Saturday, October 13, 2007

Meeting on Blairmont, Among Other Topics

This should make for some good theater. From what I understand there won't be a chance for much crowd interaction with Mr. McKee, but he will be there to make some kind of statement. Unfortunately, or maybe not, I will be in class and unable to attend.

Monday, August 20, 2007

14th St. Mall Construction Begins

Construction on the 14th St Mall in Old North St. Louis has officially begun. Financing for the residential portion closed on Friday, and E.M. Harris wasted no time getting started. Two buildings are now being gutted, with more to start very soon. The commercial component will close within the next few weeks, allowing full scale construction to start. Check out pics of the first day of work from my post over at the New Old North Blog.

Land Assmbly Tax Credit

I'm taking one from the PubDef book. I'll be reporting from Jefferson City tomorrow, where a special session hearing will be held on HB 1. The bill contains the controversial Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit, created solely for Paul McKee's "Blairmont." I'll have an update tomorrow. Hopefully some changes will be made to the bill to allow many more developers to qualify, such as removing the size requirement for starters.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sometimes It's The Little Things

In my time at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, I've had the opportunity to do a lot of different things. I have some big projects under my belt by this point. However, when you work at a neighborhood CDC that is also the neighborhood association in an area that has been neglected for half a century, it's not just big projects all the time. One of my projects in the last week has had the most impact of any other, and it is one of the smallest.

Old North gets a lot of outside visitors due almost entirely to Crown Candy. Unfortunately, most of the people coming in from just about everywhere have no idea of the great things happening in the neighborhood, and the city as a whole. They see the blight while driving in on I-70, then they get out of their cars and SUV's and see the abandoned 14th St. Mall right across from Crown. It's not really a pretty picture, but just a couple of blocks north or south one can find blocks of brand new, and spectacularly rehabbed houses and apartments. Of course, the 14th St. mall will be under complete reconstruction very soon. The patrons of Crown don't know to explore a little, so they miss out.

That's where my little project comes in. The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office is right across 14th St. from Crown Candy. About half the customers for Crown walk directly by the windows. The windows have always featured news stories from the past couple of years, some pictures, and promotion for North Market Place. However, all of this wasn't very organized, and the materials had taken quite a beating from the sun. By this point in time, I had been walking by all of this myself for over 6 months. While talking about the office one day with one of the other interns we decided the windows needed to be redone because they were probably giving people a bad impression about the organization, and by extension the neighborhood. The next day I took everything down to start fresh.

I started with the window that looks directly into the office. New signs promoting the website and blog were printed. Signs and pictures promoting the North Market Place development were made up. I went through all of the pics of the neighborhood that I have taken and printed a bunch of the good ones to display. The preservation campaign for the Mullanphy Emigrant Home also got a spot. To finish the window, I put one of our Coming soon signs up for the 14th St. Mall redevelopment. Stay tuned soon for the launch of the rebranding of the Mall area

Today I redid the windows in the conference room. These windows are actually in a storefront doorway, and had become incredibly dirty inside and out. I had to clean the windows first. I then put up website and blog signs, filled up a strip with old house tour posters, and printed some more pictures of the neighborhood. I also readied the windows to display posters when the 14th St. Mall rebranding launched very soon.

I went through all that just to say that my simple work in rebuilding the windows has led to many new looks. Before the new materials, people didn't often stop to look at what was displayed. After watching people for a week, many of the people walking by now stop, even if just for a moment. The office windows have almost become a microcosm of the neighborhood as a whole. People are rediscovering the city around them, renewing, rebuilding, returning.

This little project of mine, more than any other that I have done, could make a difference in the neighborhood, even if it just means many changed attitudes. Super projects don't make a difference if no one know about them.

Then I made this blog post to promote the neighborhood even more.

And since I mentioned it, here's a rendering of the renovated 14th St. It may have changed a little since May. The website and marketing campaign will launch very soon.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mullanphy Timeline

Yes, I am simply reposting an image from the New Old North Blog, but it's my image. Click on it to make it larger.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rally for Historic Preservation in Midtown

I'll be there, will you?

