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Abandonment North St. Louis

Cotton Belt Freight Depot: RFT’s Best Old Building

Looking south down the side of the Cotton Belt Freight Depot.

The Riverfront Times occasionally slips in a “Best Old Building” among its annual “bests.” This year, to our delight, it is the cementitious wonder of the north riverfront, the Cotton Belt Freight Depot. The honor is timely; the city issued the building permit for the 750’ x 30’ transfer depot on October 18, 1911. The five-story warehouse cost $165,000 to build and was completed in 1913.  Currently the distinctive building awaits reuse.

5 replies on “Cotton Belt Freight Depot: RFT’s Best Old Building”

It’s a neat place and all, but I saw that article and thought they missed the mark. There are a lot of far more interesting old buildings in STL.

Realistically, off the top of my head?

1.) First step is to get rid of the homeless encampment. Done and done, if the Police Dept. gets this done when they intend to (by December 1st)
2.) Riverside park — expansive eastern wall could provide a great backdrop.
3.) Portion of the Riverfront Trail — from the south, Trail curves west to match up with the aforementioned park. Maybe you just ride through the park, maybe there’s a chance to ride through the building. From there, riders can continue north up to the Iron Horse Trestle and (hopefully) some sort of Produce Row area.
4.) Industry! Whether it’s one manufacturer or several, there is great open space in there for production. Maybe that production is artistic in nature, maybe it’s mechanical. But it was a purpose-driven building once, and dammit, it can be one again.5.) Loft apartments — first two floors go to retail/commercial; top three stories are converted into tri-level lofts. Rooftop access allowed, of course. Also, bury the surrounding power lines.6.) Urban putt-putt — An eighteen (or more!) hole indoor putt-putt course using the existing quirks and design of an industrial-use building. Go in, go out, down chutes, up freight elevators. Bar in the main hall (with a couple of play-through holes of course) and a rooftop patio overlooking the river, open for dancing, drinking, private parties, galleries, etc.That was fun. Somebody do something (and don’t you dare tear it down for a Motel 6 or Best Western because of its proximity to the new I-70 connector…) please!

Kevin, thanks for sharing your ideas.  I don’t think the depot is likely to ever be adapted to residential use.  Industry or art studio/gallery space makes more sense.  Actually, given the long floors, lack of large windows and concrete structure, the building seems ideal as for museum or art gallery use.  With the Pulitzer and Contemporary, we have seen what we can do displaying contemporary art in concrete structures.  Perhaps part of the Cotton Belt Freight Depot could be similarly utilized.

True. But “Cotton Belt Lofts” sure has a ring to it. Just imagine that name over a stylized conductor’s hand holding a pocket watch.

I’m really anxious to see the future of the north riverfront and the near north riverfront. It could be one of our biggest assets (and the driver that breaks the ‘not-past-Cass’ mentality). Hopefully, new projects like the bridge encourage exploration and re-use of the remaining building stock rather than demolition.

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