Metro-East News

Potential buyers emerge for Belleville historic home after demolition permit sought

Tour of historic 1854 home in Belleville

Drive north on North Jackson Street from downtown Belleville and you can’t help notice the three-story house at 109 East D St. The house is in the Hexenbuckel Historic District and the original structure was built in 1854.
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Drive north on North Jackson Street from downtown Belleville and you can’t help notice the three-story house at 109 East D St. The house is in the Hexenbuckel Historic District and the original structure was built in 1854.

Instead of facing possible demolition, an historic home on East D Street may get a new owner after all.

Jackie Elmore, who owns the building at 109 E. D St. with her husband, Bud Zipfel, said she was “very surprised” at how many new potential buyers emerged after a $5,000 deal fell through.

“You can’t write this stuff,” Elmore said as she walked out of an Historic Preservation Commission meeting crashed by Mark Gates, who runs a construction and demolition company in Belleville.

As board members discussed with Elmore her request for a demolition permit, Gates said he was ready to buy the three-story building and restore it.

So Elmore and Gates found themselves in the unusual position of negotiating a deal via their comments during the Historic Preservation Commission’s meeting on Tuesday.

“I’m interested in the property and I’ll give five grand for it,” Gates said. “I can put 500 bucks down tonight.”

But Elmore said she wouldn’t sell it at that price, although Zipfel had agreed to sell it for $5,000 in October.

Later in the meeting, board member Jack LeChien asked Elmore what she would accept for the home once described by a local newspaper as the “most tasteful” in Belleville.

“If somebody wants to offer me $10,000 for the building, I think that Bud would give in and say, ‘Yeah, let’s walk away,’” Elmore said.

Gates responded: “I can give you a proposal tonight.”

“Pardon me?” Elmore said.

“I’ll write you up a proposal tonight if you like for $10,000. I’ll put down $500 cash.”

So that’s how Elmore and Gates launched their talks for the property.

Following that exchange, the Historic Preservation Commission voted 7-1 to table the demolition request and give Elmore until Jan. 15 to strike a deal with a buyer. Before the vote, Elmore told the board that she would agree to allow her demolition permit request be tabled.

Elmore said Wednesday if her contract discussions with Gates go well, she will close the sale with Gates and drop her request for a demolition permit before Jan. 15.

Zipfel and Elmore first asked the city on Aug. 30, 2017, for permission to tear down the building. Since the home is in the Hexenbuckel Historic District, the building owners are required to get a permit from the commission. If the commission denies the permit request, Zipfel and Elmore could file an appeal with the City Council.

Preservationists call it the Cabanne home in honor of the initial owner, Lucien Cabanne, who had the home built in 1854.

Cabanne was a great-grandson of prominent St. Louisian Pierre Chouteau and was a business partner and brother-in-law of A.G. Edwards, who founded the A.G. Edwards brokerage firm, according to research by the Belleville Historical Society.

The home originally had two stories but a third floor was later added.

Other French families followed Cabanne and built homes near his in what is now the Hexenbuckel Historic District in Belleville. This district includes homes along North Jackson, North Charles and North Church streets northeast of the Public Square.

The main building and attachments were divided into eight apartments but Zipfel and Elmore have not rented any of the apartments for about 10 years.

Zipfel and Elmore had agreed during an October auction to sell the home for $5,000 to Linda Weisenstein, who recently was appointed to the Historic Preservation Commission. But that deal fell through after a question was raised about the easement that gives the property owner access to the rear of the home. However, Elmore said the easement document has been found.

After word spread that the $5,000 deal had been dropped, other potential buyers contacted city officials, who referred them Elmore.

One woman talked to Elmore about possibly buying the building and establishing a bed and breakfast.

And an out-of-state couple interested in buying an historic home in Belleville sent the city an email that they asked be read during the meeting.

“For the last several months, we have been scouring the real estate listings in search of an historic home in need of an update with the hope of returning it to its previous classic beauty.”

Recent timeline of historic home

August 2017: Bud Zipfel and Jackie Elmore ask the city’s Historic Preservation Commission for a demolition permit for the building at 109 E. D St. because the building is “not marketable” and needs a “great deal” of repairs and renovation. They said a neighbor may then buy the lot once the building is razed.

May 2018: A $1,500 engineering study commissioned by Elmore says a “significant amount of repairs would be necessary” before someone could live in the home again. The exterior and foundation are in “fair” condition but the interior is in “poor condition.”

July 2018: Historic Preservation Commission does not vote on the demolition permit request but votes to ask Elmore to try to auction the property by October. She agreed to seek an auctioneer.

October 2018: Linda Weisenstein during an auction offers to buy the building for $5,000. “It needs to be saved and not torn down,” she said after the auction.

November 2018: Elmore and Weisenstein tell the board that the proposed sale fell through. The commission votes to give Elmore three more weeks to see if the sale can be made. Weisenstein recently was appointed to the commission so she abstained from the vote.

December 2018: After hearing that the sale was not made, several buyers indicate they may be interested in the property. The commission votes to table the demolition request until their next meeting to see if Zipfel and Elmore can sell the site.

January 2019: Historic Preservation Commission is scheduled to meet at City Hall on Jan. 15 to find out if the building was sold.

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.