Historic Preservation Hyde Park LRA North St. Louis

A Race With Gravity

by Michael R. Allen

No building better captures the sense of nonchalant destruction that permeates Hyde Park than the house at 3802 Blair Avenue. Sitting alone after the deaths of its neighbors over the last thirty years, the building has put on a long, slow architectural striptease. First, its cornice started spalling. Bricks fell. Then, its front wall unzipped to reveal the stuffer brick behind the face brick. Then, off with most of the face brick. Last year, the Forestry Division came and cut down all of the ghetto palms in front to give us a nice clear view of the front wall. Now, the stuffer brick is starting to fall back into the house to reveal even more.

Not exactly sexy stuff.

The house is owned by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority and has been vacant for a generation. The brick loss started about a decade ago, and is reaching a finale. Why no one thought to stabilize or even demolish the house is a mystery. A wistful for-sale sign put up by the Neighborhood Council even hangs on the building. Then again, in Hyde Park, decline is nothing out of the ordinary.

Interesting that the side walls are intact and the building is relatively sound. Someone could even rebuild the front wall, although I doubt that simply relaying the face brick is possible at this point. The Neighborhood Council deserves credit for recognizing that the face brick loss was more cosmetic damage and that rehabilitation was not impossible. Some key details are still intact, like the mansard roof and dormers. There’s no push to demolish the house — just time to watch more pieces come off of the house. The house is well-paced in its race with gravity. There seems to always be more time for a vacant brick building to collapse — and always time to come to the rescue.