by Michael R. Allen
People driving down Delmar Boulevard may not known the history of the building pictured above, which is located at 4400 Delmar (southwest corner of Newstead & Delmar). With its hipped roof, almost Gothic window profiles and prominent entrance, the building may look like a church or social hall of some kind. In fact, currently the building is home to the New Tower Grove Baptist Church. Yet underneath the layer of white paint and the exotic style lies an intriguing but somewhat mundane building.
This building is the Delmar Exchange of the old Kinloch Telephone Company. At the turn of the twentieth century, St. Louis had two major telephone companies: Kinloch and Missouri Bell, which eventually secured a statewide monopoly. Kinloch served the entire city and St. Louis County; the company built four “exchanges” in the city where calls were repeated and switched to local lines. Kinloch survives as the name of a north county municipality near the airport, but little else. Kinloch’s last company headquarters stands downtown at the northwest corner of 10th and Locust streets, with its brick and terra cotta covered in a 1950s concrete skin. That building became the Farm and Home Building in the 1950s.
The architect of the repeater and switching building is Isaac Taylor, who also designed the first downtown headquarters on Seventh Street, served as chief architect of the 1904 World’s Fair and design numerous important downtown buildings. The building permit for the Delmar building dates to April 14, 1902, with the cost listed as $30,000 and Edward Steininger as contractor. A second major permit issued July 16, 1923 reports $20,000 in repairs with Southwestern Bell as the applicant and Steininger as contractor. The station had been subsumed when Bell purchased Kinloch Telephone Company earlier that year.