A Thought or Two on Preservation

img_1015It has been a while since I posted here and things have been happening. My lengthy description of the East Capitol Avenue demolition by neglect is maybe turning obsolete…I hope. The City of Jefferson has finally decided to take some action to save the neighborhood. It is too early to tell how this will go but it seems that the intent is there to wrestle the failing properties away from the neglectful owners and salvage what can be salvaged. My hope is that everything can be saved but there will be assessments and appraisals and my guess is that a couple buildings will be lost.

This week there was a news item that the old shoe factory on the east side of the old abandoned Missouri State Penitentiary grounds will be converted to lofts. The building is on private land — not on prison land – so it isn’t a direct part of the foolishness of the prison redevelopment debacle.

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The shoe factory, last operated by International Shoe Company, is a vestige of the once booming shoe industry in Missouri and is a reflection of the prison inmate labor pool that powered other shoe factories in the city. The building is largely intact and has some interesting architectural features if you look for them. It has been in use as a warehouse of sorts in recent years so it hasn’t been totally vacant. It does present a challenge for lofts. It is essentially aligned on an east-west axis so one side will be sunny and the other will be mostly in shade. I’m guessing that the upper floors on the north side would have a view toward the Missouri River. When I worked for the city I spent some time photographing the building and I wish I had copies of those pictures. If you look closely you can see some detail around the front doorway and the side entrance also had some interesting detail. The clock tower and the corbels are also intact. The building serves as a landmark on the east side of the city and it is heartening to see that it will remain. There is a similar old factory building on the west side of town: the old JCD Furniture store. The factory floors were used as a furniture showroom almost warehouse style. The construction and sturdiness of that building is probably similar to what the shoe factory is like. The main problem with the old JCD building is that it is next to Wears Creek and prone to Missouri River flooding.

These old impressive buildings are not always saved. The old Alexian Brothers Hospital served south St. Louis city for over a century. My wife’s family used that hospital in time of need and I recall, on hospital visits, walking through the galleried hallways that seemed to come from the 1860s. Surely it wasn’t that old…surely not. But it was old. And the monks would make occasional appearances in the halls in full monastic regalia. I, not being of the Roman Catholic persuasion, would be mesmerized as if I had taken a step back in time. This was a relic of the cholera and small pox epidemics that ravaged the city. High ceilings and door-sized windows made it tolerable in the summer heat and humidity…just barely.

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Dear reader, you might have some recollection of the old Alexian Brothers Hospital because it was the site of the 1949 exorcism that was retold in the movie The Exorcist. Happily, I was unaware of that fact when I visited the place but I can imagine it happening there. I am the owner of a brick from the old hospital. My wife’s grandfather went to the site when the old building was being demolished and picked up a brick for each family member to keep as a memento of the old place. His dad died there in 1906 after being injured in an accident on the Mississippi River levee. I keep the brick outside…not in the house. There are still stories about the malevolent force associated with the site of the old hospital.

On sort of a lighter note, the story of the brick reminds me of my mother’s vacation to California back in the late 1960s to visit her brother and sister in law. She had a great trip. I think it was her first airplane ride so she was excited. She stayed a week or so and they took her around to see all the local sights. The beach, the mountains, Monterrey, and a few old Spanish missions. At one of the missions, she decided that she wanted a souvenir so she pried up one of the old clay floor tiles and brought it home on the return flight. I suppose that would have been some sort of offense – antiquities act or something. She was proud of her souvenir and showed it off to the family. We were a little shocked that she would do something like that but then she proceeded to turn it into a trivet that resided in our kitchen for several years. It was there until I moved away after college.

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On the Passing of the Year

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Auld Lang Syne: We cheerfully sing the phrase
but shiver to recall what went before or
guess what’s yet to come.

Old Long Since — “since what?” we ask. Time only knows.
We bade Godspeed to so many and so much.
Once young and bold but now so far apart.

But, yes, we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne. So may we someday raise
a glass, my friend… and may it be in better times.

