42 Westervelt Avenue in St. George was never as grand as the French Second Empire building pictured right, but its proportions suggest it was probably pretty impressive in its day.
Here's an incomplete record of its recent physical deterioration.
Like many larger residential properties in St. George, 42 Westervelt Avenue was chopped up into apartments some time before World War II. Under the right management, with proper maintenance and appropriate improvements, it could have continued to provide solid housing for six families.
But once the building fell into the hands of its current absentee owner, its fate was sealed. He promptly filled the building, and others he owned adjacent to this property, with friends and relatives and for a long time it was rundown but quiet and "respectable."
But that was only a temporary reprieve from this handsome building's continuing downward slide.
When these friends and relatives left, one by one, they were replaced by crack addicts and their friends. In short order, the building became a flop house whose occupants you see on the front stoop in the photo, above, dated 2008.
Until last night.
I took the photo on the left, below, through glass and a mesh screen, producing an eerie visual that perfectly represents last night's craziness,with hordes of firefighters responding to a four-alarm blaze that not only savaged 'The Crack House.' It also severely damaged the beautifully restored post-Civil War-era rowhouse to the right, separated by only a narrow alley.
I took the photo below, right, from my front porch this morning. I want to try and get the Landmarks Commission involved here, to make sure that whatever happens next, happens in a preservation context.
Just to get this on the record: Two fire marshals were here this morning and described the building as severely damaged but 'structurally sound'---their words. Just in case we need to repeat them for the benefit of those who'd rather raze it and replace it with 20 townhouses, built front to back. Landmarks protection has to mean more than that.
# # #