When you drive north on North Jackson Street from downtown Belleville, you can’t help but notice the three-story house located at 109 East D St., where Jackson runs into East D Street.
That was what Lucien Cabanne intended when he built the house in 1854, except it was two-story and all brick. Sometime after he sold the house to Felicity Ogle in 1863, the house gained a third story, most likely to house the 11 children of Felicity and Joseph Ogle, one of the surveyors who worked for early pioneer John Messinger and later the engineer then president of the Belleville and St. Louis Turnpike, known as the Rock Road.
Local historian Robert Brunkow researched the home and discovered that Cabanne, a grandson of Pierre Chouteau, of St. Louis fame, intended to have the most prominent house on the north end of town.
A local newspaper reported that the house was “situated so as to face Jackson street at the north end. This is by far the most tasteful and elegant private residence in our city,” Brunkow wrote.
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That was then. Now the house, while still nice on the outside, is a mess inside after sitting vacant for eight years. It has been an apartment house since 1976, when Bud Zipfel bought the property. Zipfel and his business manager, Jackie Elmore, have retired and would like to get out from under the burden of the giant house. But what can they do with it?
Nobody wants to buy it. It is in the Hexenbukel Historic District, which complicates getting rid of it.
Its many rooms were rented out as sleeping rooms before Zipfel turned it into eight good-sized apartments.
Elmore said the renters were moved to other space when the boiler in the unfinished basement broke about eight years ago.
They have considered selling the place but no one wanted it. They tried finding a deconstruction company which would salvage what they could from the house, particularly the many intact fireplaces and the winding three-story staircase. They couldn’t find any in St. Louis so they were considering demolition.
“I went to the city to ask about a demolition permit but that put the skids on that because it is in a historic district,” Elmore said. “We had to go before the historic preservation commission. Six or seven people from the neighborhood were there and worried about it being torn down.”
After a discussion on what to do, the board asked to table the request for 60 days to give historic preservation enthusiasts a chance to look for someone who might save the house. Elmore was happy to comply.
On Thursday, a couple of men examined the house. No word on what they thought, but they were impressed with the dead raccoon which seemed to have fried itself on the electrical service box in the basement.
“I think everyone realizes it would be difficult to return to a single-family home,” Elmore said. “We were hoping maybe it could be historic apartments done nicely inside and restored outside.”
She said they are worried about getting rid of it. They pay more than $3,000 in county taxes per year in addition to having to have the lawn mowed and pay insurance.
The Belleville Historical Society wants to help, but the group is tied up in its own projects, especially its architecture museum at the Charles King home on West Main Street.
It will take a lot of money and most likely some historic restoration credits from the state to make anything happen at 109 East D St., but officials are at least going to give it a try.