Frenchman Pierre Laclède was a fur trader by vocation but when he was the given the mission of establishing a trading post at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, he turned into town builder with relish. The actual confluence was too swampy to build on so he selected a site 18 miles downriver on February 15, 1764. Laclède organized a group of 30 men and was at the ready with detailed plans for the village complete with a street grid and market area.

The town bounced between French and Spanish control more or less unmolested until it was part of the 828,800 square miles acquired by Thomas Jefferson in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Most of the settlers tended to their farms - only 43% of the population lived in the village when they became Americans. While most of the people farmed, most of the town’s wealth came for furs until the first steamboats appeared on the Mississippi River. Rapids north of the city made St. Louis the northernmost navigable port open to large riverboats and it developed into a bustling inland port supplying the vast western lands. 

In 1850 St. Louis became the first town west of the Mississippi River to crack the list of ten largest American cities and would remain among the country’s ten largest cities until 1970. In 1874 James B. Eads completed the longest arch bridge in the world, with an overall length of 6,442 feet, across the Mississippi River. He first paraded an elephant across the bridge - more of a superstition than a stability test - and then ran 14 locomotives back and forth to prove its viability. With the first access by rail to Eastern markets, more trains soon met in St. Louis than any other American city. 

Industry in St. Louis boomed. The town was busy milling flour, machining, slaughtering and processing tobacco. But the biggest industry was brewing which began with a large German immigration in the years after the Louisiana Purchase. By the time of the Civil War there were 40 breweries cranking out the new lager beer that had been introduced in 1842 by Adam Lemp. In 1876 Adolphus Busch became the first brewmeister to pasteurize his beer so it could withstand any climatic change and Anheuser-Busch was soon the first national brewer shipping product in refrigerated railroad cars.

By 1904 only New York, Chicago and Philadelphia were bigger cities than St. Louis and the town supported two major league baseball teams, hosted the first Olympic Games outside of Europe and staged a World’s Fair. The city streetscape mirrored the town’s importance with a flurry of massive warehouses, office buildings, and hotels rising from the 1880s through the 1920s. The population would peak at over 850,000.

The last decades of the 20th century saw most of the people, more than a half-million, disappear and many of the buildings as well. Those that escaped were often vacant for years, awaiting their date with the wrecking ball. Recent times have seen many of those hulking shells re-adapted and our exploration of downtown will visit the old retail center along Washington Avenue and the banking and business corridor around Olive Street but first we will begin at the symbol of St. Louis, a structure itself that demanded the demolition of 40 city blocks... 

Gateway Arch
Mississippi River at Market Street

This is America’s tallest man-made monument, at 630 feet about 75 feet taller than the Washington Monument, erected in 1965 on the site where Pierre Laclède directed his aide, Auguste Chouteau, to build a settlement 200 years earlier. The seeds for the memorial to the opening of the West grew inside Luther Ely Smith, a lawyer and St. Louis booster who had served on the commission to build the George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes, Indiana. In 1933 he got it into his head that the crumbling St. Louis waterfront could be replaced with a similar memorial and garnered the support of the City and the federal government. Within a decade 40 city blocks had been condemned and cleared away. In 1946 Smith staged a design competition, investing $40,000 of his own money towards the $225,000 cost, to create “a central figure, a shaft, a building, an arch, or something which would symbolize American culture and civilization.” The winner was Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, now considered one of the masters of 20th Century architecture for works like this. Neither Smith nor Saarinen would ever see the Gateway Arch as both died before groundbreaking in 1963. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial opened the steel catenary arch to the public in 1967 and today is visited by an estimated four million people a year, although only about one million take the tram ride to the observation room at the top.


The Old Courthouse
4th Street between Chestnut and Market streets

Auguste Chouteau and Judge John B.C. Lucas gave this land with the stipulation that it be “used forever as the site on which the courthouse of the County of St. Louis should be erected.” The first one came along in 1828 and ten years later Henry Singleton designed a new building with four wings and a central dome; the original courthouse became the core of the east wing. The building was tinkered with into the 1860s with the dome being replaced with a new wrought and iron model based on the one on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The City sent Chouteau and Lucas to fuming in their graves- and their descendants into court - by abandoning the courthouse in 1930. The judge refused to give the land back to the family and the old building was turned over to the federal government which gave it a facelift and opened it as a museum. In one of the most important cases ever heard in a United States courtroom, Virginia-born slave Dred Scott was granted his freedom here in 1850 after two trials. The case took seven years to reach the United States Supreme Court which ruled against Scott and hastened the country’s slide into the Civil War. Scott was granted his emancipation after the trial and worked as a porter in St. Louis until his death from tuberculosis in 1858.


