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.
And just as the country was moving west through St. Louis, the town itself was pushing west. As the 1800s wound to a close the business district broke through 12th Street that had been the tradtitional boundary of downtown. St. Louis came here to work in one of the country’s busiest garment districts, to buy the new horseless carriages and to catch a train.
But the westward expansion did not stop at 20th Street and inevitably the population of the city continued to move west. No one was making clothes in America anymore, cars were sold in the suburbs and people took planes instead of trains. Today most of the century-old buildings in Downtown West are no longer functioning as they were intended to but our walking tour will begin at one where it has been business as usual for over 110 years...
1200 Market Street at southwest corner of Tucker Boulevard
Edmond Jacques Eckel tapped the flavor of his homeland to win a nationwide design competition for the St. Louis City Hall with his partner George Mann and designer Harvey Ellis. The French Renaissance-style municipal building composed of granite, sandstone and brick was finished in 1898 but not dedicated until the World’s Fair in 1904. There was once even more towers and turrets than you see today - a bunch were removed in the 1930s.
WITH YOUR BACK TO CITY HALL, TURN LEFT AND WALK WEST ON MARKET STREET
Municipal Courts Building
1320 Market Street at southeast corner of 14th 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. The three-story Beaux Arts Municipal Courts building is a 1911 creation fashioned in limestone and granite with copious amounts of interior marble. The courts have long since moved on but the building received a 100th birthday present in the form of a $40 million facelift.
Peabody (Kiel) Opera House
1400 Market Street at southwest corner of 14th Street
This massive complex took flight in 1934 as the Municipal Auditorium, a combination auditorium and Opera House. Louis LaBeaume and Eugene S. Klein did design honors, blending Beaux Arts and Art Deco detailing on the limestone building which could seat 3,600 for stage performances and 11,500 for auditorium events. Over the years this was the home of the St. Louis Hawks of the National Basketball Association, the Spirits of St. Louis of the American Basketball Association and the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League, where it was considered one of the loudest arenas in the league. In the early 1990s the auditorium half at the back was scrapped and replaced with a modern indoor stadium but the front half was retained with the promise of rehabilitation, a glacial process that required twenty years.
TURN RIGHT ON 14TH STREET.
1315 Chestnut Street at northeast corner of 14th Street
The citizens of St. Louis voted in 1923 to appropriate funds for a memorial plaza to honor the 1,075 St. Louisans who lost their lives in World War I. In 1933 additional funds from Depression-relief coffers led to the construction of this building, which doubles as a monument and military museum. St. Louis architects Mauran, Russell & Crowell provided the stripped classical design; Walker Hancock crafted the four Bedford stone figures at the entrance that represent a soldier’s virtues of Loyalty, Vision, Courage and Sacrifice. It was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 and officially opened to the public on Memorial Day, 1938.
TURN LEFT ON PINE STREET (PLAZA SQUARE)
1610 Pine Street
When this area was west of town and called Lucas Place it was one of the most fashionable residential districts in St. Louis. That was back in the mid-1800s when the Centenary congregation moved out into its third home since organizing in the 1820s. Today only three buildings remain from the heyday of Lucas Place: Centenary Methodist Church, St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Church, and the Campbell House. The current Gothic-style sanctuary dates to 1869 and was rendered in limestone on plans drawn by Thomas Dixon of Baltimore.
TURN LEFT ONTO THE PATH ACROSS FROM CENTENARY CHURCH AND FOLLOW IT OVER TO CHESTNUT STREET.
St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Church
15 Plaza Square
Captain Joseph Kelly, an Irish immigrant and a grocer in St. Louis in the years before the Civil War, organized the Washington Blues in 1857, the city’s finest militia unit, closely tied to Father John Bannon’s Catholic Total Abstinence and Benevolence Society. In fact, a drill performance by the Blues helped raise money for Bannon to build the Lombardian Romanesque St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Church in 1860 as the eighth Catholic church in town. A century later, rather than move out of downtown like most of its compatriots, St. John instead underwent a massive renovation with a price tag north of $100,000.
CROSS CHESTNUT STREET ONTO MEMORIAL PLAZA AND CROSS IT BACK TO MARKET STREET. TURN RIGHT.
United States Post Office
1720 Market Street
Ernest C. Klipstein and Walter Rathman built a lucrative architectural practice by designing many structures for the August Busch family around St. Louis. For this Depression-era commission in 1937 they created a building in step with the austere times, lining Market Street with a parade of square, fluted Doric pillars and forming the window openings with stark geometric forms.
