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City Landmark Status Sought For "Tillie's Corner"

Updated June 25th with vote results

The Preservation Board voted unanimously Monday to approve the city landmark designation. It still requires action by the Board of Aldermen.

Our original story

The St. Louis Preservation Board will vote tonight on whether to make the site of a north St. Louis grocery store a city landmark.

Lillie V. "Granny" Pearson operated a grocery store called Tillie's Food Stop at the corner of Garrison Avenue and Sheridan Street in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood from 1948 until 1988. She and another family member owned the two neighboring buildings as well.

Tillie's granddaughter, Carla Pearson Alexander, called it "Tillie's Corner." In 2012, she and her husband were in the process of trying to raise enough money to stabilize and renovate the buildings to turn them into a community hub when a windstorm demolished the building that housed the store. Alexander ended up trapped in a third building by the fallen brick. 

Credit (provided by Carla Pearson Alexander)
The damage caused by a December 2012 windstorm forced the demolition of all three buildings on "Tillie's Corner," making the site ineligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preservationists and students at Washington University had been working to get the three buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But the collapse meant the site was no longer eligible for that designation. Alexander says city recognition would show people how significant her grandmother's store was to the neighborhood.

"She would just always say she wanted to give back to the community," Alexander said. She stayed in the neighborhood for so long."

Designation as a city landmark gives buildings protections against demolition. They must , among other things, have significant value to the history or the architecture of St. Louis, the state of Missouri, or the entire United States. They can also be the site of a historic event, or contain innovative elements of craftsmanship.

Alexander's landmark petition reads in part:

"Tillie's Corner meets Criterion A for designation as St. Louis City Landmark. In particular, it represents important cultural practices: building community, social activism, and assisting others. The Butterfly Home, garage and community garden located at 1345-55 N. Garrison Avenue represent the former residential/commercial buildings on the site."

"This is just another way to say, you know, yes, this is history in our community, this is a part of the important history of St. Louis," Alexander said.

The Cultural Resources Office has recommended that the Preservation Board approve the designation. It also needs approval of the Board of Aldermen.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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