by Michael R. Allen
Stand at the corner of Eleventh and Washington streets in downtown St. Louis, and face north. On your right, across a parking lot, is the Catlin-Morton Building, built in 1901. Ahead, across another parking lot, is the Hadley-Dean Building, built in 1903. To your right, at the northeast corner, is the Bee Hat Company Building, built in 1899. On your immediate right is the robust Merchandise Mart Building (originally the Liggett and Myers Building), built in 1888-9.
As you scan these buildings, you will notice similarities: heights around seven stories tall, deft articulation of the masonry walls of the buildings, repeated arches, Classical Revival ornament balanced with modern forms. The bearing-wall Merchandise Mart has to be the finest Romanesque Revival building downtown, and the Hadley-Dean’s austerity anticipates the arrival of modernism in St. Louis.
However, these buildings share something more fundamental: the same architect, or perhaps architects. These buildings were designed by the prolific Isaac Taylor and his chief draftsman, Oscar Enders.
In a downtown marked by demolition, it seems rather fortuitous to the legacy of Taylor and Enders that their buildings remain such a strong presence. On the 1000 block of Washington, the Merchandise Mart occupied the entire southern side of the block while the north side, including the later Dorsa Building, is book-ended by Taylor and Enders’ designs of the Bee Hat Company Building and the Sullivan (alter Curlee) Building at Tenth and Washington, built in 1899.
Of course, other Taylor and Enders works have not been so blessed; the Columbia Buidling at Eighth and Locust was cut down to two stories in 1977, and the Silk Exchange Building at the southwest corner of Tucker and Washington burned and was demolished in 1995.