Historic Preservation North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

What Happens to Hopmann Cornice?

by Michael R. Allen

Hopmann Cornice is a family-owned business located at 2573 Benton Street in St. Louis Place, between Parnell and Jefferson. Hopmann Cornice has been manufacturing tin and copper cornices, gutters and downspouts since 1880, and has been housed in the larger building here since 1883 (the house to the west was subsumed into the operation later).

Hopmann is an inspiration — a company that has done the same thing for over 125 years, with few complaints from customers. Nowadays, a lot of Hopmann’s work is repair and replacement of historic cornices. Sometimes Hopmann ends up replicating and repairing its own historic work.

While Hopmann’s buildings aren’t historically perfect (note the metal siding covering the second floor as well as the boarded windows), the facility is serviceable, tidy and historically living. In many ways, the Hopmann buildings are more historically correct under continuous use than they would be with a fancy rehabilitation (which they do not require).

Of course, Hopmann’s buildings are far more likely to disappear than to be rehabilitated. Sensient to the west has bought out much of the land surrounding Hopmann for its large plant. Hopmann Cornice also is in the middle of McEagle’s NorthSide project, and more precisely is located in the southern end of one of the project’s planned industrial/commercial hubs. In fact, on the slide that McEagle showed at a meeting on May 21, this block of Benton Street is gone, and the Hopmann buildings along with it.

Hopmann’s building also appears on the TIF application for the project that McEagle submitted to the city last week. However, according to McEagle, that list contained some properties that they do not wish to purchase and they will resubmit the property list soon.

Perhaps McEagle has no use for the Hopmann Cornice land, and perhaps it won’t appear on the new list. Perhaps Hopmann Cornice will accept relocation. However, the project should defer to Hopmann and other long-time small businesses. These businesses are the existing job centers, generating work and city revenue. There is no need to displace good commercial stewards, and alderwomen April Ford-Griffin (D-5th) and Marlene Davis (D-19th) would do well to stand by these businesses. If they don’t want to be on the list of needed properties, they should not have to be. In the case of Hopmann, we have a business that is not only a stable long-time business but one that does unique and important work. If anything, McEagle may want to get Hopmann’s bids on the historic rehabilitation itemized in the sources and uses section of the TIF application. No one else will do the work quite like that!