But for now, in times like these, we say a prayer…
or a whispered hope… as far and near, to each his own,
we’ll raise a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

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***Yes, I borrowed a tad from Rabbie Burns.

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Demolition by Neglect – Now You Have It/Now You Don’t

 

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Capitol Avenue

 

This is not a unique story — it happens in other places. This is the place I know something about… I lived there thirty-seven years and watched the problem develop.

Once upon a time Jefferson City’s Capitol Avenue neighborhood was a showplace of nice homes with mixed architectural styles. This was where the Barons of (prison) Industry built their homes…within walking distance of the Missouri State Penitentiary where the inmates worked in their factories making shoes and other products of the late 19th century. This was an era when prisons were considered commercial enterprises with a large cost free, or nearly free, labor force. It was not unusual for inmates to be rented out for construction work in the city. Sometimes this was public work, like heavy-duty road building or excavation, but sometimes for private projects. Having a large inmate labor force was beneficial to Jefferson City and a number of people and families got rich off of inmate labor. They built impressive homes along Capitol Avenue…in full view of the Capitol Building a few blocks west. In 1893, future Governor Lon Stephens built Ivy Terrace, a large shingle-style Queen Anne home on Capitol Avenue. This area was the place for “movers and shakers” in Missouri politics and business.

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Ivy Terrace (1893)

 

It was not all stately mansions. There are a few side-hall Italianate homes, some without any set-back distance from the sidewalk. The Parsons House had pioneer roots and the home was well known before the Civil War. This was the home of Gustavus Parsons, Thomas Jefferson’s private secretary.

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The Gustavus Parsons House, c. 1830

 

There are a few apartment buildings and a few smaller homes of vernacular style or with eclectic traces of Tudor or Craftsman styles.

Nothing lasts forever and the prison industry era eventually was reformed out of business. The stately homes remained…and still remain…as a memorial to that economic boom time enjoyed by a few well-positioned folks. Over the years the neighborhood transitioned into a mixed commercial area with some homes converted to office space for lawyers or lobbyists. This being the seat of government, a few of these stately residences offered an impressive spot for those influencing or tracking government business. The movers and shakers still had (and perhaps still have) a toe-hold in the neighborhood.

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McIntyre House

 

Many of the occupied homes and multi-family residences in the neighborhood were acquired by one person over the years who rented the properties out – more or less as a herd of cash-cows. Things began to go down hill but it was still a striking and desirable neighborhood on the whole. Many properties, especially those in commercial hands were well maintained. A few were not. The area was designated as the Capitol Avenue Historic District and placed on the National Historic Register in 2005. Some individual properties, like Ivy Terrace, were also placed on the register. Some properties look better than others.

Around that time, I was working in the city Planning Office on a part-time basis and was tasked with photographing all of the buildings along Capitol Avenue from about Adams Street east to Cherry Street or beyond. Most of the buildings were still occupied and there was an expected rediscovery and renaissance coming to the area due to the redevelopment of the old prison site and the construction of a new Federal Court House a few blocks away. There was an interest in retaining the character of the neighborhood and avoiding inappropriate new construction or renovation.

Over the course of a few months I had amassed a collection of over 1,000 photographs of buildings and architectural details for the city’s use. I remember that a few structures were beginning to fall into serious disrepair. Most of these, but not all, were owned by one person who seemed to have no interest in maintaining the properties. Some of the buildings were sitting vacant and appeared to be hazardous if entered. Her ownership and neglect of Ivy Terrace was particularly destructive because, unlike the many other brick structures, Ivy Terrace is primarily a wooden structure. Finally the city moved in and applied a fresh coat of paint and made minor exterior repairs to Ivy Terrace in spite of the owner’s continuing refusal or inability to maintain it. Now, almost ten years later, it is beginning to show signs that it needs more paint. Apparently the city made repairs to a few other of the buildings and then took the owner to court to get reimbursed for the expense. The city recently won but I’d be surprised if she makes any reimbursement payments. As recently as 2014, she owed $40,000 in delinquent real estate taxes for her properties.

