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Fire Destroyed Lindell Hotel 150 Years Ago Today

March 30, 2017 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on Fire Destroyed Lindell Hotel 150 Years Ago Today
Lindell Hotel the next morning, Missouri History Museum collection

A huge fire destroyed St. Louis’ premier hotel on this date a century snd a half ago:

On March 30, 1867, the Lindell Hotel caught fire for reasons unknown. The ornate six-story building was a marvel of architectural design carefully crafted from brick, iron, and stone. As word of the fire began to spread, many of the nearly 400 guests ignored the warnings. Much like some passengers of the Titanic believed the ship unsinkable, these hotel residents thought themselves safe within the strong, solid confines surrounding them. They continued relaxing, eating, and drinking, but the fire wasn’t about to be ignored. (Missouri History Museum blog– recomended)

The Lindell Hotel was rebuilt on the same site, opening in 1874. It experienced a fire in 1885. It was razed in 1906 to build the Stix, Baer & Fuller department store.  It became a Dillard’s in 1984, and connected to St. Louis Centre (opened 1985) via a 4-story walkway over Washington Ave.

Today the building on the site contains:

A lot of history at this site.

— Steve Patterson

 

Moral Crusader George Peach Charged In Prostitution Sting A Quarter Century Ago

March 13, 2017 Crime, Featured, History/Preservation, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Moral Crusader George Peach Charged In Prostitution Sting A Quarter Century Ago

The following is a slightly updated version of a post I did 5 years ago…

A year and a half after I moved to St. Louis a huge scandal broke — 25 years ago today:

The chief state prosecutor for the city of St. Louis, who has spent most of his 15 years in office crusading against obscenity, pornography and prostitution, was charged today with a misdemeanor offense of patronizing a prostitute.

[snip]

Since being elected as circuit attorney in 1976, Mr. Peach has led a fight to rid St. Louis of pornography and prostitution. In the 1980’s he was responsible for closing the city’s major pornographic book and video stores. Last June, he endorsed changes in city ordinances that would make jail mandatory for prostitutes, pimps and customers who are second-time offenders. (New York Times)

Peach was busted three days earlier, on Tuesday March 10, 1992,  in a hotel in St. Louis County. In the days immediately following his arrest on the misdemeanor charge local officials were debating if he should resign or run for a 5th term as prosecutor.

ABOVE: AP story from 3/15/92, click to view article

A January 2004 story in the Post-Dispatch recounts many the sorted details including more criminal activity:

In an eight-month Post-Dispatch investigation in 1992, reporters disclosed that Peach financed his extracurricular activities with cash from a confidential city checking account he controlled. He also took money from a fund set up to aid crime victims. (Link no longer available)

A number of years ago an independent hollywood company began raising money to produce a film about Peach’s downfall, myself and many others donated money to help get the film made:

Heart of the Beholder is a 2005 drama film that was written and directed by Ken Tipton. It is based on Tipton’s own experience as the owner of a chain of videocassette rental stores in the 1980s. Tipton and his family had opened the first videocassette rental stores in St. Louis in 1980. Their business was largely destroyed by a campaign of the National Federation for Decency, who objected to the chain’s carrying the film The Last Temptation of Christ for rental.

The film won “Best Feature Film” awards at several film festivals. Critic Ryan Cracknell summarized the film, “There’s no shortage of material for writer-director Ken Tipton to work with here. That alone makes Heart of the Beholder a film of interest. It is in many ways a politically charged film as it touches on issues of freedom of speech, religious beliefs and all out fanaticism. Still, I didn’t think it was charged with enough balance and I think a large part had to do with the film’s inconsistent pacing.” (Wikipedia)

As one of thousands of uncredited producers I got the film on DVD, but here’s the trailer:

You can watch the entire film online, view chapter 1, do not watch at work! The film is also available on Netflix.

I recall a video store on the south side of Olive between Compton & Grand, now part of Saint Louis University’s campus, that closed in the early 90s. I only visited the store once, not sure if it was one of Ken Tipton’s Video Library stores or not.

– Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today

February 17, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation, MLK Jr. Drive, North City Comments Off on St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today

Last month, on the Martin Luther King holiday, I posted my 13th look at the street named after the slain civil rights leader — see Annual Look At Changes Along St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive. From a STL250 Facebook post that has since been deleted:

This Day in St. Louis History, February 17, 1972:
Martin Luther King Boulevard is dedicated

A Board of Aldermen bill was passed that changed the name of Easton Avenue and portions of Franklin Avenue to Martin Luther King Boulevard. Alderman C.B. Broussard was a primary sponsor, and he announced that the change was part of a nationwide organized drive to rename street[s[ in honor of the murdered civil rights figure. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Just days after his murder, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

By 1972 St. Louis was aware the 1960s was its second decade in a row with major losses in population. In the two decades since the St. Louis population peaked in the 1950 census, the city lost more than a quarter of its residents. The biggest reduction, however, happened during the 1970s. By the 1980 census St. Louis had again lost more than a quarter of the population — in a single decade.

As the white middle class fled North St. Louis for North St. Louis County, commercial streets like Easton & Franklin Avenues were already in decline before 1972.

One building symbolizes this change better than any other. Demolition of existing 2-story buildings began on February  29, 1948 — the new JC Penny store opened the following year. By 1967 the store was so crowded a warehouse was added to the West (since demolished). Less than a decade later, the store closed on September 11, 1976.

 

The former JC Penny store (1949-1976) on MLK in the Wellston Loop in the modern style with an urban form, rather than style of its red brick neighbors that are 20-40 years older.
Click image to view the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

As residents fled to North County retailers followed them. New shopping areas like Northland (1955), River Roads (1962), Northwest Plaza (1965),  and Jamestown Mall (1973) opened to serve the new suburban middle class. Franklin & Easton Avenues would have declined even it not renamed.

Can this corridor be revived? To the point of being the honor it was intended? I have my doubts. Perhaps we should do something different to causally honor Dr. King’s legacy and return the street name to Easton & Franklin Avenues?

— Steve Patterson

 

Bissell Water Tower First Saved 55 Years Ago Today

January 27, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation, North City Comments Off on Bissell Water Tower First Saved 55 Years Ago Today
Image from the 1970 nominating to the National Register of Historic Places, click image to view
Image from the 1970 nominating to the National Register of Historic Places, click image to view

Today’s post was originally supposed to be about how a historic water tower, one of our three, was saved 55 years ago. In researching, however, I found the truth was a little differing.

A few years ago the STL250 group posted a daily tidbit — I saved those which thought might be of interest here.

This Day in St. Louis History, January 27, 1962:
Salvation for the Bissell Street Water Tower

When news was released that the city had decided to tear down the dilapidated Bissell Street Water Tower at Blair and Bissell Street in North St. Louis, protests came from every direction. The tower had been losing bricks from its face due to water infiltration and freezing, but people demanded the structure be saved. Thanks to a matching grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the realization that tearing it down would be just as expensive, the tower was saved and restored. The Bissell Street Water Tower was constructed in 1885 to control surges of water pressure along with its older adjacent neighbor, the Grand Avenue Water Tower, shaped like a giant Corinthian column. Less than ten Victorian-era water towers remain in the United States, and three are in St. Louis.

Their post has been deleted from Facebook. So it was saved on a Saturday in 1962 — great

From the city’s page on the water tower:

Bissell Street Water Tower – City Landmark #12

Built in 1885, the Bissell Street Water Tower, also called the “Red” Water Tower, was designed by William S. Eames in the form of a Moorish Minaret.  The tower stands 206 feet high and is located at the intersection of Blair Avenue and Bissell Street in the Hyde Park City Historic District.

There are nine doorways leading into a space containing an iron standpipe and spiral staircase. At the top is a look-out platform. The tower was renovated in 1913.  There was an attempt to raze the tower in 1958, but luckily it was halted by Donald Gunn, the President of the Board of Aldermen.  The Red Tower was restored once again in the 1960s and designated a City Landmark in 1966..  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

So it was saved from demolition in 1962, restored and listed on the National Register. Not quite.

From the nomination to the register completed on April 8, 1970:

No material alterations have been made on the structure since its construction and its appearance remains essentially the same as when it was completed. The tower was taken out of use  June 8, 1913 when new pumping engines rendered both it and its companion, the Grand Avenue Water Tower, obsolete. It has received no substantive maintenance since that date and has fallen into such a state of disrepair that it has been barricaded since 1965 to protect people from falling bricks. Because it has been deemed a danger to public safety, it is now threatened with imminent demolition.

