by Michael R. Allen
Sixteen years means a lot in the life of a vacant building. To the house at 1501 Palm Street, owned now by by Blaimont Associates LC, the past three years have been rough. The beautiful mansard-roofed “mini mansion” dates to 1883, and is a great example of the small scale use of the Second Empire style. The house is singular for the Old North St. Louis neighborhood, and it has marked the corner of 14th and Palm streets for 125 years. In the vast scheme of its life, the past 16 years are a small part of the history. If they prove fatal, however, those years will be the most definitive.
The house sat vacant for a long time before Blairmont purchased it, and the previous owner is to blame for some of its current woes. In 2005 that owner, George Roberts, began demolition halted by the city’s Cultural Resources Office, which had not yet reviewed the demolition permit. That work left a large hole on the west wall. Three years later, the hole is agape, and the roof structure above in terrible disrepair. Thank goodness for partition walls — without them, the roof would have collapsed by now.
One of the finest details of the house was the repeat of its slate-clad mansard roof on the rear elevation, replete with tin-framed dormers. That roof collapsed in 2007, and is now almost completely gone.
Recently, Blairmont maintenance contractor Urban Solutions cleared the yard of debris and erected a temporary fence around the house. What’s next? The house is in imminent danger of a roof collapse and requires serious structural work. As far as I can tell, under the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit, repairs to prevent this house from collapsing are eligible for 100% reimbursement just like the fencing, trash hauling and lawn work. If a developer were applying for that credit, the cost of such work would only be carried until the issuance of the credits. The issuance, of course, requires a redevelopment ordinance and political support. In preservation-minded Old North, there is a clear way to gain respect and built support: save buildings like the house at 1501 Palm Street.