It is believed that the origin of Baden lies in its location on the principal road between St. Louis and the 18th Century Spanish Fort Don Carlos Tercero Del Rey at the mouth of the Missouri River. This fort was built in 1768 by Captain Rios, who was sent north with 25 soldiers to establish authority and to ward off hostile bands of Indians. Rios named the fort after the heir to the Spanish throne. In 1806, this fort was superseded by Fort Bellefontaine, which was founded on higher ground by General James Wilkinson, the American governor of the newly purchased Louisiana Territory. Bellefontaine was the French name of a large spring at the foot of the bluff where the fort was erected. The fort was occupied until 1827 when the troops were moved to Jefferson Barracks.
The road to the fort later became known as Bellefontaine Road, which was named North Broadway within the St. Louis City limits of 1876. Before its designation as Bellefontaine Road, it was called the "Great Trail," running northwest from St. Louis to the Missouri River. Originally it consisted of two roads near the Baden area, with a lower road running through the bottom land near the Mississippi and an upper road which traversed the top of a ridge through what later became Bellefontaine and Calvary cemeteries. Baden eventually developed at the intersection of this road with the road to Hall's Ferry. Old Hall's Ferry Road was surveyed in 1815 from St. Louis to the Missouri River, where it was connected with a road in St. Charles County running to Portage des Sioux. Connection was made by a ferry operated by Edward Hall about 1836, before that it was known as James or Spring Ferry. In later years it was also called Musick's Ferry, named for the operator of an inn at the ferry crossing.
In approaching the Baden area, Halls Ferry Road followed the present route of Hall Street across the bottom land before turning northwestward and crossing Bellefontaine Road at the Baden wedge. Because of its location at this intersection of important roads, Baden became an early trading center. St. Louis County's first market house was built there in 1862 by Walter Espenschied of the wagon making family, at what is now 8200 North Broadway. At that time the site of Baden was swapland at the foot of the river bluff. It was said that in the early 1860's the only buildings in Baden were the market, a log cabin on the hill of Halls Ferry Road and a small house across the tracks from the later site of the Wabash depot. Before the Civil War, Halls Ferry Road was paved with wooden planks, but was later surfaced with a more durable material.
Columbia Bottoms Road, now Riverview Drive, was laid out about 1830 as a farm-to-market road leading to Baden and thence to St. Louis.
To its east is a broad flat flood plain along the river, while westwardly the area consists of a line of wooded bluffs paralleling the road. This is a continuation of the bottom lands and bluffs along North Broadway, southward from Baden.
Traffic from a farming area of more than 100 square miles in northern St. Louis County followed these roads and funneled through the Baden area to reach the St. Louis market. Such a location was a natural one for a settlement, which apparently had its beginnings in the early 19th Century. However, it was not until the extensive German migration to the St. Louis area in the 1840's and 1850's that Baden began to assume importance. So many Germans settled in the Baden area that it was called Germantown and a subdivision platted in 1856, adjacent to it, was named the "Railroad Addition to Germantown." Several versions exist as to how the name of Baden was chosen, but it is generally associated with the fact that Frederick Kraft, a pioneer settler in 1852, was born in Baden-Baden, Germany. Kraft, operator of a saloon, submitted Baden as the name for the first post office in 1860 and it was officially adopted when he became the postmaster. Kraft's saloon and general store at the southwest corner of Broadway and Bittner Street was called the "Six Mile House" due to its distance from St. Louis. It was the nucleus for the business district which later developed in the vicinity. An interesting sidelight about Baden is that there were several Indian mounds in the area in its earlier years.
The area now occupied by Calvary Cemetery was at one time the country estate of James B. Clay, a son of Henry Clay, the famous Kentucky statesman. James Clay was induced to move there by his friend and schoolmate, James Bissell. A three story brick mansion was built for Clay's wife, Susan, as a wedding gift from her father in 1850, along with more than 300 acres of land. The Clays did not reside there for long and in 1853 the tract and house were sold to Archbishop Kenrick and was used as his summer home. The cemetery was subsequently laid out in the adjoining farm land. The house was wrecked about 1950. Adjoining Calvary is Bellefontaine Cemetery, which was established in 1849 as a non-sectarian burial ground. Its tract was originally part of the farm of Edward Hempstead and was later the property of Luther M. Kennett and William M. McPherson. Both of these cemeteries contain the graves of many distinguished St. Louisans. Friedens United Church of Christ Cemetery at 8915 North Broadway was founded in 1862 by the then Friedens German Evangelical Church. It is located partly within the City near the intersection of North Broadway and Riverview Drive. An old cemetery in Baden is the former Bethlehem Lutheran burial ground on Bittner Street near the Norfolk and Western Railroad.
