In the geographical center of the city of St. Louis is the aptly named Midtown area which reaches westward beyond the downtown district. It is bounded generally on the west by Vandeventer Avenue, on the north by Delmar Boulevard, on the south by Chouteau Avenue and on its eastern edge by 21st Street.
The Mill Creek Valley and its railroad yards, occupying low terrain are in Midtown's southern section. North of Market Street the topography features a series of north-south ridges, the easternmost at 17th Street, another at Leffingwell Avenue and the western one is west of Grand Boulevard.
Mill Creek Valley, named for the small stream which once meandered through it, was original within the vast Chouteau Mill Tract, which reached westward to Vandeventer Avenue between the present Laclede and Chouteau Avenues. East of Jefferson Avenue, the northern part of the Midtown area was a portion of the St. Louis Commonfields and west of Jefferson were several large tracts stretching westward to Grand Boulevard. West of Grand and north of Olive Street was the southeastern corner of Grand Prairie Commonfields.
The area until 1850 was largely rural in character with estates such as that of William Stokes, who had a country home at what later became Pine Street and Leffingwell Avenue as early as 1820.
One of the earliest subdivisions was the suburb of Highland, platted by John R. Shepley in 1848. Its boundaries were Eugenia Street, Jefferson, Leffingwell and Laclede Avenues. A large tract owned by Henry Stoddard and others was subdivided in 1851 as Stoddard's Addition, bounded by Jefferson, Laclede, Leffingwell Avenues and Dayton Street. Its lots were sold in the first great auction of real estate in St. Louis with over $700.000 realized from the sales. The sale, conducted by the real estate firm of Hiram W. Leffingwell and Richard Smith Elliott, brought prices ranging from $15 per front foot, at Locust and Beaumont Streets, to $5.74 per foot, at Washington and Garrison. Within eight years property in this addition was selling for from $60 to $100 per front foot. Property owners in Stoddard's Addition were proponents of the "Second Municipality of St. Louis" which was incorporated in 1852 to include the area west of the city limits at 18th Street as far as Grand Avenue. However, it was rather short lived, becoming a part of St. Louis when the city limits were extended west of Grand Avenue in 1855.
Grand Avenue was original projected in 1850 by Leffingwell as a broad street, 150 feet in width, running along a high ridge from north to south St. Louis. A rather short sighted decision by the County Court reduced the width of the street to its present eighty feet, denying the city of a future great thoroughfare.
The elevated location of Stoddard's Addition made it a desirable place to build fashionable mansions of the city's wealthier citizens and by the eve of the Civil War the addition had supplanted Lucas Place as the city's finest residential district. Many of the principal churches relocated there soon after the War. A proposal for a twenty acre park along Theresa Avenue between Market and Chouteau failed in 1860 as it deemed to be too remote.
This soon changed with the construction of horse car lines westward to Grand Avenue in the late 1860's, thus providing convenient access to previously unbuilt areas. By 1875, the area east of Compton Avenue was well occupied by large Lownhouses with intermittent buildings west to Grand. At that time, with the exception of rows of large houses on Lindell and Washington west of Grand, the area out to Vandeventer was mostly rural. The Grand and olive intersection began to assume an urban aspect with row houses and some stores on both streets. Lindell east of Grand was similarly developed then.
Another large land owner in the Midtown before the Civil War was Peter Lindell, one of two brothers who made fortunes in merchandising. Lindell owned a large midtown tract bounded by Garrison, Laclede, Vandeventer Avenues and Lindell Boulevard, the eastern part of which was heavily wooded and was called Lindell's Grove. It was used for various outdoor gatherings including the annual encampment of the State Militia and for that occasion, in 1861, it was renamed Camp Jackson in honor of the newly elected proSouthern governor of Missouri.
The St. Louis Arsenal was in Union hands at this time and its commandant saw the encampment of the militia with its southern sympathies as a threat to Union control of St. Louis. Captain Nathaniel Lyon, disquised in women's clothing, drove unmolested through the camp to inspect a mysterious shipment thought to be armaments. On May 10, 1861, four thousand Union troops surrounded and captured Camp Jackson without a shot being fired, in the first Civil War action in St. Louis. Later the camp, renamed in honor of Hamilton R. Gamble, became part of a chain of defenses built around the city.
An excellent overall view of the Midtown area in 1875 can be obtained from Compton arid Dry's Pictorial Atlas. It shows Grand Avenue running through open fields northward from Park Avenue, crossing Mill Creek on a small wooden bridge and the Pacific Railroad by a grade crossing. Climbing the hill out of Mill Creek Valley, the street ran through a cut where it had recently been opened through the abandoned Wesleyan Cemetery south of Laclede Avenue.
East of Compton Avenue, near Chouteau, were the machine shops of the Pacific Railroad, while on the other side of the tracks, west of Compton, was the Red Stocking Baseball Park. The Pacific Stockyards occupied a wide area on the east side of Theresa Avenue from the railroad to north of Manchester Road (now Market Street).
The block now occupied by St. Louis University was then occupied by the house and farm of George Henderson although the University had acquired it in 1867 for its future campus. Recently opened Lindell Boulevard ran through open fields west of Grand. Three corners of, the Grand and Olive intersection were vacant in 1875, and the horse car line from downtown ended there. The station of the narrow gauge steam railroad to Florissant was located on the west side of Grand, north of Olive Street. The site of the Fox Theatre was a pleasant grove surrounding the McClure mansion. The later location of the University Club was then the Hugh H. Hildreth house and Benjamin O'Fallon resided in a large Victorian manse at Grand and Delmar. The present site of the Missouri Theatre Building was occupied by the St. Vincent Catholic Seminary, a large three story structure surmounted by a cupola.
