Historic Preservation Mullanphy Emigrant Home North St. Louis Old North People

Creating a Preservation Fund

by Michael R. Allen

In a post entitled “A Dedicated Fund For Historic Preservation In STL?” at STL Rising, Rick Bonsach raises the point that St. Louis lacks a dedicated emergency historic preservation fund. The existence of such a fund would have aided Old North St. Louis with stabilizing the storm-damaged Mullanphy Emigrant Home (pictured above in the “better” days of December 2006).

Bonasch suggests that the topic be discussed among those who attend tonight’s fundraiser for the Mullanphy (at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood from 5-7:30 p.m.; details here).

The discussion should continue past tonight. With rising interest in historic preservation in north side neighborhoods hampered by strong weather, arson and metal thieves, such a fund could establish a sustainable effort to ensure that some funds are available for emergency stabilization. Such a fund could empower neighborhoods who might otherwise consider demolition as the only practical option. Many neighborhoods on the north side are far from having strong markets for historic buildings, but with assistance will undoubtedly reach that point.

The first response to Bonasch in his comments section is dismissive and seems to presuppose government footing the bill for the fund. Bonasch replies that he envisions the private sector administering the fund. After all, the Mullanphy effort has yet to collect a dollar of city money — and probably will not. The momentum is building regardless.

(Some have joked that instead of a preservation fund what is most urgently needed is an advocacy group against our new forms of severe weather.)

Bonasch’s post raises interesting questions:

Does St. Louis have the energy and vision to continue working for emergency stabilization efforts after the Mullanphy is rebuilt?

Can we sustain the effort foe years to come?

Can we successfully collect money for the effort in the absence of a targeted project like the Mullanphy?

Are there existing organizations or people who may have established a suitable foundation for such work?

Should city government be involved?

Would St. Louisans be willing to have any tax money go into the creation of such a fund?

Are their existing municipal funds that could be used for stabilization instead of demolition?