Friday, April 20, 2012
A Needless Loss in the Central West End
I first started photographing the blocks of Washington Boulevard between Pendleton and Walton on the northern edge of the Central West End in the early 1990's when I was in college. This lovely home at 4411 Washington, with its large octagonal tower stood out as one of many favorites in these fanciful blocks.
On a sunny day in July 2010, I revisited the 44xx block of Washington Blvd. to photograph several of the houses and noticed that 4411 near the eastern end of the cul-de-saced block near Newstead now appeared to be abandoned, with it's front door boarded and windows broken out.
Detail of the pressed metal decoration at the bottom of the projecting tower.
The east wall of the house had lost a good portion of its face brick. This was not the work of brick thieves as evidenced by the pile of brick below the center collapse, but rather water and freeze-thaw cycles. The sides and rear of the house had an unusual cornice made up of six courses of corbeled brick projecting out about eight inches at the top. The gutter, which sat on the top of the projecting ledge, which likely failed, sending water right into the middle of the wall. While this looks very bad, the house still had two intact wythes of brick supporting the floors and roof, and at this point was a very repairable issue.
The home continued to sit unrepaired through two more winters.
By early spring this year though, the weather had taken its tole and caused the total collapse of the center wall and chimney of the east facade. However even in this state the floors of the rooms abutting the opening were barely sagging. With proper shoring, which would simply involve building a temporary stud wall inside the opening, the home could have been easily stabilized for repair.
Not being included in the Central West End historic district though, there was little if any financial incentive for the costly undertaking of re-building the collapsed portion of the wall or going farther with a full rehab of the home.
Above is a map of the east half of the Central West End Historic District. While the Central West End neighborhood extends up to Delmar, the historic district currently stops at the alley north of Olive, with Olive the dividing line between the 28th and 18th Wards. The area shades in blue was an expansion of the historic district that occurred in 2007. 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy has in the past been against widespread expansion of historic districts in his ward because he thinks they promote gentrification.
The area in shaded pink are blocks of Washington that would have been eligible for inclusion in the 2007 expansion of the CWE Historic District, but apparently Kennedy did not want it included. The parcel shaded red is 4411, which if it had been included in the historic district expansion would have been eligible for historic tax credits and would have had a greater chance of survival.
Terry Kennedy is concerned with gentrification, yet the block of Washington just east of the demolition at 4411 has seen a group of very nice new homes built in the in the last years, which according to the City of St. Louis property records have sold in a range between $410,000 and $550,000! Not exactly starter homes, or homes that many long time residents would be able to afford.
Three homes in the same block of 4411 show that the scale and character of the block is very much a part of the Central West End and very clearly eligible for inclusion in the historic district.
Right across the street from the three above are 4474 and 4476 Washington, a pair of beautiful but forlorn twins that are abandoned. Availability of historic tax credits would greatly increase the chances that these homes have for survival. The photo below shows that 4474, which appears to have suffered a fire in a rear room, is in serious need of stabilization. This beautiful home is still very savable, but with its condition and lack of financial incentive for its repair and renovation, I fear that it could end up the subject of a future post meeting the same fate as 4411 Washington.