Landmarks Association of St. Louis

Concordia Publishing Wants to Purchase 3600 S. Jefferson with One Condition

 3600 South Jefferson at left hand side of photo

Landmarks Association of St. Louis recently learned about the possible sale of 3600 South Jefferson Avenue in the Marine Villa Neighborhood to the Concordia Publishing House (CPH).  One condition of the purchase is that Concordia will be able to raze the building to create a green space for their employees.  A staple of the neighborhood for over 140 years, CPH has greatly improved the fabric of South St. Louis with its presence.  However, CPH should seriously consider weighing its options before demolishing this structurally sound and highly visible contributing resource to the Benton Park Historic District.

Since its construction during the Summer of 1885 for German immigrant Ferdinand Vallermann, the building has housed several enterprises but has been vacant for the past decade.  The reason cited for demolition is CPH deems the building a hazard to its employees.  A crumbling rear addition was removed earlier this year to reduce the presumed injury to unsuspecting pedestrians.  Damage has also occurred to the parapet wall at the northwest corner of the building and along the third story of the rear wall.  The condition of the rear wall has likely resulted from the lack of a gutter and downspout.  This was probably removed when the roof was elevated to make the third story into a livable space.  Without a gutter, rainwater leached into the masonry wall and disintegrated the mortar, allowing the brick wall to fail.  However, the failure is limited to the third story of the rear wall.  The rest of the building remains intact.  Observed from the street, the exterior shows no signs of structural cracking.  The building appears to be well sealed from the elements with a sound roof and intact windows on the second story.  The third and first story openings are sealed with plywood.  The streetscape to the south on the east side of Jefferson is still largely intact and inhabited.

 Rear of 3600 South Jefferson

The resulting damage to 3600 South Jefferson is due to neglect, which has led to the building's deterioration.  This example of demolition by neglect is rampant across the City of St. Louis.  The fault is not the buildings, but the owner themselves.  Legislation created by the City needs to hold property owners of contributing resources in historic districts responsible for building stabilization.

If the building at 3600 South Jefferson is demolished, CPH plans to seed the lot to be used as a green space for employees.  Green space can be readily found within walking distance of CPH's headquarters.  Rather than razing a potentially reusable building and reseeding a relatively small lot, employees could take advantage of Benton Park located four blocks north of CPH.  Even closer is Carnegie Park at Utah and Indiana Streets, originally intended as a market place in 1899 a redeveloped as recreational space by the City's Parks Department in 1904.  Cherokee Park, located near the eastern boundary of the Benton Park Neighborhood, offers over eight acres of green space. Lastly, employees could trek 12 blocks west to Gravois Park, one of the city's oldest public parks.  In fact, an empty lot already exists directly across the street from CPH at the southwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and Miami Street.  Money expended to hire a wrecking company to demolish the building, reseed the lot and maintain it could instead be invested to repair the building's brick work and rehabilitate the 3600 South Jefferson.

 3600 South Jefferson in 1971

3600 South Jefferson is situated in an area that is currently experiencing revitalization.  Cherokee Street, located two blocks to the north, is in the midst of an economic redevelopment that has attracted many new inhabitants to the neighborhood.  Within the past few years over a dozen properties have been rehabilitated, despite the economic downfall that plagues other areas of St. Louis.  The renewed interest in Cherokee Street has permeated to the north and south state streets.  One example is the 1867 Drosten House at 3324 Missouri Avenue, placed on Landmarks' Most Endangered List in 2009.  The building is currently undergoing a careful rehabilitation.  Across the street at 3339 Missouri, two small 19th century brick homes are also being rehabilitated.  Examples of commercial and residential adaptive reuses can be found throughout Benton Park Neighborhood.  3660 South Jefferson has the potential to join the ranks of its rehabbed neighbors, even during an economic downturn.

If you are opposed to the demolition of this contributing resource of the Benton Park Historic District for a green space, please contact 20th Ward alderman Craig Schimd, Cultural Resource Director Betsy Bradley and Mayor Slay to voice your concerns and hopes that this building will be preserved as part of the Benton Park Historic District.