Adaptive Reuse Historic Preservation Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North

New Life for the Mullanphy Emigrant Home

by Michael R. Allen

Given its institutional form and floor plan, and the dire need to retain and restore its special architectural character, the Mullanphy Emigrant Home seems best suited to an institutional or cultural use rather than any of the most likely prospects for reuse.

The building would make an excellent museum or exhibit center, library, school or hostel. I think that adapting it for use as apartments, condominiums or offices might involve architectural compromises and inefficient floor plans. Perhaps now is the time for near north side leaders and city officials to figure out what the building should become, and how the new use could be endowed.

Due to shrinking funding under the Bush and Blunt administrations, this is a bad moment to launch a new museum or cultural center. Yet the Mullanphy Emigrant Home would make an excellent museum of the city’s ethnic heritage, an outstanding small art museum, a cool alternative school, a great architectural center emphasizing vernacular forms and styles, or a youth hostel in conjunction with more public uses. Rarely does the city have the chance to restore such an old and important civic building. This is a momentous opportunity for the city, and time for creative thought.