Mississippi Valley Trust Building
401 Pine Street at northwest corner of 4th Street

This two-story limestone Beaux Arts building from 1896 improbably holds its corner in the shadow of three modern skyscrapers. It was constructed by the Mississippi Valley Trust, six years after its inception, on plans drawn by William Sylvester Eames and Thomas Crane Young. Eames and Young were 1878 graduates of Washington University’s School of Fine Arts who teamed up in 1885, building a national reputation with commissions like this. In 1904 Eames became president of the American Institute of Architects, the first St. Louisan so honored, bringing ever more prestige to the firm. Mississippi Valley Trust would become one of the city’s best-known financial institutions until it merged with the Mercantile Bank & Trust Company in 1951. It left these premises in 1930 and leased out the space for awhile before a parade of different owners moved in and out for half a century but the building has maintained its integrity through it all. 


One Metropolitan Square
201-227 North Broadway at northwest corner of Pine Street

This is the tallest building in St. Louis, completed in 1989. The designers were the firm of HOK, started by Washington University School of Architecture graduates George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum in 1955. The firm graduated from designing schools in the St. Louis suburbs to becoming the largest architecture-engineering firm in the country and maintains its headquarters here.


LaSalle Building
501 Olive Street at northwest corner of Broadway

The slender two-bay tower with the projecting bay windows from top to bottom has been a fixture on this corner for a century, although it has spent much of the 2000s vacant. The 13-story, Chicago-style high-rise has presented a challenge to its sellers who have tried tactics such as selling each floor to different owners and conducting online auctions.

The Marquette Building (Boatmen’s Bank) 
300 Broadway at northeast corner of Olive Street

This is another creation ofWilliam Sylvester Eames, a one-time Deputy Commissioner of Public Buildings, and Wisconsin transplant Thomas Crane Young. This U-shaped Beaux-Arts influenced skyscraper is one of the last projects for Eames, who died in 1915. The building was constructed for Boatmen’s Bank, which was founded in 1847 and claimed to have been the oldest bank west of the Mississippi. Company tradition holds that in 1855 a run on the bank was stopped only when a madame from a local bordello deposited $4,500 in gold. From those shaky origins the bank rose to become the largest in Missouri before being acquired by NationsBank in 1996.


Merchants Laclede Building
408 Olive Street at southwest corner of 4th Street

Virginia-born L. Cass Miller learned his architecture in England and in 1879, at the age of 24, Miller joined the office of Stephen D. Hatch in New York. He was sent west as supervising architect of the Merchants’-Laclede Building in 1889 and stayed on in St. Louis with his own practice. The eight-story building is one of oldest examples of the tall fireproof buildings that began to appear in St. Louis at the time. Crafted with beige granite on the first two floors and soft red sandstone and brick above, the composition comes together around a full-height corner turret. In its latest incarnation the building is doing duty as a hotel.


Security Building
319 North Fourth Street 

This Romanesque-flavored corner tower was raised in 1891 as a pillar of St. Louis’s once thriving financial district. The firm of Peabody, Stearns & Furbe used pink granite below (the now altered ground floor) and pink limestone and brick above for the 11-story commercial building. In 1892 members of the St. Louis Club rented space in the upper two floors of the Security Building for a private luncheon club known as the the Noonday Club. The space was renovated to include a dining room, a library and a billiard room and the Noonday Club stayed until 1964.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
411 Locust Street at northwest corner of 4th Street

Your money is filtered through one of 12 branches of America’s central bank, like this one. It is a burly composition in grey limestone by John Lawrence Mauran and has been on the job since 1924. There are actually ten stories to the building in the back but it is hard to tell from the street.

Kennard Building
400 Washington Avenue at southwest corner of 4th Street

Isaac Taylor, the go-to architect for hulking commercial buildings in downtown St. Louis at the turn of the 20th century, designed this one in the Italian Renaissance style in 1901 for the Kennard & Sons Company. John Kennard had traveled far and wide with his flooring covers before coming to St. Louis in 1857, peddling his stock in Baltimore and Lexington, Kentucky and Pittsburgh. He settled his operation into two small buildings across the street here. After sons John, Jr. and Samuel joined the company and transformed the business into the “most extensive dealers of carpets, foreign and domestic, oil cloths, curtain and lace goods, in the West” the business moved here. 

