motion was approved with dissenting votes from John Burse and David Richardson.

    Shea had recommended including the three buildings in a national historic district centered on the home of Peter Humphries Clark, an African-American educator who helped found one of the first black public school systems in the United States in Cincinnati and successfully fought for the repeal of Ohio’s anti-black laws. Shea and her staff secured listing of the house on the National Register of Historic Places last year. Alderman Moore stated that he did not know who Clark was, but that the new subdivision on the site of the buildings would be named for him.

    Citizens Anthony Coffin and Barbara Manzara testified in opposition to the demolition. Manzara recommended abolishing the local historic district ordinance in the Ville if there was no community support for historic preservation in the neighborhood. Notably, aside from the alderman, no residents of the Ville testified or sent letters supporting the demolition.

    In July, Steve Patterson wrote about the incomplete state of Ville Phillips Estates. Read more: “Ville Phillips Estates Remains Unfinished Months After New Alderman Takes Office”

    Historic Preservation National Register North County St. Louis County

    Once-Disputed House in Florissant Listed on National Register

    Florissant house added to National Register – Brian Flinchpaugh (North County Journal, September 17)

    Downtown Historic Preservation Mid-Century Modern National Register

    Plaza Square Apartments Listed on National Register of Historic Places

    From Landmarks Association of St. Louis:

    The Plaza Square Apartments Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 2007. Located between 15th, Olive, 17th and Chestnut Streets in downtown St. Louis, the district includes St. John the Apostle & Evangelist Catholic Church from 1860 and Centenary Methodist Church from 1870 as well as the signature high-rise apartments completed in 1961. The Plaza Square apartment complex, the cornerstone accomplishment of the city’s first Urban Renewal project, was designed by the newly formed Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum architectural firm in collaboration with Harris Armstrong—an acclaimed leader of the Modern Movement in the Midwest. Evenly divided into two different configurations with a total of 1,090 apartments, the six buildings utilized native limestone, brick, concrete and colorful enameled metal panels (most now painted tan) to create a sleek contemporary aesthetic enhanced by balconies, landscaped grounds and underground parking

    Although the “skyscraper home in a garden” initially attracted urbanites of all ages, Plaza Square soon experienced increasing vacancy rates. In 1965, Building # 60 at the southeast corner of 17th and Olive Streets was sold to Bethesda General Hospital which converted it into the Town House retirement community. Now dubbed BLU CitySpaces by a new owner, Building #60 is being converted to condominiums utilizing historic rehab tax credits. Thanks to the National Register nomination prepared by Landmarks Association for that developer, the other five buildings (which have been subjected to repeated foreclosures) are also prime candidates for reinvestment.

    National Register North St. Louis Preservation Board The Ville

    Trick Question Regarding the Ville Demolitions

    by Michael R. Allen

    What kind of careful decisions about historic preservation can the city’s Preservation Board make when faced with an application to demolish 39 different buildings in one neighborhood?

    That’s the case tomorrow, when the Board will consider Alderman Sam Moore’s (D-4th) aggressive push to wreck 39 buildings scattered throughout the Ville neighborhood. The city’s Cultural Resources Office staff has approved some permits for demolition on buildings that barely exist. That’s fine. But the remaining 39 buildings deserve more than even one hour’s hearing by the Board.

    Much of the Ville lies within a city historic district, but very little is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The staff of CRO have worked on several successful National Register nomination in the last two years, but more are possible. Not enough is know yet about future nominations to know what buildings on Alderman Moore’s list are potentially contributing resources to future districts. Caution is needed, but unfortunately the Preservation Board is bound to decide the fate of these buildings in a rather uncautious manner.