Two of the Three Givens Row Buildings Demolished
October 29, 2007
Two of the three buildings that comprise the Givens Row at 2903-7 Delmar Boulevard are now demolished. Although fire struck the buildings last year, the city took no immediate action. Demolition Supervisor Sheila Livers abruptly ordered emergency demolition in September 2007. The Building Division issued a demolition permit on September 28, and work commenced by the middle of October. The third building in the row is occupied as rental housing and becomes the sole remnant of Givens Row.
Built in 1884, the Italianate-style Givens Row was an elegant example of the limestone-faced row houses that once lined Midtown streets. Givens Row first came to our attention in 1982 when the now-defunct Midtown Voice carried a photo of Robert and Rubie Head (owners of 2903) protesting demolition planned by the Lucas Heights Redevelopment Corporation. Annette Bridges-Prott (then a staff member at Jeff-Vander-Lou, Inc.) and LANDMARKS helped redefine that housing project to retain the 1884 row and several other historic buildings along Delmar. The next twenty years brought some measure of stability to the street, but each building in Givens Row has separate ownership. Several years ago we urged to no avail that Block Grant funds be used to fund a National Register nomination for the site.
A part-time student at Washington University, Joseph B. Givens (1859-1934) joined his father's construction firm soon after William Greenleaf Eliot (WU Chancellor from 1871 until his death in 1887) hired Givens & Adams to design and build the Washington Avenue campus. The firm prospered. In early July of 1883, the senior Givens acquired land at the northwest corner of Morgan (now Delmar) and Ewing; the building permit from April of 1884 recorded an estimated $13,000 cost to construct an elegant row of three, stone-faced townhouses-the only extant buildings credited to the Givens family. Both father and son retired with ample resources a few years later, but the family held the row on Delmar as income-producing property until 1922. In the fall of 1930, Joseph B. Givens walked into the office of the President of the Board of Trustees at Washington University with the surprise announcement: He would fund a School of Architecture (then housed with Engineering) as a memorial to his parents and was prepared to contribute securities valued at $850,000.
In recent years, the eastern two buildings have been vacant; the center building is owned by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority and the easternmost building by a holding company controlled by developer Paul J. McKee, Jr. The row appeared on Landmarks Association’s 2006 Eleven Most Endangered Sites list. In October 2006, a fire started in the eastern building and spread to the center building. The resulting damage was more unsightly than devastating -- but ultimately city authorities thought otherwise.
Architect Paul Hohmann has published an illustrated account of demolition on his blog, Vanishing STL. Read that here.