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Monday, June 28, 2010

A Lafayette Square Transformation

St. Louis's Lafayette Square--and specifically the portion fronting the park itself--is one of the city's most immaculate, attractive, and quaint strolls. In 1896, a cyclone destroyed the neighborhood and its namesake park. This photograph shows the damage to the Lafayette Park Presbyterian Church on Missouri (west side of Lafayette Park).

The level of devastation makes it very surprising indeed that so much of the neighborhood was ultimately salvaged and/or rebuilt. Over 100 years later, Park, Mississippi, Lafayette, and Missouri Avenues are collectively one of the city's finest showcases. What gaps remain are now lushly landscaped side yards or future development sites, as much infill activity has occurred on the Square already.

There was one odd sight on the Square, though: a heavily altered church that had a bit of a sore thumb appearance in its particular spot of Park Avenue just east of Benton Place. 2035 Park Avenue, shown below, was originally a two-story historic home hacked away at over time. Perhaps the 1896 Cyclone played a part?

Walking past the site yesterday, there was little indication it had any relation to the building shown above. From the city's Geo St. Louis website, the "after" shot:

While some might argue that this neighborhood's strict historic code has stifled creative urban design, I find historic recreations like that above appropriate for such a self-consciously historic neighborhood. After all, the neighborhood had a choice to rebuild itself in a different fashion after 1896, but it chose to emulate the old then, too. Why should we let a little mid-20th century urban decline have its way with the Square's protected identity? I think 2035 Park looks great!


STLgasm said...

If there is one neighborhood in St. Louis that should remain true to its Victorian character, Lafayette Square is it. The new construction pictured does blend well with the neighborhood, yet it doesn't look like a tacky replica. Very handsome building.

That said, St. Louis desperately needs more flashy modern infill. We do OLD better than almost any other city, but our new construction, compared to other Midwestern cities, is bland and uninspiring (with notable exceptions, of course).

Chris said...

Wow, I really need to get to Lafayette Square more often; I had no idea this had been converted.

kristan said...

I like that building too. About missing second/third floors- our house on Mississippi lost its 3rd floor mansard in the tornado and the owners at the time just tarred over the pine floor - voila- new roof.

I think many of the 2 story mansard-less places in Lafayette Sq. lost their tops in 1896.

Anonymous said...

I love it.

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