Mid-Century Modern National Register PRO Projects Shaw

Thurman Station: Where It All Began For Me

by Dave Brownell

The National Park Service placed “Thurman Station,” the former Standard Oil station at Thurman and Cleveland avenues in Shaw, in the National Register of Historic Places on July 23. Preservation Research Office prepared the building’s nomination for new owners who are converting the building into the home of The Social Affair, a catering business, small market and cooking class facility. Literally as soon as listing was official, crews were at work converting this long-vacant neighborhood into a active part of Shaw’s economic life. We received this article while awaiting listing.


When friends visiting from St. Louis brought this internet article to my attention, my thoughts quickly turned into a little reminiscing:

This relic of a Standard Oil station turns out to be the very place, fifty-two years ago, where I grew from being a Car Fan into a Car Guy. From my sixteenth birthday until I qualified for a commercial driver’s license at eighteen, this is the place where the boy became a man. And reading and reflecting on the renewal plans in 2013 is when the man becomes a boy once again.

This corner gas station is where my father (and much of the surrounding Shaw neighbors) would drive a car for a weekly “two Dollars, Regular” experience in buying gasoline. In the late fifties, bars and taverns outnumbered gas stations three to one, so there wasn’t a lot of competition nearby. John Wolf, a very young looking Korean War veteran, was the station’s proprietor. John noticed that Pop’s cars were almost always very clean. He asked how my father managed it and was told “the Kid does it, mostly without asking.” John mentioned that he could use such a talent around the station, especially on Friday afternoons and Saturdays, when there were too many customers who wanted their cars washed and serviced in time for the weekend. Pop told me to go down and make official what I had been doing for our neighbors for several years, saying that I might even dare to ask for a dollar an hour, a big jump from the seventy-five cents I got for washing and sweep out a neighbor’s car. A dozen or so of these folks had trusted me with their cars and keys, beginning about age fourteen, to keep their cars clean, so here was my chance to enter into the big time as a professional.

John Wolf hired me that summer afternoon and my education began the very next morning. He showed me how to quickly and efficiently wash a customer’s car, starting with a hose at the roof, working down, with the wheels done last with a separate sponge. Five minutes per car was his goal and maybe an hour for “Simonizing” if the sun was not too hot and direct. I clearly remember that first “professional” car wash was a new 1960 Chevy Impala 409 hardtop with a four-speed. The crew-cutted owner watched me carefully position his treasure without stalling it before cleaning its new white paint back to a factory shine. This guy, with his beautiful car, continued to became a weekly wash customer, so I must have done well while under intense observation from both client and boss.

Within the first few days John taught me how to “count up” change, deal with the new Addressograph credit card imprinter, handle the cash register, pump gas, check oil and tire pressure without prompting, and sell a new set of Anco wiper blades or Atlas tires to those who needed it. Teaching me how to measure the underground gas tanks with a long wooden pole and then reconciling fuel delivery amounts took a bit of patience. A week later I was putting cars on one of the two lifts, changing oil, sucking oil out of Chevy canister filters, and pumping grease into several dozen fittings on the average car. All of this had to be done with a smile and more than a bit of hustle. On slow days, I did things like painting the curbing with white paint and every Saturday night, before the station was finally closed for the weekend, the lube bays were scrubbed and mopped clean for a Monday opening. John entrusted me with the keys to his 1940 Ford coupe “parts car” and the International tow truck that seemed to hate me and anyone but John on its first attempt to start each day. Ever resourceful and frugal, John developed a system where we’d drain the last drops from the emptied fiber oil cans, eventually collecting a stew of fresh oil, enough to give us a “free” oil change for each of our personal and station vehicles every month!

A few weeks before my summer vacation job was to come to an end, John trusted me enough to be left in charge while he took a week’s vacation with his family. Little did I know that his former boss, who had trained him in much the same way at about the same age, had been asked to drive by or stop in, posing as an customer, just to see how I was doing. Apparently, I did just fine because my job was extended almost another year as after-school work.

If this station someday makes it onto a list or historical registry, it will represent, for me, a personal landmark for kind and patient mentoring. John Wolf was among the youngest children from a baker with a large (17?) family and shop less than a block away. By being among the youngest, he must have learned the value of instructing and encouraging someone younger and did it very effectively. These days, all of my five children have picked up a treasure of automotive tips learned at this station. Passing on some of the automotive and interpersonal skills I picked up that year is perhaps the best way a Car Guy knows how to say thank you.

