Sunday, December 14, 2008

SLU Continues its Mission to Exterminate Midtown Mansions

As reported Friday by Eco-Absence, Saint Louis University purchased 4056 Washington Avenue in late October. The 5,832 square foot mansion was built in 1891, and is one of the last surviving homes on the block of Washington between Vandeventer and Sarah.

Upon seeing that SLU had acquired the property, the red flag went up in my head, remembering that after they purchased a convent down the street in 2000, they demolished 4040 Washington, a 2 story Italianate home that was vacant but structurally sound and in relatively decent condition. In its place they planted some grass and placed a large wood cross near their ubiquitous black fence. Early this year, in an act seemingly unrelated to anything, SLU demolished the Wagner house at 3438 Samuel Shepard. More recently, SLU demolished a large Italianate mansion on their campus to create a courtyard in front of their new law building.

I checked the City's online records first to see when the once dilapidated rooming house had undergone a mostly complete renovation several years ago. Record of that permit (if there was one) was missing. Instead, there is record of a demolition permit dated 12.04.08 that was obviously not carried out at that time. Electrical permits seem to indicate that the rehab took place in 2004.

I first noticed this massive home in the early 1990's as I was photographing 4060 and 4064 Washington, both of which were large vacant homes that burned and then were demolished. At the time, the mansion was a low rent rooming house in poor condition, and I recall fearing that it might end up in with the same fate as its neighbors to the west. Several years later however, I drove by and the mansion had received a complete makeover including new roof, windows, new paint job (it had been painted previously), I assumed a renovated interior and seemingly new owners that would take care of the building into the future.

4056 Washington prior to renovation - winter 1994-1995

Fast forward to this fall, and the property apparently went into foreclosure with SLU as the new owner. This is yet another case where there is no logical reason for demolition yet SLU 
steamrolls forward. Unless SLU is planning some large new building as part of their retreat complex, demolition is completely senseless.

The rehabbed first floor living room of the mansion
I did a Google search to see if I could find out anything more about the property. I happened to find two videos on Youtube showing the interior of the home. The videos and photos I took through the first floor windows confirm that the building was mostly rehabbed on the interior. While it is evident that some additional work would need to be done, it seemed to be about 75% done.

Video of the first floor interior.

Video of the second floor interior


Domestic Goddess PhD said...

Holy smokes, those are my videos! My husband and I almost bought this house. We feel in love with it but ended up passing on it. I'm regular reader of your blog and I appreciate the updates you post on buildings/building related happenings in the city. It makes me so sad to think that this majestic home may be demolished. If you want more details about the house let me know.

Matt M. said...

Just wanted to hit you on this site as well: if you want help tracking SLU's demolition footprint across time, let me know!