The Big House on Cook Avenue
A 122-year-old brick house dominates the street scene at the corner of Whittier Street and Cook Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri. Builders erected the 2378 square foot house in 1892, when much of the Vandeventer neighborhood and surrounding area was built out. It’s unique architecture includes a turret balcony on the second floor of the northeast wall. When first built, 4200 Cook must have been an impressive site.
Today, 4200 Cook is not so impressive unless you are fascinated by how much a brick building can decay before it actually collapses. 4200 Cook has not been lived in consistently since 1989. It is almost certainly doomed as it is owned by Land Revitalization Authority (LRA), which does not have the financial resources to shore up the thousands of properties on their books.
Sadly, a couple wanted to rehab the building in the early 2000s but faced so many obstacles they eventually quit in frustration around 2003. The preliminary work that they did has probably been lost in the ensuing decade.
Looking at the size and architecture, I guessed that it must have been a rich St. Louisan’s mansion at one time. However, it may have been sold as a home plus rooming house because as early as 1901 the private family, who owned 4200 Cook Avenue, rented two rooms to tenants.
Since it was built in 1892, I doubt it became a rooming house so quickly. It would be more likely that it was built as a home and room rental. I cannot say for sure however.
On November 6, 1904, Michael Reiney, who roomed at 4200 Cook Avenue, was robbed of $2 as he walked near Cook and Whittier. Reiney was not injured and no record exists of the robbers being caught. This episode shows that crime is not a modern problem but one that we struggled with even in the “good old days”.
In a few more years, all we may have of 4200 Cook Avenue is pictures, so look and imagine of what 4200 Cook once was and could have been again. Too much of our St. Louis history is lying around the city in piles of brick.