Rally for Historical Preservation and Urbanism! (beers afterwards)

Contact: Douglas Charles Duckworth


Phone: 566-3465


Date: July 26th 2007

Once again there will be a rally protesting Lawrence Biondi's demolition of historical buildings within Midtown and the burgeoning Locust Business District. The last two attempts at dissent were cut short due to inclement weather; however this Thursday the 26th many will rally at the intersection of Locust and Josephine Baker Boulevard. Please arrive by 5:30 PM. At 6PM we will be walking from the remnants of the Livery Stable to the soon to be demolished Second Empire mansion at 3740 Lindell. Show your opposition to the annihilation of historical buildings as they represent St. Louis' unique built environment and history! Inform Biondi and the political machine that needlessly bulldozing the built environment is not a policy which will revitalize St. Louis.

St. Louis City has a precedent of demolition extending back decades. The practice is engrained within its political culture. The argument for demolition, specifically of large areas, was that certain neighborhoods were blighted slums thus their redevelopment was in the interest of the City. In fact Soulard was supposed to be demolished per the 1947 City Plan. These large scale projects, called “urban renewal,” were designed to provide new housing, office space, and industrial, that would allegedly offset population losses due to suburbanization. They failed miserably as the City continued its depopulation.

Considering the former Livery Stable, the argument for demolition was that surface parking must be provided for SLU’s new arena. In reality, there is plenty of parking available via on-street, surface, and garage parking. Moreover, the benefit of providing parking does not outweigh the loss of St. Louis’ unique built environment. Readily apparent throughout St. Louis City is our plethora of parking garages and lots, many of which supplanted a historical building through demolition. Suburbanites visit the City for a ball game, concert, or other event; yet afterwards the sidewalks are devoid of pedestrian life. The goal of the establishment should be a change of policy. Both large scale urban renewal and demolition for parking are failed policies. What didn’t work in the past should not be repeated.

There is a better solution. The City will gain residents by concentrating resources on rehabbing the built environment. Ironically, after decades of decline, Mayor Francis G. Slay and others in power cite the Washington Avenue rehab boom, and other transitioning neighborhoods, as explanation for the City’s recent population increase. Why is needless demolition acceptable in some areas when rehabilitation of the built environment has had such positive benefits elsewhere? Specifically, within Grand Center, concentration on rehabilitation and new infill construction would bring pedestrian life. With such activity comes a market for storefront retail and commerce. The end result is that Grand Center lives up to its official name, The Intersection of Art and Life, rather than its current reality: The Intersection of Art and Death.

Pedestrian traffic facilitated through urban residential and commercial development provides SLU with patrons to their new arena without the construction of parking. Individuals would simply walk from where they live or work. They could even use a bike. Finally, the rehabilitation of our built environment would provide the City a higher tax yield. These monies could fund mass transit expansion within the City, thus lessening the need for parking. The possibilities are endless, yet are utterly destroyed when a viable historical building is demolished. The Livery Stable is gone, but the mansion at 3740 Lindell, which contributes to the Midtown National Register Historic District, can be saved. Moreover, a message must be sent: St. Louis should have higher standards.

After the rally we will be walking across Lindell to the Moolah, which was masterfully rehabbed in 2004, for our monthly discussion of politics, urbanism, preservation, and architecture. This is the perfect opportunity to meet fellow activists and make new friends. Be sure to attend the rally and the social gathering afterwards. The future of St. Louis City is being decided today. Make sure it does not look like O’Fallon. Your children will thank you.

More info:

SLU Student Newspaper

And from Ecology of Absence:

Thursday Night Drinks Are Back This Week

What: People gathering to talk about architecture, urban design and politics.

Where: The Moolah Lounge, 3821 Lindell Boulevard

When: Thursday, July 26 from 7:00 p.m. until the discussion winds down

Who is invited: Preservationists, aldermen, Situationists, members of the Preservation Board, plasterers, urbanists, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, developers, philanderers, saints and real people.

I'd like to add Paul McKee to the list, as well as our fine graffiti artists.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer In Old North

Just a quick update here since I haven't had much time to post anything lately. I happen to have an internship this summer at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group. You may remember I have actually been here since January. I'm doing a series on the New Old North blog featuring various scenes from throughout the neighborhood. I'm putting new pics up several times a week, and they are just random shots from around the neighborhood. Check out the pictures, and other news from the neighborhood at

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mullanphy benefit Concert Wednesday

Another major Mullanphy event is this Wednesday. This time it is a concert featuring Lydia Ruffin and the Flying Mules. Never heard either, but I hear it should be a good show. Come out and be entertained for a good cause.