Missouri Athletic Club
405 Washington Avenue at northwest corner of 4th Street

The Missouri Athletic Club formed in 1903 and the following year hosted and officiated the 1904 Olympic Games held in conjunction with the World’s Fair. The original clubhouse was destroyed by fire in 1913 and was replaced with this ten-story Beaux Arts creation designed by William B. Ittner and George Brueggeman. The upper floors feature bricks laid in a diamond pattern. The opening day celebration on March 1, 1916 was attended by 5,000 people.


Edward Jones Dome
701 Convention Plaza at Washington Avenue

Built in 1995 as part of the America’s Center complex, the Edward Jones Dome is best known as the home of the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams but can also be reconfigured to host basketball events such as the 2005 NCAA Final Four, major rock concerts and multi-day conventions.

Finney Building
511 Washington Avenue

Cast iron facades found popularity in America’s downtowns in the mid-1800s as a quick and inexpensive way to bring high architectural style to commercial storefronts. This ornate cast iron five-story front adorning the Finney Building from 1876 is one of only two remaining in St. Louis.

Bradford Martin Building
555 Washington Avenue

Thomas B. Annan was St. Louis-born in 1839 and graduated from the town’s only public high school. After an architectural apprenticeship Annan entered a partnership with Major Francis D. Lee, a successful architect from Charleston, South Carolina, after the Civil War. The firm designed many important commercial blocks, churches and residences but this Italianate core of this block from 1875 is the only know survivor of their collaboration. Additions and subtractions took place to the original four bay-three bay-four bay-four bay composition until it was unified in 1905 by the May Company department store.

Stix, Baer & Fuller Dry Goods Company Building
601 Washington Avenue

In 1892 Charles Stix, brothers Julius Baer and Sigmond Baer, and Aaron Fuller came together to open the Grand Leader, which carved out a niche as the leading high-end fashion store in St. Louis. The emporium moved to this location in 1920 into a building designed by John Mauran and eventually consumed the entire block. Charles Stix was not here to make the move, however. He died in 1916 after a long battle with stomach cancer at the age of 55. His funeral was perhaps the largest in St. Louis history up to that time with 2,500 people packed into the auditorium of the Temple Israel, about 1,000 more than it was built to handle, while another estimated 3,000 milled about outside. Stix had named 84 honorary pallbearers and he was lauded endlessly for his civic contributions at the service. Stix, Baer & Fuller itself almost made it for 100 years but was acquired in 1984 by the Dillard’s chain.

America’s Center
701 Convention Plaza at Washington Avenue 

With a half-million square feet of exhibit space, the venue opened in 1977 as the Cervantes Convention Center, and has held major events over the years, including the Working Women’s Survival Show, the All-Canada Show, and the St. Louis Boat and Sports Show.


Roberts Mayfair Hotel
808 St. Charles Street (Mayfair Plaza) at southwest corner of 8th Street

The Mayfair has been a staple on the St. Louis hospitality scene since 1925. It is the kind of hotel where Harry Truman, Irving Berlin and Cary Grant check in. The tradition of leaving a chocolate on a hotel pillow is said to have started here when Grant left a trail of chocolates here for a lady friend. Mayfair salad dressing also has its origins here when the dining room began serving an egg-based dressing seasoned with anchovies, garlic, prepared mustard, celery, onion, champagne, and black peppercorns.


Roberts Orpheum Theater
416 North 9th Street at southeast corner of St. Charles Street

Louis A. Cella, who rose from saloon and racetrack operator to become the largest individual real estate investor in the the city, financed the construction of this theater for the Orpheum vaudeville circuit in 1917. Orpheum architect Albert Lansburgh created the exuberant Beaux Arts palace to house the stage. After talkies and the radio conspired to doom vaudeville the theater was converted into a movie palace. In the 1960s it morphed back into a performance venue known as the American Theater. A 2003 renovation returned the original name and splendor, including sculptures by Italian artist Leo Lentelli, who would become best known for his works at New York’s Rockefeller Center.


