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Municipal Workers Plan for More User-Friendly Park

Hanley House in Clayton and its accompanying park are set to receive a face-lift.

Clayton's most storied property is set to undergo a series of renovations in the coming months.

Built in 1855, stands as Clayton's oldest building. Thanks to a joint project of the city's and the , Hanley House and may become even more attractive destinations for locals, tourists and students on field trips. 

Parks and recreation director Patty DeForrest said the Municipal Park Grant Commission of St. Louis County issued a $184,000 grant to construct an outdoor covered structure with restrooms, as well as wheelchair-accessible sidewalks leading from the house to the park.

The site as cobblestone sidewalks which, despite their old-time charm and aesthetic value, prevent Hanley Park from meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act's standards for accessible design.

Sarah Umlauf, the city's community resource coordinator and manager of Hanley Park, said the site is significant for more than just its age. In contrast to many historic homes from the Civil War era, the house's owners were of the middle class.

"It’s a story that’s not often told," Umlauf said. "Oftentimes in historic homes, the sites that are preserved are sites that belonged to the wealthy, like the Campbell House or the Field House."

Curious period artifacts can be found throughout the house, but a notable omission adds quirkiness to a Hanley House visit: There are no public restrooms for visitors.

"Generally, when we have events, we have to rent Port-a-Pottys," DeForrest said. "It's not a great situation. So this will give us the ability to have a small park structure with two restrooms and covered areas so a few people could sit underneath."

Umlauf said the changes are expected to bolster the student traffic the site gets.

"We not only anticipate that these renovations will help with the student tour regularity but also attract students from larger distances," Umlauf said. "It's hard to travel to a site where there are no restrooms for the students."

Umlauf estimated that students on field trips from schools in Clayton and other nearby districts come to the house once a month during the fall and once every week or two during the spring.

The parks department has entered the design phase of the project. Consultants from Planning Design Studio in St. Louis are drafting concept photos for the future restroom structure. Two of these renderings—one simulated aerial view of the entire complex and one close-up of the restrooms and covered seating area—may be viewed by clicking through the images attached to this article.

Assuming the city completes each step in the process according to plan, the construction should be finished by fall 2012, Umlauf said.

The new sidewalks and restroom facility may just be the beginning. The Century Foundation is in search of a philanthropist or corporation to donate upward of $1 million to further restore the home.

DeForrest told a reporter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the city has already invested approximately $75,000 in restoration funds each year since 2007.

Hanley House's roofing and its heating and cooling system have been replaced in recent years, so its doors, electrical system, gutters, downspout and wooden deck are due for an upgrade, DeForrest said.

"The windows right now are in bad shape," she said. When frames, casings, masonry and brickwork are included with the windows, "it costs about $300,000 to do that."

Efforts to restore the home have not come without criticism from the community.

"Quite honestly, every once in awhile people say, 'You should tear it down and use the money to fund other park initiatives,'" DeForrest said. "Once we do that, the oldest home in Clayton is gone forever."

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