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Old Merck and Co. Manfacturing Chemists and Herf and Frerichs Chemical Company

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Located down an isolated road that looks like it goes nowhere are the buildings of what was once a Merck pharmaceuticals factory, and an adjacent factory that may have been owned by Merck or at least operated in tandem to the famous company. The first couple of buildings on the driveway were apparently built after 1909.

Merck

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Looking out over the bluffs, the land that was once the Herf and Frerichs property is now a barge dock; I am not sure if the tanks are still used. Further down the tracks was a salol production facility, now gone, that produced phenyl salicylate, which was probably turned into salicylamide, which was used as an early painkiller. It makes sense going along with the Merck facility being located here.

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But then we reach the first of the original Merck buildings, including this one in the two pictures below that have an amazing curve to allow for wagons and then trucks to navigate the narrow road down the bluffs.

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Beyond the curved building, a road descends down into the valley.

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The soaring bluffs rear up above the road.

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Two wild turkeys greeted me on the ramp.

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Views from down below, one realizes that road travels over a steel bridge (a replacement for a wood structure), and the curved building, while partially built into the bluff, still rises to about four stories from the bottom of the bluffs.

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Artists’ studios are in another building, which is located along the railroad tracks.

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This pedestrian bridge between the buildings is no longer usable.

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It’s an incredible setting that is not normally open to the public, but is available for rent for artists.

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Why was this factory out so far to the south? The Sanborns seem to corroborate my general understanding that this site was out in the middle of nowhere at the time. And only large, country houses are located nearby. Where did the workers live? It is all such a mystery to me.

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9 Comments

  1. I bought a couple of Honda mopeds from the guy that owns this property a few years ago. Driving my pickup across that bridge was terrifying! If he hadn’t gone first, I’m not sure I would have braved it.

  2. those birds are guinea hens (fowl). They make good watch birds – they usually set up such a racket when someone comes onto their property

  3. That is incredible! I can’t believe you found those buildings, and how to go check them out! I have caught glimpses of those buildings when exploring 1st street after making the right turn at the end of Gasconade Street, but the public can only get so close because of a guard shack for the industrial complex down there. They have fascinated me, as they looked like they were tucked into the bluff face and I could tell they were really old. Google Maps satellite view only helped so much – Nice Work!

  4. That is my great-grandfather’s plant. I love to tour it someday.

    • So fascinating! Please tell me more about your family’s history.

      • Hello! My dad’s paternal grandfather was Frederick William Frerichs, who emigrated from Germany (Lower Saxony) around 1880. For some reason he was very embittered toward homeland and cut off all ties with his German family. He was well educated (Phd in chemical engineering), became a partner of Oscar Herf (son in law of Henry Christian Haarstick) in the Herf-Frerichs Chemical Co. Gr. Grandfather married Amelia Zeller, the daughter of Haarstick’s sister, Christina. Dr. Frerichs obtained…

        • Thank you, Katharine, this is really interesting! Your message was cut off, unfortunately, at the end. I’d love to hear more about your ancestor.

  5. Please send me your email and I will share what I know of our early German St. Louis origins.

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