1820 Market Street
Two-block long Union Station stands as a monument to a different age, a time when 100,000 train passengers a day funneled in and out of St. Louis. When the station opened in 1894, the town was the busiest railroad center in the world - eventually 22 railroads would be serviced here. The trainshed covered over 11 acres under the largest roof span ever constructed and accommodated 42 tracks. Theodore Link, a German-trained engineer who was once a St. Louis parks superintendent, designed Union Station in the image of the Roman-built French fort of Carcassonne and fashioned the building with Indiana limestone. The clock tower is 280 feet high. The last passenger boarded in 1978 and in 1985, after a $150 million renovation, Union Station was reopened with a 539-room hotel, shopping mall, restaurants and food court.
TURN RIGHT ON 18TH STREET.
Robert E. Lee Hotel
205 North 18th Street
When the new Union Station opened in 1894 the surrounding neighborhood was mostly small tenement buildings and storefronts. It did not take long for stately hotels to begin swallowing up blocks around the train terminal. By 1927 there were ten major guest houses operating within shouting distance of Union Station. The Robert E. Lee was one of the last constructed as part of a small Texas chain. Alonzo Henley Gentry was imported from Kansas City to design the 14-story tower, one of the few architects from the other side of the state to ever find work in St.Louis, which had a deep pool of capable architects. Gentry, who was educated and employed in New York City, provided a Renaissance Revival design for what was a travelers’ hotel as opposed to more lavish operations that also attracted locals to its restaurants and clubs. The Robert E. Lee when bankrupt during the Great Depression and the building staggered on as the Auditorium Hotel until 1939 when it was converted into residences for the Salvation Army.
Butler Brothers Building
1717 Olive Street at northeast corner of 18th Street
Edward Burgess Butler began his business career as a traveling salesman in New England before founding Butler Brothers in Boston with his brother George. The company sold general store goods through the mail and boasted more than 100,000 customers by the end of the 19th century, by which time Edward Butler was devoting most of his time to painting landscapes, becoming accomplished enough to exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1908. In 1927 the company was pioneering the franchise concept with their Ben Franklin variety stores which were sited mostly in small towns with local owners. Stores would order all their goods from Butler Brothers which required massive warehouses such as this one, which swallows an entire block. It dates to 1906 and was designed by busy St. Louis architects Mauran, Russell and Garden. Butler Brothers lasted until 1960.
TURN LEFT ON LOCUST STREET.
1815 Locust Street
George Weber began selling plows, thrashers, wagons and buggies to farmers in 1902 by catalog from a salesroom about where the Gateway Arch stands today. In 1908 Weber shifted gears and got into the automobile business - at a time when you didn’t just sell a car, you had to teach the buyer how to drive. From 1908 to the mid-1930s about 300 auto manufacturers tried their hand at making automobiles and most were represented on Locust Street. Architect Preston Bradshaw kept busy designing dealerships; at least 13 are known; this is considered his only three-story mercantile building and the most architecturally intact. Some of the manufactures represented here were the Hupp Motor Company, Mitchell Motor, Moon, Gardner, Doris, Saxon, Lozier, Maxwell and Chalmers, Lexington, F. Dorris, and GrayStar. In 1930, the Chrysler Corporation appointed Weber as distributor for Plymouth and DeSoto nameplates and in 1938 the dealership moved on. Today the business continues as a Chevrolet dealership.
1900 Locust Street at southwest corner of 19th Street
As the horseless carriage infiltrated St. Louis streets this stretch of Locust Street evolved into “Motor Row.” The Weber Implement and Automobile Company set up shop herein 1910, adding a third floor to the Romanesque-flavored brick building that had been constructed in 1897. Maxwells, Mitchells and Chandlers were sold here but Weber’s biggest seller was the Hupmobile created by Robert C. Hupp. Built in Detroit from 1909 until 1941 the Hupmobile was a popular mid-priced car featuring the first electric starter on a reasonably priced car. Weber moved across the street in 1920 but cars continued to be displayed here by various dealers.
TURN RIGHT ON 19TH STREET. ACROSS THE STREET AT WASHINGTON AVENUE IS...