The details:
Wednesday, May 16
7:30 PM (Doors at 7:00 PM)
Christ Church Cathedral, 1210 Locust Street
$25 at the door; $20 in advance (call 231-5031)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Old North St. Louis House and Community Tour

The Old North St. Louis House and Community Tour will take place this Saturday, May 12. The tour starts at the corner of St. Louis and 14th, on the end of the soon to renovated 14th Street Pedestrian Mall. Tickets are $10.00 in advance, $12.00 the day of the tour. Advance tickets can be purchased online at the Old North website, or at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office at 2800 N. 14th.

Nine historic home, some dating to the 1850's, and one new home will be on the tour. Confluence Academy, the 150 year old Sts. Cyril and Methodius Polish National Catholic Church, and two community gardens will also be on the tour.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What A View

I was able to take look today at the pics from inside the Mullanphy Emigrant Home from my tour on Monday. I saw it in person obviously, but they reminded me how awesome the view is from the second and third floors. I have always thought that the best view of the skyline came from the north, and the pictures definitely confirm this. The density just seems to cover the whole horizon from east to west. I would love to wake up to the view out the third floor every morning. The views to the other directions, while not quite the same, show the urban character of the city as well as anywhere. St. Louis is a pretty impressive city from the Mullanphy vantage point. Just imagine a Metrolink line coming up the street below, and all of the empty lots infilled with high density urban buildings full of new residents and retail. With some time and commitment, St. Louis will be known worldwide for it's comeback to status of one of the greats. Everything is there just waiting for those of us with visions of grandeur to take the initiative.

There's something about standing in that crumbling building that just shot my optimism through the roof (which would not be a good thing to happen while standing in a building that is open on three sides). I don't know if it is just me living in a dream world, but I have this sense that everything will turn out beyond anything anyone could have imagined just a year ago.

A few pictures are included in this post, many more can be viewed here.

Downtown as seen from Mullanphy

We can't explain it either

Old electrical equipment

Yours truly

Monday, April 16, 2007

I'm Legal

I've finally made it to 21, and I gotta say that it really doesn't feel any different. I didn't even get asked for my ID at lunch. I guess I get to enjoy the little bit of time I have left in college with the above 21 crowd. 1 month to party it up legally. Should be fun.

I got my interior "tour" of the Mullanphy Building today. The views are truly incredible. My camera decided to stop functioning correctly after 2 pics (from the outside no less), so I will post pics on Wednesday when I can get copies of Sean Thomas' pics. There are a couple with me up against the edge of the south wall and the Arch and skyline behind. I would love to wake up to that every morning. E.M. Harris will be working on stabilization again this week. A boom lift and lumber has already been dropped off, and more shoring for the sagging floor joists will be provided. The last two weeks have been very successful for fundraising, but a lot more is still needed. Head over to to find out more about how you can help out.

Off to have a bit of fun. Hopefully I'm still alive tomorrow.

Friday, April 13, 2007

New (Old) Photo of Mullanphy

A quick update before I pass out (plus I wanted to make a Friday the 13th posting). If you haven't noticed yet, Sean Thomas, Executive Director of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, has been making daily updates for the last 13 days on the New old North Blog as part of his "45 days in Old North." He has had many various postings about the neighborhood such as the upcoming house tour or highlighting some of the new construction, with the most recent being on the Mullanphy Emigrant Home. It's partially a post promoting the fundrasier tomorrow at the Schlafly Bottleworks, but it also contains a previously undiscovered picture. One of the tasks for us interns at the office on Wednesday was to contact the St. Louis Public Schools to see if they had any info concerning the Building from when it was known as Douglas School, and apparently Mullanphy School as well. Turns out that there was some info, including a picture from 1890. SLPS was gracious enough to share the photo with the Restoration Group. They have asked that it not be reproduced or republished without permission, but you can take a look at the New Old North Blog. The photo is from a different angle as well. It is oriented towards the south east, an angle previously unseen in historical photos.

