Historic St. Louis Architecture on Laclede’s Landing
Home to Some of the Oldest Buildings in St. Louis
By the end of the 19th century, St. Louis had become the largest processor of chewing and pipe tobacco in the United States, and the Christian Peper Building played a vital role in the local tobacco industry. Designed by native German Frederich Raeder, the six-story building was built in the Victorian Italianate style and once stored tobacco for the Christian Peper Tobacco Company. At one time, the building’s plank floors were slanted so workers could roll large tobacco barrels down toward the Mississippi. In 1906, the company produced a series of racy cards for their Turkish brand Kadee cigarettes—one of the first uses of artistically-posed nude models for advertising.
In 1971, the City of St. Louis officially recognized the building as a City Landmark. Today, the Christian Peper Building is known as Raeder Place and houses residential apartments, multiple options for loft living in Downtown in St. Louis, the Old Spaghetti Factory, and the offices of Abstrakt Marketing Group.
In 1793, Jacques Clamorgan transferred the title of this property to his mulatto mistress, Esther, to throw off his creditors and avoid losing the land. When she refused to give it back, he threatened to sell her daughter in the New Orleans slave markets. Esther appealed to the Missouri governor’s wife, Marguerite McNair, and ended up retaining the property. The current building features one of the most striking examples of cast-iron facades in St. Louis.
The three-story, Federal-style structure known as the Cherrick Building today once housed Smith, Beggs & Co., which repaired engines for the St. Louis Fire Department in the 1870s. It also previously housed Frederick S. Plant Seed Company and the Cherrick Distribution Company, a salvage grocery warehouse.
Shortly after the Civil War, retired Quartermaster General E. Anson More retained his supply connections and ran a commission and grocery business at this location. His son Elmer, who graduated from Washington University and later taught Sanskrit at Harvard, went on to become editor of The Nation magazine. Henry Shaw, former hardware importer and founder of the Missouri Botanical Gardens, later purchased the building. The interior is architecturally unique with eight segmental brick arches—each 10 feet wide and 16 feet high—that serve as load-bearing partitions.
Today, the Cutlery Factory serves as the home of 612North, a premier event space and the closest wedding venue to the Gateway Arch in the city.
A National Historic Landmark
A marvel of its time and a beautiful, bold example of early steel bridgework, the Eads Bridge was one of the final two bridges installed (the other being New York’s Brooklyn Bridge) that fully connected the United States overland from coast to coast.
When James Buchanan Eads, a St. Louis marine engineer, was commissioned to build the bridge, he insisted on steel—a decision many questioned, as steel had only just begun to be produced cheaply and had never been used for a project of this size. Eads combated busy river traffic, swift currents, and unsafe depths, using top-side falsework and cantilever cables to connect the arches and pressurized pneumatic caissons to sink the bridge’s mid-river piers more than 100 feet.
When concerns arose over the stability of the newly erected bridge, an elephant (at the time, it was believed that elephants would refuse to walk on unstable surfaces) was brought in and led successfully across the span to validate its structural integrity.
During the nation’s westward expansion, J.D. Street & Co. manufactured and supplied wagon wheel grease in this building, and later produced “Street’s Ideal Motor Oil” for the Tin Lizzie (a nickname for the Ford Model T). The building is a classic example of the “stars-and-bars” construction method, which features cast-iron bars running the length and width of the structure, capped and bolted on the building’s exterior. This process keeps the brick walls from bulging or moving away from the building. The Feather Building gained its name from the feather mattresses that were once manufactured there.
In 1875, the Buck Stove & Range Co. began manufacturing at this site. In 1906, the metal polishers went on strike for a nine-hour workday. BS&R obtained an injunction, broke the boycott, and later filed a contempt claim with the United States Supreme Court. The case, Gompers V. Buck Stove and Range Co. (221 U.S. 418), was dismissed May 15, 1911. The First Street Ironworks Building was the location of the last Laclede’s Landing machine shop and stands as one of the area’s most historically accurate renovations.
When Carlos S. Greeley started his wholesale grocery business, he put in no stock of liquor. Word traveled up and down the levee about this experiment and bets were taken as to its success. This “dry grocery” house grew into a St. Louis institution whose profits helped build the Kansas Pacific Railroad and contributed to the Boatman’s Bank, the St. Louis Cotton Factory, Lindenwood Seminary, and Washington University. In 1980, the building’s cast-iron facade was re-exposed and refurbished.
