Sunday, May 27, 2007

3740 Lindell - SLU Continues Poor Track Record in Preservation

As reported recently by Urban Review STL, St. Louis University continues its poor track record in historic preservation as it plans to demolish yet another building in the Midtown National Register Historic District. This time it is a stately mansion that is in the way of a future entrance to their to be re-vamped law school. According to City records, the mansion was built in 1904, however its Second Empire suggests it may have been earlier. The structure currently houses the university's Center for Counseling & Family Therapy.

The new addition and the existing law building will be clad in the Gothic style of the older buildings on campus. Ironically SLU demolished one of these buildings, DeSmet Hall, which was formed part of the original quad, in 1977.
The mansion's massive front windows are framed by decorative limestone moldings
A detail of the mansions beautiful entrance. The projecting canopy appears to have been given a frontal lobotomy at some point.
A view of the rear of the mansion with Lindell Towers and the Coronado across the street. The larger Romanesque style mansion to the east, which was connected to the law school during a previous renovation fortunately will remain. Apparently to SLU the Second Empire style does not have as much curb appeal and is therefore expendable. Another building west of the mansion, which lacked architectural distinction has already been demolished.
A detail of the window heads of the rear wing of the mansion

3740 Lindell is not the first mansion to be demolished for the law school as evidenced by the photo below from the nomination for the Midtown Historic District taken in 1977. The location of the mansion on the left is currently a courtyard with a fountain that sits between the Romanesque mansion and the current law school building which was completed in 1980.

The rendering below, from SLU's website shows the proposed expansion and re-cladding of the existing law school. It appears that there would be room to keep the mansion at 3740 in the space between the Romanesque mansion and the wing of the law school to the west. It is unclear if the wing to the west is new or simply a re-cladding of the existing modern style building at 3750 Lindell. The width of the existing building and its entrance appear to align with those in the rendering. It is also apparent that there would have been room for the mansion demolished for the 1980 building to remain in the fenced space east of the Romanesque mansion. Both of these scenarios would require SLU to come to terms with the fact that it is an urban campus. Here are a few examples of the many buildings that SLU has demolished over the years. Below is a photo from the nomination for the Midtown Historic District showing the Marina Building that stood at Grand and Lindell until 2002. Below that is a photo showing the building as it appeared when it was built, complete with corner towers and a decorative cornice that had been removed. Instead of renovating, which could have encouraged other adjacent but smaller development on the Jack-in-the-Box site, it was demolished in hopes that something bigger and better would be developed on the site. Five years later, SLU currently has out its second RFP for this site, and it remains to be seen what will ultimately get built (hopefully something worth the wait).

On the west end of campus, SLU demolished both the 7 story Olympia Apartments (see earlier post) in 1993 and in 1995, Preston Bradshaw's unusual Spanish Colonial Revival styled Vesper Buick building. The 1927 Vesper building had been built as an auto dealership, but is today a parking lot (logic error). The Olympia site is a parking lot as well.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Gasometer finally falls

In January, I posted about the impending demolition of the Laclede Gasometer at Chouteau & Newstead. For several months I wondered why nothing seemed to be happening, but I happened to be passing through FPSE last week and saw that it is finally being dismantled.
Just east of the Gasometer across Newstead stands a 2-story brick building on the corner of a mostly vacant block. The building is owned by Forest West Properties, who last year demolished several other buildings on the block. It appears that the corner building recently burned, and is currently being demolished as well.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Switzer Building will come down Monday night

Beginning at 10pm tomorrow night the 133 year old Switzer Building will be demolished. The Eads Bridge is scheduled to be closed for several days, but given the building's current state, it will likely not take that long for it to come down. Unfortunately what doomed the building was not just the major storm damage that occurred last July, which brought down much of the east and a portion of the south wall of the building. The owners who were dedicated to preserving the building were planning to re-build even after such a catastrophic event. The National Park Service however deemed that after the storm, there was not enough of the building left to be eligible for tax credits. Without the tax credits, the economics of re-building became unfeasible.

While this is somewhat of an extreme case of the condition to which a historic building can deteriorate, it illustrates how important the tax credits can be in determining if a building is preserved or demolished. Today I went down and shot several dozen photos on the building on it's last day including the ones below.

It has been reported that the the owners intend to preserve the small attached buildings just north of the Switzer... if they are not crushed by the wall towering above them.
There is also talk that the owners will be keeping the cast iron storefront as well as what limestone trim that can be salvaged, and that they have not ruled out the possibility of rebuilding a replica of the building, or possibly a shorter version.