Abandonment JeffVanderLou North St. Louis Storefront Addition

Storefront/Commercial Addition: Ted Foster & Sons Funeral Home

by Michael R. Allen

People often ask me about the history of the old, boarded-up funeral home at 1221 N. Grand near Page. This is indeed a curious old building, and it wears clearly its layers of construction history. There is the old house, built in 1895 and tucked away behind the later kinda-sorta Colonial Revival front. The front itself shows its seams, so to speak: there is the 1930s-era first floor, with the scrolled broken pediment entrance and prominent keystones. Then there is the second floor, with slightly different tapestry brick and flat-arch window openings with unmistakable post-World War II metal windows. There is a boxy northern wing and the graceful gated archway on the south, from which a funeral procession would once begin. Tying the whole thing together is a projecting gabled portico, replete with columns topped by authentic Ionic capitals with genuine volutes. There are terra cotta urns on each side of the portico up top.

This is a pretty classy hybrid building, and its history is likewise dignified. This is the former home of Ted Foster and Sons Funeral Home, which had passed its 75th year of business here when it abruptly closed in 2008. When the African-American Foster family took over the old house around 1933, this neighborhood had changed a lot. Now known as JeffVanderLou, this was then called Yeatman or Grand Prairie and the residential population had shifted to being largely African-American. As African Americans migrated to the city, the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood was overwhelmed and African-Americans began moving farther north up toward Cass Avenue.

The Foster family were entrepreneurs and ran a strong business until foreclosure in 2008. the circumstances of the closure remain vague, and the building is now empty awaiting its next life. Perhaps renewed interest in developing this part of time will be a rising tide for this curious dry-docked vessel.

9 replies on “Storefront/Commercial Addition: Ted Foster & Sons Funeral Home”

I would like more info on E.B. Koonce as well.  I’d also like to know where/if I could get my hands on the list of folks who attended my dad’s funeral in June of 1961.

My mother’s funeral was held there in September 1970. I was a baby and would like to know how or if I could get an obituary or any other information about her services. If anyone has suggestions or information please respond. Thanks in advance.

The writer has not done enough research here. This was originally the E. B. Koonce Mortuary. The company was founded by Ernest Benjamin Koonce in the 1940’s. This was once the home to one of the finest trainingu institutions for funeral directors and embalmers. Koonce was a tremendous businessesman, and at height of his success, Koonce handled over 900 funerals a year. It was Koonce who made all of the additions to this facility. Ted Foster began his career at Ellis Funeral Home, and bought this property in the ’70’s, after Koonce allowed the IRS to close his doors. The 75 years of funeral business is correct, but the history goes to KOONCE!

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