Land divisions in the Baden-Riverview area were originally made by a series of large tracts, known as U.S. Surveys. These represented American confirmations of the early French and Spanish land grants made in the late 18th Century. By the 1850's these surveys had been subdivided into farming areas owned by families whose names have survived to this day in neighborhood streets. Some of these landholders were the Bittner, Gimblin, McLaran, Switzer, Thatcher, Walter, Hornsby and Dowling families. Still later residential subdivisions were platted in the Baden area, one of the earliest was Bellevue Addition in the Brazeau tract. In the Riverview section the survey tracts extended from the river westwardly beyond the present City Limits. Among owners in this area were William Carr Lane, first mayor of St. Louis, Nicholas A. Destrehan, Samuel B. Wiggins and Amadee Valle. Resubdivision began at the southern end of Riverview in the early 1870's with the partition of the Paschall H. St. Cyr estate and Prospect Hill. In the early 1890's, coincidental with the opening of the waterworks at Chain of Rocks, there was a renewal of subdivision activity on a limited scale. Subdivisions which now contain most of the houses on the bluff side are Riverview Gardens, platted in 1917-19, and the Glasgow Woods subdivision of 1928. Housing here is principally single family dwellings along the sides and on top of the bluffs. Most of these date from the 1920's and 1930's and are owner occupied.
Broadway, the principal business street in Baden, was formerly Bellefontaine Road but received its present name in 1883 under an ordinance seeking to avoid duplications of street names to simplify the new postal home deliveries. It was an extension of Broadway which was so named within the 1855 City Limits. The name was originally applied in 1826 to a wide section of what later became Third Street north of Biddle. In addition to the aforementioned family names which were perpetuated by streets, some other Baden Street names were similarly derived. These include Frederick and Tillie Avenues which were named for members of the Kraft family, Blase Avenue for William Blase who subdivided his property in 1886 and Doddridge Street named for Thomas Hornsby's brother. Concord Place and Grape Avenue commemorate the many vineyards which flourished in the area. Gast Place recalls the family of Paulus Gast, who operated a brewery in Baden. Old Market Place was renamed Muriel Street by ordinance in 1935, in honor of the daughter of Edward L. Kuhs, a real estate man and former alderman. Church Road is obviously named for Holy Cross Church, while Kenrick Street bears the name of the archbishop in whose name the property there was held. Christian Avenue carries the given name of Christian Oberbeck, whose subdivision was recorded in 1868. Jordan, Canaan and Elias are names reminiscent of a colony of Jews who, about 1910, lived on the hill in that area where a cemetery and vineyard existed in earlier times. Vineyards were extensive in the area before 1900, including those of Jacob Bittner and others on land of Inglesyde, the Jennings Estate; and also on the McLaran Estate and the Lucien Mead farm, near the present City Limits.
Baden in 1876
In 1876, Baden became a part of the City of St. Louis by an act of the State legislature. A gazetteer of Missouri of that period lists Baden as having a population of 400 and located on the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northwestern Railroad (later Wabash). It was the terminus of a horse car line from St. Louis and contained 11 stores, three wagon shops, four churches and four schools, one public, two Catholic and one Lutheran.
In its early days Baden's water supply was obtained from wells and cisterns which were gradually replaced by connections to water mains as they became available. The City waterworks system began about 1830 when the first pumping station was installed at the foot of Smith Street. Despite additions, this system became inadequate after the Civil War and in 1867 work was begun on the Bissell's Point plant which was the center for a system completed in 1871. This included the water tower on East Grand Avenue, the Compton Hill reservoir and connecting mains. During the 1880's a second pumping station was completed at Bissell's Point with a new standpipe at Blair and Bissell Avenues. In 1887, construction of a new low service pumping station at Chain of Rocks was authorized, which plant went into service in 1895. A third high service pumping station was installed at Baden in 1898 on the line of a conduit from Chain of Rocks to Bissell's Point. In 1905, an additional seven foot conduit was built to Chain of Rocks, at which time the Baden reservoir was constructed. The three pumping stations were then connected by an electric and steam railroad operated by the water department.
A filter plant, which was the world's largest at the time of its installation, was dedicated at Chain of Rocks in 1915. It has 40 filters stretching along an aisle which has a length of 700 feet, with a capacity of 160 million gallons daily. As a project of the 1923 bond issue the new waterworks at Howard's Bend on the Missouri River went into service in 1929. Installation of an electric powered high service pumping station at Chain of Rocks in 1960 caused the abandonment of the steam powered station at Baden. The Bissell's Point plant was phased out at about that same time.
Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church was the first church to be established in Baden. It was formed in the early 1860's by Rev. Casper Doebbner of Holy Trinity Church in Bremen. Prior to this the German residents of Baden had attended mass at a private chapel of the Carmelite Convent in Calvary Cemetery, or journeyed to Holy Trinity for confessions. In 1863, a two acre wooded site was purchased from Fred Kraft and the church was literally built by the hands of the parishioners. They hauled rock and sand for the foundation and made the bricks by hand at the site. Construction progressed rapidly, enabling the church to be dedicated on May 3, 1864. The mixed congregation included Irish and French families, as well as the Germans. A small frame school building was erected in 1866, followed by a new building in 1871. Eventually, the old church became inadequate and a temporary structure was used during demolition of the old building. Before erection of the present church was begun, the level of the site was graded three feet lower. The new church was dedicated on May 23, 1909. It is in the Gothic style and is notable for the high elevation of its sanctuary, from which a long flight of marble steps descends to the communion rail on the floor of the nave. A parish hall was built in 1927 and three years later a new school was completed. The church is located at 8115 Church Road near Baden Avenue.
In 1872, the Irish faction of the parish split with the Germans of Holy Cross Church and formed a new church known as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This created an unusual situation of having two Catholic churches within the same parish limits. The new church was located on the east side of Church Road in the 8200 block. It was a brick Gothic structure, 50 x 75 feet, and stood on a half acre lot. The building was dedicated on May 4, 1873 and in September 1874 the parochial school was organized. It was conducted in a 35 by 50 foot brick building near the church. In 1912 an old public school building at Church Road and Bittner Street was purchased for the school. This was used until 1935 when a new school was built on Annetta Avenue at Veronica. The present church building was completed in July 1939 at 8747 Veronica Avenue.
Earliest Protestant church in Baden is Ebenezer Lutheran which was organized in 1869 by eight families who worshipped in a log house at what is now the southeast corner of McLaran Avenue and Riverview Boulevard (originally Tracy Road). By 1871, they completed a small brick church in the 8400 block of Church Road. Until the school was built in 1885 classes were held in the church. Increased growth led to erection of a larger church and a portable school at Theobald Avenue and Church Road in 1923. In 1940 a new school was erected on Church Road and Veronica Avenue, with a second floor and an assembly hall added in 1955.
Next Protestant denomination to organize in Baden were the Presbyterians in 1882. Services were initially held in a frame house at 7936 North Broadway and later in a nearby dry goods store. A frame church was erected at 8449 Halls Ferry Road in 1904, with the title of Baden Presbyterian Church. About 1914, the congregation merged with the Winsor Methodists. On March 20, 1896, the St. Stephen's Evangelical Church was organized at a meeting in Seaver's Hall at 8102 North Broadway. A neighborhood canvass revealed fifty persons to be interested in the venture, which was encouraged by Rev. Haas of St. James Church. Services continued at the hall until a church was dedicated at Halls Ferry Road and Gimblin Avenue on December 20, 1896. Soon after that, a school building was completed and in 1924 the Sunday school auditorium was rebuilt. The church changed its denominational name in 1934 when the Evangelical and Reformed churches merged. In 1938, the present church at 8500 Halls Ferry Road was completed with an educational annex added in 1961.
Winsor Methodist Church was founded in 1901 at a meeting at the home of William S. Winsor at 838 McLaran Avenue. The new church was subsequently named in honor of his parents. After meeting at various locations, including a tent on the newly acquired church site in 1902, the new church was dedicated at McLaran Avenue and Church Road in 1905.
Originally a three story building, including a sanctuary, classrooms and parsonage, the structure has been extensively remodeled. During a remodeling in 1914, the Methodists were invited to share the church of the Baden Presbyterians. As a result, the two groups decided to merge and return to Winsor Church at that time. In 1950, Epworth Methodist Church joined with Winsor under the present combined name. The present church at 1525 Orchid Avenue was consecrated on July 17, 1956.
At 8375 North Broadway is a building which has housed several religious groups beginning before 1905 as the Baden C.M.E. Church. After that, until 1912, it was occupied by the Corinthian Baptists. Still later, up to 1920 the building was used by Bagnell Methodist. Since 1925, it has been the home of the Church of God, a non-denominational group, which grew out of the Baden Gospel Mission. Prince of Peace Episcopal Church owes its existence to Sister Miriam of the Episcopalian Good Shepherd Sisterhood who came to Baden after the closing of Bishop Robertson Hall School in 1915. After organizing a mission which met in vacant store rooms, the former Presbyterian chapel at 8449 Halls Ferry Road was given for her use. In September 1916, the congregation was organized as the Mission of the Prince of Peace. The chapel was soon purchased and through the efforts of Sister Miriam, the church became an active Episcopalian congregation and is still situated at its original location.
