Posted on September 7th, 2011 15 comments
Last time I visited at the end of August, the Ackerman Buick site was about 55% percent demolished. Here’s the Ackerman Buick back-story.
At this time, the neon sign (above) was the only thing standing that was still relatively intact, and I worried for it. Then the other day I got an email with this photo attached:
After closing my gaping jaw, I read the e-mail from Dean Wieneke, who wrote:
“Saw your article about the Ackerman dealership neon sign after I bought it from the wrecking company Spirtas. We started on it Friday, and just removed the neon and the bulbs and the cover up or add-on of “Ackerman Buick Inc” portion. Now it looks TOTALLY different, for the better I may add. It now says “Dickerson Motors Inc. Used Car Dept.” We’ll be finishing the removal sometime this weekend.”
I immediately replied to my new hero for more details, which he supplied, in spades:
“I’ve always been a big fan of this sign, being an old sign junkie. It has everything: it’s porcelain, it’s old, it’s large, it has a great font, it’s die cut across the top, it’s NEON, and it even has chaser lights at the bottom. Lets face it, this is a classic, one-of-a-kind, Americana old school sign from when thought was actually put in to signage, and not just something that corporate pumped out, like today’s boring dealership signs. I couldn’t let this have the same fate as the buildings did.
“I contacted Spirtas (who were/are great to work with) and within a day or so was told I could purchase it. So last Friday my brother, Joe, and my father, Jim, and I started in on this on one of the hottest days of the year and got it to the point you see now. We shall return this weekend with more wasp spray!
“The sign is 50 feet long and the sign portion is 8 foot high, had probably a hundred feet of neon on it and 144 lights across the bottom.
“What am I going to do with it…? Good Question! My beautiful and patient wife is wondering the same thing and is about ready to choke me over the whole ordeal. Hell, I don’t even know what I’m going to do with it really, but I just could NOT let it be destroyed by the wrecking claw! More than likely I’ll trailer it up and haul it to my house and store it until I can find a suitable place for it. It may end up on display in my Dads pole barn, but that seems to be a waste of a “local land mark,” so if someone has a better idea let me (and my wife, ha!) know.”
Since Dean has done such a great public service in the name of recent past preservation (and shared these 2 photos), let’s help him out if we can. There’s 2 things he wants to know:
• Does anyone have any knowledge about Dickerson Motors, Inc. ?
• Any do-able ideas for what to do with the sign so that the public can keep gazing upon it?
My first thought for the second question is the Antique Warehouse. Here’s some of the other neon signs they have safely stored away. But I know you all have way more brilliant ideas (and astounding recall of St. Louis history), so help a hero out, will ya?
Posted on March 11th, 2009 3 comments
Head north on Halls Ferry Road, and on the western side of the unincorporated portion between Jennings and Dellwood, Missouri you will find a large stash of choice mid-century modern homes tucked into the rolling hills. But stay on Halls Ferry, and pay attention to three homes that straddle Hudson Road, like this one, above.
Built in 1958, the 1,607 s.f. home sits on nearly an acre of land. It is unabashedly modern with its multi-levels of flat roofs and large expanses of glass to peer down the steep hill in the front yard. Every time I pass by with a camera, the newest owner is out on his riding mower, and I’m working up the courage to ask him if I can get closer, maybe take some pictures inside.
Two houses down, the original owners are still on the books for this place. Built in 1953, it is the definition of sprawling, clocking in at 2,438 s.f.
The last time I happened by, there was a large dumpster in the driveway, lending the impression of kids clearing out decades of living, though no for sale sign has yet popped up. Recent real estate transactions show that homes in this very immediate area go for insanely cheap rates of $90 – $115,000.
Right next door is a light blue ranch with a full butterfly roof. It went up in 1955 with 1,924 s.f. of space, and again, it appears the original owners may still be in residence.
All of the homes along this stretch have gigantic yards, so many mature trees that I’d worry in a wind storm, and exteriors that show little remuddling damage. While growing up in this part of town, we considered these to be the homes of “rich people.” I’m thinking it was a psychological reaction to the houses sitting so far up from the street atop steep hills. But even today, they are rather luxurious examples of suburban mid-century modern architecture.
Posted on April 28th, 2007 6 comments
11851 Benham Road
Unincorporated North St. Louis County, MO
I’ve admired this house for decades because of its simplistic deco beauty, and that it’s such a rare creature in this part of far North County. Near to where highways 367 and 270 meet, if the architecture is not commercial or Christian Northeast Hospital, it’s the standard ranch issue of suburban towns developed in earnest during the mid-1960s and on. But this little gem went up in 1935 or 1938 (depending on which records consulted), when the area was decidedly rural and Dunn Road was the highway system.
The St. Louis County Parks inventory of historic buildings reveals it was originally known as the Everett D. Fry House. The home is 2 stories, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, central air and 1964 s.f., with an ingenious carport/terrace double-duty spot on the south elevation. During the time I’ve been acquainted with it, the place has always been pristine, and modest about being a white rose among carnations. But in the 21st century, it got a little raggedy, and for over a year the home has been vacant.
On my last visit, I found the above signs in the window. A search for available FannieMae properties does not list this place, and after a number of owner changes in the past several years, it now belongs to an LLC, who bought it for $93,000.
Highway 367 is just about finished with a major (and much-appreciated) overhaul. Benham is a 2-lane road that parallels the highway. As the highway revamps, many of the ranch homes on Benham – north of this site, – have been bought and torn down. I’m assuming new homes will rise up in their place, but it could just as easily swing into commercial use; this part of town is transforming rapidly after a long period of stagnation.
This house would be a dream achievement for certain types of residential art deco aficionados. But there are now so many physical and market-driven barriers piling up around it that the prognosis is bleak. Another “that’s a damn shame” may be added to the list.
This home has been bought and is now fully occupied, with vehicles parked in the carport and a tidy yard. Thank you to whomever saw the beauty of this home!