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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What Landed on the Hardt Building?

Blame it on a bad mood at the moment, but seeing last night the Hardt Building at the northwest corner of Chippewa and Brannon bearing a huge wooden growth was quite a shock. The "growth" appears to be a one-story frame penthouse addition; a search of Geo St. Louis shows no corresponding building permits.

Here we have one of the finest examples of art deco architecture on the south side, standing in the dense and intact historic "Northampton" or Kingshighway Hills neighborhood. The Hardt Building's stark, streamlined look is reinforced by the later, neon-robbed curved Keller Apothecary sign at the corner. Its visible addition of a third floor and its kissing cousin on Hampton (discussed by Toby Weiss here) add some intrigue; the obvious bow of the Chippewa elevation wall adds drama.

What does the addition add, besides more office space? It adds architecture at odds with the dramatic lines and parapets of the building below. It adds a visual focal point that overpowers the building below, capturing the eye and pulling it away from the bliss of jazzy polychrome masonry.

To get a better view of the addition, I headed west in the alley north of Chippewa. While the streets of this area are obviously packed with lovely brick buildings from the early-to-middle twentieth century, the alleys retain an amazing abundance of historic garages. Here we have an area west of Kingshighway and south of Arsenal more ripe for historic district status than many areas that are already listed on the National Register of Historic Places or City Landmark rosters. While a local district status is unfathomable for this area at present time, a national district would bring the tax incentives to discourage inappropriate alterations like the one rising on top of the Hardt Building.


Matt Fernandez said...

I was wondering the same thing when I rolled home Sunday morning. The first thing I did was search for a permit, and I will get around to contacting someone at some point. Or I could just go see my favorite pharmacist. Even worse, I can see the ugly addition from my backyard.

Anonymous said...

Selling southwest city residents on the idea of creating historic districts in their neighborhoods is like selling vinyl windows to historic preservationists. There's not much interest.

Maybe this atrocity will generate some awareness?

Actually, only a local hisstoric district would prevent such inappropriate alterations, and, given the restrictions on allowable uses, those are even harder to sell to most neighborhoods.

Doug Duckworth said...

I almost got in a second car accident when I saw this ugly addition.

Anonymous said...

Awareness of a historic district's added cost to homeowners?

Please keep some areas of the city affordable to those of us earning a decent wage. With little to gain but added home repair costs, middle-class homeowners will fight historic district designations for southwest city.

Anonymous said...

Awareness of what added cost about a historic designation? Anony, what are you suggesting?

There's only added cost when applying for historic tax credits.

To the average property owner, it's all upside, no cost. Part of the upside is having the distinction of a nationally recognized historic area. That's pretty cool.

Still a non-starter though trying to convince all the elderly voters of the area.

They see it as a change and they fear any change.

Anonymous said...

I fear a city that will tell me I have to pay more for fancy basement windows hidden behind shrubs, but won't stand up for minimal pedestrian access to a new grocery store subsidized by my tax dollars. Wait, I already live in such a devious town.

Matt Fernandez said...

I've been told it is to cover the elevator equipment on the roof. Being exposed apparently causes a lot of maintenance needs. I just can't imagine that a box that big is necessary. I hope an pray that the facade will not be covered in vinyl siding, but I am very worried. I guess we will find out this week.

LisaS said...

Even if it is to shelter elevator equipment, it could have been done more sensitively. Someone took the easy way out. Sad, sad, sad. Did anyone ever establish if a building permit was issued?

Anonymous said...

The "growth" seems not contextual and meaningless expansion with the building hosted it. It will be different if the architect succeed with the above issues.