by Michael R. Allen
Same old story: the owner of the lovely building at 4477 Olive Street pictured here is applying for a demolition permit. The city’s Preservation Board will consider the demolition on preliminary review at its regular meeting on Monday; the city’s Cultural Resources Office is recommending that the board deny the application.
Next-door neighbor Youth Technology Education Center wants to demolish the building immediately for green space, but anticipates eventual expansion. (Again, same old story.) While Alderman Terry Kennedy (D-18th) supports demolition in deference to the center’s laudable accomplishments, the Central West End Association is opposed to the demolition.
The Craftsman style storefront building was built in 1917 and designed by architect Edward H.A. Volkmann, who designed several other buildings in this vicinity. Several unusual elements, like the finials atop the raised parapet sections, the balcony and the former arched center display window have led to all sorts of guesses about the building’s origin. One story had the building as a fire station. The truth is a bit more mundane — the building was built for the St. Louis Cleaning Company and used as by the clothing cleaners at least through the 1930s. Cleaners were an important new business type in the early twentieth century, catering to the city’s newly-mobile middle and upper classes. The Central West End has several old cleaners’ buildings, with the most resplendent being the Anderson Laundry on Washington Boulevard west of Euclid.
Last year, the commercial district on Olive Street between Pendleton and Walton was added to the city’s Central West End Historic District. With historic rehabilitation tax credits now available, the street is being remarkably transformed. Before that, Central West End Builders had already obtained National Register of Historic Places designation for and rehabbed the Lister Building, Taylor-Olive Building and Eugene Field School (directly across the street) around the intersection of Taylor and Olive. (The following photograph shows the Lister and Taylor-Olive buildings’ proximity to the building at 4477 Olive.)
Apparently there is a developer interested in rehabbing the building, which until recently was used as storefront church. (Same old story, huh?) In the last two years, developers have rehabbed or are rehabbing almost all of the other buildings on this block, and there is even new construction including the Center. Good things aren’t just coming — they are here, and this finely-detailed building should be a part of them.
The Preservation Board meets Monday at 4:00 p.m. in the 12th floor conference room at 1015 Locust Street downtown. The full meeting agenda is available here.