Downtown Hamilton Heights Historic Preservation Midtown National Register O'Fallon SHPO St. Louis County The Ville

Eight St. Louis Area Sites Headed to National Register

by Michael R. Allen

At its quarterly meeting Friday in Joplin, the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation voted to approve the following St. Louis area nominations to the National Register of Historic Places and forward them to the Keeper of the National Register:

  • Holly Place Historic District (prepared by Carolyn Toft, Michael Allen and Tom Duda for Landmarks Association of St. Louis)
  • Plaza Square Apartments Historic District (Carolyn Toft and Michael Allen for Landmarks Association of St. Louis)
  • Glen Echo Historic District (Ruth Keenoy, Karen Bode Baxter, Timothy P. Maloney and Sara Bularzik)
  • Ramsey Accessories Manufacturing Company Building (Matthew S. Bivens for SCI Engineering)
  • Harrison School (Julie Wooldridge for Lafser and Associates)
  • Hempstead School (Julie Wooldridge for Lafser and Associates)
  • Olive & Locust Historic Business District (Julie Wooldridge for Lafser and Associates)
  • Wagoner Place Historic District (Kathleen E. Shea and Jan Cameron for the Cultural Resources Office, City of St. Louis)

All votes were unanimous, although the Plaza Square Apartments Historic District is being sent for substantive review due to its construction date within the past 50 years. Nominations forwarded by the Advisory Council are typically listed on the Register within 45 business days of approval.

Notable among the approved nominations are the Plaza Square Apartments district, a local milestone of midcentury urban renewal and modern architecture. Under national regulations, nominations of properties that have achieved significance with the past 50 years require a demonstration of exceptional significance. Such nominations are infrequent, but contribute to greater recognition of the architectural achievements of the middle of the twentieth century.

Detail of one of the Plaza Square Apartments buildings.

Also interesting was the deliberation over the Ramsey Accessories Manufacturing Corporation Building at 3693 Forest Park Boulevard in St. Louis city, a nomination that raised issues of integrity due to the yet-incomplete removal of the stucco and concrete slipcover added in 1969 that covers the three-story building,. built in 1923 with addition in 1934. Fortunately, Bivens unearthed a wealth of information on the Ramsey Corporation that manufactured the “Ramco” piston ring and showed that the primary elevation is largely intact underneath the slipcover. The McGowan Brothers have an option on the building and hope to restore its original appearance.

One nomination not approved was that of Big Boy’s Restaurant in Wright City. The Council tabled the nomination due to concerns about an underdeveloped statement of significance while generally finding the building eligible for listing. With some improvement, the nomination should be in good shape by the next quarterly meeting in August.

Demolition National Register Old North

Haven of Grace Expansion Moving Forward

by Michael R. Allen

By March 22, Haven of Grace had demolished the house at 2605 Hadley Street in Old North St. Louis — a building counted as a contributing resource to the Murphy-Blair Historic District. Last month, the Preservation Board approved the demolition permit for the house at its February meeting. (Read more here.)

Haven of Grace originally had applied to demolish that house and another one at 2619-21 Hadley Street that is also a contributing resource to the district. At the Preservation Board meeting, Haven of Grace announced its withdrawal of that application and its intention to rehabilitate the building for use as offices.

The demolition of 2605 Hadley makes way for a three-story addition designed by architect Tom Cohen, who is also preparing plans for the rehabilitation of the remaining historic house. The addition will create apartments that will allow Haven of Grace to expand its social services to homeless pregnant women and their children by offering more substantial transitional housing. Haven of Grace is a part of the Grace Hill Settlement House.

The expansion plan increases building density on the block, even though it entailed demolition of a historic house that was not beyond repair. On the whole, this is a good project for an important institution that does difficult work. Many neighborhoods would likely turn Haven of Grace away.

However, Old North St. Louis cannot afford to lose another historic building. This is an exception brought about through compromise — not a precedent.

Local Historic District National Register South St. Louis

What Landed on the Hardt Building?

by Michael R. Allen

Blame it on a bad mood at the moment, but seeing last night the Hardt Building at the northwest corner of Chippewa and Brannon bearing a huge wooden growth was quite a shock. The “growth” appears to be a one-story frame penthouse addition; a search of Geo St. Louis shows no corresponding building permits.