Between 1880 and 1900, the Grand and Olive vicinity began to acquire its familiar commercial appearance which was probably influenced by St. Louis University's move to its present campus in 1888. One of the earliest business buildings to be built there was the Beers Hotel on the northwest corner of Grand and Olive. Originally the five story building was a pleasant residential address which later became more transient in nature. The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1931 and was replaced by the Woolworth variety store. Cater cornered across the intersection was the Grand Avenue Hotel, operated by Joseph Gerardi, and east of Grand, on the north side of Olive, was the dancing studio of Jacob Mahler, where many young St. Louisans learned the art of terpsichore. A well known dance palace of a slightly later period was the Arcadia Ballroom, at 3517 Olive Street, erected about 1920. It was a stronghold of the top jazz bands of the twenties and thirties, was later converted into a bowling alley and was razed in 1966 and its site became a parking lot.
Grand Boulevard's theatrical character began to form when the Princess Theatre was opened in 1912 as a vaudeville house, just south of Olive Street. Later known as the Rialto, Shubert and Mid City before its closing in 1972, it was also the home of the American Theatre in the late 1950's.
It was razed in 1978. The first theatre in St. Louis to be built expressly for first run motion pictures was the Grand Central at Grand and Lucas which opened in 1913. Talking pictures made their St. Louis debut there in 1927 with a 13 week run of Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer". Competition from its larger neighbors finally caused the downfall of the Grand Central Theatre in 1931 when it closed after a brief fling on its boards by a stock company. The building was razed in 1948 for an inevitable parking lot.
Another early vaudeville house was the Empress on Olive near Grand which had a varied career with movies and stock companies between its opening in 1913 and its closing in 1955. It too was demolished about 1970. The million dollar Missouri Theatre on Grand north of Washington opened in 1921. With a seating capacity of about 3700, it was the first of the city's movie palaces. It was the scene of the premiere of the precision chorus line known as the Missouri Rockettes and of long term performances by masters of ceremonies Brooke Johns and Frank Fay. While its office building remains, the theatre was demolished in the late 1950's.
In the vicinity of Grand and Delmar were the Liberty and St. Louis Theatres. The former was erected in 1915 as the Victoria movie theatre by Fox Studios and during the 1920's it became the Liberty burlesque house after which it had a checkered career as a night club, stock play house and evangelist temple. After a long run as the World Theatre, it acquired its present name of Lyn.
The 4500 seat R.K.O. St. Louis Theatre was completed in 1925 from designs by C.W. and George Rapp. It was modeled after the opera house at Versailles, the playhouse of eighteenth century French royalty, especially in its mirrored main lobby. Vaudeville was eventually dropped from the theatre's bill and it continued as a movie house until the 1960's. It was purchased by the St. Louis Symphony Society in 1966 for use as a concert hall and was renovated at a cost of more than $1,000,000. With its capacity reduced to about 2600 seats, the theatre was reopened in January, 1968, as the Powell Symphony Hall.
The largest and last of the great midtown cinema palaces was the sumptuous Fox Theater at Grand and Washington. The $5,000,000 Fox, with about 6000 seats, was the second largest in the world when it was opened in January, 1929. The plush red lobby and gilded interior were the most elaborate and ornate theatre decor of the lavish twenties. It is closed at present.
The Grand Boulevard theatrical district attained the pinnacle of its popularity during the 1930's and after World War II, when, in addition to the theatres, popular restaurants, night clubs and dance ballrooms all contributed to its "bright white way". An earlier and perhaps lesser known "gay white way" of the midtown area was the corner of Jefferson and Washington Avenues which was in its heyday in the early 1880's. Already established as an entertainment center by the famous Uhrig's Cave on the southwest corner of the intersection, the Pickwick Theatre and Illuminated Garden had a brief blaze of glory, across Washington Avenue, between 1880 and 1883.
The exclusive Pickwick, opened by John R. Jennings, presented fine concerts and theatricals to the city's blue bloods. A popular summer feature was the beautiful outdoor garden illuminated by a thousand gas jets. The enterprise failed when the stock company's manager absconded with the payroll and costumes. The theatre rounded outs its career as a conservative lecture hall.
In addition to its theatrical features, Grand Boulevard the midtown area contained several large commercial structure s Among the earliest office buildings were the Metropolitan, bui t in 1908, at Grand and Olive, and the Humboldt at the corner of Washington. Because of the convenience generated by their location at the city's transit crossroads, these buildings acquired offices of many doctors and dentists. They were supplemented by the University Club building in 1915 and the Missouri Theatre building in 1920. The University Club Building at 607 North Grand, designed by Eames and Young, replaced the old George Allen home which had served as the club's quarters for many years.
Largest office structure in the district is the 23 story Continental Building at 3615 Olive Street. Originally built by an insurance company and housing the Grand National Bank on its ground floor, this skyscraper with its aerial beacon has been a midtown landmark since 1930. For many years, it was one of the city's most prestigious office addresses, before falling upon declining economic times. At present it is vacant. At Grand and Delmar is the former Knights of Pythias Building, built in 1928. Later, it was the office building of the Carter Carburetor Company.
