New Owner of Mullanphy Emigrant Home is a Modern-Day St. Louis Immigrant

By on May 7, 2019

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  The new owner of an 1867 structure built to provide housing for new immigrants to St. Louis is an immigrant himself.

Local physician Dr. Wahied Gendi purchased the Mullanphy Emigrant Home at 1609 North 14th Street for $130,000 late last year. It had been owned by an affiliate of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, which cared for the property and kept it from being demolished in 2006. Gendi estimates the structure needs $4 million in repairs, and he’s taking feedback from the neighborhood on how the building could be used.

“I will do everything I can to preserve the history of this iconic building so that we can bring something valuable to this community,” Gendi said in a statement. “Whether it serves as a health facility or as residential housing, I will work hard to restore it back to its original glory in a way that best serves the residents of this area.”

The home was built because of the generosity of Bryan Mullanphy, the son of St. Louis’s first Irish millionaire and a mayor of the city in the late 1840s. When Bryan Mullanphy died in 1851, his will stipulated that one third of his property be left to the city to establish “a fund to furnish relief to all poor emigrants and travelers coming to St. Louis.” Just over 15 years later, the Mullanphy House opened, adhering to the former mayor’s will that insisted it be open to people of all nationalities and faiths.

However, its life as a refuge for poor immigrants coming to the city was short-lived. By 1877, it closed and the commissioners of the Mullanphy fund began a policy of paying for the food and lodging of immigrant families elsewhere. Until 1899, the building was leased to the St. Louis School Board. For much of the mid 20th century, it was a factory for Absorene Manufacturing Co., which still makes cleaning sponges from a building on Cass Avenue.

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