Wednesday, September 21, 2005

South Side Institutions for Sale?

South Side Institutions for Sale?

While the sale of numerous Catholic churches and public schools is certainly not news, I was shocked to discover several other institutions in South St. Louis listed for sale on the Hilliker Real Estate web site.

--Taproots School of the Arts - 4021 Iowa Ave. (next to Laclede Park) is listed for sale by Hilliker. Taproots has provided eclectic, creative educational programs for the past 15 years at this site. The non-profit itself is the owner of record for this building, which is the former St. Thomas of Aquin Catholic School.

It happens that the historic St. Thomas of Aquin Catholic Church complex a 1/2 block north at Iowa and Osage is also for sale. (The Vietnamese Catholic Church formerly located there has relocated to the former Resurrection Catholic Church.)

Could these sales be somehow related? Did the Archdiocese finance the Taproots purchase/renovation, and now decide to call in the mortgage?

--Hosea House - 2631 Gravois (at Texas) is for sale as a "retail/residential redevelopment" opportunity. Hosea House, a long-time social service agency on the South Side, but since 2001 a subsidiary of Guardian Angel Settlement Association.

This sale is surprising, given that the Dec. 2004 Vincentian newsletter quoted the director of social services at Guardian Angel, Rev. Jerry Morales, as saying "We are refocusing our resources in the area of Hosea House because that is where the poor have moved." It also stated that Guardian Angel planned to sell its headquarters building located at 14th and LaSalle in the Peabodys - which happens to also be a former Catholic church and school complex by the similar name of Holy Guardian Angels Parish (closed 1991). Did they just figure they could get more money for a commercial property on high-traffic Gravois? This is also a Catholic Church affiliated agency, so perhaps they are feeling the financial pressures, too.

Of course, this area of the Southside has been impacted by the closure of a number of other institutions in recent years. Several of those are also listed for sale by Hilliker:

--Salvation Army St. Louis Hope Center for Children, 3740 Marine Ave. - closed in 2004. This huge complex - part of which was originally built in 1929 as the Salvation Army Booth Memorial Hospital - is listed for sale by Hilliker. Possibilities include conversion to residential or office use.

Hope Center also served until 2004 as the Edgewood Children's Center "Soulard" special school campus. That program, ironically, has been renamed the Edgewood "South Campus" and relocated in 2005 to the former St. George parish school, 4970 Heege Rd. in Affton, where my parents attended school in the 1950s. The school closed in 2003; St. George parish children now attend St. Dominic Savio School.

The name Booth, meanwhile, lives on in connection with the Salvation Army's Booth Manor Apartments, located at 3131 Iowa, about two blocks from my own house. Also, just last week, the Salvation Army St. Louis announced it has found a new home for its FamilyHaven program, until now located at 3744 Lindell, now completely surrounded by St. Louis University. Obviously, SLU wants that building, and in spite of Jesuit teachings, has no interest in maintaining it as a shelter for homeless families.

So guess what? Salvation Army St. Louis is moving FamilyHaven to the former West Page Corps Community Center, at 10740 West Page Ave. in Overland. This building was also supposed to be sold, along with Hope Center, in 2004; but I guess they got more money out of SLU than they could have gotten for that North County property.

But tell me - which location is more convenient for people using public transportation? Page & Ashby is served only by the #94 Page bus, and not all that often. Grand & Lindell is, of course, deep in the heart of the city's bus network.

And meanwhile, despite their supposed financial difficulties, the Salvation Army St. Louis is expanding in the Affton area, onto a site that is gut-wrenching for me. Their Carondelet Corps, currently in the City at 3601 Weber, has "exceeded capacity" so they need to expand. The new site is the former St. Timothy parish at 824 Union Rd.

Of course, before it was St. Timothy (opened 1958; closed 2004), that property was the farm of my staunchly German Catholic great-grandfather Henry B. Kremer. I am sure he wouldn't be pleased! I'm pretty sure he donated that property to the Catholic church in the mid-1950s; the back half of his property had been taken several years earlier by the state of Missouri to build I-55. He passed away in 1975, just a few years before I was born, and is buried at historic Mt. Olive Cemetery near Lemay - just a mile or so across Gravois Creek from his former home.

--Three other Catholic parish properties east of Grand on the South Side are also for sale: the magnificent Immaculate Conception / St. Henry complex at 3120 Lafayette; and the Modernist St. Hedwig parish church and its much older associated buildings, at 3202 Pulaski, which was the real South St. Louis Polish parish (not St Agatha). St. Hedwig was very quietly sacrified amidst the St. Stanislaus debate; fortunately, St. Cecelia is quite close by the former St. Hedwig, for the remaining resident parishioners.

Third on the sale list is St. Boniface, down in Carondelet at 7620 Michigan. Although its school building is currently leased to St. Louis Charter Academies, they haven't been doing so well, so one wonders how much longer that arrangement will remain. St. Boniface neighbors have to travel a good deal further to their new parish, St. Stephen Protomartyr in Holly Hills. So now, the historic Carondelet neighborhood no longer has a Catholic church of its own. Sts. Mary & Joseph is maintained by St. Stephen as a chapel.

As you can probably tell, I'm still annoyed by how the Catholic church in St. Louis is running things. Sure, I'm a little hypocritical: I've never been to a regular mass nor was I confirmed. I was only baptised (at St. George, although my parents at that time lived in the St. Margaret Mary Alacoque parish boundaries). I attended public schools; and I didn't go to SLU for college (I went to UMSL).

Nevertheless, I feel like the Church has turned its back in a horrific way on the people like my grandmother and her father (my great-grandfather) who may not have had much money, education, or material possessions, but supported their parish loyally with whatever they could give. (My grandmother was the same way with the American Legion Auxiliary, and now the Gardenville-Affton Memorial Post 300, of which she was a longtime member, closed down several months ago.)

I feel my ancestors have been betrayed; so I feel justified in being unhappy. Particularly about the sale of that property on Union Road in (what used to be called) Gardenville to the Salvation Army, an organization whose policies are arguably even worse than those of the Roman Catholic Church!

1 comment:

Rick Harmon said...

My mother has told me about Valley Farms Dairy on Iowa Street. Do you know where this was located? Was it located where the Booth Manor now sits. Do you know when it was torn down and do you know of any records of it? My grandfather was named Freeman and they lived on Iowa Street around 3134 I believe. I would love to be able to give her a little more history on the Valley Farm Dairy. I can be emailed at rick.harmon40@gmail.com if you have anything.