Wrought Iron Range Company Building
1901 Washington Avenue
This splash of Medieval England, normally found on suburban residential street,sshowed up in downtown St. Louis in 1926 from the pen of Albert Knell. The Canadian-born Knell was in the last throes of a career marked by eclectic designs. The Wrought Iron Range Company began in 1864 with three brothers from Ohio traveling door-to-door leading mules pulling cast iron stoves for the Farmer Cook Company. It took ten years for Henry Harrison Culver, William Wallace Culver and Lucius Lewellyn Culver to save up enough money to move to St. Louis and start their own company with their trademark Home Comfort stoves. By 1883 the Culvers’ factory covered an entire block here. The three-story factory was razed in 1925 and replaced with this block-long Tudor Revival structure that featured 18 retail storefronts on the street level and display space on the second floor. But Wrought Iron was winding down its run by that time. The company continued to own the property until 1951 but stopped displaying their wares decades earlier. Since then it has survived under a carousel of different property owners.
TURN RIGHT ON WASHINGTON AVENUE.
The Monogram Building
1706 Washington Avenue
Albert Bartleton Groves was one of the town’s most versatile architects in the early 20th century with his handiwork seen on fancy residences, churches, hotels and large commercial buildings such as this one in 1912. Groves made some of the most imaginative use of terra cotta in the city as can be seen on this 9-story brick facade.
King Bee Lofts
1709 Washington Avenue
Connecticut-born Hobart Brinsmade was descended from a British family who sailed to America in 1628. He came to St. Louis at the age of 33 in 1878 to sell sewing machines. In 1891 he partnered with D.H. King and when King-Brinsdale Mercantile Company was incorporated, Brinsmade was president. In 1912 the firm moved into this classically inspired brick and terra cotta building. Their most famous product, as you can see on the ghost sign on the side, was ladies’ hats.
1635 Washington Avenue
This Chicago-style behemoth was constructed in 1919 for the Central Shoe Company and did duty through the years for shoe storage, buttonhole manufacturing and printing. The price tag to renovate the 200,000-square foot, five-story building was $25 million.
Windows on Washington
1601 Washington Avenue
Until 1899 there had been ten independent streetcar operating companies in St. Louis. That year, those ten lines were consolidated into two: the St. Louis & Suburban Railway, and the St. Louis Transit Company. This eight-story building was constructed in 1903 to house the power plant for the St. Louis Transit Company. It took an extensive renovation to heal the scars from a century of alterations to rehabilitate the building into 130,000 square feet of venue space.
TURN LEFT ON 16TH STREET. WALK DOWN A HALF BLOCK AND LOOK OVER THE PARKING LOT ON YOUR RIGHT TO SEE...
701 North 15th Street
St. Louis sculptor Bob Cassilly bought the 750,000 square-foot remains of the International Shoe Company complex for a reported 69 cents per square foot. He then transformed the space into an eclectic palace of art, whimsical objects and activities. After the City Museum opened in 1997 it quickly became one of the town’s most popular destinations. Cassilly created dozens of public art sculptures across the region and at any time a visitor might discover a bus or a Ferris wheel or a giant sculpture on the roof. Bob Cassily was killed in 2011 when a bulldozer he was operating at another of his projects, Cementland, slipped down a hill and flipped over.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO WASHINGTON AVENUE AND TURN LEFT.
The Ely Walker Lofts
1514 Washington Avenue at southeast corner of 16th Street
David Davis Walker came to St. Louis from Wisconsin in 1857 for business training with the merchandiser Crow, McCreery & Co., then the largest wholesale dry goods house in the city. Walker went from an office boy at age 17 to partner by 25. In 1880 he became majority owner of Ely & Walker Dry Goods Company, which remains a clothing brand today. This 320,000 square-foot, seven-story warehouse was constructed by the leading architectural firm of Thomas C. Young and William S. Eames. David Walker is the “Walker” in George Herbert Walker Bush - he was the great-grandfather of President George H. W. Bush and great-great-grandfather of President George W. Bush.
1527 Washington Avenue
Preston J. Bradshaw began his architectural career drafting in the office of legendary New York designer Stanford White and migrated to St. Louis where he carved out a practice designing hotels and automobile showrooms. This ten-story industrial building was a 1921 commission. It was one of the first of the beefy Washington Avenue warehouses to be transformed into residential lofts, in 1996.
1519 Washington Avenue
The simplified decoration of the Arts and Crafts movement found expression in architecture early in the 1900s as a counterpoint to the excesses of Neoclassicism. For this two-bay, eight story building Harry Roach tabbed the Arts and Crafts style in 1917, using geometric patterns and contrasting materials. Look up above the compromised street level to see windows outlined in white terra cotta and terra cotta panels set into red brick.
