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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Central High: Buyer Needed to Save Historic St. Louis School Before It's Too Late

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Page 2 of 2

The front steps of Central High School, showing recent vandalism.
  • The front steps of Central High School, showing recent vandalism.

As late as 2004 the building stood in a respectable, if slightly ragged, state of repair. However, in the following years, vandals have destroyed the elegant balustrade that lines the front steps and smashed out windows, leaving piles of broken stone and glass strewn about the front lawn. Bushes and trees, once properly maintained, are now wildly overgrown, giving the school a neglected and foreboding appearance. Taggers have found the building as well, leaving their graffiti on the brick exterior.

See also: State Legislature to St. Louis Public Schools: Sell, or Else

The side of Central High School facing Natural Bridge, showing the "For Sale" sign.
  • The side of Central High School facing Natural Bridge, showing the "For Sale" sign.

In 2012 the district reported it had a buyer for the property, only for the deal to fall through. It's still on the market, though, as the "For Sale" sign indicated on a recent visit. Andrew Weil, Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, best sums up the problem facing the old St. Louis school buildings, such as Central High:

"Excess capacity is not a problem that is going to be disappearing soon. The trick to preventing Central and all the other un-needed schools from falling into ruin is for the SLPS to admit that they are done with them and to market them aggressively [priced to sell] to anyone who is willing to buy. Even if they sell them for below what they perceive to be market value, they will probably realize a better return than if they let them sit around vacant, vandalized and decaying for years. That is what has happened too many times."

Vacant and boarded up, Central High School awaits a new owner.
  • Vacant and boarded up, Central High School awaits a new owner.

The need for action was made even more apparent with the recent fire that gutted the abandoned Hempstead Elementary School, which had also been dormant since 2004. The district's provisional board has a moral and legal obligation to properly care for the property of the citizens of St. Louis. Letting these architectural treasures rot is no longer an option.

Chris Naffziger writes about architecture at St. Louis Patina. Contact him via e-mail at naffziger@gmail.com

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