by Michael R. Allen
Today the City of St. Louis Preservation Board voted to approve demolition of three buildings in the Ville at 1820, 1822 and 1826 Annie Malone (see the Cultural Resources Office staff report here). Given the spate of demolition in the Ville since Alderman Sam Moore (D-4th) took office earlier this year, sadly that’s not noteworthy. In fact, the Board already considered and denied permits for two of these buildings just three months ago.
What is interesting is that during testimony Alderman Moore made several puzzling statements. Generally, the alderman was somewhat hostile to Cultural Resources Director Kate Shea, who supported demolition although with a noticeable lack of conviction. Shea recommended approval of the demolition with the stipulation that the alderman and neighborhood groups work with her office to create a preservation plan. In response, Moore said that he would come back every month until all of the derelict buildings in the Ville were demolished. Moore stated that residents of new homes in nearby Ville Phillips Estates demanded the demolition. He went on to say that the cleared lots where the three buildings stood would become part of the subdivision.
The original developers of Ville Phillips Estates were none other than Taylor Morley Homes and Preservation Board Vice Chair Mary “One” Johnson, who did not recuse herself from the consideration of this item. (Johnson is no longer involved with the project.) In fact, Johnson made the motion to accept staff recommendation and demolish the buildings. Her motion was approved with dissenting votes from John Burse and David Richardson.
Shea had recommended including the three buildings in a national historic district centered on the home of Peter Humphries Clark, an African-American educator who helped found one of the first black public school systems in the United States in Cincinnati and successfully fought for the repeal of Ohio’s anti-black laws. Shea and her staff secured listing of the house on the National Register of Historic Places last year. Alderman Moore stated that he did not know who Clark was, but that the new subdivision on the site of the buildings would be named for him.
Citizens Anthony Coffin and Barbara Manzara testified in opposition to the demolition. Manzara recommended abolishing the local historic district ordinance in the Ville if there was no community support for historic preservation in the neighborhood. Notably, aside from the alderman, no residents of the Ville testified or sent letters supporting the demolition.
In July, Steve Patterson wrote about the incomplete state of Ville Phillips Estates. Read more: “Ville Phillips Estates Remains Unfinished Months After New Alderman Takes Office”