Social media outrage followed the news that two historically relevant homes in the city limits of Manchester are marked as condemned.
The first home, located at 801 Second St., is known as the yellow house. It was moved from its original site just north of Manchester Road many years ago. Originally, the yellow house was built as a parsonage for the original Manchester United Methodist Church chapel at 126 Woods Mill Road. With no deed information available on the St. Louis County Department of Revenue site, the property is estimated to have been built before 1920.
The second home, located at 14356 Manchester Road and known as the Summer House, is a Victorian-style home built in 1906. It was occupied by the Sonja Willman Design Studio, which also sold retail items. When the yellow house was moved to its Second Street site, the two properties share a parking lot and the design studio occupied both of them.
The yellow house eventually was occupied by Back on the Rack, a consignment shop, but has been vacant for at least the last five years. The date of the Summer House vacancy is unknown, although it is estimated to be in the same timeframe.
The properties were purchased jointly in 2017 by H & L Property Management, LLC.
West Newsmagazine spoke with Melanie Rippetoe, Manchester’s director of planning, zoning and economic development, about the fate of the homes.
Rippetoe said that inquiries about the properties have been made over the years, including purchase and relocation. However, relocating the homes has proven to be cost-prohibitive and labor-intensive.
“If someone could actually do it, we would 100 % encourage it,” Rippetoe said.
In 2019, both a proposed Special Use Permit and zoning text amendment received favorable approval by P&Z for a discount tire store at the Summer House property. However, the final site plan fell through as it did not meet the requirements for the Planned Business Development district. An inquiry for a fast-food restaurant on the site also was made; however, the lot was not large enough to accommodate the necessary parking spaces and drive-through capabilities.
Rippetoe said it was the owner’s decision to condemn the Summer House, which happened more recently than the yellow house. The yellow house’s condemned status began more than two years ago. According to Rippetoe, city officials noticed water pouring onto Manchester Road from the home. Upon closer inspection, they discovered a plumbing issue that caused a sprinkler effect within the interior of the home.
“It was raining on the inside,” Rippetoe said, “filled to the basement windows.”
Because of the water damage, the yellow house has structural integrity and black mold concerns, which caused the city of Manchester to condemn it.
Because the homes are privately owned properties, the city has never entered either property and strictly gave the homeowners two choices – “either fixing or getting rid of the properties,” according to Rippetoe.
Understanding the angst of residents she added, “We are not in the business of buying and rehabbing vacated properties.”
While there is a small historic district on Henry Avenue in Manchester, these older homes are not protected under the National Register of Historic Places. Despite the opposition on social media, only one resident spoke at the regular Manchester Board of Aldermen meeting on July 19 to voice concerns over the homes’ demolition.