by Michael R. Allen
Photograph taken on April 2, 2006 (Michael R. Allen).
In March 2006, the City Council in Granite City approved spending $90,000 to demolish 15 buildings as part of an effort to revive the ailing downtown area. Seven of these buildings had architectural merit and were structurally sound. While the other eight were marginally interesting and in various states of decay, these seven were all from the period of 1890-1920 and worth preserving in a city where historic architecture is one of the biggest cultural assets.
One of the losses of this demolition campaign was the tenement flats building at 2137 Edison Avenue. This four-flat building is reminiscent of the vernacular architecture of north St. Louis and was built around 1896 during the early wave of Granite City building. At this phase, many buildings here were designed by St. Louis architects who had previously done business with the Niedringhauses, founders of the new city. Most of the single-family homes and commercial buildings built around the start of the city were privately built on lots purchased from the Niedringhaus family real estate company, but the family developed some rental property to provide housing that could be available quickly. There is some possibility that the plans for this building came from the office of Frederick C. Bonsack, who worked for the family.
The flats were remarkably intact, down to the entry doors and casement still bearing the original varnish and hardware. All of the original wooden windows were present. If this building were in a historic district in St. Louis, it would be a sought-after candidate for tax-credit rehabilitation. The fact that it got demolished speaks to many of the inequities of preservation around St. Louis: the undeserved stigma of the east side’s industrial towns, lack of an Illinois state historic tax credit, and general lack of awareness of east side vernacular architecture on the part of St. Louis-based historians.
The flats were demolished in May 2006. A twin stands to the north at 2141 Edison Avenue; however, that building is painted and has lost many of its original features including its central parapet.
Additional Photographs from April 2 and May 29, 2006 (Claire Nowak-Boyd & Michael R. Allen)