Brownhurst building in Kirkwood
By Courtney Gousman
Kirkwood, MO (KSDK) - The clock is ticking for an historic Kirkwood building. Members of the city's Landmark Commission are delaying the demolition of the Brownhurst building for another 30 days, in the hopes of keeping it standing.
It's important to know that the historic Brownhurst building sits on the campus of Vianney High School, which is owned by The Society of Mary, it's their property. School officials say the building hasn't been used for 20 years. They've owned it since 1920, and the Society of Mary has received criticism for not investing in the building over the years.
What was once considered a great piece of architecture, is now boarded-up, and fenced-off from the rest of the school's campus. The structure is literally falling apart, and Kirkwood's building commissioner declared it a safety hazard. It was built in the 1800s and was home to several greenhouses.
Vianney officials were hoping to demolish the building by the time school starts on August 17, but the city won't grant a demolition permit without the Landmark Commission's approval.
In July, last month the commission voted to stay the demolition 30 days, until they knew more about the history of the building.
Wednesday night, the Commission voted to allow Vianney to move forward with demolition, after another 30 day waiting period. During that waiting period the Landmark Commission is hoping to coordinate experts who can go inside to preserve and record pieces of the Brownhurst building.
Commissioners also hope to be able to prevent the structure's demolition, by allowing a buyer to come forward to possibly move the structure.
"If it is demolished, it will set a precedent in Kirkwood of demolition by neglect," says Matthew Bivens, a member of Kirkwood's Landmark Commission.
"I think the building commission of Kirkwood summed it up pretty well. He said it's a safety hazard to the people of the city of Kirkwood. A variety of things go into that. They described it as unsanitary, unsafe. We had to board it up and they actually had to condemn the building and that's not something we want on our campus," says Mike Loyet, President of St. John Vianney High School.
It's estimated it will cost $2 million dollars to renovate the Brownhurst building. Members of the Landmark Commission say the building is in the process of being added to the National Registry of Historic Landmarks by the end of the year, which opens the door for grants and funding.
In the meantime, Vianney officials say they will not allow students to park in the vicinity of the building for safety reasons.