Save Woodside.

This is the first Save Woodside poster created by Joann Grein and myself in 2001.
This is the first Save Woodside poster created by Joann Grein and myself in 2001.
The recent vote by the City Council of Maplewood to destroy our oldest building is distressing to say the least.  The importance of Woodside to our community and the historic record of this country is undeniable.  It is not just a fairly typical old house.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Documentary evidence suggests that Woodside was at least partly built by slaves.  The interest in African/American historic sites is fast rising in the United States.  The Smithsonian recently acquired and moved a slave cabin to their museum.  How many buildings still exist in the St. Louis area that were constructed by slaves?  Not many, I’m betting.

Many African/Americans have been denied a chance to know much about the history of their families by the practices of the folks who enslaved them.  Sites like Woodside may one day allow descendants of the builders to lay their own hands on the work of their grandfathers.

The argument that Woodside is collapsing and unsound is not true.  The interior was recently toured by Councilman Tim Dunn and others who report that it is dry and sound.  Plaster has fallen and surfaces have deteriorated which is true of any building that has not been used for awhile.  Many people have a hard time seeing past the cosmetic deterioration.  The structural repairs needed are not overwhelming.

Buildings in far worse shape are regularly brought back especially in areas like Soulard that have made a strong commitment to historic preservation.  Indeed it is that commitment that has made Soulard one of the most desirable and interesting places to live in our city.

Why is it necessary to destroy Woodside?  Couldn’t we do a better job of mothballing it?  Why not spend a bit to remove the deteriorated addition on the west end of the building, seal the chimneys and board up the windows.  No one likes boarded up windows, of course, but this is an exception.  It’s our oldest building.  It is the miraculous surviving home of one of our pioneer families.  If we lose it we’ll never get it back.  What is more valuable than something that is irreplaceable?

There is another option we have not looked into.  Models exist for saving historic buildings in the eastern states where municipalities have many.  They have worked out lease arrangements which allow talented individuals who otherwise could not afford the cost to work on the building in exchange for being able to live there.  I imagine there are some which would allow these restorers to eventually own the buildings they have restored.  This is certainly worth looking into.

What would Rome or Paris or any of the great cities be without their historic buildings?  This is one of our most important.  We have the chance to save it.  Let’s not let it disappear.


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Michelle Seymour August 27, 2013 at 01:39 PM
I agree, Doug, this house is part of our shared history and should be preserved. Once it's gone, it's lost forever (and parking lots can be built anywhere). The most desirable areas in any city are the neighborhoods where homes and buildings are restored, not torn down. We need to preserve our city, not turn it into another boring suburban neighborhood like so many other places in St. Louis where convenience was chosen over history and old world beauty.
Doug Houser August 27, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Well put, Michelle. Thank you very much for your input. Please let the mayor and members of the council know how you feel. Don't worry about Tim Dunn he's already on board and has been since the beginning of this project more than a decade ago.
Joshua Horn August 27, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Doug, I have created a petition to save Woodside. I also believe that this site has more significance than most of us realize. Please if you would go and sign it, and pass the word on. http://maplewood-brentwood.patch.com/groups/real-estate-rumblings-/p/petition-to-save-woodside
Paintwine November 05, 2013 at 11:22 AM
I lived here and was involved with the city and public and we achieved things by thinking out of the box. Woodside can only be saved by a community effort of citizens and local businesses. Form an executive committee of experts ASAP -- Doug Houser as Historian, an architect or contractor familiar with the structure, someone who understands the local government process such as a former council-person, an expert in branding and social media. Meet for one hour, stay on the agenda and brainstorm the following objective and concept-- "to delay demolition until a fundraising effort has achieved a financial goal by a certain date". Come up with a viable proposal to generate funds through a "crowdfunding" campaign such as "Kickstarter", as well as local events, and think of ways to get local businesses and citizens onboard as sponsors. Have an eventual goal for the use / ownership of the building but that's almost secondary to the point of saving the historic structure. Meet with the Community Development Director and pitch your plan, ask for their support in a delay of demolition. Get on the agenda and propose the plan to City Council and the Mayor, ask for a delay of demolition. A goal of six months would seem to be a reasonable amount of time to reach $300k. What I can warn you about is the fact that most citizens don't understand the financial workings of a city. Prior to the razing of a neighborhood for a commercial development, Maplewood was looking at bankruptcy. What happens then is that public services, such as trash pick-up, go away. Just like any business, the numbers have to be right and if there's no working capital it's due to close. Maplewood has excellent police and fire departments, a nice historic district; for such a small city it has been blessed with a lot of talented individuals, in government, business, and its citizens. If locals really want to save Woodside this is seemingly their last big chance. A demonstrative spirit is admirable but it's going to take more commitment than that. People will have to tear down some other walls and overlook the past and move forward in a positive effort in order to save this structure.
Doug Houser November 06, 2013 at 12:58 AM
Much thanks for this post. I believe you have sketched out a workable blueprint. There are others who would like to do just what you suggest. Of course, I'm willing to do my part. At present 11/5/13, Woodside is featured in the Save This Old House section of TOH magazine and on their website. We are all anxiously waiting to see what if any proposals will come from this exposure. If none come I think there are those in the community ready to move in the direction you have indicated. Thanks.


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