by Michael R. Allen
The fire marshal’s car sits in front of the houses on Cook Avenue after the fire on August 28.
On the night of August 28, 2006, a fire struck the two turreted houses at the southeast corner of Cook and Spring avenues. These two houses are splendid examples of how the Romanesque Revival was interpreted by local architects and made part of the city’s turn-of-the-century architectural vernacular. They also illustrate the St. Louis tendency to group houses that re so similar to each other that at first glance they seem like copies, while in fact the details and ornament are completely different even as materials, style and proportion are synchronized. According architect Paul Hohmann: “The buildings are actually two pairs of townhomes, for a total of four units. The two portions are connected only at the center, with the projecting fronts separated to appear like two large mansions. … Unfortunately the way the two halves were joined at the middle at the third floor would have provided an easy conduit for a fire to spread from either side.”
After the fire, the masonry walls are intact, while the roof timbers on each building are severely damaged. While the interiors below the attics are relatively intact, without roofs water will soon wreak havoc in each building. The building on the west, 3658-60 Cook Avenue, has been owned by “Dion I. Cryer and Joe Witthaus LLC” since January 2006 while the building on the east, 3654-56 Cook, has been owned by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority since 2000. Hopefully the owners of 3658-60 Cook have insurance, but it’s unlikely.