by Michael R. Allen
Toenges Avenue has a three block run west of Carondelet Park. Its street faces are lined with the outstanding 20th century revival-style masonry architecture that prevails across the Holly Hills neighborhood. On Toenges, as with each of the city’s streets, the saying that no two houses in St. Louis are completely alike rings true. Want proof for the saying? Take your pick from ten thousand examples.
Today’s proof are near-twin houses on the north side of Toenges between Ray and Leona. Shown above is the two-story house at 4079 Toenges, built in 1928. The wide eclectic net of Craftsman practice in St. Louis was cast upon this dwelling, producing a marvelously lop-sided gable and a finely-detailed front chimney. In fact, sight of that chimney caused this writer to take the photograph shown here. (I was out in the field on a subcontractor assignment, surveying garages in the area of Holly Hills north of Holly Hills Avenue.)
The step, shed rise of the chimney is made even more lovely by the red brick trace course against the ochre brick body. That same rise pattern repeats on the buttress at left, except only the shed bricks are in red. Then the red segmental arches and earmolds above each window play a trick on the first floor, where unlike the second floor tried-and-true arch profile the arches are set within a square-cornered head. Delightfully strange, to be sure!
Back to the premise of the no-two-houses saying. Just a few doors east is the house at 4071 Toenges, also dating to 1928 and nearly identical to the other house. Of course, the fenestration, roof line and side buttress are copied, but little of the detailing is similar. (The false stone porch cladding is nor original, by the way.) The brick body is a robust brown, with none of the dazzling drama of the ochre and red contrast. The biggest difference is that the chimney profile here is a simple shed-slant style, with no stepped rise.
Two houses — so close and yet so distinctly unique! Ah, but in St. Louis this relationship is not news, so forgive this writer for taking your time on just one of thousands of such discoveries across our built environment.