by Michael R. Allen
People who attended Monday’s St. Louis Preservation Board meeting might have expected a proposed demolition opposed by two aldermen to be the most contentious issue. Wrong. That status went to a case where homeowners on Maryland Avenue in the Central West End proposed installing insert-style replacement windows on their homes. Such window replacement is not allowed under the standards of the Central West End Local Historic District, because the installation changes architectural detailing and does not address the structural failure of wood that is then covered up by a new window unit. (If the wood is rotten, broken or damaged, it will be the same when it gets covered up.)
The owners and their window salesman (the same guy had both customers) made earnest arguments for allowing their use, but none of the arguments addressed the local historic district standards. Clearly, the salesman was not familiar with the ordinance, and he was the one who is trying to sell the windows to the homeowners over types that might have complied. He is one of many salesman or installers who have appeared before the Preservation Board. What distinguishes him is that he came to the Board before attempting to install the wrong windows.
The Board denied the application, but the matter raised a question in my mind: What if one of the requirements for obtaining a business license for window sales and/or installation was passing a written test demonstrating knowledge of the city’s design and historic preservation ordinances?