Looking back on 750

A+drive+down+N.+Taylor+Ave+is+a+showcase+of+Kirkwood%E2%80%99s+prime+real+estate.+But+for+over+six+years%2C+the+nearly+2-acre+lot+where+the+historic+house+of+750+N.+Taylor+once+stood%2C+has+been+vacant.
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Looking back on 750

A drive down N. Taylor Ave is a showcase of Kirkwood’s prime real estate. But for over six years, the nearly 2-acre lot where the historic house of 750 N. Taylor once stood, has been vacant.

A drive down N. Taylor Ave is a showcase of Kirkwood’s prime real estate. But for over six years, the nearly 2-acre lot where the historic house of 750 N. Taylor once stood, has been vacant.

Mary Grace Heartlein

A drive down N. Taylor Ave is a showcase of Kirkwood’s prime real estate. But for over six years, the nearly 2-acre lot where the historic house of 750 N. Taylor once stood, has been vacant.

Mary Grace Heartlein

Mary Grace Heartlein

A drive down N. Taylor Ave is a showcase of Kirkwood’s prime real estate. But for over six years, the nearly 2-acre lot where the historic house of 750 N. Taylor once stood, has been vacant.

By Benji Wilton, Kirkwood High School

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Enormous, pristine front lawns preface equally elegant manors. Poised porches, towering white columns and distinct window shutters exemplify the grandeur of their homes. A drive down N. Taylor Ave is a showcase of Kirkwood’s prime real estate. But for over six years, the nearly 2-acre lot where the historic house of 750 N. Taylor once stood, has been vacant.

The W.F. Warner House, a local landmark designated by the Kirkwood Landmarks commission, was demolished in 2013, after a preservation-minded buyer could not be found. Built in 1884, the house’s impending demolition spurred a “Save 750 North Taylor” campaign from residents of the neighborhood. Originally, developer John Pitcher planned to create a subdivision of three lots called North Taylor Glen, but that plan was scrapped when Pitcher sold the land to a new owner. Currently, Anne Hizar, real estate broker with Laura McCarthy Real Estate, has the lot subdivided into two lots, 740 and 760 N. Taylor, which are both listed at $550,000.

“People want to live on a nice street,” Hizar said. “They don’t want everything ruined. There have been places in Kirkwood that have kind of been ruined, because they’ve let somebody come in and tear the houses down and put up houses that don’t enhance the neighborhood.”

I think that we need to help educate the entire Kirkwood community again on how important [historic homes] are to our culture and history as a community.”

— Lynn Andel

Shortly after the rise of the “Save 750 North Taylor” campaign in 2011, North Taylor was designated as a local historic district, one of eight in Kirkwood. Every house built in Kirkwood must be reviewed by the Architectural Review Board, which proposes suggestions to help builders comply with city design guidelines. In historic districts, every new house constructed, every modification to any exterior of a historic home and every demolition must be reviewed by the Landmarks Commission as well, to make sure it fits the style of the neighborhood. Lynn Andel, Kirkwood resident and realtor, is one of the seven current members of the Kirkwood Landmarks Commission, and has held the position since 2012.

“I think that we need to help educate the entire Kirkwood community again on how important [historic homes] are to our culture and history as a community, and as a city,” Andel said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t bring it back.”

According to Andel, one of the main obstacles that comes with preserving historic homes is functional obsolescence, where certain components of an old home don’t fit today’s living style. Often, historic homes will lack features such as an open floor plan or large kitchen that would make them desirable to a buyer today. To delay the demolition of a historic home in search of a preservation-minded buyer, the Landmarks Commission places an automatic stay of demolition on the home that lasts 60 days, but can be extended to 270.

“There’s a happy medium somewhere, but the cost is so great for renovations of these older homes because of the infrastructure,” Andel said. “Sometimes we hear about it when it’s too late, when the people who have been holding onto it all this time weren’t maintaining it.”

John Jackson, owner of Kirkwood-based real estate company John Jackson Neighborhood Real Estate, lives in a historic home with his family that was built in 1853. According to Jackson, he has sold several historic homes in Kirkwood to buyers who want to renovate them.

“There’s an inherent value with houses from that era that can’t be duplicated with new homes,” Jackson said. “The way they were built, the way they’re different from the way things are designed today are totally unique, and you can’t really fake that or recreate it with new construction homes. Even though there is a lot of new construction that goes on, so many people love and admire the older homes [and] want to keep them as part of the fabric of Kirkwood and unique to our community.”

Currently, the house located at 518 Scottsdale Rd. is undergoing its stay of demolition, after the owner applied for demolition on May 17, 2019. The house, one of Kirkwood’s 95 designated landmarks, contains two log cabins that were built in the 1830s. Though the house’s stay of demolition can be extended to Feb. 11, 2020, without a buyer who wants to preserve the house, it will likely be the 9th designated historic landmark to be demolished.

“I get why people want to live here,” Andel said. “But isn’t there a way to do both? To not erode the charm of Kirkwood from the getgo, a multilevel socioeconomic situation, so that you don’t have to be a millionaire to live here? So you have houses that can go to every age group, every need and every person wanting to live [here] so that we have a wide-ranging, diverse community.”

This story was originally published on The Kirkwood Call on October 21, 2019.