Further Coverage of San Luis Debacle

Michael R. Allen, Ecology of Absence. Certainly This Will Be an Impressive Monument

Prior to the 1961 building code, large buildings were restrained by requirements that the majority of wall surface area meet a defined thickness. Materials like concrete panels and glass had to be employed within larger wall systems, and could not be used to clad an entire building. Before 1961, construction of a glass high-rise in St. Louis was not permitted by code. The removal of the old restrictions allowed St. Louis to embrace the building technologies that allowed for fully modern architectural expression.

Mayor Raymond Tucker was an enthusiast for the DeVille project. In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article from 1961 (“$4,500,000 Hotel to Be Built at Corner of Lindell, Taylor,” September 30, 1961), the mayor raved: “Certainly, this will be an impressive monument to the perseverance of those far-sighted citizens who worked on our code for more than five years.”

Douglas C. Duckworth, West End Word Letter to EditorKrewson Should Have Opposed San Luis Plan

The reality is that a better deal could have arisen from this situation without the need for further action. She should have brokered a meeting whereby a developer, and those for preservation, could have established an outcome suitable for all concerned parties.

Alderwoman Krewson would have seemed the master politician resolving a conflict between two superficially opposed parties. She would have received praise from residents and activists for preserving the building while also easing the archdiocese’s alleged parking and land control concerns.

Instead Alderwoman Krewson ignored the Central West End Association’s compelling testimony. With her argument for demolition, Krewson co-opted the language and concerns of many in an intellectually insulting attempt to appear caught in an untenable situation — far from reality.

The DeVille, viewed by the State Historic Preservation Office as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, is considered qualifying and perhaps high merit under local ordinance. These buildings are not to be demolished.

The Platform Editorial Board, St. Louis Post DispatchCitizens should have central role in preservation fights

The San Luis was not to everyone’s taste. Then, again, neither were the row houses and Second Empire masterpieces surrounding Lafayette Park when more than 60 years ago, their demolition was sought because they were deemed “obsolete.” Now they are among the most sought-after homes in St. Louis. The fight to save the San Luis was compelling, advanced by savvy citizens. They told the San Luis story imaginatively, explaining its architectural importance.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation weighed in the building’s behalf, and even the circuit court concluded that the structure was eligible for listing on the National Registry of Historical Places.

The battle, though apparently lost, now has a more urgent dimension. The court, in dismissing the case, took an unreasonably narrow view of who, under St. Louis’ historic preservation ordinance, has legal “standing” to challenge decisions to demolish historically significant structures. Being a city resident is not enough, the court ruled.

That decision is at odds with the ordinance’s express purpose to promote preservation citywide; it grants right of appeal to all who are “aggrieved.” The ruling should be broadened on appeal and clarified with further legislation.

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