Dave Brownell ( is president of the Corvette Club of Atlanta, Georgia.

Edwardsville, Illinois Metro East National Register PRO Projects

Surveying Edwardsville’s Historic Leclaire Neighborhood

by Laura Jablonski

Edwardsville’s Leclaire neighborhood began in 1890 as a collaborative living experiment and soon became a model of sustained working class success. St. Louis manufacturer N.O. Nelson built his factories in the Leclaire area, constructing quaint cottages and houses near them to draw employees and their families. Homes were fully equipped with electricity, running water, and green lawns, while the brick factories were innovative and efficient. Respected and treated well, workers were offered pension among other benefits. The combination fostered a pleasant lifestyle both in and outside the workplace. A baseball diamond, bowling alley, a lake for boating, as well as community buildings for school, clubs, and concerts were free to all Leclaire residents.

One Leclaire’s historic houses.

Nelson’s Leclaire project set the national standard in working class dignity. Ensuring an enjoyable work and home life encouraged care for the whole person. Nelson’s premise is simple: Happy, fulfilled people are the solution to labor conflict. Those who can both provide for their families and enjoy their work can more fully contribute to a thriving community. And so Leclaire thrived: families flourished and businesses blossomed as Nelson’s formula for collaborative living saw continued harmony.

This summer, Preservation Research Office will be conducting the first-ever architectural survey of Leclaire. Our work comes at the request of the Edwardsville Historic Preservation Commission. PRO also will update and rewrite the district’s existing National Register of Historic Place’s nomination, create an inventory clearly identifying which buildings do or do not contribute to the area’s architectural or social significance, and identify the style of each building in order to determine the appropriate design work needed. The project is made possible through a grant from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Laura Jablonski, a marketing and social entrepreneurship major at Creighton University, is serving as an intern at PRO this summer.

Collapse JeffVanderLou National Register

Preserving Tillie’s Corner in JeffVanderLou

by Emily Kozlowski

Tillie's Corner in 2008.

The three brick townhouses of 1349-1353 N. Garrison Ave. were once a staple of the neighborhood, as the community grocery store named Tillie’s Corner. Lillie Pearson, known as “Miss Tillie”, bought the first building in 1948 and operated a successful business there for 40 years. Her long-lived business is a testament to Lillie herself, as a single mother and an African American woman in a severely segregated city. The townhouses are historic links to the migration of African Americans from the south to northern urban centers, to a business owned and operated by an African American woman, and to the community center for which the store is essentially remembered (hours 5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.).

The Late Victorian style townhouses of Tillie’s Corner were built in 1870 in the residential neighborhood of Jeff-VanderLou. Three stories tall and with three separate store fronts added in the 1920’s, they were built with home and business in mind. Lillie opened shop after the sudden death of her husband left her with the children to support on her own. Her shop was her way of supporting her family and being a part of the community. The confectionery thrived from the neighboring Dunbar Elementary School and local homeowners. Lillie devotedly kept daily hours that were much longer than any large grocer, allowing for those without transportation to stop by after work. Her hours extended to years, and the shop was running for a remarkable four decades. Lillie can be considered an activist in community building, as she stayed at the exact same address through years of increasing crime and urban decline. She offered a stable business to meet the needs of her neighborhood instead of abandoning it. After 40 years, only when she was physically unable to operate the business, did she close Tillie’s Corner.

Tillie's Corner after partial collapse on August 26, 2012.

Carla Pearson and Miguel Alexander, heirs of Tillie’s Corner, have high hopes for the future. Not only do they look to preserve the buildings, but plan on using them as a center for care-giving to the elderly and disabled. Tillie’s Corner is currently in the process of being listed in the National register of Historic Places (thanks to students in Dr. Sonia Lee’s Washington university history courses, with pro bono assistance from Karen Bode Baxter). The problem, now, is restoring the buildings to their history glory. They have deteriorated and weathered over time; recently, a side of the building collapsed due to heavy rain. The buildings can be saved but time is the crucial factor. Help preserve a part of St. Louis and African American history by donating or spreading the story. Carla and Miguel can be contacted at (314) 495-3686 or

Emily Kozlowski, an art history major at Webster University, is currently a Research Intern at Preservation Research Office.

