North St. Louis The Ville

“Sarah-Lou” Building at Risk

by Michael R. Allen

If photographs of its old neon sign measured anything, the “Sarah-Lou” building at the northeast corner of St. Louis and Sarah avenues in the Greater Ville is a winner. Although the building has been abandoned for years, its sign for the famous, shuttered Sarah-Lou Cafe attracts a great deal of attention.  Alas, the attention the building needs to attract is that of an owner willing  to rehabilitate the fine corner mixed-use building.

The building, which dates to 1906, was condemned for demolition in the year of its centennial. This year, the city erected a fence around the building to protect the sidewalks from falling clay tiles.  The tiles’ fall was triggered by damage caused through theft of the metal guttering. Yet the privately-owned building is far from a wreck.

A look at the rear wall shows no structural problems with the masonry walls.  Someone wisely demolished a sagging frame porch that had been enclosed and which provided access to the second floor.  Beyond the holes in the roofs of the false gables, the roof seems sound.  Hopefully someone will come along and rescue this building, which is one of four two-story corner mixed-use buildings at the intersection.  This is the only one that is vacant, and it also happens to be the most architecturally stunning of the group.

8 replies on ““Sarah-Lou” Building at Risk”

But if we demolished it, we could provide a much needed parking lot to serve the other three corners.

To Chris- Demolish it? The most “architecturally stunning” one of the group? Doesn’t seem what this site is all about. Otherwise it would be named “Demolition Research” 🙂

Thanks for your posts Michael- I appreciate you sharing your passion with us who care as much as you.

oh good. 🙂 that’s the hard part about not being able to hear the tone in someone’s written word.

Well, I agree. However, understanding the NEIGHBORHOOD must be brought to bare. Ironically, this area is pretty much populated, but it’s not in one of the most desirable areas, I can say that because I graduated from high school in this area, Sumner High. The problem lies in someone investing in an area where they might not realize a decent ROI. While I am passionate about saving these “jewels” what must go hand in hand with saving the buildings, is saving the people and establishing an improved quality of life in these core neighborhoods. None of my friends are “dying” to move in this area. Pun intended, and not too many are dying to throw the money away that it is going to take to do this building properly.

I love these old “jewels” perhaps more than you all, I rehabbed one, yet, what causes us to loose more of them everyday, is the piecemeal approach. The major reason I am for development on a large scale is because more of an impact can be made by improving entire neighborhoods and major people needs can and must be addressed. Looking at these pictures and going, “OOOOhhhhh, Ahhhhh” is noble to say the least, but responsible development must address QUALITY OF LIFE, comps in the surrounding neighborhoods, that make it economically viable for folks to invest in an undertaking of this sort. We must also be as passionate about people as we are bricks. It is indeed a diamond in the rough, one of the roughest neighborhoods around!

Yes, it can be salvaged, if the people surounding it are salvaged as well! This is a fact we must give attention to, especially in a city that has lost more than half of it’s population in a 35 year period! Why are we loosing people that could live in these fine brick structures? A poor quality of life causing folks to head for the hills. Let’s not hug the bricks without hugging the people. Selah!!!

PS, for those who really care, answer the Macedonian call, “COME ON OVER to Macedonia and help us.” Help us by rehabbing and moving into some of these “jewels”. Lots to go around.

I am 74 years old, and lived at 4100 block of Labadie and remember going to the Sara Lou
Cafe for calf brain sandwiches, and on Fridays fried jack salmon fish plates, fried shrimp
ordered from a “walk up” window(you didnt have to enter the tavern just to order food)
because there were no drive throughs back in the day. on fridays and saturdays were the
two biggest days for take home meals, this place was a landmark for many years and I am sorry
the building has fallen into decay.

I lived in the 4000 block of Maffitt for years and I used to peel shrimp in the basement with the owner’s son as a summer job. Covered with shell dust and stinkin’, it was an honest buck and I loved it. Hidden in the weeds in front was the only working freight elevator in the neighborhood that I knew of; we took deliveries almost every day.

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