Baden Baptist Church was founded in 1941 and worshipped at the Paul Revere Masonic Temple until 1950 when it moved into a church building at 8629 Halls Ferry Road. Additions were made to the structure in 1956 and 1961.
Before the first public school in Baden was opened in 1872, pupils attended a rural school. The public school was a one room frame building at Christian and Switzer Avenues. After a temporary discontinuance of Mount Carmel parochial school in 1878, students of that school and those from the public school moved into a brick building at Church Road and Bittner Street, which had been purchased by the Board of Education from Holy Cross Church. At that time the old public school was converted into Colored School #11, later renamed as the Aldridge School. The building at Church and Bittner was a three story structure of six rooms accommodating 240 pupils. It occupied a 125 x 196 foot lot and the property was valued at $10,000 in 1881. After 1900, this school became inadequate and portable units were erected in its yard. In 1904, a kindergarten opened in one of those portables. Two years later another portable was opened at Halls Ferry and Gimblin. The present Baden School at 8724 Halls Ferry Road was opened in 1908 and was designed by William B. Ittner. The Riverview area does not have any churches or schools within its ''boundaries, the needs of its residents for these purposes being served by religious and educational facilities in nearby Baden or in the adjoining portion of St. Louis County. The Church of God is located at Broadway and Riverview.
In earlier years residents of Baden obtained library books through a local store where books were deposited and returned for delivery to Central Library downtown. Efforts by the Baden public school groups resulted in the establishment of a branch library in an old mounted police station at 8316 North Broadway in 1928. The present branch library building at 8448 Church Road was completed in 1960.
The Lutheran Altenheim or Nursing Home at 8721 Halls Ferry Road was constructed in 1929, with additions in 1963 and 1972. The home features ramps instead of stairways for the safe and comfortable movement of residents within the fireproof building.
Paul Revere Masonic Lodge was founded in 1923, followed in the next year by a chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. Their Masonic Temple is located at 1061 Theobald Street.
Public park acreage in the Baden area is rather limited in extent. Baden playground between Church and Halls Ferry Roads contains 2.17 acres and was purchased in 1938 for $17,500. It was the site of the first Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, built in 1873. For a short time it was known as the Joseph F. Dickmann Playground. For many years the grounds of the Baden pumping station were well landscaped by the City Water Division as a local garden spot. Tennis courts were maintained on Baden Avenue near the greenhouses. David Hickey Park at 8700 North Broadway was acquired by the Park Department in 1947. The 16.26 acre park was given the name of a previous park that was absorbed in the site of the Small Arms Plant about 1939-40. Charles Busche Park at Broadway and Calvary covers six acres and was acquired in 1931. Chain of Rocks Park, with its ample picnic grounds and picturesque views of the river from hillside roadways, was acquired by the Water Division in 1893. The 29.76 acre park was landscaped about 1910 and is one of the few city parks not under the jurisdiction of the Park Department. North of Chain of Rocks is the North Shore Country Club which began as a boat club in 1916. A golf course and swimming pool were added in 1919, when it was known as the Riverview Country Club. It received its present name in 1929.
Fire and Police Stations
Before the advent of the regular fire department, fire alarms were sounded by church bells and bucket brigades formed lines from the nearest pump to the fire. Baden's first engine house was built about 1897 just north of the location of the present fire station, which was erected in 1909. In 1919, the fire company was fully motorized replacing the colorful horse drawn fire apparatus. Greatest fire to occur in the area happened when the St. Louis Car Company shops burned for several days in October 1920.
Baden's first regular police station was a branch of the old Mounted District in Forest Park. It was located at 8316 North Broadway and was opened in 1899. This substation was closed in 1928 at which time it was leased for a public library branch.
Single family dwellings predominate in the Baden area, especially in the newer sections "on the hill" and westward toward Riverview Boulevard and in the Veronica Park neighborhood. Flats are found on streets such as Bittner and Church Road near the business district at Halls Ferry and Broadway. An old landmark is the Kraft house at 1086 Bittner Street, which is said to have been built over a century ago. While it is one of the oldest outlying community areas in St. Louis, Baden today presents itself as a convenient and attractive residential area with some of its subdivisions platted as recently as 1948.
