by Michael R. Allen
Recent discussion about development around the intersection of Seventh and Locust streets — prompted by a plan to convert St. Louis Centre into a parking garage — brings to mind one of that intersection’s lost landmarks. The Mercantile Club stood at the southwest corner of that intersection, where now there is a parking lot.
The illustration here appeared in the Northwestern Architect in December 1891, showing the successful entry by Isaac S. Taylor in the Club design competition. Completed in 1892 according to the plan shown here, Taylor’s design beat the work of other architects, including Louis Sullivan. (Had Sullivan won, Seventh Street would have been home to three of his works, with the Union Trust Building directly adjacent to the south.)
Taylor’s design clearly was influenced by the Romanesque Revival architecture of H.H. Richardson as well as the architecture French Renaissance, which favored high-pitched roofs and turrets. The base of the building was Missouri granite, with brick above punctuated with terra cotta ornament.
The site had been occupied by the town home of Henry Shaw, which was relocated to a site on Tower Grove Avenue at the Missouri Botanical Garden. In 1891, the Mercantile Club was a rising and successful group consisting largely of downtown businessmen, and the site chosen for the club home was in the heart of members’ commercial interests.
Later known as the Compton Building, the Mercantile Club fell in the early 1970s for the current surface lot.