On a recent visit to Jefferson City, after being away for three years, I took a walk along Capitol Avenue and around a couple blocks to see how things have fared. It is a very sad sight, indeed. The buildings have seriously deteriorated. Some that were occupied when I moved away were now vacant and boarded up. The city has posted no-entry signs on a few. Those that were in bad shape ten years ago are much worse now. I suppose the city is lucky that a fire hasn’t destroyed the buildings. There is really nothing left but to somehow take over the properties to save what remains.

The city finally took action in the summer of 2016 and commissioned a private firm to conduct a blight study of the neighborhood. The study confirmed the blighted conditions and declared the area as a threat to public health and safety as well as an economic liability to the city.  The city now must declare the area as “blighted” and direct the  Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) to include the area in the city’s urban renewal plan. A determination will be made on which properties are salvagable and if some need to be demolished. The city will need to acquire the salvagable properties and offer them for resale or rehabilitation.

This is a lengthy process and some important properties have been allowed to slip away…maybe to the point of no return. That is regretable and probably could have been avoided by earlier action. Of course, the blight designation hurts those faithful property owners and properties that are well maintained. Allowing a designated historic district to disolve into a neighborhood of deteriorated and condemned buildings is pretty much inexcusable and also hurts those faithful property owners.

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The Standish House

 

Jefferson City, being the state capital, has lost much of it’s original core to government offices and associated parking lots. State government is the economic engine that runs the city. The state had big plans for redevelopment of the vacated prison site but very little has happened. This was the oldest major prison west of the Mississippi River. The prison site will probably follow the usual pattern of neglect followed by demolition and some sort of redevelopment. While the city shows an interest in salvaging and restoring the central business/commercial district, there doesn’t seem to be an ability or willingness to preserve the little that remains in the architectural history of residential properties.

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Originally posted on “Brick and Stone: Architecture and Preservation ~ Thoughts and Observations”,   September, 2016

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© Kenneth Hartke and https://klh048.wordpress.com/, 2013 – 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner (or the originator in the case of re-postings) is strictly prohibited.

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To the Lady Who Put Roses Out

 

Single Red Rose

It was a quiet day on a quiet street.

It seems like it was one of those family holidays;

Maybe Father’s Day or Mother’s Day… I don’t recall.

It was a good day for a walk.

 

We took our time, talking along the way.

We were not walking for distance or speed.

The old sidewalk was cracked and uneven…

Sort of the way life is.

 

We watched our step. You remember that

old saying about stepping on a crack?

There was a nice breeze off the river.

Birds were rejoicing in the trees.

 

We heard the wind in the big trees in

the old cemetery. It was well kept.

People cared about cemeteries here.

So do the squirrels…policing the rows.

 

One block. Two blocks. Three…four.

The houses were perched high on each side

with sloping yards and low stone walls.

Middle-aged houses – nothing grand.

 

There ahead, on a low cobbled wall,

sat a small painted bucket of cut red roses.

“Please take one” the penciled sign said.

She took one. “How nice” I said.

 

We continued another few blocks…

Stopped for coffee and then doubled back.

The roses were still there but fewer, now.

Other walkers must have read the sign.

 

Like a pebble in a pond, this

simple act of sharing rippled through

the lives of people she never met

but cared about from a distance.

————–

From Writer’s Cramp — a remembrance of a walk up West Main

 

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Walking Down West Main

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It’s Fathers’ Day and Jill and I took a morning walk down West Main.

Down to me is toward the Capitol (east).

 

 

It stormed during the night and was still mostly cloudy and there were a few light sprinkles. The street is very busy every morning with walkers and joggers and some bike riders. I’ve made a plan to start walking early each morning….all I have to do is walk out the door.

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The neighborhood is a designated conservation district: The Lower Jefferson Conservation District, although there certainly isn’t anything “low” about it.

 

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Old West School, built around 1904, is now an apartment building.

 

 

 

 

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Heisinger Bluffs retirement home includes this stately mansion, once owned by the prominent Price family. The house served as the original retirement home.

