Maplewood History: The Immaculate Conception Buildings Are At Great Risk!

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The campus of the Church of the Immaculate Conception consists of five buildings.  There is the big church at Marshall and Moller.  The rectory is right next to it, between the big church and Marshall.  Just north of the rectory is a building called the annex built to house priests.  Just to the north of the annex is the 1937 convent, home to the nuns.

A short distance east of the above cluster is the original 1905 church/school building.  Lacking the finances to build both, in 1905, the first congregation built a combination church and school building. They used this building for their services and classes until they could build the big church in 1925.  Most folks are not aware of its presence and importance.

These buildings are threatened now by a large development that would contain some sorely needed housing for seniors.  We need this and I might wind up living there but only if they can accomplish it without the destruction of any of these historic buildings.

Editor’s note: The church building, on the corner of Marshall and Moller, will not be demolished in the current development plan. We apologize for any confusion.

It is very irritating that at this time with most folks being aware of what makes a good, livable community, we should still have to be fighting to protect our historic buildings.  Especially these.  The archdiocese is a good landlord.  All of these buildings are in excellent condition. All are important parts of the historic fabric of our community.  All should be preserved.

You will have a chance to comment on this at the next city council meeting on March 12 at 7PM.  I hope to see you there.

The big church.  The building next to it is called the annex.  The rectory is between the annex and the big church.

The 1937 convent building.

The rectory and the big church.

The rectory.

The side view of the rectory.

Detail of the eave of the rectory.  Copper gutters.  Superb condition.  Who can condone the destruction of this fine building? (I have since learned that the rectory and the other small buildings may not be demolished.)

Just east of the cluster around the big church is the original church/school built in 1905. This image is from the 1909 Plat Book of St. Louis County.

Another early view of the original church from a postcard.  Courtesy of Andrew Rochman.

The front (western facade) as it looks today. Notice that the porch on the right still has its original roof.

Detail of the porch roof.

Ditto.

Southern elevation today. This building is in very good condition and would be a good candidate for conversion to condos or whatever. Look how large the windows are.  It would be a crime to lose it.

A gymnasium was added to the eastern end of the original church building.  For many Maplewoodians, myself included, it was our polling place for many years.

The gym is very well constructed.  I fail to see why it could not be repurposed.  The brick work is of a very high quality.

How can anyone considering wrecking these splendid buildings?  By all means share this with anyone who might be interested.  Definitely call your mayor and councilperson.

Attend the council meeting Tuesday the 12th at 7.  Let everyone know that you do not approve of the destruction of these remarkable buildings.

Doug Houser      March 11, 2024

 

 

 

 

16 COMMENTS

  1. I attended Immaculate Conception grade school in the 1960’s, and even then, I would not have considered them to be in excellent condition. These old buildings cost a ton to maintain, that has not been done by the archdiocese, it’s been done with whatever is collected in the Sunday basket and other charitable donations. It’s relatively easy to bring in an engineering firm including environmental assessment as to the condition of the buildings. If there are historical tax credits and other public money available, it may be possible to make this pencil. Otherwise, I would not give this much chance of redevelopment of existing buildings. This process will take years, the empty school building on Boland in Richmond Heights sat vacant for a decade, and any of these old buildings deteriorate rapidly without TLC. The roof of the Church is leaking and is showing decay on the ceiling. I’ve been told some windows are broken. Who is going to keep the heat on to prevent pipes from freezing and other required maintenance while this all gets sorted out? These old facilities self-destruct quickly with age, look at the old churches in the city. If senior housing is required and needed within say 10 years, look somewhere else. Not sure why the burden of senior housing is on Maplewood though, Maplewood represents a very small percentage of the population of the region. What percentage of residences in Maplewood are multifamily vs. single family? It would not surprise me if it’s 50%, so does Maplewood really need/want more multifamily? There are few streets in Maplewood that don’t currently have multifamily, many of those with that 25-year life span mentioned, and some blocks are entirely multifamily with the 25-year life span going on 50+ now.
    There are some very nice, arguably the nicest houses in Maplewood on the west side of Marshall Ave, maybe someone should ask them what they would like to see as it will affect their property values and lifestyle. Maybe this sounds stupid, but wasn’t Lyndover school torn down and made a beautiful park? Who would argue to put up senior housing there now? Church is the big asset there to be mainained, a beautiful park around it would look great. IC Park.

  2. I was wondering if the school building suffered any damage from the 1916 explosion on Anna? Your reporting showed major damage and was felt far away from Maplewood.

    • Tommie, the damage from the blast was so extensive and far reaching that I don’t see how the church building could have escaped. However, I have no memory of ever reading that it was damaged in any of the articles.

  3. I think we should be prioritizing people, particularly young families, over old buildings. A development that would provide housing for young families in Maplewood would have an enormous benefit not only for those families, but for the businesses in Maplewood. Anything we can do to create the possibility that someone can live, work, and raise a family in Maplewood is a good thing. I think most Catholics would support the demolition of an old church if it contributed to a useful development for our community.

    • I have absolutely no problem with the development but I can think of lots of other unattractive spots it could go that way we are improving on those locations without destroying something historical that could community useful.