Statler Hotel
822 Washington Avenue at the southeast corner of 9th Street

Ellsworth Milton Statler was born in Gettysburg only months after Union forces repelled Robert E. Lee’s invading Confederate army in 1863. He began a career in the hotel business with a vision to provide luxury accommodations of the first order. He built his his first permanent Statler Hotel in 1907, in Buffalo, New York as the first major hotel to have a private bath or shower and running water in every room. In 1917 the Statler chain came to St. Louis with George C. Post designing the most luxurious hotel in town. At twenty-two stories and 235 feet in height, it was the tallest building codes at the time allowed. In 1954 Conrad Hilton bought the Hotels Statler Company for $111 million in the largest real estate transaction in history to tha point. All the hotels carried the Statler Hilton Hotel hame; this one changed to the Gateway Hotel in 1966. It closed for a planned renovation in 1987 and never reopened. In an ambitious renovation in 2002 the hostelry reopened as the 875-room, 198-suite Renaissance Grand Hotel.     

Lennox Hotel
823-827 Washington Avenue

By the 1920s St. Louis was the third largest commercial market in the country with 26 railroads bringing visitors to the city. A building boom brought a cluster of high-rise hotels to this part of town, then on the northern edge of the Central Business District. In 1928 plans were announced to build the tallest of all, the Lennox, with a design by Preston Bradshaw, then the go-to designer for massive hotels and apartment buildings. The Lennox opened on September 2, 1929 and less than two months later the stock market crashed. There would not be another big hotel project in downtown St. Louis for more than 30 years. The Lennox lasted until the 1970s and after a period of vacancy was revived as a hotel in 2002.


Mallinckrodt Building
901 Washington Avenue at northwest corner of 9th Street

In 1867, Edward Mallinckrodt and his two brothers, Otto and Gustave, began manufactuting the first bromides, iodides, and chloroform spirits of nitrous of ether west of the Mississippi. This ornate warehouse for the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works was designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge of Boston in 1892. It later became the offices for the Bank of St. Louis which is why today the building is known as Banker’s Lofts instead of Chemist’s Lofts.

Lammert Building
911 Washington Avenue

Martin Lammert arrived in St. Louis with his family from Germany in 1856 when he was 12 years old. Five years later he was running his own furniture business. Save for time serving in the Civil War, Lammert remained in the furniture-selling game until his death 52 years later. This handsome Renaissance Revival building was designed by the firm of Eames and Young in 1897 for the Hargardine-McKitterick Dry Goods store. The concern helmed by William Hargadine and Hugh McKittick traced its roots back to 1835 and was the oldest dry goods firm in the city. The building was reported to have more floor space than any in the country when it was built. Lammert Furniture moved here in 1924 and stayed until the 1980s. The company continued selling furniture in St. Louis until 2007 when the fifth Martin Lammert liquidated the business. 

Merchandise Mart Apartments
1000 Washington Avenue at southwest corner of 10th Street

The Merchandise Mart, designed in the Romanesque Revival style by noted architect Isaac Taylor, was built in 1889 for tobacco company magnates John E. Liggett and George S. Myers. The Rice-Stix wholesale dry-goods company built the red brick Annex, designed by Mauran, Russell & Crowell, in 1913 after it outgrew its space in the Merchandise Mart. The prodigious warehouses were created with bricks piled on huge blocks of rusticated rose granite and decorated with terra cotta. The loft conversions here were the largest in the city.   

Curlee Building
1001 Washington Avenue at northwest cormer of 10th Street

Shelby Hammond Curlee, a great-grand nephew of Daniel Boone, founded the Corinth Woolen Mills in Mississippi in 1900 and moved the business to St. Louis in 1903. From this location the Curlee Clothing anchored the St. Louis garment district as it became one of the most successful clothing manufacturers in the country. The two story rusticated base is separated from the upper floors by a prominent belt course housing a school of yawning fish heads on the classically-inspired building.


Hadley Square
701 North 11th Street

Leo G. Hadley and Owen M. Dean began distributing glass products in 1897 and were the first to manufacture plate glass west of the Mississippi. In 1901 the company commissioned Isaac Taylor to build a storage facility for its glass when they were making more than anyone in America. The building achieved notoriety in 1928 when Hadley-Dean decided to show off one of the products it sold, glass-like Vitrolite from the Marietta Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis. Oscar Enders, who had worked as a draftsman on the plans for the building, created an exotic lobby to resemble the inside of an Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb that indeed brought it curiosity-seekers for decades. The eye-catching lobby was sacrificed in a recent restaurant conversion. Hadley closed in the 1970s but you can still look up and see a ghost sign from the company on the building. 

