by Michael R. Allen
Where do thirsty Billikens go? Why, they are likely to head to a storefront addition on Laclede Avenue. Both of the street’s off-campus bars are located in former nineteenth century residences that were converted to commercial use in the twentieth century.
The venerable bar Humphrey’s at the southwest corner of Laclede and Spring Avenue has been around since 1976. The building housing the bar dates first to 1891, when the two-story row of flats were built. While some of the window openings are bricked in or altered, and the building is covered in a stark paint scheme, the building’s Romanesque cornice is fully intact. The wide commercial addition with its chamfered (architecture speak for “angled”) corner entrance dates to 1939. The first tenants in the storefront were Oscay McCoy, confectioner, at the corner, and Vernal Ragsdale, barber, at the next door.
One block west at 3818 Laclede Street is the Laclede Street Bar and Grill, an establishment that is not as old as Humphrey’s. Neither is the building, since the house dates to 1895 with a back addition for the Ortleb Machinery Company built in 1947. The storefront and side additions, however, are not as old as they look. The additions date to 1968, when the building opened as Caleco’s bar. This storefront addition has always served university students.