Wednesday, February 28, 2007

39-40xx Washington - Part 5 - Three in limbo

Last year I was driving this block as I often do on my way downtown, when I decided I should check the City's property database to check the status of the three houses below. I had recently seen two of them advertised for sale in the Post. Much to my dismay, I found that all three had demolition permits applied for them. They had all recently purchased by Saaman Corporation, a local developer that has been one of the more prolific builders at the nearby Gaslight Square development.
4011 Washington
4019 Washington
4021 Washington
Prior to starting my own blog, I alerted Steve Patterson of the situation, and with some photos I sent him, he did an extensive post on Urban Review STL last April. Clicking on any of the photos in the post will send you to Steve's Flickr page where about a dozen additional photos of the homes may be seen. Shortly after, fellow blogger Doug Duckworth met with 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy. Kennedy was apparently unaware of the proposed demolitions, and expressed some a desire to have them renovated instead of demolished. In early May 06, Doug reported that Kennedy had halted the demolitions. Recently however, Kennedy has not responded to emails about the houses from Doug. See his accounts here.

What ultimately happens to these three homes remains to be seen. This block as many of you may be aware is just a block north and east of the highly successful Gaslight Square development on Olive (this will be the subject of a future post), and the block of Washington west of Sarah is currently seeing new construction and multiple renovations.

These massive homes built between 1883 and 1900 and with square footage's of 3,196, 4,770 & 4,837 could be a showcase renovation project. Being this large, the homes would probably need to sell $6-700,000's to cover the costs of renovation. While this is likely too high for this block at this time, it would be more feasible to split the homes into two or three condos each and sell them in the $300,000's, which is very comparable to Gaslight Square. This is the same concept that was done at Maryland Place with the old homes on Maryland Avenue. To add additional revenue as well as density into the project, smaller carriage house units could be added over new garage structures at the rear of the property. This was successfully done in a development called Laguna Court in Santa Barbara, which also features three renovated historic homes. Maryland Place also is building carriage house units (but are smaller and will be owned by the townhome condo owners).

Laguna Court (photo from promotional literature), at left is the row of carriage house units at the rear of the property and at right is the rear portion of the renovated homes. Using a similar development plan on Washington could yield upwards of 12-13 units total. This is more units on the same property than could be had by demolishing the homes and building townhomes similar to Gaslight Square.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Help save 2 buildings in Old North Stl. & possibly an entire historic district

If this site depresses you or makes you angry about the buildings we are losing (that's my point), then here's a chance to get involved directly:

This Monday February 26 at 4:00 pm, the City of St. Louis Preservation Board will decide on an application to demolish two contributing buildings in the Murphy Blair National Register Historic District, which comprises the majority of the Old North St. Louis neighborhood. The buildings are pictured below from the board's online agenda.
While these building are significant themselves, the greater concern is that their loss could lead the State Historic Preservation Office of Missouri to revoke the entire district's listing on the National Register due to the high number of demolitions that have occurred since the district's inception in 1984. The SHPO has already given an official warning that the loss of additional buildings could lead to a re-evaluation. This would be absolutely devastating to the Old North neighborhood, which has seen as great surge of Historic Tax Credit renovations in the last several years.

Preservation Board meetings are public meetings, and for each item, public comments are taken as part of the board's consideration process. All you have to do is show up and sign up to speak. Preservation Board meetings are held in the conference room of the SLDC offices at 1015 Locust Street, 12th floor.

If you cannot attend, you can email written comments to the Preservation Board Secretary Adonna Buford at: BufordA(at)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

39-40xx Washington - Part 4

The most recent demolition on this block took place just a few months ago, when 4049 came down. When viewed from the street, 4049 Washington had the appearance of a typical 4 family apartment building built in the 1920's.
However, when viewed from the sides, it was clear that this was not the case. What reveals itself is the detailed brick and stone work of a mini mansion, which according to City records, was built in 1887. Its 6,000 s.f. neighbor to the east, built in 1891 was renovated for use as a bed & breakfast a few years ago.