  4. My apologies if I published information that was not accurate. It was second hand. I went by the city hall today to look at the plans but no one was there to show them to me. No one will be more relieved than me if some of the original buildings will be left. Please remember, Maplewood History and 40 South News are free. We try not to but mistakes will be made.

  5. Don’t forget that the property is owned by the Archdiocese of St. Louis. As the owner, they have a fiduciary responsibility to market the property and to consider all offers for it. This is unfortunately a process that will be needed for many STL parishes that are closing. Maplewood doesn’t own it and if they own other suitable property and believe “affordable” is needed, then use that property.
    Doesn’t Maplewood have enough apartments all over the town? Kmart fiasco is a great example, but in the 1960’s Maplewood allowed countless single-family homes to be torn down and multi-unit apartments built on them. Almost the entire block across from the school is filled with these packed in apartments. The block behind what was Kmart, now Schnucks the same. Rannells and Laclede Station Road. They are all over Maplewood, do we need more?

    In regard to the Church, it will cost a significant amount, likely over $100k per year to keep operational where is that money going to come from? If anyone buys the property and promises to keep the Church in repair, they should be required to provide a performance bond to do just that or in a few years, they will claim that’s not economically viable, which to be honest, likely isn’t. Given the age of these buildings, they are full of asbestos. Likely $1 million plus to remediate before anything can be done. And millions to rehab into suitable living space which isn’t going to wind up in the “affordable” category. If apartments are what Maplewood needs, follow the model that Richmond Heights did on Dale and Boland Avenue. A public school was sold and an adjoining Church and a large, high end apartment complex was built with rents of $1500-$4500/month. Richmond Heights is enjoying the tax revenue from that which helps to keep the lid on everyone else’s taxes. Little Flower school is closing, what will be done with that property? My guess, high end condo’s with high tax bills such as those built on Dale Ave selling for $500k+

  6. 1. It’s less expensive to demo and rebuild (cheaply). But the replacement buildings generally are considered built to “20-year” standards, not “100-year” standards.
    2. The city government in general is pleased with the “new” property taxes resulting from the construction of the apartment buildings at Sunnen Drive and Hanley. (This doesn’t stop the Council from giving the out-of-town developers additional tax incentives, such as TIFs. It also didn’t keep the developers in this case from getting HUD money to build these buildings, which now rent apartments for far more than a mortgage payment.)
    3. Because of #2, I don’t think the city council will say “no” without a strong protest.
    4. Buildings all over St. Louis have been repurposed for housing, both market-rate and various sorts of non-profit. To list three examples: “the Cloisters” (market-rate housing), Garfield (disabled-friendly housing from school conversion on South Jefferson), and various homeless housing (not “shelters” as commonly understood) done by Peter and Paul.
    5. This project would likely qualify for Historic Tax credits, both Federal and State, that can pay for up to about 45% of a historic building conversion and reuse. This was done to make preservation more financially feasible, and it would be smart to do so in this case.
    We don’t need any more eyesore projects that fail within 25 years, despite the sugar-coated and vague label of “senior” housing.

  7. We need to save these historic buildings. They are structurally sound and can be repurposed as a senior living community. Haven’t we already demolished enough of our history in the name of “progress?” K-Mart anyone? Those who have been around here a while know what a debacle that was. Let’s not keep making the same mistakes.

  8. As I stated before, there are other properties the city could use to build it’s affordable housing for seniors. These buildings , exclusive of the church, will be torn down NOT renovated. The city owns property on the Big Bend side of the Summer Industrial Park. That land could be used for the developer to build on. Please come to the City Council Meeting on tuesday evening. Save some of Maplewood history. We need your help!

  9. I understand having an attachment to the buildings, but I think it would be a shame to not build affordable housing for senior so that we could just keep a building that isn’t going to get much use. I don’t think that it’s ideal for senior housing to have really large windows at basically the ground level. Even if you did divide the school building into lofts, I don’t think you’d get very many of them. I don’t know much about the plan, but there’s a real crisis in affordable housing. Not only that, but a lot of senior housing that does get built is often right next to an interstate highway, where the air quality is terrible and you’re not really in a neighborhood. I think this housing could be a great thing for the potential residents and for the community, and I think it’s just important to keep some perspective.

    • Jim, these buildings are not right next to an interstate. They are smack dab in the middle of the town and literally within walking distance to downtown Maplewood. Something I’m sure many people, including seniors would love. The buildings are structurally sound and could be repurposed as I mentioned above. No need to tear down perfectly good, not to mention historical buildings. if you’re not aware of Maplewoods past of taking a wrecking ball to perfectly sound and beautiful buildings, only to build eyesores that never really helped Maplewood progress to begin with, you should look in to that. Maybe you would think differently.

  10. I think sometimes the problem is that, with Uncle Sugar or other governmental bodies giving incentives to developers to build things, financially developers are better off starting over, even if converting and adapting existing buildings would be better for the community and the taxpayers.

  11. Doug-thanks for the article about IC. I do think some creative architectural design could help to save and perhaps even expand the current school building into a wonderful senior living community. The old Wilkerson School in the city right next to Maplewood is a good example of a wonderful reuse of school space. And of course, Maplewood’s own Mooselvania is another amazingly creative use of church space. Hopefully, this project is considered carefully and thoughtfully by all parties.

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