Thursday, April 26, 2007

3654 - 3660 Cook

In 1895 the four 3 story townhomes pictured above were built a few lots east of Scruggs Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, which was built in the previous decade at the corner of Cook & Spring. The highway like Spring Avenue we know today existed only as a series of two lane side streets. Grouped in two pairs to give the appearance of two large mansions, the townhomes were connected in the center to form one building. Each pair though was one property.

3654-56, boarded at left was most recently owned by LRA and had obviously been abandoned for many years, while 3658-60 was in private ownership was in relatively good shape when I first discovered these gems about 7 years ago.

The floor plan of each was essentially the same in each unit, with variations in fenestration and certain details such as the entrances.
The entrance of 3654 stood out a bit more lavish than the others with its columned recessed entry complete with marble wainscot and wood panels above.
Here the connection between the two pairs is visible. The fact that the 3rd story did not have a masonry party wall as the floors below did would later prove as a fatal design flaw for the group.
A beautiful detail above the entrance to 3660.
Inside, although not overly large, the townhomes were well appointed with wood paneling, arched entry's with fretwork, and heavy crown moldings in all the public rooms (living room of 3660 above). Beyond the front living room and entry hall, each townhome had a grand three story stair hall with a large (at least 6'x8') skylight which poured natural light down through the home and into the interior rooms.
A photo montage of the stair hall in 3656
The skylight above

As I mentioned it was obvious that the east pair had been abandoned for many years, and unfortunately, skylights can let water pour inside as well. When I first entered 3654, the skylight was already long gone and most of what had been the stairs and landings were in a pile in the basement... so was everything in the two story rear wing which would have contained the kitchen, rear stair and rear bedrooms. 3656 was in slightly better shape, although many areas of floor were obviously near collapse, such as that above the large central dining room.

Even with these conditions on the interior, I was convinced that the exceptional exterior warranted re-building the inside of the east pair. The west pair although un-occupied appeared from peeking in the windows to be in exceptional shape, with no water damage visible inside.
In the early morning of August 29 of last year fire struck the building. Its unclear where it started, but the result was that the remaining rear portions of 3654-56 were gutted throughout and the 3rd floor and the roofs of 3658-60 were completely destroyed. Photo at left from KSDK Channel 5's website.

The front of the townhomes after the fire
Damage in the stair hall of 3656
Everything beyond the stair hall of 3656 was completely gutted
Not long after the fire, the City commenced demolition of the east pair of townhomes, and on August 30, 2006 the west pair were condemned for demolition, which would be left up to the owners.
The turret of 3654 stood like a giant tomb stone as the
last remaining portion of the east half of the building

The remaining pairs last stand, marked for
destruction recently by the wreckers sign

Inside the front room of 3658. Although this potion of the exterior is
flat, the interior of the window wall was given a graceful curve
The fireplace on the first floor of the stair hall in 3658. Below looking up at the 3rd floor stair balcony and the open sky above. The Skylight frame had crash landed at the 2nd floor level over the opening to the first floor below. Further account of the impending demolition can be found on the Ecology of Absence Blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Demolition of 4011-21 Washington Proceeds

Demolition is began this week of the three homes on Washington that first caught my attention almost exactly a year ago. 4011 & 4021 had been bought by Saaman Corporation in late 2005 and 4019 in February 2006. All three had demolition permits applied for when I checked City records in early April 2006. When Alderman Terry Kennedy found out that the homes were to be demolished there were reports that he initially expressed a desire to have the homes rehabbed instead of demolished. Apparently Saaman was able to convince Kennedy that renovation was not feasible, and thus demolition moves forward.

This is an argument that would not be out of the realm of reality for Kennedy to believe, for as I mentioned in a post about the homes last year by Steve Patterson, two of the three were in pretty rough shape, and without historic tax credits, it could be tough to make the numbers work.

Here is the catch 22 though: Kennedy generally has not supported new historic districts or expansion of existing ones in his ward, because he claims that people on fixed incomes would be forced into spending more money to do improvements or renovations to their homes. What Kennedy fails to realize is that with historic district status, home owners can install better and more appropriate materials than they would ordinarily be able to afford because of the subsidy provided by the tax credit. Also, more historic districts would spur more rehabilitation of abandoned homes (such as the 3 on Washington) by developers because with the tax credits, the projects become profitable and desirable to do. It should be noted that according to City records, the estimated cost to demolish the three homes totals $72,500.00

Below are photos of the homes as they are being demolished taken yesterday morning and this evening. The scene of the three homes in a row in various stages of destruction reminds me of photos of areas near this block that were hit by a massive tornado in 1927.
4021 Washington
4019 Washington
4011 Washington

4011 was reduced to a rubble pile by this evening