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Historic Doering Mansion in Path of Broadway Bluffs Townhouses

October 27, 2005 History/Preservation, Planning & Design, South City 5 Comments

 

doering1The South Broadway bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in South St. Louis offer some of the most stunning views in the region. Seldom does a week go by that I don’t stop at Bellerive Park and take in the view. The view of Illinois is rural and lush while barges and industry remind me of the long history of the Mississippi as a working river.

Since the founding of St. Louis and Carondelet people have enjoyed these views. Most often is was the well to do that built great country mansions along the bluffs. But over time we’ve lost nearly every early mansion. We are about to lose yet another.



doering2At 5200 South Broadway is the complex known for decades as the Good Samaritan Home. The former nursing home has been vacant for a number of years now. Most have expected the strange mix of mostly unattractive multi-story buildings to be razed for new construction. But nobody was sure about the former Doering Mansion, dating to 1918, at the North end of the property.

Mike Curran, the developer, is known in these parts for his renovations of the Steins Row Houses and the Virginia School (aka Maddox School). It was his experience as a seasoned rehabber that put many of us at ease about he being the developer of this site. It came as a shock when we were informed he did not intend to save the existing mansion.

 

 

doering3The Doering Mansion sits proudly on the bluff behind stately trees.

The Good Samaritan home had divided the old mansion, which they acquired in the mid 50s, into a two-family unit — one for their director and one for their assistant director. Then they left the mansion vacant for many years, allowing it to fall into a sad state of repair.

Still, the developer has a good record of preservation. If anyone can save the Doering Mansion it would be Curran. If you saw the Stein’s Row Houses before renovation you’d have thought it was not much more than a pile of rocks. The Doering Mansion is nowhere near beyond hope.

The Carondelet Historic Society, as noted in their Summer/Fall 1998 newsletter, indicates they awarded The Good Samaritan Home with a plaque in recognition of the architecture and history of the Doering Mansion. The award ceremony was held on September 20, 1998. So what has happened in the last 7 years that would make it OK to raze the building?

You’d think the Carondelet Historical Society would be rallying to save the building but they are suspiciously silent. Alderman Matt Villa, in the center of the controversial Loughborough Commons project, is supportive of this project. I have nothing against replacing the existing nursing home buildings with new residential construction but I’d like to see some proposals saving the old mansion.
From Deb Peterson’s column:

Developer Mike Curran will hold a “grand opening” Oct. 28-29 for a 56-unit townhouse development he is planning at the site of the former Good Samaritan retirement home, 5200 South Broadway. He is trying to pre-sell units before beginning construction on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.

I don’t know any specifics about what hours the grand opening will be but I plan on stopping by.

 

doering4At left is the house just to the North of the site. This home will be one of maybe three old mansions to remain after the Doering Mansion is razed. This is sad for a mile long section of Broadway that probably had at least twelve such mansions at one time. I fear this house could also meet with the same fate as the Doering.

As an aside, a wedding party was taking pictures when I taking pictures last week.

I’d like to see the developer separate this house and land from the rest of the project. Sell this part off for someone to return the home to its former glory days. An alternative would be to make the house into 2-3 condos are part of the bigger project. Some have suggested making the mansion into the development’s community center.

I think viable options exist but the old house, like much our building stock, just isn’t valued. When will we learn to place value in history, character, and architecture?

– Steve

 

 

Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. Brian says:

    On the Good Samaritan home, I’m apathetic on the demolition of the old riverbluff mansion, since the new townhouse development will be much denser. That the attached garages/carports will create a parking-court feel to the internal street is my main concern.

    Personally, I don’t fight to save particular buildings based on their architecture, but advocate for more urban site design, whether developers seek to revitalize old buildings or build new.

    Much of our street life in modern development patterns is eaten away by privatization of outdoor spaces and designing such spaces for virtually exclusive use of automobiles, with pedestrians a distant afterthought.

    So, how best this new private development for dense housing can add street and sidewalk spaces respective of its neighborhood surroundings and not feel like a gated pod are my greater concern, not the loss of a vacant, large old house on private green space.

    [REPLY – Well stated, I generally agree. The new development, as well as the existing house, are set back far from the street with no relationship to either the street or sidewalk. It will most likely have a private/gated feel to it either way.

    The density differences between saving the old house vs the new construction is pretty minimal – maybe 3-4 units.

    While I have been known to fight for a particular property based on architecture what is more important for me is the overall streetscape. In this case it is the line of old mansions. We have two side by side with a third that really needs some help (further North). I’d hate to see these all go away.

    If we really want density then we should build a taller structure along the lines of the Altenheim to the South. This would have more units and could minimize the parking by having an underground garages rather than a line of garage doors. – SLP]

     
  2. jason says:

    This one came up a while back on the rehabbersclub touting that it had great existing architectural elements/artifacts. Then shortly thereafter, it was vandalized and those pieces came up missing. I think this was only a matter of time and as much as I hate to say, progress. I wish someone could have saved it, but they had their chance. Some guy decided to build a huge mansion just north of here on the bluff for a convention center. Not my taste, but at least its revitalizing the area. Think of the property tax. They will more than double or triple the property tax for the property (probably though in 10 years once whatever abatements they got kick in) not saying that they did get any sort of assistance for the new project, but it wouldnt surprise me either. Sometimes you have to sacrafice a few to save the many. Consider it Architectural Triage.

    Jason

     
  3. rick says:

    On November 4, at the regular CCBF Business Lunch (served in the dining room of the SSJ Convent, 6400 Minnesota, reservations by 11/2, cost $8), developer Mike Curran will present his plans for new condos to be built on the site of the Good Samaritan Home.

     
  4. Claire says:

    “Sometimes you have to sacrafice a few to save the many. Consider it Architectural Triage.”

    That’s what people say every time one building in the city comes down.

    You say that thousands of times, you get the buildings from the 1700s on the riverfront gone, you get Kerry Patch and Carr Square and Mill Creek Valley gone, you get much of Grand Center and of Old North St. Louis gone, you get large parts of Downtown StL’s unique fabric gone.

    It’s never just one building.

    (And valuing a building by ornament and other things that can be easily and quickly stolen…. Well, if you’re a big time developer, those can also be easily replaced!)

     
  5. Image links are broken on this and related articles ๐Ÿ™

     

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