Lucas Lofts
1123 Washington Avenue

St. Louis was among the foremost millinery centers in America at the turn of the 20th century and the oldest millinery house in the city was Levis-Zukowski Mercantile Company. The esteemed Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge designed this classically-flavored building in 1897 from which the company claimed to be the nation’s largest purveyor of ladies hats. 

Lesser-Goldman Building
1209 Washington Avenue at northwest corner of Tucker Boulevard

Eames and Young built one of the town’s most massive warehouses on this corner in 1903. At the time Jacob Goldman was among the world’s most prosperous cotton merchants. He was born in Germany in 19845 and came to America in his teens to seek his fortune. He eventually settled in St. Louis where he found it. The terra cotta ornamentation of the Beaux Arts structure was carried all the way to a heavy cornice at the top, which has been removed in a series of alterations that claimed the lower floors as well. The building staggered into the 2000s but survived until a facelift for condominiums came along.


A.D. Brown Building
1136 Washington Avenue

Around 1900 St. Louis had emerged as the third-largest shoe-producing city in America and shortly thereafter more boots and shoes were shipped from here than anywhere. George Warren Brown was the first to successfully manufacture shoes in town in 1878. His brother Alanson D. Brown co-founded the Hamilton-Brown Shoe Company and the company erected this impressive corner building in 1897. Harry E. Roach designed the nine-story headquarters with two-story piers and arched entrances highlighted by gleaming white terra cotta. The recessed main entrance was on Tucker Boulevard that was being developed as a retail street rather than a manufacturing center like Washington Street.


DeSoto Hotel
1014-1024 Locust Street at southeast corner of 10th Street

Thomas P. Barnett created this soaring 15-story tower as the DeSoto Hotel in 1923 in an ebullient Renaissance Revival style which disappeared when the building became a convent in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. It also did duty as the home of the St. Louis City Club for twenty-two years.

Delany Building
315 North 10th Street at southwest corner of Locust Street

This is what $40,000 could buy you in St. Louis at the end of the 19th century. The money was John O’Fallon Delany’s, a realtor who constructed the five-story commercial/office building as an investment property. Local architects William Edward Matthews and Albert O. Clarke designed the buff brick building in a Beaux Arts style, using light-colored terra cotta and the city’s first white glazed brick for decoration. The building, which had its cornice stripped away and the storefront altered twice, remained in the Delany family until 1951.

Syndicate Trust Building
10th Street between Olive Street and Locust Street

Architect Harry Roach slathered this tower with more terra cotta ornament than just about any other building in the city when it was constructed in 1907. The main tenant here was the premiere department store of Scruggs Vandervoort and Barney, which traces its roots to a dry goods store opened by M.V.L McClelland and Richard Scruggs on North Fourth Street in 1850. The store expanded into the Century Building next door in 1913 and occupied the entire block. Scruggs Vandervoort and Barney departed in 1967 and that block has been variously vacant or deteriorating ever since. The 109-year old Century Building was demolished in 2005 but the Syndicate Trust Building trundles on.

Board of Education Building
901 Locust Street at northwest corner of 9th Street

The first books were lent in St. Louis in 1865 through a members-only subscription library, although the public was invited to use the reading room in 1874. This was the second home for the library, a Romanesque-style building crafted of sandstone and brick and granite in 1891 on plans drawn by Isaac S. Taylor. It was recently adapted for re-use as loft apartments.

Old Post Office
between Locust, Olive, 8th and 9th streets

Monumental federal buildings such as this one symbolically represented the strength and solidarity of the country in the days following the Civil War. The post office and custom house was designed in the exuberant Second French Empire style by United States Treasury Architect Alfred B. Mullet and constructed over a period of eleven years from 1873 until 1884. Mullet apparently put a great deal of effort into projects such as these. He considered himself overworked, underpaid, and severely under-appreciated, and sued the government for more money. When that came to nothing, Alfred Mullet committed suicide in 1890. He was certainly right about his detractors - Mullet’s extravagant buildings (this one cost $6 million) invited controversy and many were eagerly torn down in later years. The Executive Office Building he designed next to the White House in Washington, D.C., now acclaimed a masterpiece, was derided by many of its neighbors when they moved in. President Herbert Hoover commented that it “was of all the buildings in town, the one we regret the most.” President Harry Truman piled on two decades later calling it “the greatest monstrosity in America.” The building was nearly demolished in 1957 but the expense to tear it down or remodel it was considered too great. This building also dodged several dates with the wrecking ball to emerge widely admired and deserving of a 2005 renovation. 