Here we have one of the finest examples of art deco architecture on the south side, standing in the dense and intact historic “Northampton” or Kingshighway Hills neighborhood. The Hardt Building’s stark, streamlined look is reinforced by the later, neon-robbed curved Keller Apothecary sign at the corner. Its visible addition of a third floor and its kissing cousin on Hampton (discussed by Toby Weiss here) add some intrigue; the obvious bow of the Chippewa elevation wall adds drama.

What does the addition add, besides more office space? It adds architecture at odds with the dramatic lines and parapets of the building below. It adds a visual focal point that overpowers the building below, capturing the eye and pulling it away from the bliss of jazzy polychrome masonry.

To get a better view of the addition, I headed west in the alley north of Chippewa. While the streets of this area are obviously packed with lovely brick buildings from the early-to-middle twentieth century, the alleys retain an amazing abundance of historic garages. Here we have an area west of Kingshighway and south of Arsenal more ripe for historic district status than many areas that are already listed on the National Register of Historic Places or City Landmark rosters. While a local district status is unfathomable for this area at present time, a national district would bring the tax incentives to discourage inappropriate alterations like the one rising on top of the Hardt Building.

National Register

Ten More St. Louis Buildings Headed for the National Register

by Michael R. Allen

To be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, nominated buildings and sites must be approved by certified local governments and, most importantly, state historic preservation offices with their review commissions before being sent to the Keeper of the National Register at the National Park Service. In Missouri, our commission is the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which meets quarterly.

Its most recent quarterly meeting was this past Friday, November 17, in Jefferson City. I am pleased to report that the following St. Louis buidlings were unanimously approved for submission to the Keeper (preparer’s name in parenthesis):

– American Brake Company Building, 1920 N. Broadway (Melissa Winchester and Julie Wooldridge, Lafser and Associates)
– Carondelet School, 8221 Minnesota Street (Melissa Winchester and Julie Wooldridge, Lafser and Associates)
– Falstaff Brewing Corporation, Plant No. 1, 3644-3690 Forest Park Boulevard (Melissa Winchester and Julie Wooldridge, Lafser and Associates)
– Koken Barbers’ Supply Company Historic District, bounded by Ohio, Texas, Sidney and Victor streets (Mary M. Stiritz)
– Laclede Gas Light Company Pumping Station G, 4401 Chouteau Avenue (Doug Johnson, Landmarks Association of St. Louis)
– Robert E. Lee Hotel, 209 N. 18th Street (Michael Allen, Landmarks Association of St. Louis)
– Royal Tire Service, Inc., Building, 3229 Washington Avenue (Karen Bode Baxter)
– Steelcote Manufacturing Company Paint Factory, 801 Edwin (Karen Bode Baxter)
– United Shoe Manufacturing Company Building, 2200-08 Washington Avenue (Karen Bode Baxter)
– William Cuthbert Jones House, 3724 Olive Street (Michael Allen, Landmarks Association of St. Louis)

Unfortunately, the following nominations did not receive approval from the council:

– General American Life Insurance Company National Headquarters, 706 Market Street (Melissa Winchester and Julie Woolridge, Lafser and Associates) — tabled
– Ramsey Accessories Manufacturing Corporation, 3693 Forest Park Boulevard (Matt Bivens, SCI Engineering) — motion to approve failed by vote of 3-6

These two buildings presented significant challenges despite histories that clearly make them eligible for listing. The General American building, completed in 1977, is less than fifty years old and therefore exceptional significance must be proven for listing. The council felt that the current nomination does not make the case strongly enough. The Ramsey building is sheathed in stucco that covers its historic features, and the council wants to see the stucco removed greatly before listing. Expect to see these two nominations revised and considered at the next council meeting in February 2007.

