by Michael R. Allen
After nearly 120 years since the last documented flounder house was built in the city of St. Louis — and so many have gone undocumented, so who knows when the last was built — the flounder house is back! A new flounder house is under construction in Old North St. Louis on Hebert Street just west of 19th Street. Habitat for Humanity is building the house, continuing its commitment to both green construction and smart modern design. The rendering above shows what the house will look like when completed.
The house prominently displays the characteristic that makes a flounder house a unique building type: a roof that slopes from one side of the building to the other with no offset. Many flounders display this plain, simple slope, a roof form that has been traced back to southern European architecture of the Renaissance. Other flounders have a front hip with part of the roof sloping down toward the front. In the United States, the flounder form has been found mostly in the south. New Orleans, Savannah and Alexandria all have documented flounders. Philadelphia has flounders. St. Louis has as many as 160, but probably had many more at the end of the 19th century. Almost all surviving local examples are brick, but there are several frame flounder houses remaining in New Orleans. For a long time, architectural historians studied the flounder as a phenomenon but recent study has found traceable historic roots and has turned up more examples in a diverse range of cities. Still unknown is why flounders are found some places but not others, and why St. Louis has so many.
There are other flounder houses remaining in Old North. This selection leaves a few out, so go take a look around for yourself to see more.
The one-and-a half-story flounder at 1422 Hebert Street is owned by Paul J. McKee’s Northside Regeneration LLC, as is the small side-gabled home next door and a larger brick house at the alley behind 1422. The future of all three sadly remains uncertain.