The University News of St. Louis University is reporting that SLU has announced that it will close the Laclede Houses, a group of 3 two-family apartment buildings at 3741 Laclede and that the buildings will be demolished. The story states that the buildings will be closed at the end of the spring semester in 2013. The three buildings owned by SLU were acquired in 1999. The fourth building at left in the photo above (sans blue awning) is not owned by SLU. The buildings are located on Laclede between the newer University Village apartments to the west and the former Forest Pharmaceutical Building to the east. According to City of St. Louis property records, the buildings were built in 1892 and 1893. While the loss of these three buildings is somewhat less impactful due to loss of context and the fact that they don't stand out as highly significant from an architectural standpoint, the buildings are in livable sound condition. This statement by Joshua Walehwa, director of the Department of Housing and Residence Life summarizes SLU's stance on the buildings, and from past actions, seemingly their stance on everything around them: “The value of the houses compared to what it would cost to truly renovate them and put them on par with what our standards and expectations for housing are is way more expensive than the value of the houses.” This statement can be said of almost any old building that is in need of rehabilitation of its basic systems due to age and use but clearly illustrates SLU's values.
In stark contract to SLU's disregard, Washington University owns dozens of older apartment buildings in surrounding neighborhoods, mostly ranging from two to six-family buildings and several larger buildings. Many of these were acquired by Wash U in the late 90's when the owners of Parkview Properties decided to sell their portfolio. While the buildings had been maintained in very good shape over the years, like most buildings built in the early 20th century, their basic plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems needed attention. Last year, Washington University began implementing a program of complete renovation to these buildings, beginning with this pair at 6100 Pershing. This year, Wash U is renovating an additional three buildings closer to Skinker in what will be a multi-year project. Unlike SLU, Washington University has been able to see that there is value that goes beyond simple numbers.
Vanishing STL was created to illustrate the continuing loss of irreplaceable architecture from landmark buildings to ordinary homes due to demolition, abandonment and neglect. Often I write about structures threatened with demolition to bring awareness of the situation and promote preservation as an alternative. All photos are by Paul Hohmann unless noted otherwise.