Michael Allen, lecturer in American Culture Studies in Arts & Sciences
I first met Alderman Sam Moore in 2007, when I was a freshman building preservationist tilting at windmills as much to learn how to tilt as to strike the windmills. Moore had just taken office and had pressed the city’s Land Reutilization Authority to demolish some 39 vacant historic buildings in The Ville neighborhood. The volume of this request was astounding, but not the reasons why. The Ville had far more than 39 vacant buildings, and saviors were either invisible or non-existent.
At the Preservation Board’s meeting considering the demolition, I joined other advocates for conserving built heritage in urging a rejection of the request on the grounds that many of these buildings were in good condition and that the Ville never had the chance to explore historic tax credits. The Ville was a local historic district, making demolitions tougher, but not a national one, which would bring state and federal financial incentives for those scarce saviors.
Moore was a shock. When he took to the rostrum to make the case for demolition, he did not repeat the lines I had heard many times – that the buildings were far from saving, that they were threats to public safety or that they were not important. Instead, Moore offered an elegy of sorts, starting by acknowledging how these buildings were built better than anything we would ever see rise in the city again. These buildings also stored more history than anyone in the room could ever learn. Moore valued the buildings as cultural and economic assets.
Read the full piece in the St. Louis American.