Early 20th-century St. Louis structures may be nominated for national historic register | St. Louis Public Radio

Early 20th-century St. Louis structures may be nominated for national historic register

May 7, 2015

Two local neighborhoods — one affluent, one working class — and two local historic buildings are being considered for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Next week in Joplin, the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will decide on Missouri's nominations to the National Register, the nation's honor roll of historic properties. The council is appointed by the governor and works with the Department of Natural Resources’ State Historic Preservation Office, which administers the National Register of Historic Places program for Missouri.

This year, the council will be evaluating five districts and four individual properties throughout the state. Of the nine nominations, four are in the St. Louis area. The local sites are tied to St. Louis' development in the early 20th century and reflect the region's economic diversity.

Claverach Park Home
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold l St. Louis Public Radio

Claverach Park: This Clayton neighborhood, off of Wydown Boulevard, is one of stately mansions with lush yards that feels — and sounds — distant from the bustle of nearby downtown Clayton. It was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places for two reasons.

  1. The neighborhood is characterized by architect-designed homes built primarily from the 1920s to the 1950s. 
  2. It was also one of the last areas laid out by Julius Pitzman, a city planner highly influential in the development of St. Louis’s gated communities. 

Claverach Park is in no danger from deterioration, as some nominated properties are. It remains a desirable area in an affluent suburb. Preservation specialist Karen Bode Baxter said that adding Claverach Park to the National Register will protect the neighborhood from federal projects such as the construction of highways or cell phone towers. 

Two Homes in Dutchtown South
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold l St. Louis Public Radio

Dutchtown South Historic District: Nominated to the National Register for its status as a “historic working- and middle-class streetcar suburb," the area is roughly bounded by South Grand Boulevard and Delor Street, Alabama Avenue, Liberty Street, Virginia Avenue and Bingham Avenue. The neighborhood is composed of 625 buildings defined and connected by an early streetcar route along Virginia Avenue. The original streetcar was horse-drawn but was electrified in 1893. The neighborhood was originally inhabited by German Americans and is now primarily African American. Census data from 2010 indicate that roughly one-quarter of the homes in the area are vacant. Dutchtown architecture is characterized by smaller, single-family, red brick homes with defined cornices and molding. “The ultimate thing about these neighborhoods is the great beauty that was invested in making homes for working-class people,” said NiNi Harris, a long-time resident and historian. "Here teachers can afford a home."

Brahm-Michellette Motor Car Company Building
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold l St. Louis Public Radio

Brahm-Mitchellette Motor Car Co.: The Brahm-Mitchellette building, 3537 S. Kingshighway Blvd., set the stage for the numerous car dealerships seen along Kingshighway today, said preservation specialist Ruth Keenoy. Previously, much of St. Louis relied on horse, carriage, or streetcars. The building "illustrates a really short window of time in which these automobile dealerships were starting to move outside of downtown. They started to be located in areas where people could actually start their cars,” said Keenoy. The dealership was built in 1927 and functioned as a Pontiac dealer until 1944. Architecturally, the building is defined by its integration of brickwork and Spanish Revival-style-detailing, said Keenoy. Building owners recently returned the interior to its original state by removing internal architectural changes made after the 1950s. The building is currently an insurance office. 

Central Institute for the Deaf buildings: Dr. Max Aaron Goldstein founded the Central Institute for the Deaf in 1914. The institute’s first building was completed in 1916 and the second building in 1929. The building, influenced by Mediterranean architecture, features terra cotta details, a Spanish-style roof, and external ironwork details. Goldstein’s work initially focused on helping teach deaf children to speak, specifically addressing the issue with young children. The institute's research resulted in the initial helmet design used during super-sonic speed tests in the mid-20th century. The institute's buildings, at 800 South Euclid Ave., are nominated to the National Register because of the school's influential role in educating the deaf and its pioneering research into hearing and speech. 

The other nominations include:

  • Cynthia-Kinzer Historic District in Poplar Bluff
  • Prairie View Stock Farm in Vernon County
  • The Fairfax Building in Kansas City
  • Interstate Bakeries Corp. headquarters in Kansas City
  • Missouri State Penitentiary Historic District in Jefferson City