My 21st birthday present from the Restoration Group is an interior tour on Monday, so a post with lots of pics from inside will be coming next week once I sober up...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Mullanphy Challenge

I would like to challenge every reader of this blog right now. By now you have probably seen at least a small blurb about the effort to raise the necessary funds to stabilize and ultimately redevelop the Mullanphy Emigrant Home in Old North St. Louis. This is an effort that needs to involve all of St. Louis. Make a small (or large) tax deductible donation. Tell all of your friends about the effort. Ask your rich relatives to consider making a contribution. Just get the word out. I want to see every urban blog from St. Louis and beyond with a post about the Mullanphy preservation effort and how others can help. Have an idea for a fundraiser? Let the Old North St. Louis Restoration group know about it and start planning. The opportunities for you to become involved are endless. The $350,000 goal may seem out of reach, but if everyone works together we can reach the goal before we lose the Mullanphy Emigrant Home forever.

Among the upcoming events are an emergency fundraiser on April 14 at the Schlafly Bottleworks (see flier below), a benefit concert sponsored by Landmarks at Christ Church Cathedral on May 16, and more to be announced. Stay tuned for more information about the concert and other events. For now, here is the information on the fundraiser for next Saturday.

To be held at: Schlafly Bottleworks

7260 Southwest Ave. Maplewood, MO 63143

Google Map Link:

Saturday, April 14th, 5-7:30 PM

Donation range: $50...$500...$350,000

If you need more information send an email to or give the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group a call at 314-241-5031.

We may not have big media attention yet, but a grassroots effort is what this is all about. This is more than this one building. This is people taking a stake in our own community, working together to preserve our past, and build a bright future. Something like this may never have been attempted before, but we have a chance to do something great. Will we seize the moment, or will we let another piece of our collective history fade into oblivion?

More Info:

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Another Mullanphy Update

The New Old North Blog has a post updating the status of the Mullanphy Building. Read it here. Your help is still greatly needed, and quickly.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Another Storm Strikes the Mullanphy

As reported by Michael Allen of Ecology Of Absence, The Mullanphy Emigrant Home sustained major additional damage in the storms that moved through the area. Part of the eastern facade collapsed, and a section of the north wall collapsed as well. More will likely be known after a more thorough survey of the damage can be done in the coming days.

You can view some photos of the storm damage on the Ecology of Absence Blog.

This is a major set back in the efforts to preserve the Mullanphy. Costs to rebuild the already damaged south wall were set at $150,000+. The additional costs from tonights collapse will likely add significantly to that total. Please consider making a donation to the Mullanphy Preservation Fund. To find out more about the effort and how you can become involved visit the What's new in Old North Blog. To make a credit card donation right now through PayPal just click on the PayPal icon below.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mullanphy Update

Your help is still needed in the effort to stabilize the historic Mullanphy Emigrant Home. Click here to find out more. Click on the image for a larger version.

At least Gieco Will Insure Me

I've been trying to think of a response to the STL Business Journals "article" about CAVEmen- Citizens Against Virtually Everything. I am supposedly one of these. I just don't know how to respond to the ridiculousness of this claim. I could never be considered as against development. I'm one of the biggest cheer leaders of development you will find. The problem developers have with me and others is that I have the balls to ask for appropriate urban development, not just the least common denominator.

If a closer look is taken, you can see that us anti-development people will actually take the time to rally for a good development. When Patti Tepper and her little group know as "Citizens for Responsible Development" threatened the Lindell Condos project, a group of us were very vocal in showing support. We had our own thoughts and criticisms of the design, but we were fully in support of the general idea presented.

In the cases used in the article to show an anti-development bias, we were and are all for development, just not in the way it has been proposed. We were all for the OPO being renovated, but we wanted to historic gem next door known as the Century Building to be renovated as condos and parking, as well as street level retail. This would have kept the historic integrity of the district as well as not blatantly going against official plans for the district to help out developer buddies. Even more important, there were developers willing to take this on, but there proposals were squashed by DESCO/DFC and politicians that are in their pockets. As far as the Bohemian Hill plans, I am perfectly fine with a retail development, it just needs to be done in a much more urban fashion. Phase II should be done as an infill and renovation project, not as clear cutting of new and renovated homes. When it comes to the north side and Paul McKee, I'm not against anything but letting buildings rot and potential for suburban styled development. I'm all for proper urban development. Just look to Old North to see how it should be done.

I think what pisses me off the most is that the Biz Journal is blatantly supporting developer buddies instead of taking a constructive look at what both sides wants. I think a dialogue would be much more useful to developers and urbanists than petty potshots. I'm perfectly willing to share what I would look for in a proper urban development as well as hear the developers view, but the developer needs to be willing to listen as well, not just view us as obstructionists in the way of their gifts to us poor urban folk that don't know any better.