Although Baden was never incorporated as a city, it has had the characteristics of a town for many years. The business section along Broadway and Halls Ferry Road had its origin more than a century ago and the area has been served by its own post office, fire station, library and schools for many years. Among the business achievements have been the opening of the Baden Bank in 1909 and the founding of the Businessmen's Association in 1913.
Two important industrial plants began operations in Baden during the late nineties. The St. Louis Car Company occupied its 52 acre site in 1898 after moving from 3000 North Broadway and in 1899 Paulus Gast opened his brewery on Hornsby Avenue. He had previously operated a wine company and a vineyard. The Charter Oak Stove and Range Company located at Hall and Antelope Streets in 1921. In more recent years the Hall Street vicinity has become a center for truck terminals and the street has been widened into a divided highway. Near its end at Riverview Drive are the Missouri Portland Cement Company and the GAF Corporation, a manufacturer of building products. Except for a shopping center near Broadway, commercial activity along Riverview Drive is negligible. Also, the St. Louis Malleable Casting Co. at Hall Street and Antelope, which opened in 1921, was an important industry.
Earliest form of public transit serving the Baden area was a line of horse-drawn omnibuses, which ran down Broadway to East Grand Avenue. It was started during the first St. Louis Fair in 1856 by Fred Kraft and Jacob Bittner. A similar line ran on Broadway from Third and Market Streets to Bremen, beginning in 1845, operated by Erastus Wells and Calvin Case. This line was later extended to Bissell's Point. In 1870, Case purchased the Baden line and converted it into a horse car line by laying a single track from the market house in Baden to Gano Avenue. The horse walked on a plank walk in the center of the track and passengers sometimes had to help put the car back upon the rails. Three open sided cars were used, which had canvas curtains for use in bad weather.
The Baden and St. Louis Railroad Company later became a division of the St. Louis Railroad Company with offices at 3700 North Broadway. This company operated a cable line on Broadway from East Grand south to Keokuk Street. All divisions of this company were electrified during the 1890's and were absorbed by the United Railways Company in the transit consolidation of 1899. Since August 1956, buses have replaced street cars on the Broadway line.
The Water Division operated an electric trolley line from Baden to Chain of Rocks for many years. It is now a freight hauling line with a connection to the Burlington Railroad.
Railroads played an important part in Baden's development. The first one to be built through the area was the Wabash in 1855, when it was known as the North Missouri Railroad. Originally, it ran from Second and North Market Streets in St. Louis to the bank of the Missouri River opposite St. Charles. Two trains were operated daily in each direction carrying freight and passengers on week days and passengers only on Sundays. The station for Baden was situated at Bittner Street and Switzer Avenue, a short distance west of Broadway, while the suburban Inglesyde station was located at the present Park Lane. A regular commuter train to St. Charles, via Ferguson, was operated until 1933. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas (Katy) Railroad uses the Burlington-Northern tracks through the Hall Street area east of Baden. A large Katy yard is at the foot of Gimblin Street. Formerly, a Terminal Railroad track left the Burlington line just north of St. Cyr Road and ran westward to join the Wabash tracks in Ferguson.
Principal highways radiating from Baden are extensions of Broadway, Halls Ferry and Riverview Boulevard. The latter, on its northward course along the Mississippi, is known as Riverview Drive. It provides an important link between Chain of Rocks and Highway 270 to Baden, via a scenic riverside route. Interstate 270 crosses Riverview north of the waterworks, connecting northern St. Louis County with Illinois. The old Chain of Rocks Bridge, built in 1929, has been closed since the new one was opened, and various ideas are being considered for its future use. Near the old bridge are two mid-river intake towers for the waterworks, which are considered to be architecturally significant landmarks. Chain of Rocks takes its name from a partially submerged rock formation, a former impediment to navigation. It has been circumvented by the Chain of Rocks locks and canal. The Riverview panhandle of the 1876 city limits was designed to furnish an in-city waterworks location sufficiently upriver to procure a cleaner supply of water than could be obtained from the old waterworks at Bissell's Point.
Scharf, J.T. - "History of St. Louis City and County" - 1883
City Plan Commission - "St. Louis Development Program" - 1973
Baden Women's Club - "Baden Through the Years" - 1956
St. Louis Water Department Report - 1914
Schwurm, William B. - "History of Water Supply in the St. Louis Area" - 1968
St. Louis Globe Democrat - May 24, 1967 - "Old Baden, the Town That Isn't" by Richard S. Krantz
St. Louis Globe Democrat - December 25, 1975 - "Baden - A German Village with a Touch of Ireland" - by Barney Wippold