This description of the physical appearance of the building is based on the data included in a field report by Edward A. Ruesing written, on February 26, 1970. The report is filed at the central office of the Missouri State Park Board, P.O. Box 1?6, Jefferson Building, Jefferson City, Misoouri 65101.

No doubt something happened 55 years ago today, but it was just part of many steps taken to save it from demolition. I haven’t been up there since December 2011 — not sure of the current condition. Would be nice to see the Compton Hill Water Tower & Park Preservation Society expand to cover all three of our water towers or help form an organization to help the two north side towers.

It is located at the intersection of Bissell St & Blair Ave.

— Steve Pattetrson

 

A Look At The New Addition To The Eugene Field House & Toy Museum

It was nearly two years ago when I saw the elevation drawing (below) for the proposed expansion of the 19th century Eugene Field House on South Broadway.

Eugene Field House Wins Approval for Museum Expansion

Initially my reaction was negative, I imagined cheap materials and poor detailing. However, I decided not to share my fears. I’m glad I didn’t.

Yesterday I visited the site, still under construction, to see what I thought in person.  First, we must know what used to be.

This 1920 photo shows houses on both sides. Source: unknown
This 1920 photo shows houses on both sides. Source: unknown

In 1936 the other row houses were razed — leaving one out of context. The Eugene Field House & Toy Museum needed to create an accessible entrance. Given enough money, they could have recreated the block. But it wouldn’t have been authentic or met their needs.

On my way there I was prepared for the worst.

Even before crossing Broadway, I knew I liked it.
Even before crossing Broadway, I knew I liked it.
The sole-survinving early 18th century row house with addition
The sole-survinving early 18th century row house with addition
Excellent details include selective concrete/stone work, quality brick, black windows. The two are connected via a glass walkway set back from the street. This allows old & new to stand on their own merits.
Excellent details include selective concrete/stone work, quality brick, black windows. The two are connected via a glass walkway set back from the street. This allows old & new to stand on their own merits.
A beautiful box-bay window, reminiscent of those used in the 19th century, is prominently located at the NW corner.
A beautiful box-bay window, reminiscent of those used in the 19th century, is prominently located at the NW corner.
A sidewalk guides you from the front (West) to the entry that faces East.
A sidewalk guides you from the front (West) to the entry that faces East.
One of my favorite things is the visual extension of the foundation line on the North side of the parking lot driveway. It's a small element, but it helps greatly in the separation of parked cars from pedestrian.
One of my favorite things is the visual extension of the foundation line on the North side of the parking lot driveway. It’s a small element, but it helps greatly in the separation of parked cars from pedestrian.

I couldn’t believe that I was liking what I was prepared to dislike. Once I saw the construction sign and the architect, my disbelief immediately vanished — I’ve known architect Dennis Tacchi for 25 years.

Let me be clear:

  • Razing the other non-significant row houses decades ago was a huge mistake.
  • Recreating the row house facades is something best left to Disney.
  • Broadway is a horrific pedestrian experience today.
  • An accessible entrance was needed.

I’m looking forward to the opening and seeing the interior. Now for some more history.

Located at 634 South Broadway, the three-story Greek Revival home was constructed in 1845.  Originally it was one of twelve attached houses called “Walsh’s Row”.  The other eleven buildings were demolished in 1936.  The Eugene Field House became a City Landmark in 1971.  It is known as the childhood home of the “Children’s poet” Eugene Field.

The Field House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. (St. Louis)

Poet Eugene Field was born on September 2, 1850 — 166 years ago today. His father, Roswell Martin Field, took over the Dred Scott case after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled he wasn’t a free man.

In March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared that all blacks — slaves as well as free — were not and could never become citizens of the United States. The court also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, thus permiting slavery in all of the country’s territories. (PBS)

The row house at 634 S. Broadway had two significant occupants, but it’s the entire block that should have been saved. Eighty years ago a bad decision was made, we must make the best of it today. This is a tiny step in the right direction.

— Steve Patterson

 

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