Yesterday Missouri Preservation released its annual list of the Most Endangered Historic Places in Missouri. The list now contains fifteen structures, nine held over from last year and six that are new additions. Among them are the Hodgen School in the Gate District and the Oak Grove Mausoleum and Chapel in St. Louis County, and some, like the once-majestic Williams-Gierth House in Poplar Bluff are even for sale!
"By preserving places of significance, we're providing physical and visual reminders of where we come from," says Karen Bode Baxter, president of the Missouri Preservation board.
Many historic buildings, she adds, can be repurposed. "It's too easy to say, 'It's more convenient to demolish the building for a parking lot,'" Baxter says. "In another year, you could find another use for it. We don't want shortsightedness to preclude us from giving opportunities to future generations."
For example, demolition had already begun on the Fur Exchange building downtown when the Drury family stepped in and converted it into a hotel.
If a community is interested in preserving a building, Missouri Preservation helps community leaders write grant proposals or find other means to find the funding the save the structure.
Of the buildings on this year's list, Baxter is most attached to the Oak Grove Mausoleum. The Byzantine-style structure with its gold-leafed dome modeled after the Pantheon in Paris was completed in 1929. It contains nearly 6,500 crypts and hundreds more niches for cremains. Its roof is caving in due to water damage. (It didn't help that vandals stole the copper drainpipes.) She's hopeful that it can be saved.
Placement on the endangered list, she says, "gives people time. They think, 'Oh, someone thinks this is important. I didn't think of it that way.'"
Here's the full endangered list:
1. Williams-Gierth House ("The Castle House"), Butler County 2. The Jefferson School, Cape Girardeau County 3. Historic Bridges of Missouri Statewide (Riverside Bridge, Christian County) (Route 66 Bridge, St. Louis County) 4. Former Missouri State Penitentiary Complex, Cole County 5. The William P. Thompson House, Grundy County 6. The Wheatley-Provident Hospital Building, Jackson County 7. Lexington Municipal Auditorium, Lafayette County 8. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lafayette County 9. St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad Depot, Madison County 10. The Russell Hotel, Mississippi County 11. Delmo Community Center, Pemiscot County 12. Rock Mechanics Laboratory/Former Missouri Trachoma Hospital, Phelps County 13. The Hodgen School Building, St. Louis City 14. The James Collier Marshall Home and Rock Hill United African Presbyterian Church, St. Louis County 15. The Oak Grove Mausoleum & Chapel, St. Louis County