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 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.