The principal hotel on Grand in the area was the Melbourne on the northwest corner at Lindell Boulevard. It was originally opened in 1923 and added a large annex in 1929. Failing as a hotel, it is now known as Jesuit Hall, a residence for the religious faculty of St. Louis University. Architect for the Melbourne Hotel was Preston J. Bradshaw, who also designed the Coronado Hotel at Spring and Lindell. First opened in 1923, the Coronado was enlarged with a taller western section in 1927. It, too, is now a residence hall, Lewis Memorial Hall of St. Louis University.
Lindell Boulevard, on its north side, west of Grand, is graced by a series of noteworthy structures. Until its recent razing, the first of these was the Elks Club at 3616 Lindell. Formerly the home of Peter Lauman Foy, the building was acquired by the Elks in 1908 and had an addition to the rear in 1912. The B.P.O.E. Lodge No. 9 was organized in 1878 in a building at Tenth and Pine Streets.
The Scottish Rite Cathedral, at 3627 Lindell, was designed by William B. Ittner and was dedicated in 1924. A fine example of neo Classic style, the building has a frontage of 235 feet and is approached by a broad flight of steps. Its auditorium, which seats 3000 persons, is notable because no posts obstruct the view. Features are an extremely wide proscenium and a fine organ. The granite and limestone structure was erected at a cost of $2,000,000.
At 3663 Lindell is the former St. Louis Club building, now occupied as district offices of the F.W. Woolworth Company. This French Renaissance style structure was erected in 1899. The club dated from 1886, when it was organized in a building at Locust Street and Ewing Avenue. It was probably the most exclusive club of its time and the Lindell building was expensively equipped. Most of the interior was gutted by fire in 1925, and it was later rebuilt as an office building. The original architects were Friedlander and Dillon of New York and Lawrence Ewald of St. Louis.
Next structure west is the Masonic Temple at 3681 Lindell which was completed in 1926. The three receding stages of the classic style building are symbolic of the three steps in Masonry. The massive structure rises to a height of 175 feet and is constructed of Bedford limestone with gray granite trim. It is noteworthy because of its massive bronze doors and the black and white marble floor patterned with Masonic symbols. Eames and Young were the architects.
A landmark for many years was the Castleman-McKay house at the northeast corner of Lindell and Spring Avenue. This red brick Tudor style residence which dated from the early 1890's, was unfortunately razed a few years ago.
At 3821 Lindell is Moolah Temple of the Mystic Shrine which was completed in 1912. This brick and tile structure was designed in the Moorish and Arabic style of architecture. It faces Kenrick Garden, which is a triangular park named for Archbishop Kenrick. The park was established by city ordinance in 1896. Midtown
St. Louis University's first building on its midtown campus was DuBourg Hall, at Grand and West Pine, which was completed in 1888 and designed by Henry Switzer. The modified Gothic style structure was named for Bishop William Louis DuBourg, who founded the St. Louis Academy in 1818, a predecessor school which later evolved into the present University. This lineage entitles St. Louis University to be known as the oldest college west of the Mississippi.
Administration of the college was undertaken by the Jesuits in 1829 when the school moved into a building on a new site at Ninth Street and Washington Avenue. Three years later the college received its charter as a university from the state leqislature.
Growth of the institution caused its downtown campus to become crowded with buildings by the late 1860's and a tract of land at Grand and Lindell was purchased in 1867 as the site of its new campus. When the move into DuBourg Hall was made, the school's enrollment was only about 400.
Since then the history of the University has been one of continuing expansion, with new buildings erected not only on the original block square campus, but on sites in all directions.
Among notable structures built in recent years are the Pope Pius XII Memorial Library, the Griesedieck Memorial Hall dormitory and the Computer Center, all on the west campus. St. Louis University expanded its campus east of Grand Boulevard in 1962 when 22 1/2 acres of slum cleared property in the Mill Creek Valley Redevelopment Area were purchased as part of the school's 150th anniversary program. Busch Memorial Student Center, a Science and Engineering Center, several classroom buildings, lecture halls, an athletic field and extensive parking lots have been constructed on the new campus. This work, as well as acquisition of the Coronado and Melbourne Hotels for dormitory uses, has been accomplished through funding from the Anniversary Development Program. Two older buildings closely identified with the University's history are Chouteau House and the St. Francis Xavier Church, popularly known as the College Church because of its relationship to St. Louis University.
Chouteau House was formerly the residence of Samuel Cupples, founder of the nation's largest woodenware business. The Romanesque style granite mansion at 3673 West Pine Boulevard was built about 1890. It was acquired by the University in 1946 for use as offices and a student center and is now used for adult education activities. It is named for Charles Chouteau who was the first student enrolled under Jesuit administration.
St. Francis Xavier parish was organized in 1840 and its first church at Ninth Street and Lucas Avenue, adjoining St. Louis University was consecrated in 1843. The cornerstone of the present church at Grand and Lindell was laid in 1883 and the building was occupied in 1888.
It is in the English Gothic style, built of native limestone and was designed by architect Henry Switzer. The church was dedicated in 1898 and its tower was added in 1914, when its bells were installed. They were cast in Seville, Spain in 1789 and were brought to New Orleans by Lutherans and later were brought to St. Louis by the Jesuits. The church has fine marble altars and has unusually fine vaulting in the ceiling. A marble tablet in the vestibule commemorates the sparing of the lives of the University's residents during the cholera epidemic in 1849.