National Register Preservation Board

Preservation Board Meeting Today

by Michael R. Allen

The Preservation Board meets today at 4:00 p.m. The agenda isn’t marked with items of great interest, although some nominations to the National Register of Historic Places are intriguing. For instance, Melinda Winchester of Lafser Associates is nominating the General American Life Insurance Building on Market Street, which was completed in 1977 from a design by Phillip Johnson. This nomination is interesting because the National Register requires special significance to be proven for a building built within the last fifty years. With the Johnson pedigree, the buidling should not have difficulty. (For the record, I wrote two of the nominations being considered today: those of the Robert E. Lee Hotel and the William Cuthbert Jones House.)

Far be it from me to be quick complain without being quick to compliment: the Preservation Board agenda, often only published hours before the meeting, was posted online weeks in advance, with summary statements behind each item even on the tentative agenda. The full copy of the agenda was delivered to me by courier on Friday. This is very good work by the board and the staff of the city’s Cultural Resources Office.

Demolition National Register University City

University City Approves Washington University’s Demolition Permits

by Michael R. Allen

From the September 29 Weekly Update from University City by Julie Feier, City Manager:

Washington University submitted requests for demolition permits on 9/25/2006 for 701 Eastgate and 707 Eastgate and on 9/26/2006 for 6654 Washington. The permits were authorized on 9/28/2006. Under the relevant sections of the Zoning Code, Article 6 Section 34-77.2 and 34-78.2 the issuance of these permits is an administrative function not requiring review by the Historic Preservation Commission because the properties are not located in historic districts.

According to former University City resident Jon Galloway, who has worked to prevent these demolitions for months, it’s a case of demolition without formal review — despite definite historic significance and the apartment buildings’ being part of a national historic district — and without a redevelopment plan. Washington University purchased the apartment building at 701 Eastgate in 2000 for $456,000, and let it slide downhill until the university recently purchased 707 Eastgate next door. The university wasted no time in applying for a demolition permit for these buildings and a house on Washington that it also owned, supposedly “cost prohibitive” to rehab.

Where is the outcry or awareness? Good question. These apartment buildings, built in 1925, are character-defining buildings just north of Delmar Boulevard, sitting on one of several streets ringed by post-World War I era multi-story brick apartment buildings. The house, built in 1918, is earlier than most of its neighbors, and an unusual example of a frame building that has persisted in the core of University City.

Washington University could have sold these buildings to numerous developers eager to carry out historic tax-credit rehabilitation; all of the buildings are already listed as significant on a county historic building survey, and the apartment buildings are contributing resources to the Parkview Gardens National Register of Historic Places district. The university also could have established a for-profit entity to rehab the buildings, so that it could get the tax credits that may have made renovation feasible.

Of course, as Galloway says, the university would not have purchased the buildings for such high prices if they really didn’t have a plan for the sites.

The Buildings

The house at 6654 Washington (Jon Galloway).

The buildings on Eastgate (Jon Galloway).

701 Eastgate (Jon Galloway).

707 Eastgate (Jon Galloway).

Historic Preservation Mid-Century Modern Midtown National Register Preservation Board

Council Plaza into the Future

by Michael R. Allen

Bricks continue to fall from the mural on the east side of one of the two towers at Council Plaza in Midtown. (See this December 7 report from TV station KSDK.) While it’s sad to see the mural deteriorate, good news came at the most recent meeting of the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation: approval of a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places for all of Council Plaza, which was developed starting in 1967 by local Teamsters as a “Model City” demonstration project.

For an odd reason, the St. Louis Preservation Board had recommended that the nomination be tabled until the mural could be repaired, even though the current ownership group stated that it needs tax credits to be able to restore the mural. Well, a motion to recommend approval of the nomination almost sailed through until member Richard Callow moved to table the nomination and reconsider it after the mural issues could be resolved. Never mind that the nomination of Council Plaza was only invoking “urban planning” and not “architecture” or “public art” as a criteria for significance. The Preservation Board unanimously voted for Callow’s motion.

Wisely, the state council went ahead with the listing so that the mural can be restored — provided that the owners intend to honor the promises they have made publicly at the Preservation Board and Missouri Advisory Council meetings. Even though the towers are rather clunky concrete boxes, the murals and brickwork on the windowless side elevations add depth and human scale that redeems the heavy-handed site plan.

At least the old spaceship-style gas station building, now Del Taco, stands intact. That may be the most attractive building on the site. (See a photo by Toby Weiss here.)