Friday, December 27, 2013
Warehouse Lost to Fire Was One of Chouteau's Landings Oldest
The three story and adjacent one story warehouses lost to a four-alarm fire on December 16th may have been one of the oldest surviving buildings on Chouteau's Landing. City property records list the structure as being built in 1902, however the intricate brick work of it's 1st street elevation suggested that it may have been older. Photo above by Ann Aurbach
Consulting the 1876 Whipple fire insurance maps, that are available online from Washington University and the Missouri History Museum, I found both the three story building, listed as "Central Warehouse A", and the adjacent one story warehouse to the south, listed as "Central Warehouse B". Just north, the surviving three story warehouse hat has the large corrugated sheet metal structure perched on its roof also appears to be on the 1876 map. The buildings are in the upper right portion of the map above.
Other than a few small buildings surviving on 4th Street, the only other structure extant from the 1876 map is the St. Mary of Victories Church and adjacent school. The church is by far the oldest structure in the area, having been constructed in 1843.
The warehouses along 1st Street, or Main Street as it was called at that time, must have been constructed right around 1875-1876 because they do not show up in Compton & Dry's aerial view of the area from Pictoral St. Louis, which was published in 1875.
By the time this 1909 Sanborn map was published the giant Crumden Martin complex by architects Mauran, Russell & Garden was taking shape a block south between Cedar and Gratiot. The buildings shown above had been built between 1904 and 1907. The building that partially burned just over 2 years ago, and still stands roofless would be built three years later in 1912. The Powell Square Building, which was built for Milliken Pharmaceutical in 1916 a block west at 217 Cedar, was wastefully demolished by the City of St. Louis early this year. The Crumden Martin block would be finished out at Cedar & 2nd in 1920 with the construction of a crenelated concrete structure designed by Tom P. Barnett.
Central Warehouse A and a smaller portion of Central Warehouse B would later survive partial demolition for a railroad trestle that connected existing alignments allowing trains to turn south from the central rail yards south of Downtown to the trestle running along the riverfront. I am unsure of the date of construction of the trestle, but it shows up in an aerial view from 1958.
This view from 1st Street at Cedar shows the small portion of Central Warehouse B that remained after the trestle construction.
As was common in the first half of the 20th Century, the testle construction took only what was needed from the larger Warehouse A building, and constructing a new board formed concrete wall to close up the building just a few feet from the trestle. Ann Aurbach has posted about a dozen photos of the grizzly aftermath of the recent fire that finally destroyed both Warehouse A and B on her blog Biscuits with Honey.
What ultimately happens to this site and to the larger Chouteau's Landing district remains to be seen. The district's remaining historic buildings and growing stock of vacant land hold great potential with a location immediately adjacent to Downtown St. Louis, the Arch grounds and the riverfront, which will soon be vastly improved with a new bike and walking trail currently under construction by Great Rivers Greenway including a trailhead at the foot of Chouteau Avenue. Despite these assets the district remains gravely isolated by the urban planning mistakes of the last century and portions of MVVA's plans to revamp the Arch Grounds and connect to Chouteau's Landing have apparently been eliminated due to budgetary constraints. Needless to say, it will take some major infrastructure changes/improvements and developers willing to risk investing in uncharted territory to tap the potential of Chouteau's Landing.