The Jewish Orthodox Old Home

I drive around a lot, and see lots of buildings severely damaged by decades of abandonment and neglect, but every so often I come across a building has been abandoned for only a year or two. In general, there’ll be a few windows missing, but the building will still look occupied on cursory inspection. Sadly, the Jewish Orthodox Old Home, which sits at Grand Boulevard and Blair Avenue, has only been vacant for a year, and it’s been completely trashed.

Last functioning as Tower Village Senior Services, in reference to its close proximity to the Grand and Bissell water towers, the home has been completely covered in graffiti, windows smashed out, and otherwise vandalized.

Which is a shame, because the Modernist wing built probably sometime in the 1960’s, has a nice design, which is still somewhat evident despite the damage. It attaches to the main wing, which looks like it was built at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Other buildings on the property may be older, and there’s a large wooded area on the property to the northeast.

There is clear evidence of a fire having swept through one portion of the main wing, which has some nice terracotta detailing below. I have no idea why the last nursing home went out of business; its website is no longer active despite being active for at least a year or two after its closing; all I can find is that the building was condemned on June 5, 2012. It was cited for unsanitary conditions six months before that…

This side building, which perhaps was a maintenance building, is not doing too well, showing signs of severe deterioration.

The Jewish nursing home began sometime in the late Nineteenth Century, as can be seen in the Sanborn maps; at the time, it was one of several mansions enjoying the high elevation with its breezes and its distance from the coal dust and smog of the central city. At some point, what looks to have been originally a Romanesque Revival mansion on the site was torn down, and replaced with the central Beaux-Arts wing, whereupon, at mid-century, the Modernist wing was added. You can see the Bissell water tower, and two other mansions that were apparently later demolished, their properties combined with the nursing home’s.

Grand and Blair

Back in the fall of 2012, I took a picture of the screen-work on the Grand façade, and I’m certain the building was not in such bad shape.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. samizdat says:

    Good ol’ graffiti “artists” can always be counted upon to come during the dead of night (like the parasitic cowards they are; privatize the profits [getting your ‘tag seen’], socialize the costs [clean-up, which amounts to about 250,000USD annually in the City, and about 4,000,000,000USD/year nationwide). Funny how all of the tags can be seen from the street. I’ve noticed these cowards only ‘tag’ areas where their unoriginal and banal scribblings can be viewed. One of their new targets, the former John Ramming machine works building on McRee, only has ‘tagging’ on the side seen from I-44. They’re like five-year-olds screaming in the pool, “mommy, mommy, look at me jump off the diving board. Mooooommmmyyyyyy loooooooook!” Pathetic.

    1. Jenn, South City says:

      I read an article in which these idiots describe themselves as office workers, single mothers, college students, and the like. A bunch of them are in their 30’s and consider themselves “street artists”. There’s nothing remotely artisitic about spray painting your Tumblr handle on the side of a factory. If they want to see real street art, they should look up someone like Pavel Puhov.

      Call me old and cranky (Get off my lawn!) but I say shoot them on sight and consider it city vector control.

      1. Chris Naffziger says:

        Oh you saw that article, too?

      2. HeyYou says:

        Someone should shoot you with that attitude.

        1. Chris Naffziger says:

          Let’s play nice, everyone.

  2. Tom Maher - Kirkwood says:

    Bravo, samizdat! An XLNT analysis!

  3. Chris Naffziger says:

    It’s interesting to hear all of your opinions on graffiti; it’s never come up before in the comments on this site. Graffiti is obviously something that I encounter on a regular basis while photographing many parts of this city. I think everybody would agree that gang graffiti is not desirable.

    On the issue of “artistic” or “self-expression” graffiti, I know many people who are very supportive of it. I personally am not, and these views hardened many years ago while living in Washington, DC when there was a kid from the suburbs whose prolific tagging and graffiti in poor, African-American neighborhoods attracted considerable media attention. I forget his name, but I will not forget that there was a certain latent classism and racism to his comments about his choice of where he painted graffiti. His attitude was almost that as a rich kid from a wealthy suburb, he was entitled to come to poor people’s neighborhoods to commit his vandalism, because you know, they don’t care and all. It’s the same with suburbanites coming down to buy drugs or patronize prostitutes; all of these actions give the impression that the city is some sort of anarchic playground for people’s vices. It is not that; it is the home of three hundred thousand people; it is not anyone’s personal playground.

    On an aesthetic level, most of the graffiti in St. Louis is of considerably low quality. Yes, I know, not everyone can paint like Raphael, but seriously, the graffiti in St. Louis is terrible. Have I seen some interesting graffiti in St. Louis? Yes, but not often.

    On the basest level, there is the hypocrisy factor: doing to others’ property what you would not want done to your own. My question to all taggers: when can I come over and tag your property? That’s what I thought.

  4. Tattoo Tony says:

    I am putting up a video walk through of this building on my youtube channel. It is currently frequented and lived in by herion addicts. I had to find a way out of the building when some of it’s current tennants entered. I don’t recommend going in and especially not alone. I made it through a fair portion before I had to exit. I found syringes and the bottoms of soda cans used for melting heroin in multiple rooms. The building is wrecked.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Be careful! I hear that place has really hit rock-bottom–as you have seen.

    2. Kyle Landon Wheeler says:

      What the name of the YouTube video? Thank you in advance!

  5. Tattoo Tony says:

    Thanks for replying. I have a four part video up on youtube. Yes I would say it’s a risky place to go inside. There are definitely people living inside. Found a lot of paraphernalia and syringes.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Do you have a link to the videos?

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