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Monday, May 24, 2010

What Will Become of the Penrose Park House?

Built in 1902 by a private owner, the Craftsman home at 4961 Penrose was later acquired by the City of St. Louis, and the land around it became today's Penrose Park. This property was used as the park keeper's house until the 1980s, when it was abandoned. The Board of Public Service recommended demolition in 1997. Though this never happened, the Penrose Park House did appear on the Preservation Board agenda in May of 2006 with a fresh demolition request.

In the Cultural Resources Office (CRO) staff report, Kate Shea recommended approval of the demolition permit. The CRO's reasoning was that the city did not have the funds to maintain the home and that the park's master plan contained drawings for an public amphitheater on the site. A demolition permit was applied for on April 26, 2006, but no work commenced. The permit was canceled on March 12, 2008.

The city's Geo St. Louis website contains April 2010 photographs of the building still extant, albeit decayed. What are the plans for the Penrose Park House?

This Google Streetview capture, probably dating to mid-2009, shows the battered beauty and its bucolic surroundings.

Lafayette, Forest, Carondelet, and Tower Grove Parks all have historic houses within them. Urban parks with remaining park houses are much better at relating the history of the neighborhood. It's sometimes the case in St. Louis that parks and gardens were created by clearing buildings on site. In our most historic parks, though, historic homes were trapped within or specifically built as park houses. It's nice to have a physical piece of history dating before or during park construction.

Private homes within public parks can work. There's one in Tower Grove, on Magnolia, that to my knowledge is privately owned.

Maybe the Penrose Park house could become an "Aldermanic Mansion" where the elected official of the ward would reside?


Daron said...

I'd support an aldermanic mansion if it was also a house museum.

Outdoor ampitheaters only provide park programming when it is nice out, not in winter or on rainy days.

I vote for donating it to the Green Center. Let them specialize in houses attached to parks and outdoor education programing for the adjacent neighborhoods. They're already taking care of some praire in nearby Calvary Cemetery, I think it would be within their power. Maybe double it up with MoBot/Earthways and the neighborhood association.

I've always felt that every neighborhood association should have its own house museum telling the history of the neighborhood. What better headquarters is there?

I bet it could work if the right people stepped up. Some combination of house museum / neighborhood association office space combined with Green Center style programming would be fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Although no longer a St. Louis resident, my family lived on the 4900 block of Penrose from the early 60s through the mid 90s. I remember when the park house was in good repair. It would be a shame to see it razed.

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