For 51 years, the Landmarks Association of St. Louis has kept the St. Louis region informed about the best examples of recent restoration and has alerted and rallied residents to grave deterioration or proposed demolition of buildings with architectural and often historic merit.
During Preservation Week each year, the board and staff name “most enhanced” buildings for rehab work completed within the past year. They get nominations, and they keep their eyes open. “I found some people who didn’t know about our nominations,” said Andrew Weil, Landmarks assistant director.
Ten “Most Enhanced” awards will be given to owners of buildings or complexes that have been restored and revived in 2010. Neighborhoods with winners include Shaw, Benton Park, Cherokee (Marine Villa), Benton Park West, Mid Town, Carondelet, the CWE, Downtown, Clinton-Peabody and The Grove, O’Fallon Park and Penrose Park.
Some award winners, including Saint Louis University, are prominent community organizations. Several are redevelopers such as the Lawrence Group.
The former City Hospital laundry has been transformed into an elegant catering event venue called The Palladium.
For the first time, Landmarks will give a Most Enhanced Award for Community Based Preservation Projects. It was impressed by the efforts of thousands of volunteers who turned up 300 strong each “blitz” day from May to August last year to stabilize and improved 42 single-family houses in a six-block area of O’Fallon Park and Penrose Park. The residents there, many elderly, lacked funds for major repairs. Volunteers, mostly from Boeing and backed by two catalysts (the nonprofits Rebuilding Together and ACTS) and 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French, replaced roofs, upgraded plumbing and electrical wiring and cleaned alleys, while the city provided tree trimming and street light upgrades. As the effort progressed, volunteers found houses with dangerous conditions that couldn’t wait until the next “blitz day” so they organized immediate repairs.
“We’d like to encourage other group efforts like this,” Weil said. The volunteers’ new roof installations and electrical safety efforts especially may have saved some of the well-built housing stock from ruin and eventual demolition.
At the May 13th awards reception, Esley Hamilton, the St. Louis County Parks Department historian, Washington University architectural history teacher and author of many books on regional neighborhoods, will be honored.
That night, Landmarks will announce a list — its length is still being determined — of the region’s important buildings at risk for demolition or decay.
“We are not pointing fingers,” Landmarks director Jefferson Mansell said of the at-risk properties. “We understand there are limited resources in this economy. A lot of factors come into play. We hope the list highlights and brings attention to them so that someone might preserve them.”