by Michael R. Allen
Blairmont Associates celebrated Historic Preservation Week with the belated action of securing the James Clemens, Jr. House at 1849 Cass Avenue in St. Louis Place. According yo a KMOX radio news report, Blairmont parent company McEagle Properties claims that the Clemens House is under contract to another owner and the work is being done as part of the sale.
The house has sat unsecured for the better part of the last year, with even the front door wide open and unboarded in recent months. Many parts of the building have disappeared in recent years, and during the recent unsecured period millwork began to leave the house.
On Wednesday, May 14, Blairmont had a crew at the site, cutting and affixing fresh plywood for the numerous unboarded windows and doors as well as bricking in a hole in the rear wall of the dormitory wing. (The masonry repair used an incorrect mortar mix for the historic masonry.)
Other work included building a chain link fence across the open front entrance in the brick wall along Cass Avenue, where an iron gate once hung.
The workers did not remove the numerous trees growing out of the original house’s upper floors, not did they take any action to remove collapsed brickwork from the roof and attic of the house. Bricks falling from the taller dormitory have caused significant damage to the house’s northwest corner, collapsing roof joists and causing the third floor to sag. The chapel wing’s condition is severe, with the west wall bowing outward due to ongoing roof collapse.
Meanwhile, the cast iron portico on the house continues to lean away from the house, causing the limestone porch walls to shift with it. The painted sandstone entrance surround and porch on the chapel is eroding badly.
During the work, the city’s Building Division came and issued a stop work order. Oddly, Blairmont did not have a building permit for any of the work. While the law is the law, it’s hard to want to stop any step Blairmont is actually taking to secure one of the city’s most important and most endangered landmarks.