Pope Pius XII Memorial Library of St. Louis University was completed in 1959 from designs by Leo A. Daly Co. It is notable as the depository for the only microfilm collection of eleven million pages of Vatican manuscripts.
Interesting facts about the University include the first college operated radio station in 1922 and the first college department of geophysics in the Western Hemisphere.
On the University's south campus, in the vicinity of South Grand and Caroline Street, is its Medical School. Its history goes back to 1836, but it languished until 1841 when it became more firmly established. It became known as the St. Louis Medical College in 1842, when it occupied a house on Washington Avenue near Tenth Street. By 1849, it had a larger home at Seventh and Clark where it did well until it ran aroul of the superstition and bigotry of that time. Because of this, an amiable severance took place between the University and its medical department in 1855. The school existed independently until 1891 when it became the nucleus for Washington University's medical school.
St. Louis University re-established its medical department in 1903 when it acquired the merged Marion-Sims-Beaumont Hospital medical college. A new building, named Schwitalla Hall, in honor of its famous dean, was completed in 1948 and a new medical research wing, Doisy Hall was dedicated in 1968.
The medical school is augmented by two hospitals; Firmin Desloge, a fifteen story institution opened in 1933 and Cardinal Glennon Hospital for Children at Grand Boulevard and Park Avenue. An active expansion program is underway, including a dentistry school wing and additional research facilities, as well as extensive additions to the hospitals.
Washington University's medical school had its beginning in 1891, when the St. Louis Medical College, formerly the medical department of St. Louis University, merged with the Missouri Medical College. The latter school was begun in 1875 at the northeast corner of 23rd and Lucas. After the merger, the combined schools moved into a new building on Locust Street west of 18th Street in 1899 to form the medical school of Washington University.
St. Vincent's Seminary, which occupied a large three story building at Grand and Lucas in 1875, had originated in 1843 at Tenth and St. Charles Streets. It was discontinued in 1911, when the building was used by the newly founded Catholic Free High School for Girls, also known as Rosati-Kain. The old building was razed in 1920 for construction of the Missouri Theatre and Rosati-Kain relocated at Lindell and Newstead.
St. Philomena's Technical School was organized in 1845 and moved to Ewing and Clark Avenues in 1868. This building was also used for a girls parochial school of St. Malachi's parish in the 1880's. In 1910, the institution moved to Union and Cabanne Avenues.
One of the earliest public schools to be built in the midtown area was the Stoddard at Lucas and Ewing Avenues. This three story, twelve room building with a capacity of 700 students was erected in 1867 to serve the fast growing Stoddard Addition. In 1878, its capacity was doubled by a new annex. Its district is now served by the Bannekei School, built in 1939.
Lincoln School at 23rd and Engenia Streets was also built in 1867. It was similar in size to the Stoddard building and also had an addition built in 1878. The Lincoln School was demolished for the Mill Creek project in the early 1950's. Another school that was razed for the project was the old Pope School at the northeast corner of Laclede and Ewing Avenues. It' began as a kindergarten at Leffingwell and Chestnut in 1870, and two years later the school with a capacity of 800 students was erected. It continued to serve its area until about 1940 when the Waring School was completed at Compton and Laclede.
In 1927, the Vashon High School was built at 3026 Laclede Avenue. The building now houses the Harris Teachers College and Vashon has been relocated in the former Hadley Technical building. The southern part of the area was originally served by the Chouteau School, which was built in 1868 on Chouteau Avenue near Ewing. It was a two story building accommodating about 600 students. A newer school was erected in 1894 at 1306 South Ewing Avenue with an addition of six rooms in 1898. This area is now served by the nearby L'Ouverture School, opened in 1950 at 3021 Hickory.
In addition to St. Francis Xavier Church, two other Roman Catholic churches were located within the Midtown area. one of these is St. Henry's at 1230 California Avenue, which was organized as a German parish in 1885 by Rev. John A. Hoffmann. Its first church was dedicated on September 13, 1885. It was destroyed in the tornado of 1896, but was rebuilt. The present church was completed in May, 1910, on the occasion of the parish's twenty-fifth anniversary. The church is of the Romanesque style of architecture and has a rose window in its facade. Its main tower rises in an octagonal shaft from a square base. On the interior St. Henry's Church is notable for its finely carved hardwood altar.
St. Malachi's Roman Catholic Church at the southeast corner of Clark and Ewing Avenues was completed in 1859. It was a stone and brick structure in the English Gothic style and had a richly frescoed interior. A boys parochial school directed by the Christian Brothers adjoined the church and there was a girls school in the nearby St. Philomena's Orphan Asylum. The parish declined in the early 1930's due to the changing population patterns, but was revived through the efforts of Rev. James P. Johnston, who took charge in 1932. About twenty years later, the church was razed during demolition in the area for the Mill Creek Valley renewal project.
The Third Baptist Church at Grand and Washington originated as an offshoot of the Second Baptist Church in 1850. Its purpose was to provide "A Baptist church in the western part of the ci ty." The congregation's first place of worship was in a hall on Market Street near 13th. A site was purchased at 14th Street and Clark Avenue in 1854, and a chapel was erected there. A church was dedicated on the site in 1866. It could seat 800 persons and cost $45,000. The encroachment of commercial and industrial uses in the vicinity led to a movement to relocate the church westward. In 1885, a church on the present site was occupied. It was a Gothic edifice built of rough cut stone and served the church well for many years. Once again its site became surrounded by commercial uses with the development of the Midtown business district. However, the church elected to remain there and, in 1953, the present large modified Gothic church and supporting structures were built around the older building. Its membership became the largest in the city during the long and popular pastorate of Rev. C. Oscar Johnson.
