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Clerical error leads to demolition of St. Louis iconic mural, building

Friday, February 7, 2014 | 5:20 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — An iconic mural of a hippie — and the St. Louis building on which it was painted — are gone from a neighborhood near downtown, and a clerical error is to blame.

The 1890 building stood in a protected historic district, and the garage door's mural of a hippie named Beardy McGreen, flashing a peace sign, had been something of a landmark since 2006.

The building was demolished in December without the required city review because of a city employee's data entry mistake, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Beardy's likeness was ripped from the building and discarded in a pile of bricks, though most was later salvaged.

Breakdowns like this worry preservationists who fear the same thing could happen to other historic buildings in St. Louis.

The hippie caricature was created and named in 2006 by stencil artist Peat Wollaeger as developers sought to boost the dilapidated Chouteau's Landing. Mountain Dew put a version of the unique image on a special soda bottle.

The building originally housed a saloon and butcher shop. It was part of the South Fourth Street Commercial District, which had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. The designation requires all demolition permits to be reviewed by the city Cultural Resources Office.

"A manual data entry transfer between two databases was made incorrectly, causing the permit application to appear to be for a structure not entitled to review," said Don Roe, the city's director of Planning and Urban Design. He has since altered the process to ensure against errors.

"I just think it's crazy how each one of these buildings in St. Louis is going away," Wollaeger said. "I thought the (mural) was going to spark something in that neighborhood."

Property owner Terrence C. McDonald said the building was beyond repair. He plans to turn the property into a parking lot.

Scott Rinaberger heard about the demolition and wanted the mural for his new School of Rock music education site in Kirkwood. He drove to the site and saw the empty space where the building once stood.

"You killed Beardy," Rinaberger remembered saying.

But luck was with him: He saw a pile of rubble. In it was Beardy McGreen.

"We were able to salvage most of him," Rinaberger said. The hippie now takes up most of a wall in the school's main performance studio.


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