Ash Pit, Adelaide Avenue

by Michael R. Allen

Amid our ongoing architectural survey of the city’s O’Fallon neighborhood, we came across an amazing ash pit adjacent to the garage behind the house at 1458 Adelaide Avenue. Due to the convergence of Adelaide and Warne avenues, the garage actually faces Warne across the street from the Mt. Grace Convent, better known as the home of the “Pink Sisters”.

Ash pits were a common part of the residential landscapes of the 19th and early 20th century city. These boxes, sometimes open on the alley-facing or rear side, contained the ash created by residents’ burning their trash and cleaning their fireplaces of coal ash. Smoke regulations passed in 1940 by the Board of Aldermen essentially ended residential trash burning and the use of cheap, soft coal for household fuel. Thus, the ash pit was no longer used and many have disappeared from the city’s alleys. Some, like the one here, remain. This one is particularly well-built in red brick matching the garage as well as concrete coping.  (A side note: Check out the neat corner bond on the garage itself; the rear wall follows the diagonal street, so the garage does not have square corners at Warne.)

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  • http://marketingurbanism.blogspot.com Jason Stokes

    Very cool. We have several ash pits on our block as well, including a great one next door to me. Alley behind the 6600 block of Winnebago.

    I’m always interested when I see company names or other info stamped into the ash pit. One of those touches that would never happen anymore.

  • BC

    Thank you for this bit of history! I could never figure out what those sturdy boxes in some alleys were used for.

  • Amy_in_StL

    When I lived in Des Moines, IA I had an ashpit that I found while digging up a rock garden at the back fence. It was brick with a solid concrete pad underneath so I left it and put in a birdbath.

  • Anonymous

    Good point! I’d love to see the ash pit in your alley. I’ll have to make a trip.

  • DG

    That’s really cool — there are several in alleys here in Southampton and nobody knew what they were for.