At some point, the mansion was given a face lift, which totally changed its appearance from the front, it was doubled in size by adding to the rear, and converted to a residential hotel. Why would someone do this you ask?

My theory is that the change took place as a result of the massive tornado that ripped through the neighborhood in 1927. Many homes that were partially destroyed were re-built in the style of the day instead of being restored to their original appearance. There are still many examples of remaining buildings in the area that show this hodge podge of styles. By 1927, the area had changed from being a fashionable place to build a large home to one which attracted more renters.

Above is the west elevation of the original portion of the building. The slight change in brick color indicates the addition.
A tall stone trimmed window on the east side at the home's main stair.
A pair of intricately carved stone brackets at to top of the bay on the west side likely one supported a cantilevered portion (probably a large dormer) of the long gone 3rd floor.
Intricate stone and brick detailing over a triple window on the west side of the house.
By the time of the demolition, it was obvious that the building had been abandoned for many years (CSB reports list it vacant at least since 1996), and a portion of the 1920's addition had begun to collapse into the basement bringing down a part of the west wall.
Unfortunately in this case, attempting to restore the original house would have been extremely difficult due to the fact that the original front wall had been completely replaced , not just covered over. The original roof configuration which likely contained at least a partial third floor was also removed in the alteration.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Remembering The Century

Today's snowfall reminded me of a photograph that I took exactly 13 months ago... and still haunts me to this day every time I look at it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

39-40xx Washington - Part 3

By winter 1994-95 it was apparent that this massive home at 4058 Washington (5,832 sq.ft. according to city records) which had been occupied was now vacant and not well secured. Given the fate of its neighbors to the west, I feared the worst. Fortunately, in 1998, someone purchased the home for $12,000 and did a complete renovation. Although the new windows and doors are far from historically accurate, this seems rather inconsequential considering that this building and a funeral home farther east are the last two original homes left on the south side of the block.

UPDATE: In 2008 SLU purchased this renovated mansion and immediately demolished it for seemingly no reason!Two lots to the east stood this fine Italianate home at 4040 that although abandoned was in relatively good condition. In 1999 SLU purchased a convent that was located mid-block to establish a place to hold retreats. Although they kept all of the convent buildings, they immediately bulldozed this house, planted some grass, built a small parking lot, that would have easily fit on two additional vacant lots east of 4040, and surrounded the entire enlarged property with their ubiquitous black iron fence.
Farther east, beyond the old convent and funeral home stood this handsome Second Empire styled home. Once fairly common in the Midtown area east of Sarah, the prevalence of homes of this style have been almost completely erased. This one was demolished in the fall of 1996 and replaced with a one story expansion of the funeral home and a parking lot.
While searching for old photos of another building online recently, I stumbled upon this photo of an unusual but beautiful home that was once located at 3958 Washington, just east of the old funeral home. I do not know when this one disappeared.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

39-40xx Washington - Part 2

Just to the west of 4060 was this beautiful but abandoned federal revival style home at 4064 rendered in a golden colored roman brick with horizontal reveals framed by continuous limestone sill courses below the windows at each floor. This was the appearance of the home at the time I photographed the collapsing burn victim to the east.

Once 4060 was demolished, I returned that summer to photograph again.
Although abandoned for some time, the home was still a prime candidate for rehab at this point.
In spring 1994 I drove down Washington and my heart sank as I saw that the home had recently burned and was reduced to a shell. Even as a shell though, this type of brick construction would cost a fortune to re-create today.
The masonry was largely in sound structural condition, and possible to salvage with new construction inside. Many homes in the CWE, Soulard, and now Old North Stl. have been re-built with less than this intact.
By the following winter though, the beautiful masonry structure had been deemed worthless by someone and plowed into the ground, leaving only the two trees which once framed the view of home. A few years later, I happened to be find the exact same home model at #7 Windemere Place, which is located off Union a few blocks north of Delmar. City records indicate that this house was built in 1902.
The house next door (4068) at the west end of the block had a small amount of fire damage to the roof from the blaze at 4064, yet it managed to survive ten more years until it disappeared in January 2004.