Midtown National Register PRO Projects

Central States Life Insurance Company Building Listed in the National Register, Headed for Rehabilitation

by Lindsey Derrington

Many may know the Mission Revival style building at 3207 Washington Avenue by one of its string of tenants over the past forty years, from the St. Louis Conservatory and School for the Arts (1970s-1990), to the Midtown Arts Center (1991-2000), to a series of nightclubs including the Kastle, Dreams, and Club TV (2002-2008). But whether you attended a poetry reading in its atrium, got down to hip hop on its balconies, or just drove by wondering what this whimsical, seemingly out-of-place building was doing there, you will be pleased to know that it is entering into its next phase of life with a dedicated new owner and a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Central States Life Insurance Company Building at 3207 Washington (1921; Tom P. Barnett Co, architects).

The Preservation Research Office prepared the building’s nomination to the National Register for Chameleon Integrated Services, a Saint Louis-based IT firm established in 2002 and currently located in Lafayette Square. The company purchased the building earlier this year for its new headquarters, and is pursuing a $2 million rehabilitation of the property using state and federal historic tax credits. After many decades the project will return the building to its somewhat surprising use: offices.

Detail hot of the Bedford limestone surrounds of the entrance and magnificante quatrefoil window.

Designed by St. Louis’ own Tom P. Barnett, the building was completed in 1921 as the $140,000 headquarters of the Central States Life Insurance Company. Established in 1909, Central States was a small local firm with big aspirations, aggressively expanding its policy coverage throughout the West and Southwest in under a decade. The company’s decision to build on Washington Avenue just west of Compton was unusual at a time when virtually all of the city’s insurance firms were located downtown, yet this stretch of the recently-widened thoroughfare was then projected to become the “Fifth Avenue of St. Louis,” a modern, upscale commercial district to match those in Chicago and New York. The building’s Mission Revival design, with its bell tower, heavy trussed roof, Conquistador stained glass window, and Spanish Baroque terra cotta detailing, embodied Central States’ ambitions and stylistically identified the company with the region it sought to dominate.

The stained glass window depicting a conquistador.

Central States was the first major enterprise to invest on Washington Avenue between Jefferson and Grand, but unfortunately the promise and hope of Washington Avenue as a future “World Famous Street” quickly fizzled. Its impressive new headquarters was soon surrounded by boarding houses and automobile-related industries, and Central States abandoned the building in 1928. From then on it housed dozens of tenants over the ensuing decades, bringing us back to the present.

The vaulted atrium anchors the building's interior.

PRO couldn’t be happier to have a been a part of this project; not only will Chameleon rehab the Central States Building for its new headquarters, but the company has leased its parking lot to its western neighbor, the Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, for the brewery’s new biergarten. This project illustrates the best in what historic tax credits can do for local communities by facilitating development in long-dormant neighborhoods, stimulating small-business growth in the city, and, of course, bringing new life to our long-vacant architectural gems.

For more on the Central States Life Insurance Building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 25, 2012, read on.

Central States Life Insurance Company Building

Forest Park Southeast Local Historic District National Register Soulard

Forest Park Southeast and the Human Scale

by Michael R. Allen

In the last few months, two project proposals — one for an apartment complex at Taylor and Chouteau and another for a vague commercial development along Kingshighway — in Forest Park Southeast have emerged which are both grossly out of scale and character with the historic architectural character of the neighborhood. These projects exhibit deficiencies in consideration of scale, ratio of surface parking to building footprints, form and materiality. Together, these projects would overwhelm the accumulated urbanity of Forest Park Southeast with the fly-by-night aesthetics of American suburbia. After all, good urbanism needs more than development and density to thrive — it requires beauty and the human scale.

Not right for a dense historic neighborhood. Tate Homes' Hanley Station.
National Register North St. Louis O'Fallon Uncategorized

O’Fallon Park Historic District Nominated to National Register of Historic Places

Today the St. Louis Preservation Board will consider recommending approval of the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the O’Fallon Park Historic District. This meeting is the first step toward listing the historic neighborhood in the National Register. After today, the nomination heads to the biggest step: consideration by the Missouri Advisory Council of Historic Preservation at its next public meeting on August 17.

View O’Fallon Park Historic District in a larger map

If the Advisory Council approves the nomination, it will be sent to the National Park Service for final listing. Depending on the length of that consideration, the O’Fallon Park Historic District might be listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the end of October. State and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits would be available immediately.