For now I will proudly wear the badge of CAVEman- Citizens Against Vulgar Environments. Thanks to Steve Patterson for recoining the acronym.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mississippi Bluff's Resurected?

The latest word on the long delayed and poorly planned Mississippi Bluff's project along Broadway is that construction will start in April. Michael Curran apparently told a neighbor of the site across Broadway that construction would indeed finally start this spring, and that none of the delays were his fault. His biggest excuse seemed to be bad advice from an engineer that told him he would need a lot of steel in the ground. My info is from a second hand, but reliable source, so the details are a little fuzzy, but that's the story at the moment.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Snow, Again

The snow is back again, and seems to be more beautiful this time. With the temperature so cold the snow has the powdery consistency that we don't normally get around here. This allows the crystals to shine a little more brilliantly from the bright street light across the street. And with the temperatures so cold there won't be any melting to ruin my pictures tomorrow, or basically the next 10 days. And my camera is now back in perfect working condition, so I shouldn't have any problems there (always keep soda away from your camera, especially when it's sitting in your front seat and a cup happens to tip over). Hopefully I'll have some pics to post tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Update 2-2-07 12:57 am
Looks like I didn't have time to get any pics besides a few in front of my house and of the arena construction at SLU. If I see anything good I'll post, but I doubt there is anything noteworthy. Looks like we could get a major snowstorm in the next Friday- Saturday time frame. Hopefully I can get something good then.

Veronica O'Brien Has Got To Go

If you are somehow reading my resurrected blog but not reading Urban Review STL, there is something wrong with you. But in case you missed it, Steve Patterson has started a petition asking Veronica O'Brien to resign as President of the St. Louis School Board. Please sign the Petition if you care about the St. Louis Public Schools. I don't know what effect, if any, it will have, but at least it's another way for the voices against O'Brien and state takeover to be heard.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Built St. Louis

While I was checking out the update to the State hospital Page on today I just so happened to spy a pic of myself on the first page. The photo contains my brother, best friend, and me sledding in Tilles Park after a snow in the winter of 1997. I can guarantee that it is us because the coats match what we would have been wearing at the time, and the sleds are exact matches to what we still own. And going on my incredibly good memory, I think I may even remember someone taking pics from below the hill that day.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mullanphy Progress

As one of my tasks today I took some pics of the work now occurring to stabilize the Mullanphy Emigrant Home. The roof is now secured from collapse. The south wall is still completely exposed to the elements, and hopefully the workers can get that closed in soon.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


If you have spent any appreciable amount of time with me, you will know that I am a weather nut. I came oh so close to majoring in meteorology at SLU instead of Urban Affairs. I find 70 degrees and sunny to be quite boring. I'll take extreme heat, cold, tornadoes, or ice storms any day. Besides St. Louis, this is most definitely my biggest passion. The near miss of the ice storm last week was quite painful to me. I can sit in front of my computer for hours uninterrupted and follow the progress of a storm. In fact, that's what I have done all tonight. I got off work at 9:00 pm after the precipitation had started, and as soon as I got home I planted myself right in front of the keyboard and started watching. And I had the bloggers on Chris Higgins Blog over at to keep my company.

What does this have to do with a blog about the built environment of St. Louis, you ask? Well, I'm not sure if there is anything more beautiful than watching a fresh snow blanket the city. The gloom of the barren winter landscape slowly disappears as the snow accumulates inch by slow inch. The street lights provide a glow that is reflected off the fresh powder making it seem as bright as day. Auto Activity seems to come to a halt. Imperfections are slowly covered. The world seems to slow down briefly. Nature takes over what we think we have control of. And I get to take some different pictures from the normal scenes. I'll update tomorrow night with some of the pictures I took tonight and tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Old North St. Louis

Yes, I am alive still. Between school, work, and obviously the Urban St. Louis Forums, I just haven't had time for the blog. But I thought I would share a little personal update with all of you out there. As part of my course work at SLU I am required to complete an internship. I met with Sean Thomas of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group today, and I will be interning there starting Monday. So I finally get a practical application of what I have learned in the past 2.5 years, and I get to do it in one of my favorite neighborhoods. I'll keep everyone updated. Should be fun.