East Bank Lofts
1511 Washington Avenue
Architect Albert Groves designed a prominent Beaux Arts entrance of rusticated terra cotta worthy of the East Bank that first occupied this building in 1909. Up top he adopted a typical Chicago style order of windows and separating spandrels. Groves picked up the decoration for the upper floor, completing one of Washington Avenue’s most exuberant facades.
TURN RIGHT ON 15TH STREET AND WALK TO LOCUST STREET. ON THE SOUTHWEST CORNER, ACROSS THE STREET TO YOUR RIGHT IS...
1508 Locust Street
Robert Campbell was born in Ireland in 1804 but by 1822 he was in America, traveling west. He toiled as a fur trader and frontiersman and became that rare trapper who was able to transition into a successful business career in more civilized environs. He built a banking and real estate fortune in St. Louis and Kansas City and was able to purchase this fine Federal-style house in 1854 for $18,000. John Hall had constructed it two years earlier. The building stayed in the Campbell family until 1938 and shortly thereafter opened to the public as one of the first house museums in America to interpret the mid-Victorian era. As you can tell, it is the last residential survivor in the private neighborhood of Lucas Place.
ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE CAMPBELL HOUSE AND BESIDE YOU ON THE RIGHT IS...
General American Life Building
1501 Locust Street at northwest corner of 15th Street
When this heritage office building was converted to loft apartments it wasn’t difficult to come up with a descriptive name: Terra Cotta Lofts. The entire 12-story tower is dressed head to toe in gleaming white glazed terra cotta. Albert Bartleton Groves gave the Gothic-flavored building an abundance of decoration, including gargoyles and cherubs. The building was actually constructed as a seven-story office home for Missouri State Life Insurance Company, then the nation’s third largest stock insurance company, in 1915. Another five stories came along in 1923. Missouri State Life was declared insolvent in 1933 and General American Life Insurance Company took control of the company and the property. The landmark Weather Ball was constructed on the roof in 1956. Perched atop a 50-foot rotating tower, the 8-foot, 1200-pound neon ball was visible over a 10-mile radius. Relaying Weather Bureau forecasts, the ball would glow red if warmer weather was predicted, blue if it was to be cooler and green for no change. It flashed on and off if rain or show was on the way.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO WASHINGTON AVENUE AND TURN RIGHT.
Roberts, Johnson & Rand Shoe Company
1501 Washington Avenue
Roberts, Johnson & Rand pioneered the streamlining of shoe production with entire factories built to manufacture individual parts of the shoe. This was their headquarters, constructed in 1910. Theodore C. Link, best known for his work on Union Station, provided the classical design here; the Art Deco street level is a 1930s modification.
1301 Washington Avenue
In the 1920s Samuel and Rose Pollocks, clothiers down the block, hatched a plan for a grand building that would gather many garment manufacturers under a single roof for the convenience of buyers. Armed with a million dollar budget, the Pollocks passed over St. Louis architects and went to New York looking to find a designer for their “special building.” The Pollocks brought back David R. Harrison who provided a Gothic-flavored building sprinkled with modern amenities such as one of the town’s first underground parking garages. The grime of years passing didn’t look out place on the white terra cotta Gothic details and ornamental cast steel spandrels at the base of the building were allowed to oxidize to an appropriately ancient-feeling brown.
1235 Washington Avenue at southeast corner of 13th Street
This heritage warehouse comes with as fine a pedigree as any on Washington Avenue. The original design was contributed in 1899 by John Mauran, who ran the St. Louis shop for Bostonians Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the successor firm to the influential Henry Hobson Richardson. Mauran would stay in St. Louis for the remainder of his career, designing many of the town’s landmarks until his death in 1933. Shoes were sold out of this building from 1930 until 2006, first by the Mosinger Brothers, which was founded in 1916, and then Mark Lemp Footwear which merged with Mosinger in 1990.
TURN LEFT ON LOCUST STREET.