Mercantile Trust
northeast corner of Locust and 8th Street 

The Mercantile Bank of St. Louis was founded in St. Louis, Missouri in 1850. This Neoclassical building, designed by Isaac Taylor with a parade of Ionic columns, is a survivor from 1904 although it appears a bit adrift since the demolition of the adjoining Ambassador Building in 1996. As you walk past the building, look at how decorative panels were added to make its appearance less jarring next to the now open plaza next door. 

Republic National Bank
714 Locust Street

George Barnett designed hundreds of buildings around Missouri including theOld Courthouse, the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, and the structures of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Two sons and a son-in-law picked up his architectural practice, propagating Neoclassical designs that came to dominate the St. Louis streetscape. This Beaux Arts vault for the Republic National Bank in 1917 is by Thomas P. Barnett, who built a national reputation as both an architect and a painter. His 12’ by 6’ mural, Riches of the Mines, hangs in the Missouri State Capitol and works by Barnett are held in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Saint Louis Art Museum and others.  

Railway Exchange Building
between Olive Street and Locust Street and 6th and 7th streets

This block-swallowing office building was the tallest building in St. Louis when it was completed in 1914. Architects Mauran, Russell & Crowell tapped the traditional orderliness of the Chicago Style for the Railway Exchange, adding some of the most extensive ornamentation in the city. The lead tenant here was the Famous-Barr flagship store. In the 1870s William Barr left his New York employ as a commission agent to open his own dry goods business. In the 1880s Barr’s emporium was holding down the northwest corner of 6th and Olive streets where it evolved into the town’s largest department store. In 1911 David May, who had begun peddling goods in the Leadville, Colorado silver boom of 1877, bought the Barr operation and merged it with the 38-year old Famous Clothing Store which he had acquired a few years earlier. The May Company would continue to acquire retail properties around the country for the rest of the century before merging with Federated Department Stores in 2005, after which all the stores were re-branded to their flagship property, Macy’s.


Union Trust Building
705 Olive Street

This is the second skyscraper in St. Louis erected by the celebrated architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, a U-shaped confection built in 1893. The U-shape was a popular design for bringing light into high-rises in the days before air conditioning; even block-filling behemoths from that time that appear as solid masses from the street were typically constructed around a center light shaft. This heritage skyscraper underwent an unfortunate modification in 1924 that scraped off the ornamentation from the lower two floors. You can still, however, look up and see the pride of snarling terra cotta lions that Sullivan inserted into the window spandrels. Below the lions are bold arched windows that were a trademark of Sullivan designs.

Chemical Building
721 Olive Street at northeast corner of 8th Street

When the Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River was completed in 1874, the rail capacity of St. Louis increased exponentially. As a result the town’s commercial district, that had once strung out along the river, began to cluster behind Broadway. Big name architects from the East and then Chicago were called on to design office palaces worthy of the town’s growing prosperity. Henry Ives Cobb, a prominent Chicago designer, was the last such designer to leave his mark on the city - no other prominent architect from outside St. Louis would build in town again until after World War II. For this 16-story office tower in 1896 Cobb used red brick and terra cotta and outfitted the confection with street-to-roof projecting bay windows. The building was constructed as offices for the Chemical National Bank but they never moved in.


L&N Railroad Building
312 North 8th Street

Isaac Taylor was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1851 but graduated from St. Louis University and began apprenticing in architecture firms here. Taylor would wind up spending his whole working life in St. Louis, designing some of the biggest and best buildings in town. For this office building for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1888 he tapped the Romanesque style with a flock of rounded arched windows set into a brick facade. The Neoclassical lower two floors are a later addition. In recent years this heritage building was home to United Missouri Bank before being converted to loft apartments.


Arcade-Wright Building
810 Olive Street at southwest corner of 8th Street

The Arcade was planned as a ten-story structure whose centerpiece would be a two-story, vaulted shopping arcade. As builders enthusiastically began construction in 1918, however, they discovered quicksand on the property. Pilings had to be sunk 50 feet deep and to help make up the additional construction costs, additional revenue-generating floors were added up top and the building wrapped around the existing Wright Building, which had been the city’s tallest building since 1906. Whereas the Wright was an unadorned hulk, architect Thomas P. Barnett outfitted the Arcade with lavish Gothic terra cotta details. The buildings have long been vacant and the City has repeatedly stifled attempts to raze the pair, which reside on the National Register of Historic Places.


