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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What Happens to Hopmann Cornice?

Hopmann Cornice is a family-owned business located at 2573 Benton Street in St. Louis Place, between Parnell and Jefferson. Hopmann Cornice has been manufacturing tin and copper cornices, gutters and downspouts since 1880, and has been housed in the larger building here since 1883 (the house to the west was subsumed into the operation later).

Hopmann is an inspiration -- a company that has done the same thing for over 125 years, with few complaints from customers. Nowadays, a lot of Hopmann's work is repair and replacement of historic cornices. Sometimes Hopmann ends up replicating and repairing its own historic work.

While Hopmann's buildings aren't historically perfect (note the metal siding covering the second floor as well as the boarded windows), the facility is serviceable, tidy and historically living. In many ways, the Hopmann buildings are more historically correct under continuous use than they would be with a fancy rehabilitation (which they do not require).

Of course, Hopmann's buildings are far more likely to disappear than to be rehabilitated. Sensient to the west has bought out much of the land surrounding Hopmann for its large plant. Hopmann Cornice also is in the middle of McEagle's NorthSide project, and more precisely is located in the southern end of one of the project's planned industrial/commercial hubs. In fact, on the slide that McEagle showed at a meeting on May 21, this block of Benton Street is gone, and the Hopmann buildings along with it.

Hopmann's building also appears on the TIF application for the project that McEagle submitted to the city last week. However, according to McEagle, that list contained some properties that they do not wish to purchase and they will resubmit the property list soon.

Perhaps McEagle has no use for the Hopmann Cornice land, and perhaps it won't appear on the new list. Perhaps Hopmann Cornice will accept relocation. However, the project should defer to Hopmann and other long-time small businesses. These businesses are the existing job centers, generating work and city revenue. There is no need to displace good commercial stewards, and alderwomen April Ford-Griffin (D-5th) and Marlene Davis (D-19th) would do well to stand by these businesses. If they don't want to be on the list of needed properties, they should not have to be. In the case of Hopmann, we have a business that is not only a stable long-time business but one that does unique and important work. If anything, McEagle may want to get Hopmann's bids on the historic rehabilitation itemized in the sources and uses section of the TIF application. No one else will do the work quite like that!


Alex Ihnen said...

Excellent post - this is the type of information and advocacy that's need to make sure any North St. Louis development is done well.

barbara_on_19th said...

Please, please do not close down our operating small businesses and local employers a full 5-7 years before you intend to even begin the project. The TIF money is to rebuild areas downtown and around the bridge, with projects further north not funded or even scheduled until 2014 and 2016. So, why is it necessary to shut down every church, small business and food source in the entire project area?

samizdat said...

The Hopmann's are good people. And they do excellent work. Well, I say they, but it's really just Jeff Hopmann, who does most of the work with another gentleman who's name I don't recall, and P.J. Hopmann, who is Jeff's mom (I think; I didn't ask; I apologize if this is not so). When they came out for the first "fitting", I already had some rented scaffolding up while I stripped and repainted the original cornice. Jeff and his partner spent at least 30 minutes up there taking measurements and assessing the profiles. Then, when they were further along in the fabrication of the 24ga galv-steel, Jeff's co-worker came out and took even more measurements. The work speaks for itself. These are the folks you would want to hire if you were going to reproduce the metal work (cornices, copper guttering in wooden cornices, flashing, ridge caps, etc.) present on so many of the remaining buildings in the project area. Mr. Mckee and Sensient should consider this when these plans go forward. If any business or person has any right to claim their needs come before those of the Project, then it is certain that Hopmann is amongst them. IN THE SAME LOCATION SINCE 1883. How many businesses can claim that kind of longevity at one location, doing much the same business as they did when they first loaded hay into the loft for the horses which drew the wagons that made their business possible? Or have worked under the illumination of the three large skylights still extant on the original building? A proud few. Congratulations to Hopmann Cornice for surviving in this area in spite of all of the benighted policies, criminal neglect, red-lining, theft, subsidization of suburban expansion by the federal gov't, corrupt politicians (for they are legion;|), corrupt real estate "professionals", etc., etc., etc. They deserve our thanks. As a business, and more importantly, as a good neighbor.

Unknown said...

I think it's ironic that Hopman Cornice has replaced its cornices with red cement on the smaller building and metal on the other. However, I also understand the concept "function before beauty", especially these days.

But wouldn't you think they'd want to show off their work? I highly doubt many of their clients ever see their physical location so it doesn't really matter I guess.

Anonymous said...

Bringing McKee's "grand vision" down to Earth and what it may mean for our productive citizenry is important. But I doubt that his "grand vision" can ever be done well as long as it is dependent on freeways, public subsidies and the abuse of property rights.

A.A. said...

It is INSANITY to close long-time operating businesses for the future promise of a new industrial court. How stupid is Slay?! Why would you not want a strong 120 year old business to build around......?

Unknown said...

Did they say Hopmann was going to be pushed out? No, I think the question was, "What Happens to Hopmann Cornice?". Let's not get too excited yet and start name calling before we even know the real plans. And yes, I agree that Hopmann being pushed out would be "stupid", but at this point we really can't say if that is going to be reality.

Anonymous said...

Hopmann Cornice is still open and running with several hardworking and detail oriented employees who care about preserving their families business and name.