by Michael R. Allen
The impressive mixed-used commercial building at 2652 Geyer (at Ohio Avenue) in Fox Park was recently demolished. Owned by the City of St. Louis’ Land Reutilization Authority in recent years, the building has long been vacant. The building’s three-story height and rounded corner made it unusual for the neighborhood, while its Romanesque Revival traits place it in a common and significant local stylistic tradition.
The building was indeed derelict, with a collapsed roof, broken windows and deteriorating floor joists. Yet its distinctive presence and solid brick walls were intact enough to convey a sense of elegance to its corner, which was otherwise surrounded by two-story flats. The building’s corner storefront was framed with lovely cast iron columns. The building had a narrow interior light shaft running north-south down its middle. Its five apartments were spacious, and its yard ample. In short, it was ripe for reuse as a vital component to the restoration of the Fox Park neighborhood.
Alas, I walked down the street to catch only part of the rounded corner still remaining and most of the building’s western wall gone. The eastern bays were intact enough to convey some sense of the building’s appearance from Geyer Street, but the elegant corner was torn away above the first floor, and the western bay was completely missing save the first floor corner and part of the second story elevation wall on Geyer.
Colorful pieces of linoleum and 1970s wallpaper littered the ground. A crew of workers was busy making up pallets of bricks, which they would sell to suppliers for $20 per pallet. (The suppliers will sell the pallets to projects for $170 or more each.) One man was breaking apart portions of the fire escape for sale as scrap iron.
Geyer in Fox Park lost a lot of buildings to the construction of I-44 in 1960 and still others to senseless demolition plans that have left vacant lots. Three out of four corners are vacant lots at the next intersection west of Geyer and Ohio, Geyer and California. This is a street that has many dedicated residents but suffers from the disruptive energy of I-44. It certainly does not need the additional problem of demolition, especially of its few hybrid buildings. Surely, another vacant lot here could cause harm — although a shoddy replacement structure may be on the way. Now the street is further damaged and a building has been destroyed without substantial documentation.
Photograph by Robert Powers on October 30, 2004
Photographs by Michael R. Allen on October 31, 2004