by Michael R. Allen
LOCATION: 5111 Delmar Boulevard; Academy; Saint Louis, Missouri
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: 1906
ARCHITECT: William Lucas
BUILDER: McKelvey Construction Company
OWNER: Land Reutilization Authority
The death march on Delmar Boulevard (formerly and more properly “Avenue”) continues with the demolition of the three-story commercial building at 5111 Delmar in September 2006. Slowly, the stretch of Delmar between Kingshighway on the east and Union on the west has lost over half of its buildings. This building was rather plain even for this section of the street, but still handsome. It began collapsing from the center and eventually was aided in its self-started collapse by a demolition crew.
The bottom floor contained two storefronts on either side of a neoclassical entrance arch. Above, a mostly non-ornamented wall of brown brick contained a subtle Arts-and-Crafts brick motif to anyone who looked close enough. A projecting copper cornice, long since pulled off by thieves, would have given the building a more refined appearance. The upper floors were apartments and may have been carved into a rooming house, as many such buildings along Delmar were.
Detail of terra cotta entrance ornament (Michael R. Allen).
Nowadays, Delmar is fraught with extreme visual poverty from its eastern terminus downtown to the Demar Loop, where prospects brighten. The city’s great dividing line at times seems as dour and forbidding as the Berlin Wall. Visual beauty on the street could neutralize its terrible reputation as the city’s leading segregation device. After all, that segregation has long since been as much about depravity as it has been about race — south of Delmar isn’t exclusively white, but it is a land where one might have a better chance at feeling like the city has an urban future.