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  • Wild Safari in Jennings

    Posted on November 15th, 2009 Toby Weiss 10 comments
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    giraffe-01

    West Florissant Avenue between
    Goodfellow Blvd. & Lucas and Hunt Rd.

    The only place I’ve seen such exotic exterior cladding is in a finite section of North St. Louis County, inside the inner-ring suburbs of Flordell Hills and Jennings.   Most of them are on – or not too far away from – West Florissant Avenue, were built in 1940, and range from 850 – 950 square feet, so it’s a safe guess that it’s the work of the same designer/construction company.

    The year they were built is of special interest, as it was that brief time period after the Great Depression but before World War 2.  Meaning, this part of the county was already experiencing westward migration a full 5-6 years before the official start of the post-war Baby Boom.

    But as a toddler living in Ferguson in the late 1960s, the only thing that made these houses stick out in my mind is that they have giraffe skin!

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    I first made the connection after seeing an episode of Marlin PerkinsWild Kingdom about giraffes, and then passing by these homes the next day.  Did the original builder take inspiration from dreams of a wild safari in Africa? Or was it an idea cadged from someplace else?  If anyone has any insight or information, please do share.

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    It’s especially exciting when parts of the giraffe skin survive an exterior remodel.  Adds a bit of pizazz, don’t you think?

    I encourage you to take a drive down this exact stretch of West Florissant and note the harmonious mingling of bungalow residential and mid-century modern commercial buildings.  It’s a compelling and easy-to-read chapter of the post-war development of our Metro St. Louis area, and makes a good case for a return to mixed-use zoning, which always brings variety and energy to any area that still allows such an old-fashioned way of living.

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    10 Responses to “Wild Safari in Jennings”

    1. I live in the Springfield, MO area, and there are quite a few older homes and buildings in this area made with that field stone exterior cladding.

    2. You can find Giraffe Stone like this in University City and Brentwood as well.

    3. I had to take a back country highway one time – somewhere between here and Columbia – and I passed through an entire town that looked like that! Almost every house and building had a stone facade, apparently from some local quarry. It was neat and somehow also bizarre.

    4. Those houses “rock” – ha ha!

    5. There are some of these off of Bermuda Road just north of I-70; it’s cool because they alternate every other one with a different style of covering.

    6. There are more of these on Hanley/Laclede Station Road and more on Watson. They’re everywhere! And I think they’re cool, too.

    7. The Ozark area has a rich tradition of field stone masonry that looks similar to the “giraffe” effect in St. Louis County. Deb Sheals’ history of Ozark rock masonry is online:

      http://stlouisarchitecture.org/Newsletters_files/Summer%202006.pdf

    8. You should come over to my part of UCity.These look just like my house.I posted earlier about my street and the street to the north of mine in the artical on the rock house on 67. Montreal and Paramount off of 82nd street off of Olive st. Go north from Olive towards Page ave and these two streets are the last on the left before Page ave. There is one on Paramount that had a horrible remodel to the facade with this wood planking stuff and one on Montreal burned down and a newer home went up in its place that sticks out like a sore thumb. But for the most part the two streets have remained the same since they were built right after the war.

    9. This is popular in the Ozarks – frequently called giraffe stone. Deb Sheals (a historic preservation consultant who lives in Columbia, MO) wrote a great article about it in the Society of Architectural Historians newsletter (MO), Summer 2006 (Vol. 12, No. 2A).

    10. Also being a UCitian, I’m familiar with Sharyn’s neighborhood – across from the former Barbara C Jordan school. (Well, it’ll be BCJ again!) A great little pocket of homes.

      And my hometown of Rolla had a couple of those houses here and there. Sometimes they were grey limestone, others were something more brown or reddish. There’s a house along I-44 that’s smaller rocks, too. I’m assuming they used local materials – you can’t put a shovel in the ground without hitting rock in some parts of Missouri.

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