by Michael R. Allen
The spirit of John Mauran might be pleased to float down Washington Avenue nowadays. With demolition of the St. Louis Centre skybridge comes the first clear view of the Washington Avenue elevation of the building that originally housed Stix Baer and Fuller Company’s Grand-Leader Department Store. Mauran’s firm of Mauran, Russell & Garden designed the eight-story eastern section, built in 1906. The successor firm Mauran Russell & Crowell designed the nearly-identically-articulated ten-story western section, completed in 1919.
The firm’s later incarnation of Russell, Mullgardt & Schwarz designed a contrasting modern rooftop addition on the eight-story section that was built in 1949, but otherwise the department store building stood unsullied until the start of construction of the St. Louis Centre skybridge in 1984. Fortunately, the bridge has not taken nearly as long to destroy as it did to build, and 25 years of an occluded Stix facade are over. The Washington elevation looks decent underneath, too. The damage is minimal and shall be easily overcome when the building is rehabilitated starting this year.
One of the small joys of the skybridge demolition is the revelation that one of the eastern section’s iron balconies has been intact under the bridge all this time. The use of the balconies remains undocumented, but they are an original feature of the building.