Sunday, March 16, 2008

SLU Strikes Again! Destroying the Wagner House at 3438 Samuel Shepard

St. Louis University continues it's Midtown demolition rampage this month with the senseless destruction of the Wagner House at 3438 Samuel Shepard (formerly Lucas Avenue). The home is one of the last stone limestone faced Italianate Victorians left in the Grand Center area, and one of only three homes left on the Samuel Shepard for several blocks east of Grand Avenue. Midtown was once filled with homes like this that today are most commonly found in Lafayette Square and are also sprinkled through several neighborhoods in north St. Louis.

The historic building exterminators at SLU are wasting no time with this one. According to City records, they acquired the home on February 29, 2008, and were issued the demolition the same day! When I arrived at dusk this past Wednesday, workers were carrying out salvaged millwork.

The home has sat vacant for many years, but it is still very much intact. While the roof and cornice on the east side are damaged, and a few pieces of stone veneer on the front have fallen off, the masonry structure itself shows no signs of distress. The home could have easily been put on the market as a rehab opportunity.
So what will become of the site? SLU owns the small pocket park to the west and a tiny parcel containing a garage structure that sits between the house, corner lot and the alley. Will SLU build yet another parking lot!?

This photo is taken from Jesephine Baker, two blocks east of Grand shows a parking lot recently built by SLU on the southwest corner. The Wagner House is in the cneter of the photo, just left of the trees. On the north side of Samuel Shepard, is a sea of asphalt extending non-stop to Grand (minus a small sculpture park and concrete block screen wall). I think the area has enough surface parking!
The view north of Samuel Shepard across from the Wagner house.

The doomed house is not in complete isolation.
The Stockton House sits just west of Teresa next to a large parking lot where the Missouri Theater auditorium once stood and has been lovingly restored over the last few decades by architect Frederick Medler. (Photo above by Kevin Kieffer on Built St. Louis).

Just east there is the impressive Ives House owned and well maintained by Father Dempsey's, who's main building is located on Washington (rear visible to the right of the house). Together, the three homes create a small oasis amid the rolling tide of asphalt that overtakes this area of Grand Center. Soon however due to SLU's continued short-sighted thinking, the Stockton and Ives will be left floating alone. A photo of the Wagner House with it's stone veneer still intact can be seen here on Built St. Louis.

4 comments:

john w. said...

It's hauntingly similar to the Italianate Pruitt's store building at the corner of St. Louis Ave. and Glasgow that was pulled down last month. About half of what happens in this city regarding the built environment just doesn't make sense. If we already have what we will certainly ruefully miss, why even consider tearing it down? It's rather like trading a $20 bill for $10 bill, and calling it a reasonable exchange.

Chris said...

And what is so freaking insane is that Grand Center is backing the building of those 7 new glass box houses on Grandel Square. Uh, hello, there's already houses in the area, but SLU is tearing them down!

Seriously though, I think part of the problem is that Grand Center has been packaged as the "Arts District" and not as a upscale neighborhood of Italianate houses. The Italianate houses date to Grand Center's earlier life as a tony residential neighborhood before the coming of the Fox and St. Louis Theaters. Leaders in Grand Center lack the vision to realize that Grand Center can have many facets to its identity, not just one.

john w. said...

I agree. While I can appreciate the daring modernism of the proposed townhouses (Cannon?), I think the EXISTING beauty of the architectural history of this area MUST take precedence. The fine, modernist townhomes are the $10 bill.

Anonymous said...

From having once been the youngest resident (of recent times) to live in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Saint Louis, this news is truly disheartening. Sincerest thanks to SLU for destroying yet another fragment of memory from my childhood in Saint Louis!!! I lived on Samuel Shepard / Lucas for a number of years & like many of my cousins to visit "back home", the remaining residents of Midtown are referred to as being "Guardians of a Legacy".

Hats off to people like Stanley Jones, Janece Henry and Frederick Medler for guarding these monuments; shame to poorly advised administrators like SLU. Shame!