by Michael R. Allen
Yesterday a crew from Z & L Wrecking started taking down the ruinous northern portion of the Nord St. Louis Turnverein. This was deja vu to those who recalled the day when Z & L arrived to take down the buildings after the devastating fire on July 6, 2006 that destroyed the northern section. This time, the failing structural state led to the Building Division’s issuance of an emergency demolition permit on March 29, 2011.
Developer Peter George stopped demolition and valiantly tried to find financing to rebuild the Hyde Park landmark. With the southern gymnasium addition of 1898 largely intact, rebuilding seemed like a reasonable path. Five years later, an imbalance of time and money has led to a more conservative approach. George came along late in the life of the building, purchasing it after the fire.
The fateful decisions came earlier when the remaining Turners rejected the membership applications of a contingent of new members (including many leaders of Metropolis) in 1999, and when the group sold the buildings to a future felon named Doug Hartmann in 2004. Even before the fire on July 5, 2006, heavy winds had destroyed the roof of the older north building on April 2, 2006. The loss of a building can take time, and the loss of a community anchor can tragically drag out for years.