Landmarks Association of St. Louis

2017 Most Endangered

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Club Imperial, 6306 West Florissant Avenue
Opened as the Imperial Dance Hall in 1928, this building is an attractive and dominant presence on a stretch of West Florissant that today is otherwise dominated by surface parking and unremarkable one story buildings. Renamed "Club Imperial" by new owner George Edick in 1952, the club became a fixture of St. Louis' music scene in the second half of the 20th century.  Hosting live radio broadcasts and televised dance programs, the club has also been attributed with early performances by a diverse range of influential acts including Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, The Monkees, Glen Campbell, Louis Prima, and Jimi Hendri.  Unfortunately, the popularity and viability of the club declined in the late 20th century and by the early 2000's deferred maintenance led to a significant failure of its roof.  Owner George Edick passed away in 2002 and the property was eventually auctioned for back taxes.  Its current owner has applied for a demolition permit after receiving an offer from a developer who wants to construct yet another strip mall on the site.  St. Louis is a city with a rich musical legacy, but with precious few surviving landmarks to tell its story.  Club Impterial represents one of the last opportunities to salvage a venue with strong ties to some of St. Louis' most iconic performers and to a golden age of musical innovation in America. 

Chuck Berry House, 3137 Whittier
When Landmarks' researcher Lindsey Derrington succeeded in listing the house where Chuck Berry lived while writing such hits as "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Johnny B. Goode," and "Roll Over Beethoven" in the National Register, the property was vacant and owned by an investment company in Utah.  Ten years later, it remains vacant although it has now been surrendered to the City's Land Reutilization Authority.  After Berry passed away in March of 2017, the City prioritized the property for redevelopment and issued a request for proposals (RFP) from developers.  No serious responses were received.  The primary threats to the home are the standard issues that accompany vacancy: vandalism, arson, and decay.  Fortunately, there are people with authority in City government who are making efforts to keep the building secure and we expect a revised RFP to be re-issued, but systemic issues of poverty, abandonment, and crime are a serious drag on the home's prospects.  We will continue to tout the Chuch Berry House as a site of national (arguably international) signficance and remain steadfast in the belief that with proper vision and leadership, the building could play a catalytic role in revitalizing its surrounding neighborhood. 

Cal Hirsch & Sons Mercantile Building, 300 S. Broadway
Constructed c. 1900, the six story building at 300 S. Broadway was designed by famed St. Louis Architect Isaac Taylor for the Cal Hirsch & Sons Mercantile Company. Used by St. Louis Community College since 1980, comments provided to local media indicate that today the facility is underutilized and unwanted by the institution. The building is currently threatened with demolition for the construction of a new 33 story residential tower.  While it is undoubtedly exciting to see development pressure in the vicinity of Busch Stadium and "Ballpark Village" creating conditions in which significant new buildings are (apparently) viable, the need to destroy an irreplaceable Isaac Taylor building when surface parking lots and underutilized parking garages dominate adjacent blocks is difficult to abide. As increasing numbers of new buildings are proposed in St. Louis, our preservation ordinances and political representatives will have to weigh such decisions with more frequency.  It is incumbent upon them and upon all of us not to simply be blinded by excitement for new development at any cost. 

St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, 3114 Lismore Avenue
Unfortunately, St. Augustine continues to languish and deteriorate. Built to serve a booming German Catholic population in the St. Louis Place neighborhood, the church remained part of the St. Louis Archdiocese until closure in 1982.  Designed by German born architect Louis Wessbecher (who also designed St. Stanislaus and Bethlehem Lutheran [demolished 2014]), the building has a distinctive German Gothic character and still contains stunning stained glass windows by Emil Frei.  Historian Mi Mi Stiritz listed the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, and it is also recognized as a City Landmark. Unfortunately, neither of these designations has the ability to protect the building from creeping decay and the swarm of vandals and scavengers that have descended since the current owner, Last Awakening Christian Outreach, stopped using the building.  In 2015, conditions were described in the following manner: "open windows, rotting roof, missing gutters, melting floor; the rectory, which had been in good shape, has been pillaged of its windows." A recent visit revealed that not much has changed aside from additional damage to the roof caused by the theft of copper flashing and gutters.

Central High School (Originally Yeatman), 3616 Garrison Avenue
Designed by William Ittner in 1902, Yeatman was the match for McKinley, which was constructed simultaneously on the south side. Ittner’s first high schools, these facilities were constructed to alleviate crowding at the original Central High School, which by 1900 was overwhelmed. Central is an illustration of Ittner’s preference for “Jacobethan” design with five story stair towers flanking a monumental entry, limestone friezes, quoins, belt courses, mullions and window surrounds.  The building was closed in 2004 and sat empty though largely intact for eight years before a developer hired Landmarks Association to nominate the building to the National Register of Historic Places in advance of rehabilitation. While the listing was successful, the rehabilitation never took place and the building was subsequently overrun by thieves and vandals.  In 2015 the SLPS approved an application to demolish the building for brick salvage. That plan also fell through. The building still stands open to the elements with all the copper roofing, flashing, gutters and even some stone window surrounds stolen. While the surrounding Lindell Park National Register District still retains enormous potential for redevelopment, it’s unclear if Central will survive long enough to be a part of its future.

Watkins Block, 7200-7230 S. Broadway
After years dreaming of the revitalization of the charming row of seven buildings that comprise the east side of the 7200 block of South Broadway in Carondelet, this vision has apparently become financially untenable for its present owner.  An important component of the Central Carondelet National Register District, demolition of even one of these buildings would be scrutinized by the Preservation Board; wholesale clearance of the block should be a non-starter. While no one is disputing the economic challenges to redevelopment of these buildings at the present time, history has taught us that the fortunes of neighborhoods change, and can even change rapidly. Preemptively foreclosing the potential future viability of these buildings because it’s the “easier” thing to do would fly in the face of the reasons St. Louis has adopted preservation ordinances in the first place and could potentially have lasting negative consequences for the future redevelopment of the South Broadway Commercial District.

