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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The "Mini Mansion" on Palm Street Needs Urgent Assistance

The house at 1501 Palm Street in April 2005.

The house at 1501 Palm Street in November 2008.

Sixteen years means a lot in the life of a vacant building. To the house at 1501 Palm Street, owned now by by Blaimont Associates LC, the past three years have been rough. The beautiful mansard-roofed "mini mansion" dates to 1883, and is a great example of the small scale use of the Second Empire style. The house is singular for the Old North St. Louis neighborhood, and it has marked the corner of 14th and Palm streets for 125 years. In the vast scheme of its life, the past 16 years are a small part of the history. If they prove fatal, however, those years will be the most definitive.

The house sat vacant for a long time before Blairmont purchased it, and the previous owner is to blame for some of its current woes. In 2005 that owner, George Roberts, began demolition halted by the city's Cultural Resources Office, which had not yet reviewed the demolition permit. That work left a large hole on the west wall. Three years later, the hole is agape, and the roof structure above in terrible disrepair. Thank goodness for partition walls -- without them, the roof would have collapsed by now.

The roof sheathing is missing on over half of the house, and the joists collapsed in many places. The amount of water that entered the house in 2008 is frightening to contemplate.

One of the finest details of the house was the repeat of its slate-clad mansard roof on the rear elevation, replete with tin-framed dormers. That roof collapsed in 2007, and is now almost completely gone.

As the photographs show, the masonry walls remain sound, and that condition has prevented a catastrophic collapse. However, the south chimney has lost its top courses in the past three years.

Recently, Blairmont maintenance contractor Urban Solutions cleared the yard of debris and erected a temporary fence around the house. What's next? The house is in imminent danger of a roof collapse and requires serious structural work. As far as I can tell, under the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit, repairs to prevent this house from collapsing are eligible for 100% reimbursement just like the fencing, trash hauling and lawn work. If a developer were applying for that credit, the cost of such work would only be carried until the issuance of the credits. The issuance, of course, requires a redevelopment ordinance and political support. In preservation-minded Old North, there is a clear way to gain respect and built support: save buildings like the house at 1501 Palm Street.


Anonymous said...

beautiful building.....hopefully it survives.

Doug Duckworth said...

Paul McKee should prove his detractors wrong and rehab the building.

Anonymous said...


What if it costs so much to rehab the house that the economics don't work?

If so, how much public assistance should go into the "mini mansion", and at the expense of what other buildings that are not assisted?

If this building is in Old North, some might say Old North has received more development assistance than other neighborhoods, and so it's time to start working elsewhere.

How does Paul McKee "prove his detractors wrong" by rehabbing one building?

Anonymous said...

I have always admired this home --- the proportions are quite pleasing to my eye. I'll have to dig out photos of this home from the early 1990s.

Brian said...

"Urban Solutions." Please.


Sometimes you need to be realistic and all times try not to get carried away with your own enhuisiasm. It difficult to 'remain sane' when moneys no object, and your spending the tax-payers cash. Look around the USA and Europe, look at the buildings they've preserved. Most of them are the whitest-of-white elephants, time wasters, money wasters, and costly to staff, heat and maintain. This place is a dump, drop an ball-hammer on it. cut your lossses and run. We need better projects to preserve, the GOLDEN RULE is if it was your own cash being spent - would you find better urban renewal schemes?

Michael R. Allen said...

I have put my own cash into repairing a broken-down building just a few blocks from this one. I'm not the only one, either.

These are more like cash cows than white elephants -- these old buildings accumulate value as time goes by and have a tremendous pay-off -- more than new construction.