by Michael R. Allen
The storefront addition at 2620 S. Jefferson in Benton Park was perhaps inevitable. The three-story house with an unusually tall wrap-around mansard roof was built in 1900, and soon afterward was the only building in a quarter-block stretch to not sit at the sidewalk line. When a building was built at 2618 S. Jefferson next door in 1916, any advantage to having a proper front lawn eroded. This was a commercial district now.
The addition sits at the house floor level rather than at the sidewalk level, so its entrance is atop a few steps. The curved wall at the entrance sweeps one’s eye to the door. What is most lovely about this storefront addition is that its roof is actually a porch for the house, which received a door to access the space. The parapet wall even has a cut-away center carrying a section of iron railing — a charming gesture in keeping with the gentility of the elegant late Second Empire house. (Who was building Second Empire houses in 1900 anyhow? People who liked strange mansard dimensions, I guess.)