by Michael R. Allen
The brick former livery stable at the northwest corner of Locust and Josephine Baker (formerly Channing) stands out as an expressive masonry building that serves as the western anchor of the commercial district on Locust Street that is typified by a streetscape of two-story commercial buildings. West of this building are the taller, more monumental buildings of Midtown. This building’s presence eases the harshness of the transition between the two architecturally distinct areas.
R.W. Crittenden built the first section of the two-story brick Romanesque Revival livery stable in 1885, with additions in 1888 and 1889 as well as a major remodeling in 1902 by architect Otto Wilhelmi. In 19th and early 20th century St. Louis, the livery stable was a place where horse owners boarded their horses for a fee to keep their boarding away from genteel residential streets or to store their horses while they enjoyed a day in the central city. (Another related and prevalent building type was the carriage repository.)
Located on the section of Locust Street known as “Automobile Row” because of its 20th century association with automobile distributorships, dealerships and repair shops, the building’s use by the 1920s as the salesroom of the Salisbury Motor Company comes as no surprise. In recent years, the building has been used for storage, with its windows filled in and its street elevations painted white. A spate of recent historic renovation projects on Automobile Row make it a likely candidate for reuse. Apparently, there have been many suitors in recent years although St. Louis University won out when the building was for sale in 2004.
The university plans to demolish the building for parking related to its new arena located four blocks south. On May 31, 2007, St. Louis University applied for a demolition permit. The old livery stable enjoys no protection, since it lacks both official landmark status and preservation review (the 19th Ward opts out of preservation review). Alderwoman Marlene Davis (D-19th) has introduced a bill to vacate the alley between the livery stable and a parking lot to the north.
In response to the proposed demolition, Landmarks Association of St. Louis included the building on its 2007 Eleven Most Endangered Buildings List. There is much to admire in the building’s robust form, adaptable interior and articulated brickwork. Surely a better future than demolition is possible.