Peters Shoe Company Building
1228 Washington Avenue
This was a pioneering structure when wholesale business in town broke across 12th Street (Tucker Boulevard) at the end of the 1800s. Go-to architect Isaac S. Taylor designed the eight-story building for the Thirteenth Street Realty Company in 1901. Taylor, born in Tennessee in 1850, trained in the office of George I. Barnett who carved out a reputation as one of Missouri’s finest architects of the 19th century. Taylor was talented enough to be offered the position of Supervising Architect of the United States Treasury in 1895 and would be appointed the Director General of Construction and Maintenance for buildings at the 1904 World’s Fair. He dressed up his utilitarian building with classical motifs and those here have survived better than most after more than 100 years. Washington Avenue became known as “Shoe Street USA” in the 1920s but when Henry W. Peters got into the business as a 16-year old in the early 1870s most of the shoes sold in St. Louis came from New England factories. Peters began making shoes in 1891 and by the time the Peters Shoe Company moved here St. Louis was producing more shoes than all but two American towns. Peters was making the lion’s share - soon he had eight factories humming with 120 salesmen canvassing every state and parts of Europe. He was part of a merger in 1911 that created the International Shoe Company which would develop into America’s largest shoe company. Peters Shoe moved on in 1930 and thereafter the building was used by a hodgepodge of light manufacturing firms in ever-deteriorating condition until it received a make-over for loft apartments.
1214 Washington Avenue
This is a rare commercial Gothic Revival presence on the St. Louis streetscape, constructed in 1918. Decorated in white terra cotta, this was originally the home for Erker Brothers Optical Company, a going concern for five generations. A.P. Erker established the first optical laboratory west of the Mississippi River in 1879, selling anything with a lens from glasses to cameras to microscopes. In 1927 Erker’s crafted the goggles used by Charles Linbergh to make the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean., piloting the Spirit of St. Louis.
1209 Washington Avenue at northwest corner of Tucker Avenue
Architects Eames and Young built one of the town’s most massive warehouses on this corner in 1903. At the time Jacob Goldman was one of 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.
TURN RIGHT ON TUCKER AVENUE.
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.
TURN RIGHT ON LOCUST STREET AND WALK ONE BLOCK TO ITS END AT 13TH STREET. ON YOUR RIGHT IS...
1221 Locust Street at northeast corner of 13th Street
This was the first home for the Royal Dutch Shell Company in the United States. The rounded building follows the curve of Locust Street and mimics the familiar logo of the international oil firm that itself comes from the import business of the founder’s father which sold seashells to London collectors. The Gothic-flavored building, erected in 1926, now operates as a general office building.
ACROSS THE STREET IS...
Christ Church Cathedral
1210 Locust Street at southeast corner of 13th Street
Leopold Eidlitz, one of the early great New York architects, found his way to St. Louis in 1859 to design this early English Gothic style church for a congregation that traces its roots back to the first Episcopal-Anglican services west of the Mississippi River by 26 people in 1819. When the congregation formed a parish on November 1, 1819 it counted among its members explorer William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, soon-to-be Missouri’s first governor Alexander McNair (who beat out Clark for the job), future U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton and St. Louis’ first mayor, William Carr Lane. The sandstone church was dedicated in 1867 as the congregation’s third sanctuary; the tower and porch were later additions. The bells in the Cathedral tower were cast by the same German foundry that did the bells for the German Pavilion at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The largest bell weighs 5,732 pounds, making it the biggest in the state of Missouri.
TURN LEFT ON 13TH STREET.
St. Louis Central Library
1301 Olive Street at northwest corner of 13th Street
The first books were loaned out in St. Louis in 1865 through a subscription library started by Ira Divoll, superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools. A payment of $12 got you borrowing privileges for life. Although the public could not check out books by 1874 reading in the library was allowed. In 1893, with the collection hovering around 100,000 volumes, a true public library was passed into law. With a million-dollar grant from steel magnate-turned-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, one of the largest he ever gave in funding some 2,500 libraries worldwide, the current building got underway in 1909. Cass Gilbert, one of America’s most celebrated architects won a design competition, with a monumental classically-inspired plan. Gilbert, a Minnesota native, was not unfamiliar with St. Louis; during the Louisiana Purchase Expedition of 1904 he designed Festival Hall with the largest room in the United States and the Palace of Fine Arts, built as the Exposition’s only permanent structure.
Union Pacific Building
210 North 13th Street at southeast corner of Olive Street
The go-to St. Louis firm of Mauran, Rusell & Crowell designed this Neo-Gothic home office for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1928. Leaders of St. Louis secured a Missouri charter in 1849 for the Pacific Railroad to extend “from St. Louis to the western boundary of Missouri and thence to the Pacific Ocean.” The track for one of the first railroads west of the Mississippi River was laid on July 4, 1851. “MoPac” would remain in operation until it was purchased in 1982 by the Union Pacific, which stayed until 2004. The 22-story tower then attracted a $98 million conversion into a multi-use facility.
WALK TWO MORE BLOCKS ON 13TH STREET BACK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.