Metro-East News

Illinois endangered landmarks include East St. Louis building set for demolition

Although the facade of the Murphy Building on Collinsville Avenue in East St. Louis appears to be salvageable, collapsed floors are visible from the back of the structure.

Because of its condition, Landmarks Illinois on Wednesday included the Murphy Building on its 2015 Most Endangered Historic Places list. However, the Murphy Buiding is already slated for demolition.

Also included on this year’s list is the vacant Paul and Irene Norbett House in Swansea. A buyer for the house is under contract.

This is the 20th year Landmarks Illinois released a list of endangered sites to focus attention on sites threatened by deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient money or inappropriate development, according to the organization’s website.

“The sites named to the list, as well as the critical work of our State Historic Preservation Office, are all exceptionally important to not only local residents, but the local economy,” said Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois. “By calling attention to the potential for reuse and revitalization of these historic places, we are encouraging job creation and economic development across Illinois – something everyone can support.”

Since Landmarks Illinois started the Most Endangered List in 1995, a third of the listed properties have been saved, fewer than a quarter have been demolished, and the rest are in varying stages between being continually threatened and rehabilitation, according to the organization.

The Murphy Building is falling apart, according to Built St. Louis, an organization that calls for preserving historic architecture in the St. Louis area.

Landmarks Illinois is pushing for the extension of the River Edge Redevelopment Zone Historic Tax Credit to serve as an incentive to help make rehabilitating historic buildings along rivers, financially feasible. The organization also included examples in Peoria, Elgin, Rockford and Aurora as part of this year’s list.

McDonald said the incentive would help entice developers into redeveloping these buildings. She said it is unfortunate the Murphy Building is slated for demolition.

“It’s regrettable, it’s disheartening,” McDonald said. “We feel a great sadness for the community ... It’s a tremendous loss for the community. Their downtown will have another vacant lot.”

Last year East St. Louis requested purchase and redevelopment proposals for the site, but received none and decided to go the demolition route, East St. Louis Purchasing Manager James Tyus said.

Asbestos already has been removed from the building with the help of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Demolition work is scheduled to begin next week and last about a month. The cost of the project is about $450,000, Tyus said.

Tyus said there are safety concerns around the Murphy Building.

The Norbett House in Swansea is a different story.

Architect Charles King designed the Swansea house. The house on Westgate Drive is for sale, and local advocates are concerned about finding new owners who would perform the necessary rehabilitation work, according to Landmarks Illinois.

Uveida Woolens, of Belleville, is under contract to purchase the house. She said she plans on updating appliances in the house, sanding and glossing the floor. However she doesn’t plan on changing the footprint. She said she intends to keep the same character of the Charles King style.

“When I first saw it, I thought it was a masterpiece to me,” Woolens said. “Everything was beautiful to me.”

Woolens, who would not comment on the purchase price, is a teacher in St. Louis. The house was listed for $119,900.

“I”m looking forward to having little (grandchildren) running around the home,” Woolens said.

Charlene Brennan, the real estate agent who is listing the house, said the property has been listed for about three weeks and had about 30 viewings, Brennan said.

The house went under contract about a week ago.

“It is a very nice mid-century modern Charles King,” Brennan said. “I was pleasantly surprised the minimal amount of work the house would need.”

Brennan said Charles King houses have slightly vaulted ceilings, trapezoid windows, and features like built in dressers, desks and bars that have wooden folding doors that when closed look like a wall.

She added the Swansea house needs a complete kitchen renovation as the appliances are outdated, not efficient and not up to today’s standards.

McDonald, of Landmarks Illinois, said Charles King houses influenced the design of prefabricated houses.

“The Swansea property will be a success story,” McDonald said. “That’s a perfect example of how these mid-century modern homes and can have (use) even today.”

Landmarks Illinois starts putting together its annual list in February. Its due diligence includes contacting owners of the nominated properties as well as the advocates who nominated the properties, and photographing the properties.

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