Earlier this year I was panning around the central corridor on Google Maps and stumbled across this horrific site on Page Boulevard just west of Kingshighway. Two homes had been demolished, but the pattern of debris almost gave the appearance that the homes had exploded.
I took a look at the Streetview and was stunned when I saw the facade of the west demolition.
Checking Geo St. Louis, I found some better images. Although the house has lost it's porch roof and part of the facing to the right of the window above, lost the top of it's parapet and has been painted, the stone facade with 2-story bay and ornamentation still reads as a beautiful architectural composition. Built St. Louis featured this home on it's tour of Page Boulevard including a photo from 1998 prior to the loss of the porch roof.
The home at 5069 Page was listed as an emergency demolition completed in May 2010. A view of the east side shows that the face brick had fallen off of a good portion of the side bay. The top chimney toward the rear of the home also appears to be bulging. While both serious conditions, I would not consider either of these an emergency. This Google Streetview is somewhat distorted and makes it appear the the entire building was leaning, which the frontal views show was not the case.
The other demolition at 5053 Page was also listed as an emergency demolition completed on the same date in 2010. It is unknown what condition prompted the demolition.
Additional images on Geo St. Louis show homes to the west and east of 5053. This one at 5061-63 Page was demolished in July 2008.
This photo shows an all too common reason that this one was demolished.
Three lots east of 5053, this house at 5047 was condemned in February 2004, likely due to fire damage visible in this 2006 photo.
The house was demolished in July 2008.
There are several things about the home next door at 5045 Page that would make some preservationists cringe, but the home is occupied and being maintained (new roof and siding at the gable since the previous photo), which is more than can be said for many buildings along Page Boulevard.
This Streetview before the 2010 demolitions shows what was a fairly intact block face along the north side of Page between Kingshighway and Academy. Google updated their imagery later this year, now showing the large vacant plot on the middle of the block. The boarded house in the middle of the Streetview above will probably also be lost soon, as the Google aerial shows extensive roof collapse. This view shows that you can now see through the back of the house. City records indicate that it was condemned in February 2010. Across the street a supportive housing facility was completed in 2006 on the site of several ornate 4-family buildings that had been previously demolished between 2000 and 2002. Once again, Built St. Louis is an invaluable resource as more photos from the Page Boulevard tour show one of the buildings demolished on this site and another just east of the new facility on a lot that is still vacant today. Unfortunately, not much has changed since those photos were taken ten years ago, and we continue to lose buildings along Page at an alarming rate. The two survivors in this row that according to a 1909 Sanborn map once numbered eight buildings are a stark contrast. One is very well maintained and occupied, while the other since the Built St. Louis photo of 1998 has lost its porch roof and has deteriorated. The abandoned building at 5038-40 Page is split into two parcels, both owned by the LRA and the east half was condemned by the City in July 2009. A rear view shows a minor collapse at the east half that is the probable cause of the condemnation as well as some loss of the outer wythe of brick at the west half. At this point this building is very much a savable structure, but something needs to be done soon to prevent further degradation. This is one of the many cases where several hundred dollars spent in temporary stabilization now could save thousands of our tax dollars in demolition cost a few years from now, not to mention slow the hemorrhaging loss of building stock.
The historic Pond Hotel in Wildwood is in imminent danger of being demolished. The hotel is located at the intersection of Manchester and Pond Roads in the small community of Pond, which dates from the 1830's. Pond was never incorporated and became part of Wildwood when it incorporated in 1995. Photo above from The Past in Our Presence - Historic Buildings in St. Louis County. A recent photo accompanying a Suburban Journal article about the hotel shows the roof has collapsed at one of the rear wings of the building, causing the City of Wildwood to consider demanding either demolition or restoration of the building. The Pond Hotel has been owned by Scott Keller since 1995. He had planned to renovate the hotel and open a microbrewery, but said that plans had stalled due to lack of adequate sewers in the area and lack of further development along Manchester Road west of the Wildwood Town Center, which is about 1.5 miles east of the hotel. Another article in the Eureka - Wildwood Patch from 2011 mentioned that the Wildwood Historic Preservation Commission would discuss the Pond Hotel at a meeting on January 26, 2012. The first comment below the story mentions that the Preservation Commission decided at the meeting to have the Wildwood City Engineer inspect the building before a final decision is made about its fate. The more recent article in the Suburban Journal does not mention the inspection, but indicates the city had asked the owner to remove the structure, but did not give a deadline to do so. A quote from Joe Vujnich, Wildwood's director of planning and parks implies that with the recent roof collapse the city may soon press Keller to do something about the building. Reading between the lines, generally roof collapses occur due to deterioration from water infiltration. If the owner had made some basic roof repairs in 1995, the building would likely not be endangered today.
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.