During the Victorian period, many significant government structures were constructed in St. Louis, representing a variety of Victorian architectural styles.
Second Empire Style
The Second Empire style was popularized in the United States as a result of a fascination with French culture among the educated elite in the middle 19th century. The Old Post Office, filling the city block bounded by 8th, 9th, Olive and Locust Streets was constructed over a ten year period, from 1875 to 1884. Designed by U.S. government architect Alfred Mullet, the brick and cast iron building is an important example of cast iron Second Empire design, which was used in numerous Federal government court and custom houses during the last quarter of the 19th century. The building's most imposing feature is the high curved mansard roof of the projecting center bay on the Olive Street elevation. Windows are arranged in a hierarchical pattern: segmentally arched on the second story, pedimented on the third and round arched at the top. The building is articulated with a wealth of detailing, including a sculptural group by Daniel Chester French.
St. Louis City Hall, at the corner of 12th and Market Streets was constructed between 1892 and 1904. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Eckel and Mann, from St. Joseph, Missouri, and is a traditional representation of Renaissance Revival.
Inspired by the Hotel de Ville in France (Paris City Hall), the building is an open rectangle with interior light court. The ground story is constructed of dressed pink granite, the upper stories of yellow brick and sandstone. City Hall has three articulated street facades; the primary facade on Tucker Boulevard has a projecting central bay containing paired entrances recessed beneath compound arches. An arcade of granite columns with pillow capitals flanks the entry. A variety of dormers and towers pierce the high-pitched tile roof. (Several additional towers, including a two-story clock tower, were removed in 1934.) The four-story rotunda on the interior of the building has a marble double staircase and open balconies at each floor.
Richardsonian Romanesque Style
Richardsonian Romanesque architecture was also found in government structures and was especially popular for police stations in the Victorian period: the obvious masculinity of this style was appropriate to an image of authority and strength. The former 7th District Police Station, constructed at 2300 S. Grand Avenue around the turn of the century, is a typical example. The heavy arched, rough-cut stone entry, at the northwest corner of the front facade, is the major decorative element; the rest of the facades are simply articulated. Windows have rectangular sandstone lintels; a narrow band of corbelling is set at the parapet, which is interrupted by a low mansard roof, with a center arched dormer. The original police stable is located to the right.
The former Fire House No. 26, at 2100 N. Second Street, also reflects Richardsonian influence. Constructed in 1887, the building has a high-pitched hipped roof and semi-circular projecting bay, containing an entry recessed beneath a round, rough-faced sandstone arch. The larger entry for fire wagons is also semi-circular, and surrounded by heavy, cut brick molding.
Other Government Buildings
The first block laid out by Laclède in 1764 was intended as the town square, for meetings of the militia and public gatherings. It also contained St. Louis' first public market, where farmers and other vendors displayed and sold their goods. We know little about this first market building, other than by 1827 it was considered too small and replaced two years later by a much larger structure, that also accommodated the first City Hall. (St. Louis had received a town charter in 1823, but had only limited taxing authority, drastically curtailing the scope of public improvements.) As the City's size increased, additional markets were constructed, further from the center of town. One of the oldest remaining public markets is the Reservoir Market, at 2616 North 22nd Street, from about 1865. The two-story building has a tall gable front facing the street, divided into three bays by shallow recessed arches, a motif that continues on both secondary facades. Each arch contains a segmental arched window at both stories. Simple corbelling outlines gable and parapets. The building is used today by a local industry.