 

 

 

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One of the city’s oldest cemeteries is located on the river bluff next to Heisinger’s Bluff.

 

 

 

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The city’s water works is two blocks away and dates from the late 1800s.  Water is pumped from the Missouri River.

 

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Just past the water company is the bridge carrying US 63 and US 54 over the Missouri River.  A couple years ago a bike and pedestrian lane was added to the bridge . It has turned out to be a very popular place to walk in the morning and evenings. It connects the city to the Katy Trail with a paved bicycle spur.

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Lately there have been a number of “Love Locks” attached to the bridge rail. Two people in a relationship write their name or initials on a lock and then lock them together and on to the fencing and toss the keys in the river.

 

 

That serves to symbolize their commitment, I guess.  This is a world-wide practice but it’s more common in Europe

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Jefferson City was a busy river port back in the 1800s but the railroad line effectively cut off easy access to the river. The city is just now trying to regain some river access across the railroad tracks. Safe access is a difficult issue and Union Pacific isn’t very supportive.

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East of the bridge is an older part of town that dates back to the mid 1800s. Several old stone houses are mixed with some “newer” Four Squares (usually two family structures) and a few commercial buildings.

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Our local Irish pub, Paddy Malone’s, has been a saloon under one name or another for 140+ years. It sits on the corner of West Main and Bolivar St. at the head of the old Bolivar Street Bridge. It was the first or last chance for a beer depending on whether you were arriving or leaving town.  It was once called the “Last Chance Saloon”.

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The old bridge approach is now Rotary Park, a small river overlook and the location for the city’s Christmas tree each year. There is a great view of the river and the newer bridges that cross the river a couple blocks west.

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The first really large state office building is the Secretary of State’s information center….the state archives and state library as well as administrative offices for elections and corporate registration. The building is actually much more impressive than this rear view.

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Sunday mornings are pretty quiet on West Main Street

 

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We need to do some yard work. Grass needs cutting and the bind weed is trying to take over…again.

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Watson greets us at the door, as always.

 

 

 

 

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Taking a Walk Up West Main

We had a beautiful Memorial Day weekend. On Sunday, Jill and I decided to take a walk up to Angelina’s café for breakfast…about a mile up the street. I took my pocket camera and shot some neighborhood pictures.

Jill's House - circa 1905

Jill’s House – circa 1905

Looking east toward the water tower.

Looking east toward the water tower.  Old West School on the right…now apartments.

Heisinger Bluffs retirement community

Heisinger Bluffs retirement community

 

St. Joseph's Cemetery...across the street and on a bluff that overlooks the river.

West Main

Going west on West Main — that tree on the left is reputed to be the oldest in the city.

 

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West Main

 

St. Joseph's Bluffs nursing facility

St. Joseph’s Bluffs nursing facility

 

One of the Sears catalog houses

One of the Sears catalog houses

 

Jill lived in that duplex for about a year and a half. Nice houses on either side.

Jill lived in that duplex for about a year and a half. Nice houses on either side.

 

 

A flamingo watching over the koi pond

A flamingo watching over the koi pond

 

Nicely redone and with a great garden out front.

Nicely redone and with a great garden out front.

 

One of the neighbors put a bucket of roses out with a sign asking folks to help themselves to a rose...Jill did.

One of the neighbors put a bucket of roses out with a sign asking folks to help themselves to a rose…Jill did.

 

a revived Spanish Revival home. Another Golden Hammer winner.

a revived Spanish Revival home. Another Golden Hammer winner.

 

One of the stately homes on West Main

One of the stately homes on West Main

 

The white building is West School. The corner business sells produce and garden plants.

The white building is West School. The corner business sells produce and garden plants.

Angelina's café...a small restaurant open for breakfast and lunch....very popular in the neighborhood. It used to be the corner grocer.

Angelina’s café…a small restaurant open for breakfast and lunch….very popular in the neighborhood. It used to be the corner grocer.

Jill and her rose.

Jill and her rose.

 

 

 

 

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