Before and After in McKinley Heights

A series of loud banging sounds woke me up. I thought it was the trash truck. When I go to work I usually drive the same way out of my neighborhood, but a few days after first hearing the banging I went a different direction. The noise hadn’t been the trash truck—it was demolition equipment.

An ordinary two-family building in McKinley Heights had been torn down to its skeleton. I was shocked because I had had no idea that any of the buildings near me were in a state that required demolition. I asked the wrecking crew if I could take some photos.

Now there is an empty space.

In October 2015 I took pictures of all the houses on Allen Avenue in McKinley Heights including this one—2125 Allen Avenue.

It might be impossible for me to know what the condition of the interior of the house was, if it could have been saved. The construction workers told me that it was rotted inside and that it had to come down. But I’ve heard so many times that a St. Louis building couldn’t be saved. I’ve also observed buildings restored from seemingly terrible conditions. But this building is lost. Now I worry about the break in the street wall. This is not the first house to have been demolished on this street, but it was the first among this particular stretch of buildings. Every building lost without an adequate replacement weakens the neighborhood.

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Google Maps Street View. 2125 Allen is third from the left.

There is, however, restoration happening in McKinley Heights. Just a few houses down from the demolished building, this two-flat building is being made into a large one-family home. I was allowed inside to take some photos.

This building is fortunate to have kept some key original details like this chandelier and fireplace. The fireplace in my own apartment once looked almost identical to this one, but was unfortunately modernized in a contemporary 2009 style.

I visited the apartment again a few weeks later and was happy to see they had preserved the fireplace and the light fixture. Phew!

It’s fascinating to see recurring designs in these buildings, all built in the early 1900s. Details like fireplaces, banister finials, and floor moulding hint that they were built in the same time by the same people. These buildings have a shared history.

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