by Michael R. Allen
Sometimes I wonder if the mid-twentieth century practice of adding storefront sections to the front of historic homes is a St. Louis phenomenon. Certainly, we have many interesting examples here on major east-west streets like Delmar, Natural Bridge, Cherokee and Forest Park. These are symptoms of explosive population growth and changing land uses.
The example shown here is located at 3808 Olive Street, between Spring and Vandeventer, in Midtown. (The Central Apartments stood across the street.) Here we have a limestone-faced Queen Anne home dating to the 1890s. The architect may be Jerome Bibb Legg, a prolific residential architect who designed the other home remaining on this desolate block; Legg’s name appears as owner or architect on several building permits on this block.
In front we have a pressed-brick storefront from the middle part of the twentieth century. A door at right leads to the original entrance of the home. This photo does not show the quirky gesture in which the builder reused stone from the porch to build a side wall that connects the house to the storefront.
Weird? Yes. Useful? Also, yes. While not a candidate for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a 19th century house, the hybrid building offers some interesting potential for reuse. Perhaps the alteration of the house itself could make it eligible for National Register listing. What is needed is a local survey of such storefront-bearing houses, followed by national comparison. This strange building could be a treasure!