Study will review Sappington cabin’s move

Historian: Cabin notable for its condition after 200 years

In+this+December+1979+black-and-white+photo+submitted+in+the+1980s+to+the+National+Register+of+Historic+Places%2C+the+view+of+the+house+is+seen+from+the+southeast.

Photo by Esley Hamilton

In this December 1979 black-and-white photo submitted in the 1980s to the National Register of Historic Places, the view of the house is seen from the southeast.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

A 200-year-old cabin is one step closer to possibly making the move to Crestwood after the Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance last week for an engineering firm to study what it would require to transport the cabin from Affton.

The 1816 cabin once owned by Joseph Sappington at 10734 Clearwater Drive is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Aldermen voted 6-2 April 20 to contract with consultant Case Engineering to review what would be involved in transporting and moving the house.

The study does not commit the city to actually moving the cabin to the Historic Sappington House Museum, 105 S. Sappington Road. The nonprofit Sappington House Foundation will cover the consultant fees — which are not to exceed $26,000 — using private donations the foundation has deposited with the city.

Ward 1 Aldermen Richard Breeding and Mary Stadter, Ward 3 Aldermen Greg Hall and Scott Shipley and Ward 4 Aldermen Tony Kennedy and Ismaine Ayouaz voted in favor, with Ward 1’s Mimi Duncan and Ward 2’s Justin Charboneau opposed.

In March, aldermen approved a nonbinding letter of intent 5-0 to move the cabin after new owner Jim Freund offered to donate it if the city covered relocation. John Sappington was a cousin of Thomas Sappington, whose 1808 brick home is the centerpiece of Sappington House Museum.

But the engineering contract failed 4-3 on first reading April 13, with Duncan, Charboneau, Scott Shipley and Ayouaz opposed and Breeding, Hall and Kennedy in favor. Stadter was absent.

“Does that mean this move is dead?” asked Breeding, and Mayor Grant Mabie replied that it was unless an alderman who had originally voted no made a motion to reconsider: “The purpose of hiring Case was to have that engineer prepare the bid specs to enable the city to go out to bid for that move. … I don’t see where that leaves the city any opportunity to proceed here.”

“I’m kind of disappointed — you know, we signed a letter of intent with the owner and now we’re kind of backtracking on a point where a private party wants to commit to pay for this study. When you acquire anything, there’s a certain amount of due diligence required and until you have that information in front of you, it’s hard to make that decision,” said Kennedy. “We have a lot of speculation … but we have a lot of creative people who could possibly make this move affordable. I’m really disappointed in the board that we’re not backing up our letter of intent. … This is an important historic building and to backtrack … it just doesn’t make sense.”

Ayouaz questioned the city’s involvement entirely: “Why should a local government be involved in a transaction that’s going to be private? The Sappington House has the money and is going to pay for it … that’s why I voted no, there’s so much confusion in this. If they have money to pay for it, why don’t they just do the transaction of hiring someone in a private manner? Why (are we) using staff energy and stuff like this when we’re not going to pay for it? While I’m supporting this project as an individual, I don’t think it’s my place as an outgoing alderman … to commit money from other people.”

Mabie said that while he understood, Ayouaz was the “duly elected alderman” for the remainder of the meeting and through April, so “this decision falls on your shoulders.” And because the Sappington House Museum is on city property, the city had some responsibility.

Ayouaz made a motion to reconsider, and it passed 5-3. On second reading last week, several members of the public and the foundation spoke in favor of the contract.

“The foundation does not have a huge amount of funds like the city, nor does it have the overhead or outlay the city has. You have taxpayers and we have memberships. … Last week I turned over the requested $26,000 … to Mr. (City Administrator Kris) Simpson’s office,” said Dyann Dierkes, president of the foundation. “To perform our due diligence, we have taken on the whole amount. … We know there are no refunds — that’s how committed the Sappington House Foundation is to see this project happen.”

One woman who spoke in support said that she was the fourth great-granddaughter of Joseph Sappington.

“I’m the fourth great-granddaughter … and I’m a member of the John Sappington Daughters of the American Revolution. … We have been in Crestwood about 20 years and I’m here to support the move,” said Judy Busse. “I’m just all in favor of it and … lots of family members are.”

But Charboneau reiterated the concerns that he has with the project, namely the time and money it could take from the city.

“I really, really have some concerns with this whole project. … In a perfect world, if we had larger space to put this house, if we had an endless supply of money and we could make this project work, I think it would be an easy yes. … However, that’s unfortunately not the case,” said Charboneau. “I am someone who believes in preserving history, but …  — it’s not really a gift. Someone made an investment. … And they don’t want it.”

St. Louis County Parks historian Esley Hamilton, who successfully applied to get the cabin listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s, said, “It’s not who lived there, it’s the remarkable survival of the house and the pioneer construction of the house that makes it important.” .

Hall said that he understood Charboneau’s concerns, but the study makes sense since it’s “an opportunity … that won’t come along again, and I appreciate the foundation coming up with this money. … There’s going to be some hard decisions to make once we find out about all the data and find out what it’s truly going to cost. I’m also hopeful that with this time that’s in the next month or so, we might get more donations or it’s a better situation than we might think. But I am willing to take this next step forward even though there’s been a bunch of valid concerns that have been expressed.”