I reported in my column last week that I was not mad at Mayor Steve Myers over the suckers growing from the decorative trees on Osage Street. I just wanted someone to trim them.
But it turns out that I am a little miffed. Here’s what happened.
When the mayor reported at last week’s board of aldermen meeting that his new beautification committee was launching a “Yard of the Month” program he mentioned my name. He gave me credit for the idea, which was nice, but a little off the mark.
The mayor said I had called him to say the city wanted to get tough on citizens when something was wrong, but ignored people who are doing things right.
I did make a call that went something like that, but I wasn’t talking about yards. I was talking about buildings. The city wants to get tough on building violations, but ignores the property owners who have put hundreds of thousands of dollars into historic buildings to turn them into showplaces.
If we are going to talk image, I wanted to see those property owners get credit for their contribution to the image of the city.
It does not help the image of our city to hear officials cry because the code enforcement practices of the past let some shabby buildings continue to stand. If image is the main concern, turn the derelict structures over to the city administrator, who now has the authority to tear them down, and go get a cup of coffee at Little Ireland Coffeehouse in an 1870s building that has been transformed into an Old Town jewel.
I have to tell you . . . I do like manicured lawns. And everybody (almost everybody) likes flowers. But there is no comparison in the cost to create a good looking yard with the cost and effort to renovate a historic building. Some property owners are doing what the mayor said he wanted to see done. I gave him a few examples.
I can’t guess how much they spent on the coffeeshop because they did a lot of the labor themselves, but Maria and Phil Brennan turned the former Thiebes Furniture store and Funeral Home building into a welcoming place of business that would be a point of pride for any self-respecting town.
G’s Barbershop, in the Knoble Building, is something of a lucky happenstance. When two lady barbers, Lisa Gildehaus and Courtney Gullet, decided to open for business there they happened to be married to men in the building trades. And what they have done with this former grocery store/card shop/antique store is worth bragging about.
The Pacific Area Chamber of Commerce, which now owns the Knoble building, moved its headquarters in to the little annex next door to the barbershop, which they have patched, painted and decorated with charm that would look great on any town’s main street.
Some 20 years ago Steve and Pat Reed rescued what might have been the city’s first gas station in Pacific at 104 W. St. Louis St. and turned the building into a modern office for their Reed Insurance Agency.
Very recently, Brad and Ed Burt took a row of empty and derelict buildings in the 300 block of South First, demolished all but the core, and renovated the center and clad the building so it could withstand floods for their Burt’s Discount Cars.
First State Community Bank at St. Louis and Third Street turned the core of an aging, worn and abandoned former grocery store building, into a state-of-the-art bank and a modern architectural gem.
England Company Case Management, in the former Mayle/Hoven residence on East Osage, rescued the beautiful Queen Anne building that the city purchased and neglected following water pipe breaks and dressed up an exterior that would deserve an award anywhere.
Four cousins, Jim and Bill McHugh and Tom and Mike Dailey have poured more than $1 million into the renovation of the three-story McHugh-Dailey Building, the linchpin of downtown renovation and turned it into an architectural treasure.
This 1911 building was in a sad state of neglect when the cousins inherited it. The historic opera house on the third floor was closed by the fire marshal because it had only one entrance. Also using a lot of their own labor and a lot of money they restored and reopened what this reporter believes is the only vintage opera house in the U.S. still in operation by the original family.
I just wanted to vent. In this reporter’s view the image of our city is in pretty good hands in these individuals and companies that have decided not only to be in business here, but to look good while they do it.
There. I feel better now.
Pauline Masson can be reached at 314-805-9800 or email@example.com.