Monday, July 11, 2011

Rock Hill Presbyterian Revisited

After having visited the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church back in March, I decided to swing by to snap some new pictures.It was shocking to see how out of control the weeds had gotten, with some growing to the size of small trees, despite not actually being trees. The Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery's maintenance of the property, regardless of the final outcome, is shameful.More importantly, I wanted to document the church for myself before it is torn down. Luckily, I learned tonight that a six month moratorium has been placed on its demolition, while avenues for its removal to a new site are explored.Move a stone church? There isn't going to be anyone who has that kind of money. While the technology exists, it is totally unfeasible for this situation.The latest cry from the pro-business lobby towards preservationists is that they should buy these buildings if they want to save them. That is a specious argument. While the church is private property, it is part of all of our history. Built by slaves before the Civil War, it was once a simple country church, as you can see in this photo. Some things, like our history, are more important than revenue.A fire in the 1930'a necessitated a renovation, and logically the architects turned to fashionable Gothic Revival, a style you can see represented all over Central St. Louis County.
I will be honest; the 1958 Sunday School wing could be sacrificed if the gas station has to be built, but even when it was built it was not a simple or modest design as this original rendering shows.The intersection of Rock Hill/McKnight and Manchester Roads is already a travesty, and the church on its corner is the only vestige of Rock Hill being anything other than just a bland suburban intersection. Huge numbers of storefronts sit empty near the church, either a symbol of the economy, or as I suspect, overbuilding on the part of the city, who, like all other St. Louis County municipalities, is seeking to increase their meager slice of the tax pie that the county possesses. I also suspect that the city is hurting financially after the recent retirement of one of their top earners.Rock Hill has long had a reputation as a speed-trap, and while the city fathers have repeatedly voiced their support for the aggressive speed enforcement of their police department, I must state that the city's reputation has clearly affected business. I know many people who will not shop (or even pass through) Rock Hill out of this fear.So in review, the city of Rock Hill is allowing the demolition of an historic church, originally built with slave labor, for the construction of a gas station, because they probably need the tax revenue.Yes, a gas station.

5 comments:

  1. I'm one of those who goes miles out their way to avoid Rock Hill. The city could easily be the mid county poster child for municipal consolidation. It's broke, it sold its soul years ago. The church is a goner.

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  2. I've driven through this area on my visits to StL and never realized I was in Rock Hill - too much crazy stuff going on already. I think there ought to be a viable alternative use for the old rock church - something that would still bring in some local city revenue. Is this on the historic register?

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  3. Tom Maher - KirkwoodJuly 12, 2011 at 4:53 AM

    I note your thinly-veiled sarcasm in the note about the retirement "one of its top earners." Did you, like so many of us, fall victim to the anal enforcement of speed limits by Officer Zeigler? Mine was almost 40 years ago, as I was guilty of of 33 (yes, 33) MPH in the 30 MPH zone on Manchester.

    Rock Hill has been a city in dysfunctional disarray for many years. There have been years of bickering and accusations of all kinds between various mayors, city managers, and council members for many years. It was also victimized by (to many residents and observers) less-than-honorable developers.

    The Presbytery could, one would think, at least send a member around to keep the yard mowed and the bushes cut back; however, perhaps that aura of neglect is exactly what it wants to convey to aid its obsolescence and eventual demolition.
    An excellent source of info on the ongoing struggle is The Webster-Kirkwood Times.

    P.S. Welcome back!

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  4. Luckily I was never a victim of the Rock Hill speed trap, as I avoid the area completely. The only time I actually have been to Rock Hill in the last decade was to photograph the church twice.

    I think you're on to something with the neglect of the property; I call it the old "make it look as bad as possible" strategy when you want generate support to tear down a building.

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  5. To answer Anonymous's question, I do not believe it is on the National Register; Esley Hamilton, the historic preservation officer for St. Louis County tried to get them to do that, but they didn't.

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