Paul Brown Building
206 North 9th Street between Olive Street and Pine Street

Preston J. Bradshaw built a lucrative architectural practice in St. Louis in the 1920s by designing large hotels and automobile dealerships. Bradshaw spent so much time creating hotels he eventually became owner and operator of the Coronado Hotel that he designed in 1923. This was a 1925 commission from Paul Brown for office space and apartments. At the time Paul Brown was 78 years old. He had begun his working life six decades earlier in El Dorado, Arkansas peddling tobacco from an old wagon. He saved enough money to shift his business to St. Louis where he built an empire that included real estate, prized racehorses and thousands of acres of Florida land. Bradshaw drew up plans for a 16-story Renaissance Revival structure but when the first-floor tenants of the existing Oddfellows Building on the north half of the site refused to leave he altered the design to retain that first floor and limit the north wing to 12 stories. Paul Brown did not have much time to enjoy his building - he died in 1927, a year after it opened.  

The Mark Twain Hotel
205 North 9th Street at northwest corner of Pine Street

This guest house began life in 1907 as the Maryland Hotel, designed in a richly ornamented Classical Revival style by St. Louis architect Albert B. Groves. The cream-colored terra cotta decoration is some of the most elaborate in St. Louis. The tiles were supplied by the Winkle Terra Cotta Company founded by English-born Joseph Winkle in 1883. Winkle’s operation consisted of 13 kilns and was the largest ceramics factory west of the Mississippi River. The matte glazed terra cotta affixed to the Maryland Hotel were some of the first to be successfully used for architectural decoration. Renovated in 2000, the hotel, now renamed the Mark Twain, is a rare downtown hotel survivor in St. Louis.


Frisco Building
906 Olive Street

The St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company was the second oldest road west of the Mississippi River, taking growth into Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma along with it. Behind the leadership of Benjamin F. Yoakum beginning in 1897 the Frisco System quadrupled its trackage in less than a decade. In the midst of this unprecedented expansion plans were hatched for this headquarters, executed by William S. Eames and Thomas C. Young. Eames and Young had been designing important buildings in St. Louis since 1885 and this tower was praised for taking the skyscraper to a more modern, American place by emphasizing the continuous vertical lines instead of heavy ornamentation. The Frisco System railroad maintained its corporate headquarters here into the 1980s.

S.G. Adams Building
920 Olive Street

The telephone company brought the Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, successors to the recently deceased giant of American architecture, Henry Hobson Richardson, to town in 1890 to design the first headquarters for Southwestern Bell. The Bostonians made generous use of Richardson’s trademark Romanesque arches for this seven-story building of red sandstone and brick. The telephone did catch on and Bell moved on to more spacious quarters and the S.G. Adams Company, purveyors of stationery and office supplies, moved in.

The Thaxton Building
1009 Olive Street

This splash of Art Deco adorned the St. Louis streetscape in 1928, courtesy of Eastman Kodak, which constructed the space to sell cameras. Kodak was long gone by the digital age and for many years the building did duty as cold storage for a furrier. In its most recent incarnation it hosts a bar and event space.

Laclede Gas and Light Company Building
1017 Olive Street at northeast corner of 11th Street

New York moneymen started the Laclede Gas and Light Company in 1857 but had been elbowed out by local interests by the time this Classical Revival building was constructed in 1911. After a century on the St. Louis streetscape the building still appears much the same, although the gas company moved on in 1970.


Southwestern Bell Building
1010 Pine Street

John Lawrence Mauran from the celebrated Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge worked on the shop’s midwestern commissions. When they closed the St. Louis office in 1900, Mauran hung out his own shingle. For the first three decades of the 20th century the versatile Mauran adapted the popular styles of the day for churches, palatial residences and commercial work. For the telephone company in 1926 he introduced stepped-back skyscrapers to St. Louis, based on the runner-up design by Eliel Saarinen of Finland in the design competition for the new Chicago Tribune Tower in 1922. The 28-story building, which was the tallest building in Missouri when it was constructed, boasts 17 individual roofs. 

Civil Courts Building
10 North Tucker Boulevard

This is the only building that interrupts a continuous flow of greenspace from the Jefferson National Memorial at the Mississippi River to 20th Street. The Civil Courts Building was designed to replace the Old Courthouse at the other end of Gateway Mall. Architects Klipstein & Rathman designed the 13-story cube with a pyramidal roof to resemble the Mausoleum of Maussollos which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Look up to see 32 fluted Ionic caps carved of Indiana limestone. The building, which carried a $4.5 million price tag, was completed in 1930.