Central Christian Church, which occupied a church at the northeast corner of 23rd and Washington in 1875, was formed by members of the First Christian Church who withdrew because of dissension over installation of an organ in the older church. They first met in a hall at 14th and St. Charles Streets before moving in 1875. After the 23rd Street property was sold in 1879, the church met in various halls until 1887 when it dedicated a new structure on Finney Avenue near Grand Boulevard. It eventually became the Union Avenue Chiistian Church in 1904.
Two Congregational Churches have been located in the Midtown area. The present First Congregational, then known as the First Trinitarian Church, moved from its former location at Tenth and Locust Streets to a wooden chapel at Grand and Delmar in 1879. In 1885, the present stone church building at that location was occupied by the congregation. The Church had a policy of "following the homes of its members" so that in 1915 a chapel and school were occupied at Wydown Boulevard and University Lane near Washington University. The building on Delmar became the home of the Union Methodist Church.
Pilgrim Congregational Church grew out of the Pilgrim Sabbath School, organized in 1853 in a frame house on the northwest corner of Garrison Avenue and Morgan Street. In 1854, it occupied a one story brick building at 2910 Morgan (now Delmar). As the result of a meeting held in 1865 to consider a new school and church, a lot at the southeast corner of Washington and Ewing was purchased. In 1866, a brick chapel was built there and the new church was organized. A stone church building, designed by Henry L. Isaacs, was dedicated in December, 1872. Four years later a tower and spire, containing a clock and chimes, were added.
In 1907, a move was made to the present location at Union and Kensington Avenues, at which time the old church on Washington and Ewing was turned over to the Tabernacle Baptist Church, a black congregation. It is now occupied by the Central Baptist Church, in a structure that was rebuilt in 1975.
Several Jewish congregations had homes at various times in the Midtown area. The United Hebrews had a synagogue on the southwest corner of 21st and Olive Streets. from 1880 until 1903, when the congregation moved to Kingshighway and Enright. It established a cemetery on Jefferson Avenue near Mill Creek in 1844. It was closed in 1880 when the bodies were removed to Mount Olive Cemetery in St. Louis County. Congregation Shaare Emeth occupied a large-stone temple at the southeast corner of Lindell Boulevard and Vandeventer Avenue in 1895, after moving westward from 17th and Pine Streets. The congregation remained at the Lindell location until 1929, when it became necessary to raze the temple because of the widening of Vandeventer Avenue. The old Egyptian building at 6900 Delmar in University City was purchased and the present temple there was dedicated in 1932.
Congregation B'nai Amoona was located in the Midtown area briefly from '1906 to 1916, when it moved to Garrison and Lucas Avenues following its merger with the Scheerith Israel Congregation.
Temple Israel was founded in 1886 by a group of dissidents from Temple Shaare Emeth. It was organized at a meeting at the home of Moses Fraley at Beaumont and Pine Streets. At first worship was held in Memorial Hall at 19th and Locust Streets and later at the old Pickwick Theatre at Jefferson and Washington. A stone temple was completed in 1888 at Leffingwell Avenue and Pine Street. Soon after the turn of the century it was decided to move westward and the northwest corner of Kingshighway and Washington was purchased. Removal to the new Temple Israel took place in 1908. The old temple became a church for a black congregation and was ultimately razed in the Mill Creek demolition.
During the 1880's, at least seven churches were located in a portion of Stoddard's Addition that came to be known as "Piety Hill". One of these was the Union Methodist Church, which occupied a building on the southwest corner of Garrison and Lucas from 1882 to 1915. It was an outgrowth of Ebenezer Chapel, the cities first Methodist church, which disbanded in 1861 because of the northern sympathy of its members in a denomination that was predominantly pro-southern.
Re-organized in 1862 as a Union Methodist Church, it purchased the former Union Presbyterian Church at Eleventh and Locust. A large American flag flew from its tower during the Civil War, with an armed guard posted at the church entrance. After removal to the Garrison Avenue building, an outstanding social welfare program was begun, but was interrupted in 1911 when the church was destroyed by fire. Although the church was rebuilt, it was decided to move westward soon after.
In 1915, the former First Congregational Church at 3610 Delmar was purchased by Union Methodist, where it remained until 1952, when it merged with Christ Methodist and occupied a new building at 3543 Watson Road. The Delmar church was sold to a Pentecostal congregation in 1953.
Central Methodist Church, which was organized in 1869 in a hall at 18th and Wash Streets, moved into a new church on the northeast corner of 23rd and Morgan (now Delmar) in 1871. The two story brick building, valued at $48,000 had an auditorium seating 600 persons on its second floor. The church disbanded during the 18901s. The building was sold and the proceeds were divided among other Methodist churches. Members of the congregation followed the same route.
St. John's Methodist Church South began as the Asbury Chapel at 15th and Gay Streets in 1848. It was disbanded during the Civil War, when local steamboat men, who made up most of its membership, were forced to move from the city because of the blockade on the Mississippi River. The congregation was reorganized, sold its old chapel to a black Catholic group and sought a site farther west. A lot on the northwest corner of Ewing and Locust was purchased in 1865 and three years later a chapel, dedicated to St. John, was completed.
