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Historic buildings along St. Louis’ Dr. Martin Luther King Drive

January 18, 2010 History/Preservation, Public Transit, Transportation 2 Comments

St. Louis’ Dr. Martin Luther King Drive is comprised of two streets that merged just West of Jefferson Ave.  From this point East to the river you had Franklin Ave. Going West to the city limits you had Easton Ave. (map of intersection point).  Like most streets in St. Louis, MLK Drive has great buildings from an earlier time.  Five are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  (List of National Register districts & sites in the City of St. Louis.)

Laclede’s Landing District (nomination, map, official website)

Strongly defined borders and exceptional topography give Laclede’s Landing a cohesiveness and uniformity unusual for an area so close to the Central Business District. The Mississippi River is, of course, a pronounced natural barrier on the east. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial adjoins Laclede’s Landing on the south, providing another distinct boundary. The Eads Bridge, a National Historic Landmark, separates the two areas. Many structures in Laclede’s Landing have remained basically intact from the period of industrialization in the late nineteenth century, partially due to the close proximity of the two bridges which effectively limited accessibility to the area.

Jack Rabbit Candy Co. Building, 1928-30 Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. (nomination, map)

Gustave Stoecker and Robert L. Price commissioned the construction of the building in 1909 to house their retail furniture and warehouse storage business. The new building was located in City Block 941 of the Christy Addition Subdivision in an area considered the Downtown West neighborhood. Their first location was located at 2918 Franklin from 1905 to 1916 . They operated a retail furniture store specializing in new and used furniture.
The building was also used as a warehouse for storage of their goods until they could either be sold in the retail store or to area distributors at auction. Unfortunately, Gustave died at the early age of 38 on November 8. 1911.’ Gustave’s wife. Kate became the president of the business in 1913. The corporation papers also listed Gertrude Price as vice president and Robert Price as secretary. Robert continued to operate the business expanding operations to also include an auction house until 1925 when he sold the building to E.A. Langan

Negro Masonic Hall, 3615-19 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive (nomination, map)

198? - structure razed.
Photo dated June 1992 - structure razed.

This important meeting place served the African-American community during a crucial period of in-migration, racial enmity, increasing segregation, economic change, and social reform, between 1909 and 1942. Many historians have asserted that benevolent associations, including the black Freemasons, were second in importance only to the church in building solidarity in the black community. Black Masonic organizations contributed to the progress of the black community by encouraging African- Americans to establish and operate businesses. Benevolent fraternal organizations reached their zenith in the black community between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War II.

Same location, just West of Grand, in 2007
Same location, just West of Grand, in 2007

Wellston J.C. Penny Building, 5930 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive (nomination, map)

One of four J.C. Penney stores in St. Louis at the time of its construction in 1948, the building reflects the company’s recommitment to decentralized, neighborhood-based retailing in the City of St. Louis, a focus the company achieved decades before downtown department stores opened neighborhood branch locations.

Designed by the firm of William P. McMahon & Sons, the building is the product of a masterful collaboration between William P. McMahon and his son, Bernard, who each brought unique strengths to the project. Extensive glazing on the first level fills the inset entryway, which has a terrazzo floor and granite faced columns. On the rear, a second entrance faces a two-tiered parking lot located across an alley.

Wellston Station, 6111 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive  (nomination, map)

2007 photo

The station was built by the United Railways Company in 1909 at a time in which the streetcar had replaced the electric railway as the dominant form of mass transit in St. Louis. The new station was the largest waiting station in the system, and one of only three such stations sited at transfer points between major lines. The design employed the prevalent Craftsman style to create a luxurious and efficiently-arranged station with a spacious waiting room, a store and covered tracks. Today, Wellston Station is the only waiting station still standing. The opening of the new streetcar line and station on Easton Avenue in 1909 signified the triumph of the streetcar over the electric railway and the growing importance of the Wellston commercial district, which straddled the line between Wellston and the city of St. Louis. The station was built to serve the so-called Wellston Loop streetcar loop, which became one of the busiest streetcar transfer points in the country by 1940 and which was the termination point for the last streetcar line in St. Louis to close.

Much of St. Louis’ history happened on this street and in these buildings. My dream is the street will play host to important parts of our history that has not yet taken place. As was originally the case, mass transit is necessary to populate this part of town.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Every building has a history. Every building requires maintenance. Maintenance takes $$$$$. To “save” a building, you either have to have a viable use or find a benefactor willing to subsidize its maintenance while it remains vacant.

    St. Louis has lots of old buildings. We've lost half our population, so, logically, we have more than a few buildings that are no longer “needed”. The challenge then becomes both age and location, and along MLK, both appear to be issues. Unfortunately, just history won't pay the bills until this corridor rebounds.

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