Saturday, July 31, 2010

Morton D. May's Clayton Home Potentially in Danger

The International Style home at 12 Brentmoor Park was built in 1952 for Morton D. May, president of The May Department Stores Company. The home was designed by the architectural firm of Fischer-Campbell with a 1956 addition by Frederick Dunn.

The home has been for sale for several months now (not sure if the holstein is included), but I was recently made aware of the fact that it is being advertised by Gladys Manion Real Estate both for its potential to restore a mid-century masterpiece or as a tear-down!

The advertisement describes the home first as an asset to renovate but then does an about-face with: "Alternatively, this 1.39 acre flat lot would be an idyllic setting for your new dream home. Limitless potential in one of St. Louis' most desirable, centrally located neighborhoods".

The 1956 addition to the home by Frederick Dunn

You may recall that May had commissioned Architect Samuel Marx to design a larger International Style home on Warson Road in Ladue in 1941. This exquisite estate was demolished in 2005 and replaced with an over-bloated fake French chateau which turns its back side to the large meadow that May's home was designed to overlook. To even think that this house has even the remote possibility of meeting the same fate is maddening!

I was made aware of the potential peril of this unique house by artist Riha Rothberg, who now resides in New Mexico, but remembers the Brentmoor home from when the Mays lived there. Rothberg explained that she was momentarily "in the Twilight Zone" looking at my photos of May's demolished home on Warson Road since there were many features that are strikingly similar to this residence including the entrance shown above. 

The living room fireplace also bears resemblance to that of May's former home. The stairs beyond to the second level however are very ordinary when compared to Marx's exquisite floating helical staircase that greeted visitors upon entering the Warson Road residence.

The east wall of the living room is bathed with light from a feature unique to this home, a narrow linear skylight that occurs where the first floor base of the house pushes out beyond the rectangular second floor form which cantilevers over the terrace to the south. The west end of the house has the same feature (see to the right of the entrance above).

The property also includes this large garage/ carriage house. This was was part of 11 Brentmoor, designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1912 (the property was divided to build #12) Morton D. May's father Morton J. May, who was a co-founder of the Muny Opera, lived at number 11. The carriage house has an L shaped wing of living quarters off the back with its own small courtyard. The ensemble would make a very nice guest house to compliment the modern residence.

The more things change, the more they stay the same: This "secret" path still connects Brentmoor and West Brentmoor allowing residents to walk between the neighborhoods. Brentmoor, West Brentmoor and nearby Forest Ridge across Wydown encompass a National Register Historic District which makes a renovation the Morton D. May residence eligible for Missouri's 25% Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit.

UPDATE: While still listed as a potential tear-down, at my request, the agent for Gladys Manion added that the home is in a historic district and may be eligible for historic tax credits.


Anonymous said...

perhaps you could email gladys and suggest that she mention the tax credit eligibility in her listing?

Anonymous said...

i was just thinking that if the listing actually mentioned the tax credit it might attract prospective renovators who aren't aware of the incentive.

Anonymous said...

i've emailed them about including the tax credit info in the listing. will post back if they respond.

Vanishing STL said...

I emailed the agent as well and specifically asked if she would add that the property is eligible for historic tax credits. She responded that she would do this.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Does it hell it does!
Pray this house will not go the way of most all of St. Louis. The proof that we were once a spirited group with fresh original ideas is right there in front of us in buildings like the May house-as if begging us to take pride in ourselves. Instead we turn our backs on our accomplishments and deny our originality. What has happened to the minds of Midwesterners?

Dave said...

I am the son of the Campbell of Fiscer-Campbell. I am very proud to learn that my father's passion means so much to others. I thank you for your efforts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul! My husband & I recently purchased 12 Brentmoor Park. You will be happy to know that we plan on lovingly restoring it, NOT tearing it down. Thanks for highlighting some local gems!

Jeff said...

My name is Jeff Hochman. I own Chouteau Building Group, LLC. 314.781.1991. We have done numerous historical renovations. We also specialize in clean contemporary renovations, having done extensive work in the 801 South Skinker Building and the Lindell Terrace. We recently won Home of the Year for 2010 for a new contemporary home built on a bluff in South County. A few years ago we looked at doing a kitchen renovation and replacing the large bank of windows at 12 Brentmoor, however the homeowner did not go through with the project. We would love to be considered to do the renovation work on this house. We understand the nuances of doing this sort of work on this kind of house. Thanks.