In 1869, the church was built and served the Methodists for more than thirty years. Another westward move was made in 1903 when the present church on the southwest corner of Kingshighway and Washington was occupied. The old church was sold for use of the Roman Catholic parish of St. Charles Borromeo, which was organized in 1903 and still occupies the brick church on Locust Street.
Second Presbyterian Church moved westward in 1870 to a new stone Gothic style building on Lucas Place at 17th Street, then a fashionable district.
The present Westminster Presbyterian Church, which was known as the Pine Street Church when it was located at Eleventh and Pine Streets, moved to a chapel on Grand Boulevard opposite Washington Avenue in 1880. At that time, the name was changed to Grand Avenue Church and the cornerstone of a new church was laid at the site in 1882.
It was built of rough-cut limestone in the Gothic style and had fine gable ends each 100 feet high. Its auditorium was shaped like an amphitheatre and seated 1200 persons. Built at a cost of $145,000, the church featured fine stained glass windows. It was occupied until 1914 when the church moved to a chapel at the present site at Union and Delmar. The old church was converted into a movie house and was razed in 1927 as part of the site for the Fox Theatre. Central Presbyterian Church moved to a temporary chapel at the northeast corner of Lucas and Garrison Avenues in 1873. A new church, designed by architect C.K. Ramsey, was completed there in 1876. It was designed in the Early English style with two towers over 120 feet high at its front. This church was used until 1906, when a move was made to the southeast corner of Delmar and Clara.
Washington-Compton Presbyterian Church occupied its large stone edifice at that intersection from 1880 to 1926. It began as a mission of the Second Church in 1859 and the congregation erected a church at 16th and Walnut which was leased from 1860 to 1862 by the Union Presbyterians, formerly located at Eleventh and Locust. The congregation dated back to 1849 and met in Wyman's Hall on Market Street until the Eleventh Street church was finished in 1854. They disbanded after sale of the church to the Union Methodists in 1862.
In 1864, the Walnut Street Presbyterian church occupied the 16th Street structure and continued to use it until the removal to Washington and Compton, when the name was also changed that title. In 1926, the church moved to Skinker Boulevard and Alexander Drive and adopted its present name of Memorial Presbyterian Church. The Compton Avenue building was remodeled in 1948 and now is occupied by the Washington Tabernacle Baptist Church.
The First United Presbyterian Church, founded in 1840 at Fifth and Pine Streets, occupied a church at 20th and Morgan 1873. In 1881 it organized a mission at Grand and Clark, which became the Grand Avenue United Church. It built a stone church there in 1895, which was sold to a pentecostal group in 1953 and was subsequently razed for highway improvements. Other Presbyterian churches in the area in 1875 were the Lucas Avenue Cumberland Church at Lucas and Channing, the Reformed Presbyterian at 21st and Gamble and the High Street Church at High (23rd) and Clark Avenue.
A prominent church in Stoddard's Addition was the Second Baptist which occupied a large stone edifice at the northwest corner of Locust and Beaumont from 1872 to 1907, when it moved to Kingshighway and Washington. Protestant Episcopal churches were well represented in the Midtown area for many years.
St. George's church dates from 1,845", when its first pastor was the former head of the defunct kemper College, Rev. E.C. Hutchinson. After meeting at various downtown locations for two years, a church was built on Locust Street west of Seventh in 1847. This was used until 1873 when a chapel was erected on the northwest corner of Beaumont and Chestnut Streets.
In 1874, a large stone church was occupied at the new site. Erected at a cost of $115,000 the structure was cruciform in shape and had a spire 145 feet in height. This building was destroyed by fire in March, 1891 and services were held at Mahler's Dancing Academy, on Olive east of Grand, until 1892, when a new church was opened at Olive and Pendleton. In 1928, St. George's Church merged with St. Michael's and moved to the latter's location on Wydown Boulevard in Clayton.
Trinity Episcopal Church was a mission of St. George's Church and was organized in 1855. The members met in rented halls until they occupied their own building on the northwest corner of Eleventh and Washington in 1861. This was destroyed by fire in 1865, but was immediately rebuilt. About 1883, Trinity Church moved to Channing and Franklin Avenues, remaining there until 1910 when it purchased a church building at 4005 Washington.
The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion was organized in 1865 as a mission Sunday school of Trinity Church. The membership met in a brick house on Morqan Street near Garrison Avenue. In 1869, a lot was purchased on Washington and Ewing, which was later exchanged for one at the northwest corner of Leffingwell and Washington, where in 1870. A new church at that site was opened for worship in 1877 and in later years became a center for social services. The church followed its members west in 1938 to a chapel at Delmar Boulevard and Jackson Avenue in University City.
St. Peter's Episcopal mission was founded in 1868 by Christ Church in a former skating rink hall on Olive Street near Compton Avenue. In 1872, it became a part of St. Peter's parish which was founded by Rev. Edward F. Berkley. The new church's first place of worship was in a hall at the northeast corner of Jefferson and Olive. This was used until a stone chapel was finished in 1873 at the rear of a lot at the northeast corner of Grand and Olive. This lot had been purchased a year previously for $150 per front foot.