Crunden-Martin 757 S. 2nd Street.
Since a catastrophic fire in December of 2011 destroyed its roof, the internal timber structural system of this major component of the Crunden-Martin Manufacturing complex has been open to the elements. Constructed in 1912 and designed by Mauran, Russell & Crowell, the future of the century-plus year old building is bleak. After 2015, the property was taken over by the City’s Land Reutilization Authority, presumably for non-payment of fees, fines, and taxes by its previous owner. This is a story that is all too common in St. Louis. When property owners are no longer able, or willing to take responsibility for their buildings, they simply walk away and the City is left to clean up the mess. Currently the LRA owns somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 vacant properties (both buildings and lots) although most of these are much smaller scale residential properties. The National Register-listed Crunden-Martin building is perhaps the LRA’s largest individual headache. It would cost millions to stabilize, millions to demolish, and will eventually become a legitimate threat to both public safety and, potentially, to the Landmark St. Mary of Victories Church next door.

James Clemens Jr. House, 1849 Cass Avenue.  
This formerly grand mansion designed by Patrick Walsh for James Clemens Jr. in 1858 bears little resemblance to the home where a ceremonial signing of two aldermanic bills in support of developer Paul McKee's North Side Regeneration plan took place in 2009.  Every year since then there has been less and less to save of the Clemens’ Mansion and its associated chapel. Open to vandals and the elements for years, the buildings offer a sad commentary on how even high profile and highly significant buildings are allowed to fade into oblivion in a city that lacks the will and authority (or at least selectively wields them) to hold derelict absentee property owners like O’Fallon MO based Northside Regeneration accountable for the condition of their buildings. We should have seen the fire that gutted the buildings in July of 2017 coming.  All too often, fire is the “modus mortis” of improperly secured buildings in St. Louis.  One has to wonder if this would have happened had North Side Regeneration not been given an exemption from paying fines on code violations on its properties? Will the final destruction of the Clemens House be the unfortunate spark that ignites a call for accountability from our elected officials who signed off on the largest TIF in state history to support Northside’s efforts? In the coming year, Landmarks Association will be surveying the other properties (aside from the Clemens House) that the company slated for rehabilitation almost 10 years ago to check on current conditions. Stay tuned.

Spivey Building, 407 Missouri Avenue, East St. Louis
Known as East St. Louis’ only skyscraper the Spivey Building was constructed in 1927 for Allen Spivey, the owner of the East St. Louis Evening and Sunday Journal. When constructed, East St. Louis was a booming and boasted a population large enough to be ranked among the top 100 largest cities in the United States. Anticipating continued growth and wanting to demonstrate the city’s status, Spivey hired architect Albert Frankel to design a Commercial Style office building that would compliment other substantial planned new downtown projects like the Majestic Theater, Murphy Building and Broadview Hotel. The Spivey declined with the rest of downtown East St. Louis in the late 20th century and was abandoned in the 1980s. A glimmer of hope for redevelopment flashed briefly in the early 2000’s before falling apart in the midst of scandal. In 2017 the Belleville News Democrat posted a video showing a significant quantity of masonry falling from the building accompanying a piece authored by the paper’s editorial board entitled “Raise Some Hell to get Spivey Building Razed.” Generally speaking, when public safety becomes a legitimate concern, buildings either get repaired or demolished. Which path lies ahead for the Spivey Building?

Church of the New Jerusalem, 1629 N. 14th Street
Constructed in 1859 by the Swedenborgian Church of the New Jerusalem, the little church was converted into the home of the Nort St. Louis Bundeschor ("peoples' choir") in 1878.  The building is a contributing resource in the eroding Mullanphy Historic District on St. Louis' near north side.  When the district was created by Landmarks Association in 1983, it was described as an outstanding example of 19th century vernacular architecture surrounding substantial institutional buildings such as the Mullanphy Emigrant Home and the Church of the New Jerusalem.  Today, much of the context for both the Emigrant Home and the church is gone and the church's hand-pressed brick walls are failing due to water infiltration. Recognized as endangered in 2014, no visible progress in rectifying the roof and guttering problems that are allowing water to destroy portions of the building's bearing walls has been made. 

3303 Klein Street, “The Plouder House”
Likely constructed sometime in the first third of the 19th century, this unusual frame building with two, full-width (enclosed) gallery porches is among the earliest surviving buildings in the Hyde Park Historic District. Oral tradition, backed up by geographical evidence, indicates that the home was originally constructed in part due to its proximity to the water source of Rocky Branch Creek, which once drained this area of north St. Louis roughly along the route of present day Branch Street.  While its earliest owners are not known, the house had been occupied by successive generations of the same family for the better part of a century, although it is now for sale. The current concern is that building’s modest size, age, and repair needs coupled with the multi-lot offering that is on the market might make it a target for demolition for new construction. Indeed, significant numbers of new houses have been built on nearby lots in recent years and the current real estate listing advises (falsely) that the choice to tear down the existing building rests solely with the purchaser. Still, while the property is given a level of protection by city ordinance, a prolonged period of vacancy and/or a motivated developer of new homes could prove to be a serious threat. While we are awash in magnificent brick architecture from the mid 19th through early 20th centuries, vernacular frame buildings like 3303 Klein that were originally constructed in rural contexts, provide unique insight into the first phases of St. Louis’ urban expansion.