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Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve been asked these questions several times…

1. Where is the building?

Specifically, 822 Wilmington, 63111. It’s in a neighborhood called “Carondelet” in south St. Louis, surrounded by small single family homes and just a couple of blocks north of beautiful Carondelet Park . Click this link to see it in Google Maps.

2. How many square feet again?

Approximately 13,000sf by realty standards, which includes first & second floors of about 6500sf each. Basement is an additional 4000sf.

3. How tall are the ceilings?

Well, there aren’t any ceilings, but there is 16′-8″ clearance on the first floor, 13′-6″ clearance on the second floor, and about 9′ in the basement.

4. What are the construction materials?

The entire structure is concrete, with brick exterior walls. The floors are concrete (including the roof), the columns are concrete, and the beams are concrete. Everything has a layer of plaster on it (at least the areas where the plaster hasn’t fallen from moisture.) Nothing structural is made of wood – in fact – most of the doors are steel, and painted to look like wood. (An art long lost…)

5. What was the building originally?

Built in 1914 by Southwestern Bell Telephone as an exchange location; equipment on the lower floors, and female operators connecting cables between subscribers on the second floor; it was expanded three times due to increases in subscribers: 1923, 1925, and 1928. (See this post.) In the early 40’s, it was sold to Jacoby Art Glass Studio, which operated there for about 30 years. In the 70’s, it was sold to a printing company, which changed names and owners a couple times, and the last printing company moved out around 2006. [Check out the “Building History” category on this site for more detailed information.]

6. Is there a yard?

Technically, no, but there’s a 5′ wide strip of grass between the long side of the building and the city sidewalk. We plan to plant herbs there! But for outdoor space, we have big plans for roof gardens and roof terraces. And if you’re worried about our border collies Lucy and Lily – we didn’t have a fenced yard before and always take them out on a leash. So that practice continues.

7. How do you plan to use 13,000+sf?

First floor will be workshops & studios and a four car garage off of the alley; if you’ve read the rest of this blog, you’ll note that we we have many interests – we plan to have a pottery studio, woodworking shop, messy/dirty welding/machine shop, and who knows what else will come. The second floor will be our main living space – probably three bedrooms/three baths and very large open living/dining areas (think “ultimate loft”) and we may end up having some “clean” studio areas for activities like watercolor and sewing/knitting, etc. The basement will be whatever crazy shit Tom dreams up, as long as he doesn’t have any inclinations to jackhammer a deep pit and start reciting “It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it is told.” (ala “Silence of the Lambs”.)

8. So what’s the next step? [Also asked as: When do you move in?, What are your plans?]

Short term:  We have renovated about 600 sf in one corner of the first floor – in what we are call the Red Room  – because that area was in the best shape, dry and is contained away from the rest of the work. We currently, very comfortably, live there but that space will eventually be a suite for visitors.  Now, we are doing a number of smaller projects but are starting the tuck pointing and the repair of the roof to address some serious roof leakage issues. Once that is taken care of, we can start construction of the second floor and the garage. We will also be figuring out how to construct guest accommodations as part of the earlier phases of the second floor work.  “If you build it, they will come…” and our friends and family will come back to help us with the rest of the renovations. In essence, it will be a gradual process.

9. When will you be done?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Anyone asking this doesn’t really understand the gravity of our project. Scenario 1: We win the lottery (correction: TOM wins the lottery) . Scenario 2: Never.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Deb Grossman permalink
    May 5, 2014 3:38 pm

    older pictures?? Fun project Sue!


  2. September 1, 2013 1:20 pm

    You guys are hilarious. Thanks for giving me something great to read! Cheers, and always sending good wishes.

    • Sue permalink*
      September 3, 2013 1:07 pm

      Glad you enjoy it- we always appreciate good vibes coming our way!

  3. Brian Matlock permalink
    April 18, 2011 4:19 pm

    I just wanted to tell you that I just happened upon your blog and am very pleased you are bringing that neat old building back to life.
    I grew up in the early 70’s just down the street from your building on Fillmore, went to school at Woodward and walked by your building nearly everyday single day. I remember how much it stood out versus the smaller single family homes all around it.
    As a kid, I still thought that there were operators connecting phone calls in there and remember staring those Southwestern Bell signs on the corners of the building.
    I wish you the best of luck with your modifications!

    • Sue permalink
      April 18, 2011 9:19 pm

      Thanks Brian! I wish the Southwestern Bell signs were still there- that would be cool. It was probably still the stained glass window company when you grew up around here.

      • Brian Matlock permalink
        April 20, 2011 3:38 pm

        Your story is great and so much enjoying the documentation of your progress. Keep up the great work. After reading your blog, I took a look into the ‘old neighborhood’ as far as properties on the market.
        I might be crazy but I am going to look at the old First Precinct police station (Holly Hills and Colorado) down the street from you that is now listed on MLS. Zoned commercial but such a neat building. Besides, how many properties out there have a firing range in the basement?
        Now if I can just convince my wife to share my excitment.
        Did you run into much red tape from the City on your project?
        Thanks for the inspriation.

        • Tom permalink
          April 20, 2011 3:44 pm

          Thanks Brian – it’s great to hear that we’re not just blathering on only for our family!

          We LOVE that Police building! It wasn’t on the market when we were looking; in fact it when on just as we were closing on BAB. We’d be glad to help you investigate it, either from an Architect’s point of view and/or a neighbors point of view.

  4. November 17, 2010 5:27 pm

    Sue–Just stumbled onto this. Glad to see you’re doing something in the Carondelet area. Carondelet PL was one of my earliest library jobs, and I still consider it home. St. Louis Public is supposed to be doing a renovation of it soon, I hope they do it justice–it’s one of their best Carnegie buildings. It’s supposed to have a beautiful clerestory, but that was covered by a drop ceiling decades ago. We’re in a temporary building now, construction on our building should start in a few weeks. We had some wars with neighbors who were livid that Bill Bowersox designed a ‘glass box’ addition to their beloved library. It’s going to be beautiful, I think.

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