Plans to erect a church there had to be abandoned because of the financial panic of 1876. In 1891, plans to move the church to Sarah and Westminster were abandoned when it was found that St. George's Church planned to build nearby. A lot at the southeast corner of Lindell Boulevard and Spring Avenue was obtained and a handsome Tudor Gothic stone church was completed in December, 1893. The church became debt free and was consecrated by Bishop Tuttle in 1919. The congregation remained at the Lindell location until 1949 when it moved to its present Colonial design church at Ladue and Watson Roads in Ladue.
After its members sold their old church at Ninth and Olive streets in 1872, the Unitarian Church of the Messiah met in various quarters until December, 1880 when they moved into their new unfinished church on the northeast corner of Locust Street and Garrison Avenue. One year later, the limestone English Gothic style edifice was completed at a cost of $109,000. Situated on a natural plateau, the church's 142 foot stone spire became a neighborhood landmark. By 1907, the increasingly commercial character of the Locust Street location made another westward move necessary. The church relocated in a new building on the northeast corner of Union Boulevard and Enright Avenue.
Christian Science began to attract attention in St. Louis in March, 1889, when a newspaper article described its healing practices. A small group held meetings in private homes until early in 1891, when it began holding services in Addington Hall at 1700 Olive Street.
Formal organization was achieved in 1894 when the group became known as the First Church of Christ, Scientist in St. Louis. Meetings were held at the Beethoven Conservatory at 1603 Olive Street until a small church building on Pine Street east of Leffingwell was completed and dedicated free of debt in November, 1895. The $32,000 structure could seat 350 and was the first Christian Science Church in Missouri. In 1872, the church outgrew its building and services were held in the Odeon Theatre until the new church on Kingshighway and Westminster was opened in 1904.
The New Jerusalem Society, also known as Swedenborgians, which dated back to 1842 in St. Louis, occupied a chapel on Lucas near Ewing from 1878 to 1891 when they moved to a church at North Spring Avenue.
The St. Louis Ethical Society was organized in 1886 by Walter L. Sheldon and James Taussig. Philanthropic work began in 1888 when free reading rooms and a kindergarten were opened. A Self-Culture Hall was established at 18th and Wash Streets and in 1895, the Sunday Ethical School was started. Activities were temporarily suspended by the death of Mr. Sheldon in 1907. The Sheldon Memorial Hall at 3648 Washington was dedicated in 1912 from plans by Louis C. Spiering. It was known for its fine acoustics. The Society moved to St. Louis County in 1964.
St. John's Mercy Medical Center had its origin from an infirmary conducted by the Sisters of Mercy at Tenth and Morgan Streets. When the infirmary moved to a larger building at the southeast corner of 22nd and Morgan Streets in 1871, it became a general hospital named St. John's. Addition wings were added and by 1882, it had a capacity of 150 patients. Its medical service was provided by the nearby Missouri Medical College at 22nd and Lucas. Outgrowing its quarters, the hospital relocated in 1890 at 23rd and Locust Streets, where it remained until 1912. In that year it moved to a much larger building at 307 South Euclid Avenue. It is now located at Ballas and Conway Roads in St. Louis County.
Another hospital which was located in the area was St. Luke's which occupied a building on the northeast corner of 20th Street and Washington Avenue from 1882 to 1904. St. Luke's Association was formed under the auspices of the Episcopal Church in 1866. A building was erected at 13th and Lami Streets, where the hospital was located until 1870 when a move was made to Sixth and Elm Streets. In June, 1873 the hospital moved to a building on the north side of Pine Street near Tenth. By 1874, the institution was debt free and efforts were underway to construct an adequate hospital building. A lot on the northeast corner of 20th Street and Washington Avenue was donated by Henry Shaw and the $41,000 building designed by Barnett and Taylor, was dedicated in May, 1882. In 1899, a training school for nurses was opened and in April, 1904, the hospital relocated to its first building on the present site at 5535 Delmar Boulevard.
The Barnard Free Skin and Cancer Hospital was organized in 1905 under a trust fund established by George D. Barnard. In 1910, a four story building was completed at 3427 Washington Boulevard. It had a capacity of 42 patients. By a vote of its board of directors in 1948, the hospital affiliated with Barnes Hospital following the withdrawal of its laboratory staff to the Washington University Medical School. The merger was approved by a court decision in 1951, after which a new building for the hospital was included in the Barnes complex. The old building is now used by Father Dempsey's Charities as a hotel for indigent men.
The Roman Catholic House of the Good Shepherd occupied a large convent and home for women, on a block donated by Ann Lucas Hunt, from 1852 to 1895. The building bounded by 17th, 18th, Pine and Chestnut Streets also housed the City Hospital for some years after the 1896 tornado. The 18th Street garage is now located there. City Hospital No. 2 was located at 2945 Lawton Boulevard until Homer G. Phillips Hospital was opened in 1938. The Lawton Building formerly housed the old Barnes Medical College and Centenary Hospital.
Among other Catholic institutions in the area was the Loretto Convent and Academy which was located on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Pine in 1875. In 1865, the parish of St. Nicholas was organized and located its church at the northeast corner of 19th and Lucas. It is now located at the northwest corner of 18th and Lucas and is adjoined by a school and community center building which was constructed in 1960.
Worthy of note architecturally is the house at 3630 Grandel Square, which was designed by the architect Henry Hobson Richardson in the late 1880's. Although considerably altered, it still shows the style for which Richardson is well known.
At 3720 Washington is the Beaumont Medical Building named for William Beaumont, early St. Louis army surgeon. The building was erected in 1927 from plans by LaBeaume and Klein, St. Louis architects. Washington and Delmar, east of Vandeventer, have been changing in character for many years from the elegant mansions of yesteryear to the existing blend of commercial and light industrial uses.