United States Court House and Custom House
1100 Market Street at southwest corner of 11th Street

This federal building was completed in 1935 as the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The partnership of Mauran, Russel & Crowell blended classical and Art Deco effects for the monumental cube. It is now used by the state courts and named for Mel Carhanan, the late Missouri Governor who died in 2000 while campaigning for the United States Senate. 


Gateway Mall from Eighth to Tenth streets

After years of housing little more than empty grass these two city blocks were converted into an urban park and sculpture garden in 2009. The park was designed so larger works of art rest on wide lawns, while smaller spaces are reserved for more private areas. Currently there are 24 sculptures in the park, many of them interactive. The large bronze head resting on a slanted granite circle is title is a variation on a theme of similar works around the world by Polish artist Igor Mitoraj.


Wainwright Building
701 Chestnut Street at northwest corner of 7th Street

This National Historic Landmark stands as one of the world’s first steel-framed skyscrapers, created by high-rise pioneers Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan in 1891. Adler and Sullivan, who were instrumental in rebuilding Chicago after the Great Fire of 1873, formed their celebrated partnership in 1886. Sullivan believed a skyscraper should rise in the image of a classical Greek column with a defined base (the lower two stories of brown sandstone), a shaft (the orderly procession of windows with decorated terra cotta spandrels) and a capital (the ornate frieze at the cornice depicting swirls of celery leaves). The building was commissioned by Ellis Wainwright, a flamboyant financier who transformed his father’s brewery into the St. Louis Brewing Association. Wainwright would be indicted for conspiracy to bribe members of the state legislature in 1902 and spent the next 20 years as a fugitive in France before returning to St. Louis to die in 1924. Sullivan, considered to be on the Mount Rushmore of American architects, saw his practice spiral into decline for decades after the financial panic of 1893 and also died in 1924, broke and alone in a Chicago hotel room.


Busch Stadium
100 South 4th Street

This is the third incarnation of Busch Stadium to serve as baseball home of the St. Louis Cardinals, members of the National League since 1892. The Cardinals were purchased by the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in 1953 and their Sportsman’s Park was renamed Busch Stadium. The old ballpark was replaced in 1966 with a multi-use stadium to which the Busch name was transferred. Busch III, a retro-park, came along in 2006.


Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood
620 Market Street at southeast corner of 7th Street

Mike Shannon was a popular rightfielder and third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals who appeared in three World Series with the team in the 1960s. His career was cut short by illness and he moved into the broadcast booth in 1972 where he has logged nearly four decades of service. This is the second location for Shannon’s restaurant that started in the 1980s. More than $4 million was poured into renovating the former Mark Twain Bank Center, including the vault which was converted into a wine room, in 2006.


Kiener Plaza
between Broadway and Seventh Street and Market and Chestnut streets

A jail and other buildings were cleared to open this space that has been filled most notably with a pool and bronze fountain featuring The Runner by sculptor William Zorach. The statue was built with a $200,000 bequest from the estate of St. Louisan Harry J. Kiener, who died in 1960, at age 80. Kiener, a prominent local civic leader and steel company executive, had been a track star in his youth, and had run the half-mile in the 1904 Olympics at the St. Louis World’s Fair in Forest Park.


International Fur Exchange
2-14 South Fourth Street

This building is the last physical link in St. Louis to its heritage as a fur trading center, an activity that began in 1764. As late as the 1940s, 80% of all the world’s seal, fox, beaver and other pelts were auctioned in this seven-story building that was constructed in 1920. The old fur exchange was actually saved in mid-demolition by Charles Drury in 1997. It has been re-adaptedas a hotel but most of its ornamental terra cotta was lost. Still, it stands as the only building from pre World War II St. Louis on the south side of the Gateway Mall about as far as the eye can see.


Basilica of St. Louis
209 Walnut Street

When Pierre Liguest Laclede and his First Lieutenant Auguste Chouteau founded the City of St. Louis in 1764, Laclede dedicated the square just west of where he built his home, to church and graveyard purposes. The first Catholic Church in St. Louis built on this site, was a small log house in 1770. St. Louis IX, King of France, is the Patron Saint of the City and of the Church. The cornerstone of the present Cathedral building was laid in 1831 and the dedication of the building took place in 1834. This was the first Cathedral west of the Mississippi and until 1845 it was the only parish church in the city of St. Louis.