Have you ever looked at photos of past streetscapes not only in Maplewood but other places as well and wondered how is it that the folks in charge at the time could let so many important structures be lost? Part of the answer is that they weren’t all lost at once but rather individually over what seems a long period of time compared to the lifespan of just one person.
Another part of the answer is that we live in a country with a history of not interfering much with owners of private property. This is not all good. Our best structures have lifespans that far exceed any human being’s. They also have many owners over the course of their useful years.
Unfortunately some of the owners are the sort that take as much as possible out of a building and put back as little as they can. These folks can greatly disrupt a community by stripping buildings of the details that make them interesting and often leaving them in bad repair. That is why it is important to remain vigilant and insist that owners keep their properties in good repair. Structures deemed important to the history of the community and beyond require special consideration.
If you’ve ever looked at photos from the past and thought more should have been done to preserve the things that were important, well at this very moment in time we are losing an important part of our historic fabric, the wonderful cabinetry of the Harper’s Pharmacy.
The persons responsible this time are surprising for they are the executives of the Sierra Club of Eastern Missouri. I spoke with one, John Hickey, Thursday afternoon. After listening to his reasons why the cabinets cannot stay, I’m not convinced. I believe if he were of a mind to keep them, they could be very useful and no doubt fascinating to anyone visiting their office. To their credit the Sierra Club folks are keeping other parts of the historic interior such as the floor covered with one inch, square, ceramic tiles and hopefully the pressed, tin ceiling.
Both Mr. Hickey (on Thursday) and the property owner, David Schlafly (responding to an earlier blog post) seem not to grasp the importance of keeping the cabinets in their original location. They both mentioned that the cabinets will be saved. This is not enough. Reader Doug Smith nailed it when he said if the cabinets are relocated they would have no historical continuity and “might as well be in Chicago”.
David Schlafly is not a property owner who causes harm to a community, quite the opposite. He has a proven track record of taking difficult buildings and returning them to productive use while respecting their historic characteristics. As for the Sierra Club, I have supported them in the past. I will support them in the future. I can’t imagine a better organization to have in your community.
This makes it especially hard to understand why they would be determined to alter the historic interior of one of our most important, historic, commercial buildings. We have shown in previous posts, the cabinets they are causing to be removed were installed about 1926 at the time of the buildings construction and have remained in place until this past week! 88years!
As I explained to Mr. Hickey, I will continue to call for the return of Harper’s cabinets to their original location. The longer they are dislocated, the less likely they are to ever be returned. There does not exist in any of Maplewood’s commercial buildings another historic interior as worthy of protection and preservation. This is the last one.
If you have ever wondered how we could have let some of our best architecture and fittings be lost, this is how.