Actress Betty Grable—the #1 pin-up girl of the 1940s and Hugh Hefner’s inspiration for Playboy magazine—developed her “million-dollar legs” working summers here at her grandparents’ produce market. Until the mid-1930s, it was the headquarters for produce distribution throughout the burgeoning St. Louis community, before being taken over by the Ferman Tent Company. The building features one of the most elaborate brick facades in St. Louis.
Captain William “Buck” Leyhe was the colorful master of the steamboat Golden Eagle and other famous Mississippi River steamers. His family’s Eagle Packet Company operated from this location and offered passenger service until 1956. The building is a later example of a simple-faced brick laid in red-colored mortar.
This site has served as a saloon for over 130 years. It once was home to Jimmy Massucci’s Café Louie, the pub in which the name “Laclede’s Landing” is said to have originated. In cold weather months, industrious saloon keepers of the early 1900s were known to skirt Missouri’s “blue laws” by selling booze from the middle of a frozen Mississippi River—even on Sundays—and thus outside the law’s reach.
Now, it stands as the westernmost lodge of local brewpub Morgan Street Brewery, whose Golden Pilsner won silver and gold medals at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival and 2010 World Beer Cup, respectively.
Housed in this building in 1914, the Western Wire Products Company is credited for creating the precursor to the modern chain link fence. They also manufactured the “Never Sag Knitted Wire Bed Spring,” which boasted a lifetime guarantee and was used in the furniture lines of several national companies. The building itself is a unique example of an original 19th-century interior with a late-20th-century exterior renovation.
Originally built for the offices of Scharff & Bernheimer, one of the largest Mississippi River shipping firms of the era, this building was purchased by Old Judge Coffee in 1918 and converted into a factory and spice warehouse. At peak demand, the company produced over 3 million pounds of coffee per month. Notable features of this five-story brick building include cast-iron columns at street level and large lower windows with matching smaller windows on the second and third floors. On warm St. Louis days, you can still catch the scent of cinnamon from wood supports on the third floor.
National Historic Landmark
On September 20, 1820, the First Missouri Legislature was held here at the famous Missouri Hotel. The assembly preceded the state’s August 10, 1821 admission into the Union. In 1831, the hotel’s owner, Major Thomas Biddle, was killed in a duel with Spencer Pettis on Bloody Island, a “neutral zone” sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi River. The current six-story building, which once housed Christian Peper Tobacco Company, is unique in its simple Victorian cast iron design, making it one of the 500 most significant structures in the country.
Built prior to the modern street grid, these buildings are some of the oldest in Laclede’s Landing. If you visit in person, you’ll notice the slope of the windows on Morgan Street doesn’t match the current grade of the road. Meyer Friede, an early silversmith and Missouri’s first Jewish legislator, was a resident here in the 1860s. The Schoellhorn-Albrecht Machine Company ran its business from here, manufacturing capstans for barges and shipping steamboat engines as well as deck equipment used during the Gold Rush. Another interesting peculiarity is the uneven sidewalks on Morgan Street between Second and Collins Alley. Underneath is a cellar room purportedly used to hide runaway slaves as they made their way into Illinois.
This set of buildings, once used for storing and blending whiskey, might have been raided as part of the infamous St. Louis Whiskey Ring. The scheme ran an extensive network of bribes to distillers, IRS agents, and elected officials in order to defraud the federal government of liquor taxes. Legend says the money was used to finance the second presidential campaign of Missouri favorite, Ulysses S. Grant. The building’s ground floor double doors are framed with iron, a decorative and functional feature that protected the brick from damage when horse-drawn wagons backed in to load and unload.
Witte Hardware, one of St. Louis’ oldest companies, was housed here until 1975. It was equipped with all the “latest” features, including electric elevators and a floor devoted to showroom samples. The company also manufactured “hardware store guns” under the Expert, I.X.L. label—which are now highly-sought items by rifle and shotgun collectors. The Witte Building is an excellent example of authentic historic renovation with original timber and steel structures for the corridors, showcasing a glass elevator and a vast, five-story atrium.
Here’s a look at life on #LacledesLanding.
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