St Louis County Historic Buildings Commission
The Historic Buildings Commission (HBC) is established within the Department of Parks and Recreation. The Commission advises the Department of Parks and Recreation, County Executive, County Council, and Planning Commission regarding the identification and preservation of historic resources throughout St. Louis County. The Commission was originally created by executive order in 1957 and was confirmed by ordinance in 1983 (Ordinance Number 11127, 8-11-83, now Chapter 1007 of the County Code).
The County Ordinance calls for nine members of the Commission. Currently the commission members are these:
Peter Ruger - Chairman
Jane P. Gleason
Dwight E. Wyatt
The initial impetus for the HBC was the acquisition of several historic buildings as part of Jefferson Barracks Park. The HBC guided the creation of the Powder Magazine Museum at Jefferson Barracks. Subsequent projects included the restoration of the Daniel Bissell House in Bellefontaine Neighbors after its acquisition in 1961 and of Thornhill at Faust Park, which opened for tours in 1981. The County now owns one of the most wide-ranging and significant groups of historic buildings and museum collections of any county park system, and the HBC continues to review and advise on acquisitions, restoration and maintenance. The HBC Museum Collections Policy included here.
Beyond the confines of the St. Louis County Park system, the HBC was a pioneer in historic preservation in the St. Louis area. As early as 1959, the HBC published a poster-map of the county illustrating historic buildings. A series of publications followed, beginning with One Hundred Historic Buildings in St. Louis County in 1970, followed by Historic Buildings in St. Louis County in 1983.The Past In Our Presence, published in 1996, went out of print in 2012, but plans for a new county history are underway.
Under the county’s zoning ordinance, the HBC has the power to recommend that a historic property in an unincorporated portion of the county receive a zoning overlay designation as a Landmark and Preservation Area (LPA; Chapter 1003.191 of the County Code). If approved by the County Council, the property is then eligible for some limited zoning variances but alterations are subject to review by the HBC. This power, however, is rarely used, and only three LPA designations are currently in place:
- Thomas Mason House, 1400 Thomas Mason Place at Weidman Road
- Wilson Larimore House, 11475 Lilac Avenue at Coal Bank Road
- Joseph Hyatt House, 2625 Shackelford Road
Some municipalities have adopted the LPA designation, including Chesterfield and Wildwood.
The HBC has designated the most important historic buildings in the county as county landmarks. The procedure for designation is included here, as well as a list of currently designated landmarks, arranged by municipality and unincorporated area. This designation carries no restrictions but is intended to be an honor and to increase awareness.
The HBC has also nominated many buildings and historic districts to the National Register of Historic Places. This list, kept by the U. S. Department of the Interior, is an honor roll of signifance all over the country. It protects a property against adverse actions involving federal funds but has no control over any other activities that might impact a designated property. A list of St. Louis County properties listed on the National Register is included here.
With limited powers, the HBC works to encourage preservation by individuals and other governmental jurisdictions. The HBC Policy Statement Regarding Strategies for Preserving Historic Buildings is included here. One important strategy is the adaptive reuse of historic buildings when they can no longer remain in their original use. Since 1982 the HBC has presented annual awards for outstanding adaptive reuse of historic buildings, plus some other awards from time to time. A comprehensive list of awards presented by the Commission is included here.