National Register South St. Louis Southwest Garden

Introducing the Shaw’s Garden Historic District

South city’s newest National Register of Historic Places historic district is the Shaw’s Garden Historic District in Southwest Garden, listed by the National Park Service on April 16. The listing follows the listing of the adjacent Reber Place Historic District on the west side of Kingshighway, and makes a large part of Southwest Garden eligible for historic rehabilitation tax credits. even before listing was completed, developers already starting trying to purchase buildings in the districts for tax credit projects!

The Craftsman style is prevalent in the District, as evinced by these two-family buildings in the 4500 block of Shenandoah Avenue.

The Southwest Garden Neighborhood Association, with Community Development Block Grant funding allocated by Alderman Steve Conway (D-8th), hired Preservation Research Office to prepare both nominations. PRO Director Michael R. Allen and Architectural Historian Lynn Josse prepared the Shaw’s Garden Historic District nomination, which encompasses 18 city blocks and 403 contributing primary buildings.

View Shaw’s Garden Historic District in a larger map

The Shaw’s Garden Historic District represents the fulfillment of the desire of the Missouri Botanical Garden under Director George T. Moore to improve its surroundings through subdivision of property bequeathed to the Garden in the will of Henry Shaw, and the clear vision of suburban development advanced by the Garden’s long-time landscape architect John Noyes. The resulting landscape is a rare realization within the city limits of progressive suburban planning ideals implemented in contemporary landscapes in St. Louis County. An earlier subdivision, the Tower Grove Park Addition (1870), was largely undeveloped when the Garden platted the Shaw’s Vandeventer Avenue Addition north of Shaw Avenue in 1916.

The Tudor Revival-style house at 2605 Alfred Avenue, built in 1923 and designed by Sol Abrahms, faces the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Central West End National Register

Carriage Factory, to Dealership, to Beer Truck Garage, to Bumper Shop

by Michael R. Allen

The original factory building from 1908 shows masonry details underneath the layers of paint.

As buildings go, the former Scudder Motor Truck Company Building at 3942-62 Laclede Avenue is not particularly lovely, or very well-known. No matter, because the building’s transition from the last days of carriage production to the St. Louis’ early and roaring automobile age has earned it a place in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service listed the Scudder building on April 24. Preservation Research Office prepared the nomination for the building’s owners, F H & C LLC.

The Scudder Motor Truck Company Building significant for its commercial history and association with transitions in the local automobile industry. The building meets the registration requirements for Property Type: Automotive Dealerships and Retail Businesses and for the Property Type: Service Stations established in the Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF) Historic Auto-Related Resources of St. Louis, Missouri. (An MPDF allows for buildings that support broader contexts to received National Register listing when they would be ineligible on their own. Such is the case here.) Carriage-related buildings adapted to serve the automobile age are rare in St. Louis, but the nominated building made that transition and continues to be in use by an automobile-related enterprise.

Looking southwest at the building.

In 1908, the Haase-Bohle Carriage Company built a new carriage factory at 3958-62 Laclede Avenue (listed permit address) designed by the architectural firm of Mathews & Clarke. The Haase-Bohle Carriage Company was then located at Eighteenth and Pine streets downtown and the company and its predecessor McCall & Haase Carriage Company had been manufacturing carriages since the 1870s. In 1908, Charles Haase was president and Frank G. Bohle was vice president. The company’s new plant was favorably reported in The Carriage Monthly‘s November 1908 issue. The journal reported that Haase-Bohle would build “a large and modern factory, on an admirable site” and that the building “will have excellent shipping facilities, and all modern conveniences for the handling of goods.”

Advertisement from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1920.

In 1918, the Scudder Motor Truck Company, a dealer of Service brand delivery and fleet trucks moved into the building. The company operated a dealership and repair shop, and lured co-tenants offering related services for both Service and other types of trucks. W.L. Armstrong’s tire shop is shown at this address in a 1919 advertisement, and the Local Auto Paint Company appears at the address in city directories from 1923 through 1933. These businesses occupied the building simultaneously, and may have had financial interconnections. At the least, their services all would have appealed to clients that owned delivery trucks.

The Scudder Motor Truck Company sold and provided repair services to delivery trucks, and frequently took out illustrated advertisements in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. These advertisements feature images of Service delivery trucks and the brand name “Service” emblazoned diagonally. That brand was the trademark of the Service Motor Truck Company of Wabash, Indiana, which manufactured delivery and repair trucks for industrial buyers.

