by Michael R. Allen
On March 24, the Preservation Board of the City of St. Louis considered an application by the congregation of Resurrection of Our Lord Church to remove an original wall and construct a grotto. Designed by Murphy & Mackey and completed in 1954, Resurrection of Our Lord Church became a City Landmark in 1976. The City Landmark status allowed the Preservation Board to review the proposal to remove the wall; otherwise there would be no legal protection. The Board voted to defer the matter pending consultation with a registered architect. I submitted the following testimony in my capacity as Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis:
In Murphy & Mackey’s design for Resurrection of Our Lord Church, both building and site plan are integrated elements. The architects undertook a total design of the lot so that each element is an intentional part of the church, and cannot be removed and altered without causing alteration to the total composition. The wall running along the courtyard demarks the courtyard entrance space from the private and less formal realm on the other side. The presence of the wall heightens the religious experience of entering the church with a mind cleared of worldly concerns.
The City Landmark protection extends to the entire design. While placement of the grotto on the site is an intrusion on the original design, it is both reversible and a reasonable concession to the current congregation’s right to use the property.
However, removal of the wall would be a permanent disfiguring of the landmark design. The Preservation Board should not allow removal of the wall. The staff recommendation is a fair compromise.