by Michael R. Allen
Throughout 2009, the preservation community was startled by the February announcement by St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams that 17 schools were closing. Among the superintendent’s recommendations was the consolidation of Mann School (located at 4047 Juniata Avenue) in Tower Grove South with Sherman School in Shaw at the site of Mann School, which would be demolished for a new building.
Thankfully, that plan did not come to pass. Mann School survived the 2010 round of closings and Adams never again mentioned demolition or closure of the building, built in 1901 and 1916 according to designs by nationally-renowned master architect William B. Ittner.
Although Mann survived closure, the future of the building was not certain. That has changed. In May, the Special Administrative Board of the St. Louis Public Schools allotted contracts for restroom renovations and tuckpointing at the building. The investment in the building is good news to Tower Grove South, where Mann School is an important neighborhood anchor.
One of the reasons for Adams’ 2009 recommendation was the performance of students at this elementary school. Concerned neighbors formed the Alliance to Preserve Mann School, and parents and teachers worked on school performance. The closure proposal was a sobering reminder that architectural pedigree alone does not keep schools open. Public buildings are expressions of public culture. Mann’s construction reflected the ideals of the early 20th century, and its maintenance today reflects continued neighborhood investment in the school’s future.