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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kosciusko Historic Building Now...History?

I regularly follow Mark Groth's St. Louis City Talk blog. I especially love his neighborhood profiles. He recently covered the large industrial "neighborhood" known as Kosciusko.

Readers of this blog likely know that Kosciusko was not always a large riverside industrial park. It was once an urban neighborhood successfully woven into the urban fabric. Prior to its clearance via urban renewal in the late 1950s and early 1960s, this neighborhood was part of the greater Soulard area and looked the part--with red brick row houses and commercial buildings.

While stories and pictures of other St. Louis neighborhoods demolished under the auspices of urban renewal exist in plentiful fashion (see DeSoto-Carr and Mill Creek Valley), there are very few available historic photographs of Kosciusko. (Click here to see a photography thread via Skyscraper Page of St. Louis urban renewal neighborhoods, including DeSoto-Carr, before the wrecking ball. Warning: not for the faint of heart).

I have found exactly one actual photograph of Kosciusko, via the History of Urban Renewal planning document that Urban Review St. Louis posted on in January of 2009. It shows two buildings in the historic neighborhood that were felled for a new one.

Not the best quality, huh?

Of course, there's always the 1875 Compton and Dry Atlas to consult. These aren't photographs, yet they are meticulous bird's eye view drawings of the city just prior to its heyday.

Here is a view of Kosciusko's northern half, bustling at the beginning of the last quarter of the 19th century.

In this view, the top of the photo is facing west and the right side of the photo is facing north, towards downtown. Miller Street still exists today, while the commercial street with the notably taller buildings at the top of the photo is Carondelet Avenue, today's South Broadway.

But the portion of Kosciusko I'm interested in is farther south. In fact, I'm talking about a specific address: 107 Victor, at Kosciusko Street. The building(s) there appeared on the Preservation Board Agenda in September 2009, but were removed before the date of the actual meeting under unexplained circumstances. It is possible that the Cultural Resources Office granted a demolition permit after some sort of concessions were made. Groth noted in his post that while photographing in Kosciusko, he was stopped by security guards who told him one of the historic buildings he was seeking was recently demolished. I can only presume that the guards were referring to 107 Victor, pictured below.

107 Victor looks to be one of the last remaining 19th century buildings in Kosciusko. It also has a very interesting outbuilding that makes me speculate a bit as to its origins. It is shown below:

This type of outbuilding is found all over New Orleans' older Creole neighborhoods: a small structure with a flounder-shaped roof attached perpendicularly to a main building. Almost all have side galleries as well, just as this one does.

This is an aerial view of the French Quarter in New Orleans with such buildings highlighted.

The fact that 107 Victor has this fairly well preserved Creole-styled outbuilding made me wonder if the Italianate main building was built afterward, with the original main structure having been torn down. Then I thought it wise to again consult Compton and Dry for some clues. If the outbuilding was there as of 1875, then we can assume this is likely an old Creole style building typical of the Soulard and Kosciusko neighborhoods at the time.

That's a zoomed-in shot of 107 Victor at Kosciusko Street. Behind it appears to be a Creole-styled outbuilding, though admittedly its view is obfuscated by the main building. As for the main structure itself, it's definitely not the same as what stands (or what stood) at 107 Victor today. The current structure is three stories. But you notice the elongated center window? Today's structure has that same feature:

Notice the elongated central window on this structure as well? The third story--along with its Italianate-style cornice--could have easily been added onto the building after 1875.

Let me again repeat: I have no idea if this building and its outbuilding were actually demolished. As they did not show up in Mark Groth's blog post, and as security guards informed him a building had been recently demolished, I had to assume it was 107 Victor, which was on the Preservation Board Agenda previously. Could anyone confirm whether these buildings are still extant? It's a short hop away from Soulard and on public roads.

What's the point of all of this anyway? Part of it is just documentation of the history and architecture of a nearly vanquished part of the city. The other part of me is hoping we don't lose all traces of our heritage as the nation's fourth largest city, when we had residential neighborhoods circling downtown without a single break in the street wall. Buildings, people, everywhere. Kosciusko will likely never be anything other than what it is now: an industrial park. Still, I think the old buildings it retains still have value despite their isolation and removal from their historic context. At least one historic Kosciusko structure is receiving good treatment--the Hager Hinge Company building right down the street at 139 Victor. It's a historic St. Louis vernacular building constructed in the early 1870s that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Have we lost the piece of history at 107 Victor, though? Most would say, "who cares?" but I'm still curious.

UPDATE (3:20pm): Reader Hilary has driven by the site and confirmed that 107 Victor is gone. Thanks Hilary!


Hilary said...

I drove by there on my way back from lunch today. I'm sorry to have to report that the building at 107 Victor is gone. No sign of it at all. The lot is fenced off and there's a big pile of freshly cut tree limbs on half of it.

Matt M. said...

Hmm...sad, to me. Thanks for checking on it!

At least it lives on on these pages now.

samizdat said...

It used to be history. Now it's just gone.

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