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Adaptive Reuse Housing Schools South St. Louis Tower Grove East

Grant School

by Michael R. Allen

LOCATION: 3009 Pennsylvania Avenue; Tower Grove East Neighborhood; Saint Louis, Missouri
DATES OF CONSTRUCTION: 1893; 1902 (southern addition); 1965 (gymnasium)
ARCHITECTS: August H. Kirchner (original building); William B. Ittner (1902 addition only)
DATE OF ABANDONMENT: 1983 – 2005
OWNER: Cohen-Esrey Development LLC

A dramatic transformation took the abandoned Grant School, which the St. Louis Public Schools closed in 1983, from a state of decay to one of restoration. Cohen-Esrey Development purchased the school building in 2005 and completed a multi-million-dollar renovation using state historic rehab tax credits. The new use is a complete change from the original purpose: now Grant School houses apartments for senior citizens.

This is a good turn in the life of the school, which was on the brink of terrible changes. Water coming in through the broken cupola had rotted a lot of the flooring and compromised structural timbers. The hipped-roof school building is one of the schools built while August Kirchner was chief architect for the Board of Education and was completed in 1893. Kirchner’s symmetrical Romanesque Revival design with prominent center gable is not as innovate as the later schools of architect William B. Ittner, but nonetheless is a significant expression of the local vernacular in native red brick and limestone. A later addition by Ittner is unobtrusive and adds a distinctive projecting bay that was hidden for many years behind a modern gymnasium addition that the developers demolished. The school building, named for Ulysses S. Grant, replaced the old Gravois School at Gravois Avenue and Wyoming Street that had opened in 1867 to serve the growing south side.

Photographs from August 17, 2006 (Michael R. Allen)

Photographs from November 2003 (Michael R. Allen)

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