Two great corner commercial buildings coming down in two areas that are witnessing rapid degradation of their historic built environments.
4972 Page in Fountain Park was condemned for emergency demo as of 1/10/2008. It does have some troubling and potentially dangerous loose brickwork on its NW corner, but it’s nothing a little carefully applied bracing couldn’t stabilize. Certainly the building’s owners, the Roberts Brothers, can afford bracing, just as they could afford to rehab this building and turn it back into shops.
4972 stands at the SE corner of Page and Kingshighway, two of the biggest streets on the entire North Side. The building was a furniture store until very recently, and had been one for many years. Because the Roberts Brothers own it now, it is likely to be replaced with more achingly bland strip mall stuff like the junk they have across the street (Really, as a North Sider who often has no choice but to shop in strip malls, that isn’t even a good strip mall by North Side standards!). Sad, sad loss, and extra painful since it’s likely to happen contemporaneously with the [very probable] demolition of the also wonderful commercial building at the next major intersection on Page, 5286 Page.
The fact that 5286 is so protected and has gone through such a long preservation battle while 4972 can just quietly vanish is indicative of the piecemeal nature of our city’s preservation policy. It is little buildings like 4972 Page and 5286 Page that make StL’s built environment so wonderful. When people ask me what the difference is between St. Louis and Chicago architecturally, I tell them that in Chicago you will see great and famous buildings every day but live someplace ehh, but in St. Louis the little buildings where you live and work every day will be splendid little works of art. Our historic fabric here was built so carefully and slowly, and is still so wonderfully intact. Tearing down 4972 itself won’t singlehandedly erase the uniqueness of St. Louis, but we live in a city where there are several dozen 4972s falling every single day of the week, every week of the year, and that’s the status quo. Politically, economically, we live in a city that has evolved to be so good at tearing down buildings like this one that we don’t even bat an eyelash at its disappearance. What kind of city is this? What kind of city will this be in twenty years?
CORRECTION, Feb. 2, 2008: 1324 Niedringhaus is not going to be demolished. My apologies about the confusion! Please see the comments on this post for further details, and check out this more up-to-date post. Thanks.
1324 Niedringhaus in Downtown Granite City was a bank, until recently. The bank closed this branch, and signs on the door implore you to instead visit its suburban strip mall location in the anti-urban, bland wasteland that is Nameoki Road.
I was saddened to see the “FOR SALE” signs supplanted by demolition notices when I passed it on January 5. This is a charming little building, and it defines its curiously shaped intersection pretty well. And I mean heck, it’s directly across from City Hall!
I’ve been watching the slow losses in Downtown Granite for several years now. The losses have been such that in the past few months, when I’ve taken new folks through, I’ve found myself going “Man, you should have seen it three years ago. You would have loved it even more.” With each little vanishing of some plain but perfect-for-that-spot old brick storefront, Downtown Granite feels a little less like Downtown Granite. The cumulative effect is a loss of charm, walkability, and the sense of Granite as a place. When I first saw Downtown Granite several years ago, I was overwhelmed at what an endearing little place it was; now, the predominant feeling I get is one of loss and sadness.
With a city government that seems completely baffled as to what to do with their Downtown or what a Downtown might be for, this beautiful little patch of Granite will probably continue slowly washing away, building by building, until it’s nothing but a few lonely survivors in a sea of pavement. A friend who lives in Granite claims that the city government there was at some point considering tearing down the entire 20XX block of Downtown, so I’m not just grasping at straws here. The loss of 1324 Niedringhaus is another step in a broader march towards a completely desolate landscape.
Granite City, you still have the power to change this if you stop now. Let’s see some incentives (financial ones, perhaps?) for shops to locate Downtown. Let’s see an actual, concerted, serious effort to get artists to move to Downtown Granite. Let’s see actions taken in pride, rather than fumbling hopelessness.
I am charmed every time I pass through Downtown Granite, and Fountain Park is my favorite neighborhood in the city besides my own. I spend a lot of time wondering if either of them will be recognizable in thirty years. Or ten years. In the case of Downtown Granite, I wonder if these blocks’ll have anything left to chew on in three years.