Thank you for your letter, the building at 5209 was struck by the tornado 2-3 years ago, it appears fine from the from but there is only half a roof, its full of mold, and is beyond repair (we had SPACE, a local architecture firm look at the building and they recommended tearing it down. We have decided to save the other building and have some plans in the works for it If you would like you can come by any time to see, view, talk or add input about the buildings thank you, Tony Favazza
According to this email, only 5209 Southwest (the white Romanesque structure closer to Favazza's actual restaurant) will see a demolition request now.
I then got to thinking: accepting that it's true that 5209 Southwest is beyond repair, why not save the facade and structurally sound exterior walls?
Then I remembered: there's not a single incentive or directive to do so. The Hill is not located in a historic district of any kind. In fact, almost none of Southwest City is. Yet the Hill seems like a no-brainer. Sure, some might argue that the Hill is full of tiny homes and shops that are technically no architectural wonders. You might also say that, even if they were at one time, so many of them have been badly altered over the years.
But the Hill is culturally significant as one of St. Louis's most preserved early immigrant neighborhoods. The Irish in the Kerry Patch north of downtown ultimately settled the Dogtown area, but even Dogtown fails to retain the level of "Irishness" that the Hill does for "Italian-ness". Soulard's early French Creoles were replaced mostly by Germans. Ditto for Carondelet, which gets little attention for either heritage.
The National Register of Historic Places has a set of criteria for listing, one of which is cultural significance. While I think the Hill could easily pass through on architectural significance alone, it would definitely get by on cultural significance. The Hill needs to be designated historic for several reasons. An obvious one would be to allow buildings such as 5209 Southwest to receive the state historic rehabilitation tax credit.
A local historic district--always more controversial than a federal listing due to more restrictions placed upon homeowners--may be necessary as well. A good economy brought the Hill more than a few "teardown" eyesores. The Hill's deep and narrow lots were subjected to completely out of scale new construction that call all the attention on these unassuming blocks to the new megastructure.
Google Streetview caught the construction of one such home on Daggett, just east of Macklind:
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The Hill is such a unique cultural treasure for St. Louis. Every time I visit, I feel as if I've stepped back into the 1940s, the decade from which some of the signage and just the general "happy small town" aura seem to derive from in my own mind. At the same time, it's quintessentially urban: highly walkable, mostly intact, visually interesting. It should remain that way. Hopefully, on Monday, the Preservation Board will recommend a creative solution to the structural problems of 5209 Southwest Avenue rather than outright demolition.
Again, if you'd like to voice your opinion on the matter, the Board meets Monday, November 23, 2009 at 4pm. The location is 1015 Locust, Suite 1200.