History in peril

Historic home in Florissant faces uncertain future after being abandoned and facing foreclosure

By Sara Hardin

On Aug. 25, the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation (Missouri Preservation) presented their 17th annual list of historic Places in Peril, a program which helps bring attention to historic properties around the state that are in disrepair or are threatened by a lack of funds. Included on this year’s list is 359 Rue St. Jean, popularly known as the Bellissime-Ouvre house, located in Florissant.

The list began in 2000 as the “Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places” media campaign, and was renamed “Places in Peril” in 2015.

“[The program] was initially a sort of last call for historic properties, to give a voice to these places that are in danger for one reason or another,” explained Bill Hart, Executive Director of Missouri Preservation. “It’s also to help give Missouri citizens a voice to say that there is a historic place that is important to people, and that it’s going to lost if someone doesn’t intervene. They could be threatened by deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, or perhaps the city has a plan to demolish it.”

The Bellissime-Ouvre house, located in Florissant is a French Colonial style home that was constructed in 1830 and was originally owned by French soldier Alexander Bellissime, who came to the U.S. with Lafayette to fight the English in the American Revolutionary War.

Now abandoned and facing foreclosure, the home needs proper attention in order to ensure it is preserved into the future. Philip Lum, Building Commissioner for the C\city of Florissant, took note of the building’s condition and admitted it as a nomination for the 2017 Places in Peril list.

“In the city of Florissant we have a number of properties that are designated local landmarks by the Landmarks and Historic Districts Commission, and this is one of those properties,” said Lum. “In addition, the condition of the property has been deteriorating over the years. It’s got quite a history to it. It’s one of the oldest French style houses not only in Florissant, but probably in the area.”

After Lum noticed the home’s structural and historic significance (it appears on the 1878 map of Florissant, for example), he concluded that its continued presence in the Florissant neighborhood would in the best interest of the community.

“It is important in age and structural attractiveness and represents the building methods of early 19th century Florissant,” Lum writes of the home in his formal submission to Missouri Preservation, submitted in June. “It provides continuity to the neighborhood fabric and represents an important period in the developments of Florissant Old Town.”

While some properties that end up on the Places in Peril list are past the point of restoration once they are nominated, there have been many cases where historic buildings have been restored close to their former glory as a result of the attention brought to them by Missouri Preservation.

“We do find that more often than not that a lot of our historic properties are saved or appropriate buyers are found,” said Hart. “That’s our hope with 359 Rue St. Jean, is that an interested, preservation-friendly buyer will come forward and purchase the house. We want to be sure that by listing, we are really able to make a difference.”


To find out more about Missouri Preservation and the 2017 Places in Peril list, visit preservemo.org.

CUTLINE: Photos by Sara Hardin 359 Rue St. Jean, popularly known as the Bellissime-Ouvre house, is located in Florissant and was placed on the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation’s 17th annual list of historic Places in Peril.