U City’s Hawthorne School

Pinnacle Contracting, E + A Architecture Converting U City’s Hawthorne School into Living Units



A historic school building in University City that served young learners from 1913-2011 is getting new life, thanks to developer Matthew Masiel (Screaming Eagle Development LLC), E + A Architecture and Pinnacle Contracting.

By Oct. 1, the former Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary School at 1351 North Hanley Road will become Hawthorne Apartments and Townhomes. Pinnacle Contracting Vice President of Operations Tim McLaughlin said the creative project represents a blend of historical rehabilitation with new construction, all on a total footprint of 68,664 square feet.

Demo and abatement began in mid-December 2018 on the $6.9 million renovation effort. By late January, construction and historic rehab began. A total of 35 apartments are being created in the original three-story school building, and 12 brand-new townhomes will occupy space that once belonged to the school playground and parking lot.

“Thankfully, University City kept the building in great condition after it stopped functioning as a school (in late 2011),” said McLaughlin. “This is such a creative and challenging project because each living unit we’re creating in the original school building is unique. Nothing repeats itself in terms of design. spatial considerations and alignments.”

To comply with guidelines and requirements specific to the National Register of Historic Places, project partners needed to design and construct living unit floorplans within existing, longstanding features that once belonged to the school and that were to be saved and rehabbed – such as classrooms, the gymnasium floor and fine arts performance stage. To this end, McLaughlin said, one of the two units taking shape within that area of the school building will feature the original gym floors, 35-foot-high ceilings and two stories of living space. Where the stage once held young performers as far back as 97 years ago, there will now be a club room for residents.

Rob Truebe, project manager with Guarantee Electrical Co., is also working on the Hawthorne School conversion and new build. Truebe said GECO is partnering with Ameren Missouri to provide two electrical meter centers – one on each end of the original school building – and a house panel.

“The 12 townhomes on the back side of the property will also get an Ameren transformer and a meter center,” said Truebe. “Pinnacle has added all new drywall ceilings in what were the original school building’s interior corridors so that we can install our conduits and MC cables (insulated circuit conductors) out of sight. The intent is to hide as much of the mechanical equipment as possible, so it doesn’t detract from the historical beauty and significance of this school building.” GECO is working in tandem with J. Bathe Electric Co. on this project.

Partial masonry restoration has been performed on the building’s original façade and several new storefront entrances have been created.

McLaughlin said Pinnacle will again join with E + A Architecture in 2019 to rehab and convert the Lyon School in the Patch neighborhood of South St. Louis into apartments. Both schools were originally designed by renowned St. Louis architect William B. Ittner.