Last Wednesday afternoon, a piece of Kirkwood history met an abrupt demise when developers turned a 106-year-old Queen Anne-style farmhouse into a pile of splinters. It just so happened the demolition occurred the same week CL ran a story detailing neighbors' fruitless efforts to save the property. Kirkwood resident Sally Alcock says the timing of the demolition was no coincidence.
"[Enclave of Kirkwood partner Joe Amszynski] was extremely angered by the article that appeared in Creative Loafing, and he felt that the neighborhood had left him no other option," she says.
A realtor herself, Alcock says the Queen Anne was "a wonderful gem of a home that's now gone, and it can never be replaced. ... It will never be the same."
Earl Williamson, president of the Kirkwood Neighbors' Organization, was present at the demolition and made frantic phone calls to city officials in a last-ditch effort to halt the demolition. But it was already 4:30 p.m. -- too close to closing time to reach anyone. He claims the late start was an intentional move to prevent neighbors from stopping the bulldozer.
Angry neighbors turned out in protest, some even documenting the destruction on film. They stood powerless as a backhoe quickly knocked down the Queen Anne.
Williamson, who spoke briefly with Amszynski on the scene, says he thinks the developer demolished the house because he was angry about the article. "It was deliberate across the board," he says. "It wasn't just a business thing. There were bad feelings involved."
Alcock says community advocates are particularly upset because they believe the demolition permit had expired the day before the house was torn down. Granted on June 23 and good for 60 days, the city-issued permit would indeed seem to have expired a day before the actual demolition occurred. But city rules are largely silent on the subject of penalties for such technical violations, says one long-time city official who asked not to be named. The issue is likely to be considered moot since the developer could easily have renewed the permit.
Amszynski says the permit was valid but declined to comment further, except to say the developers are ready to put the episode behind them and push forward with their project to build high-density infill housing.
Williamson says "pushing" is an apt description of how the partnership does business, adding that he will continue to fight the development.
"It may have been a bad decision on their part," he says, "thinking that knocking down the house will make the neighborhood go away."