1892 St. Louis Firehouse Set for Landmark Status, Mixed-Use Renovation

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The one-time home of St. Louis Fire Department Engine Company No. 32 appears ready for a make over. While the building in the city’s Downtown West neighborhood hasn’t been vacant in recent years, it has been decidedly not so beautiful with its bricked in windows and doors, and expanses of glass block. Now a new owner is planning for second floor apartments and first floor retail or office space.

The building has the support of the city’s Cultural Resources Office for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for historic renovation tax credits. That recommendation will go before the Preservation Review Board later today, and is expected to win support.

Though online city records list the building as dating from 1920, Andrew Weil, Executive Director of Landmarks Association St. Louis confirmed to nextSTL that the corner building dates from 1892, with a later firehouse addition to the south (1919). The building facing Washington and 20th appears on the 1897 edition of the Whipple fire insurance map. The addition (503 N. 20th Street) has separate ownership and is currently a private residence and art studio.

{in 1875, another structure occupied 20th & Washington before the fire station}

{1897 Whipple fire insurance map}

{1909 Sanborn fire insurance map}

{1919 addition to Company No. 32}

The 11,500sf 2000 Washington was most recently listed for sale by Solon Gershman commercial brokers for $900,000. Gershamn represented the sellers, George and Yvonne Parisho in the recent sale. The sales listing suggested the building is “perfect for anyone considering opening their own ghost-busting operation.” It’s a good idea, though so far no tenants have been named. The first floor space is currently listed at $17/sf.

{the fire station retains some interior detail, such as the wood paneled ceiling}

The St. Louis Business Journal reports a $650K renovation is planned and 10-year tax abatement is being sought. The new owner, per city records, is Sandhya Yanamadala, a physician with a home address in Chesterfield. 2000 Washington is the only property shown in the city’s database owned by Yanamadala, or the registered owner, Leela LLC.

From the City’s Cultural Resources Office agenda for the Preservation Review Board:

The Engine House No. 322 at 2000 Washington Avenue and 503 North 20th Street is nominated for
listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A in association with Community
Planning and Development. Expansion of the population of the City of St. Louis, as well as rapid
growth of new businesses, factories, and industry during the late 1880s began to tax the capacities
of the city police and fire departments. Discussion of the desperate need for new fire stations in
strategic locations throughout the city to address the rapid growth began in 1888 but no new
facilities were built immediately.

Engine House No. 32 was one of three new stations funded in
1892. No. 32 housed the new fire-fighting apparatuses of the department with the city’s fourth and
newest Babcock Chemical Engine, a new Hook & Ladder Truck (No. 8), and other equipment. The
station saw increased activity and No. 32 was one the first to arrive on the scene of the infamous
Missouri Athletic Club/Boatmen’s Bank catastrophe in 1914. The City constructed a second station
abutting the old No. 32 in 1919. That same year the fire department reorganized and relocated its
repair shop to the old No. 32 and the engines were housed in the newer structure. Together the
stations were in active duty into the 1940s.

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  • SnakePlissken

    Downtown West resident here, very excited to see this building rehabbed, I’ve admired it for a longtime – some of the occupying forces **ahem** landowners have held DW hostage for years. At $900K this building was/is terribly overpriced – DW has several buildings for sale… all for several years, all terribly overpriced. Want to buy a crumbling structure with added value, I mean trees growing out of the roof for $500K? DW could be a dynamic neighborhood, littered with 2-3 story structures. Problem is they may be best suited for single user-small business rather than loft conversion. The rate of return just isn’t there for a portfolio investor. How can we make this area more attractive for small business?

    • Matt B

      I feel the price does stifle most of the development in this area. I think back when Loft District was really starting to bustle, there was probably a lot of land grabbing thinking it was going to rapidly spread to that area. If they really want it to sprawl, I think you’re right in thinking that small business is the most likely candidates for redevelopment but most small businesses try to save their capital for the actual business and save on real estate so simply listing them for more reasonable prices should help or maybe spicing up the deal to make it worth the the asking price would help.

    • Hasan

      Yes, several vacant buildings throughout downtown are terribly overpriced. As we all know, when something is priced correctly, it sells, if not, it doesn’t. Once (if) the HTC program gets cut, these buildings will be vacant for an extended period of time, probably 10+ years. Depending on the building (and future use), renovation costs can be over $200psf and without HTC’s, the deal wont work – largely because downtown residential and office rental rates aren’t high enough. New construction (depending on type and size) can be more cost effective than historic renovation. So maybe, if these owners don’t get realistic with their pricing, we’ll see infill on parking lots before building renovations.

  • Presbyterian

    Great to see this little building getting a new lease on life. Downtown West has been heating up in the past couple months.