The Midtown area is primarily commercial and institutional in character, the residential uses being mostly within the Mill Creek area, which was cleared of slums in the 1950's. In addition to the expanded campus of St. Louis University, Mill Creek contains the Laclede Town row houses development, Operation Breakthrough and Grand Towers apartments and the Teamsters Union's Council Plaza project. The latter houses retirees and includes ancillary facilities for their convenience as well as headquarters for the Union. Also within Mill Creek are a newly developed light industrial commercial section south of Market Street, a commercial area on Jefferson Avenue and the Rodeway Inn, Holiday Inn hotels and the Heritage House apartment building.
North of Olive Street, the principal new structure is the Bell Telephone long lines building at 2651 Olive Street. A new bank building for Jefferson Bank occupies the former site of Uhrig's Cave and the old Coliseum convention center.
South of the Mill Creek area is the vast right-of-way of the Daniel Boone Expressway and still further south are the railroad yards and an industrial-commercial area along Chouteau Avenue. Between Chouteau and Park Avenues much demolition has occurred in a deteriorating residential area.
Mill Creek's clearance area is bounded on the north by an aging commercial section along the east-west streets such as Locust, which was the City's "Automobile Row" about fifty years ago, most of the new car showrooms were concentrated along it until the 1930's. Olive Street, which was widened from 60 to 100 feet in 1926-27, contains a mixture of uses, mainly commercial. An outstanding feature is the Berea Presbyterian Church at 3010 Olive, an old church which has enjoyed a renewal of activity because of new Mill Creek housing. Washington Boulevard, which was widened from Jefferson to Grand in 1921, is principally commercial with a few churches scattered along its length. The cut-off at Grand was built as part of the widening, furnishing It I % Midtown with a much needed park space. Delmar, which was widened as a 1923 bond issue project, and Lucas Avenue retain some residential in rooming houses and converted apartments mixed with commercial and light industrial uses. Grandel Square, formerly Delmar west of Grand, was created by the Delmar widening project. Delmar, east of Grand, was formerly Morgan Street.
Earliest transit lines in the Midtown area were horse car operations on Olive Street and Washington Avenue. The Missouri Railroad Company ran out Olive Street to Grand by 1864, and in 1925 1867, the Lindell Railway Company line followed Washington west to Theresa, thence to Lucas, Grand and Delmar to Vandeventer, looping back to Grand near Finney Avenue.
The first line to operate on Grand was the Citizens Railway Company with a line running out Franklin and Easton Avenues to Grand and thence northward to the Fairgrounds in 1864. Three years later, the Grand Avenue Railway Company built a line on Grand from the old water tower south to Meramec and Virginia. In 1892, this Grand Avenue line was electrified. Electric car operations on Grand were ended in 1960 when the old Grand Avenue viaduct was demolished and buses were substituted for the street cars.
A crosstown electric car line was constructed on Vandeventer Avenue from Natural Bridge Road to Manchester Avenue in 1892 and in 1893 the line on Sarah Street was built from Manchester northward to the Suburban tracks.
The St. Louis and Suburban Railway, which was absorbed into the city-wide United Railways system in 1907, was originally opened in October, 1878, as a narrow gauge steam railroad to Florissant, named the West End Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Its St. Louis terminus was on Grand Avenue north of olive Street, where its depot was reached by a long wooden ramp. The rolling stock consisted of a small locomotive and several small coaches with reversible red plus seats. The line, which was founded by Erastus Wells and James Page, followed a circuitous sixteen mile route through Wellston, Jennings, Normandy, Carsonville and Kinloch. It made four round trips daily to serve the country estates of the landed gentry in north St. Louis County.
After a re-organization in 1884, the line's terminus was relocated at Vandeventer and Enright Avenues to meet the western end of the cable line from downtown. After going bankrupt, in 1889, the combined cable and steam line was purchased by local interests and renamed as the St. Louis and Suburban. By 1892, the line had been completely converted to electric trolley power from downtown to Florissant.
In 1899, most of the various independent car lines in the city were merged into the area-wide system of the United Railways Company, predecessor of the old St. Louis Public Service Company. Beginning in the mid-1930's, all of the street car routes were supplanted by buses, the last being the Hodiamont line, which followed the old Suburban tracks, in 1966.
In the Mill Creek clearance area the population has increased considerably since 1960, but is still much lower than that of the previous slum area. The previous preponderance of low-income blacks has been replaced by a well balanced ethnic mixture.
Population of the balance of the Midtown area has experienced a drop because of the demolition of many dwelling units. It still has a largely black population.
Despite the loss of the University Club, there is currently an optimistic atmosphere in the area because of a new state office building which is to be built near Grand and olive.
St. Louis University continues to exert a beneficial influence on its surroundings as an economic anchor for Midtown. The City has purchased the Missouri Theatre Building for offices of its Health Division and Seminex Seminary has recently taken over several floors in the old University Club Building. Refurbished Powell Hall and the Cochran Veterans Hospital, on the former site of Vandeventer Place, maintain a similar influence on the northern end of the Grand Avenue Midtown sector that the University does at the southern end. Occupancy for the Continental Building and implementation of the City Center concept could well swing the area into a resurgence of its former important force in the City.
In 1978, the Midtown Area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AGENCY