Scudder occupied the building as a truck dealership and service shop, a tire shop and an automobile painting shop through 1937. From that year through 1952, the Falstaff Brewing Company used the building as a garage and maintenance shop for its delivery fleet. The period of significance begins when the Scudder Motor Truck Company opened its dealership in the building and ends in 1952 when the Falstaff garage closed. In 1958, Bumper and Auto Processing of Missouri occupied the building as a shop for processing and re-plating of automobile bumpers. That use, under current tenant United Automotive Products, Inc., continues to this day.

Text adapted from the National Register of Historic Places nomination. Read the full text here.

National Register South St. Louis Southwest Garden

Reber Place Historic District Listed in National Register

Looking west through Tower Grove Park's Kingshighway entrance, which aligns with Reber Place.

On March 12, the National Park Service placed the Reber Place Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places. Lynn Josse and Michael R. Allen of Preservation Research Office prepared the nomination for the new historic district, located just west of Tower Grove Park. The Southwest Garden Neighborhood Association commissioned the nomination using funding provided by Alderman Steve Conway (D-8th). The project also includes a nomination of a second area in the Southwest Garden neighborhood west and north of the Missouri Botanical Garden. That area is nominated as the Shaw’s Garden Historic District, and final listing is pending.

View Reber Place Historic District in a larger map

Reber Place reflects both the ambitious aspirations of its founders and a series later development patterns based on streetcar access, the presence of industry, and the rise of the builder-developer as a key force in the landscape of middle-class St. Louis. This six-block area, tightly confined between Tower Grove Park and the Oak Hill and Carondelet Railroad, has significant associations with patterns of residential planning usually seen in the successful private places of St. Louis, with rail-oriented suburban development, and with later typical patterns associated with the rise of the builder-developer and the streetcar grid.

Houses in the 4900 block of Odell Avenue.
Washington University architecture professor Austin Fitch designed his family's residence at 4943 Reber Place (1930).

Development began in 1885, when the first contributing feature (Reber Place’s defining central median) was created, and ends in 1957, when the neighborhood’s major institution, Holy Innocents Parish, completed its building program. With the exception of commercial intrusions and parking lots at the northeast and southeast lots of the district, Reber Place is exceptionally intact.

The house at 2721 S. Kingshighway, built in 1889 by F.C. Mueller & Bro.

Margaret Reber platted Reber Place in 1885 on two tracts of land that she had owned with her husband, Judge Samuel Reber. Judge Reber was known in St. Louis as a circuit court judge of good judgment and mild temper. He wrote the well-known (and controversial) majority opinion upholding Missouri’s anti-Confederate test oath at about the same time the United States Supreme Court was striking it down.” Judge Reber died in 1879.

Read the entire text of the nomination here.

National Register North St. Louis O'Fallon

O’Fallon Historic Districts Progressing

We are in the final stretch of the process of securing historic district status for most of the O’Fallon neighborhood. By early May, Preservation Research Office will have submitted the first of two National Register of Historic Places nominations that cover almost all of the historic neighborhood. The O’Fallon Park Historic District will encompass the areas east and south of O’Fallon Park, while the Fairground Park Historic District will encompass an area west of Fairgrounds Park south of Lee Avenue, north of Natural Bridge Avenue, west of Fair Avenue and east of Newstead Avenue.

The historic district designations are sponsored by the Acts Partnership with the assistance of Alderman Antonio D. French (D-21st). Work began last February on a 1,796-building survey that had led to the two historic district nominations currently being drafted.

The decision to split the neighborhood is based on subdivision history and development patterns. The area of O’Fallon west of Fairgrounds Park was first developed after the platting of White Place in 1859, but construction was slow. Additional subdivisions were Mary E. Burson’s Subdivision (1889), Fairground Place (1910), Lucille’s Fairground Park Addition (1912) and several others. Most of the building stock there dates to between 1910 and 1940, somewhat later than the northern part of O’Fallon that started development in the 1890s and largely built out by 1930. Like the northern part of the neighborhood, the area is remarkably intact. Here are a few photographs.

There is a row of castellated two-flats on the east side of the 4100 block of Harris Avenue.
The 4100 block of Kossuth Avenue is on the north side of Fairgrounds Park.