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Revisiting Carondelet: Michigan Avenue Between Bowen and Iron Streets

Two Homes at the Corner of Michigan Avenue and Iron Street in Carondelet, October 23, 1895, Missouri History Museum, P0245-S03-00056-6g

I thought I would go back and look at Carondelet since it had been a while. We took a walk down Michigan Avenue, Virginia Avenue, some side streets, and then back up South Broadway. We’ll start with Michigan Avenue in between Bowen and Iron streets, which is the heart of the neighborhood up at the top of the hill above the river. The land slopes down to the Mississippi and the riverfront and its industries just to the east of Michigan Avenue. The architecture of Carondelet is interesting, in that it was built one house at a time, and not in tracts like in other parts of the city.

Yes, it really does have the feeling of having been its own independent and very large city up until 1870, when it was annexed by the City of St. Louis. We’ll go down the west side of the street each day first, going south, and then go down the east side of the street in the same direction.

Houses and stores sit right next to each other.

There are some amazing Italianate houses, such as the one below, which as received some nice Formstone on its front. It also had a two story porch on the side at one point.

But then, after a house that was probably built in the 1870s, we see good solid South City bungalows that are probably from the early Twentieth Century.

Going down the east side, there is another corner store, which looks to still be in business.

 

Then, after this amazing blue-color palace, as I call them, is a vacant lot, which is actually now owned by a friend of mine. But back in the early Twentieth Century, there was something there.

The Wilson Primm House apparently exploded, my friend told me, under suspicious circumstances. I’m sure there’s even more to the story.

Wilson Primm Residence, 6220 Michigan Avenue, 1912, Missouri History Museum, N34266

3 Comments

  1. I grew up at 6201 Michigan and lived and worked there from 1952 until 1977 (the “house next to a business” pictures).
    My uncle lived in the house next to Primm. The Primm house was on Iron, behind my uncles house on NW corner of Minnesota and Iron. The house in the picture says it is the Primm’s and it well may be so, but I talked to a Primm descendant at the SS Mary and Joseph’s reunion party in about 2016, who still lived in the house. She said that they were just about to close on selling the house, and that the house would be not in Primm ownership for the first time. It is the house that I described. My uncle also built the second house north from the corner of Iron on Minnesota, that sits up on a wall. My father told me that my aunt, who was an artist of note, designed it. One of your pictures seems to show that wall and the hill going down is consistent with the hill of Minnesota going north from Iron. I know of no other view in that neighborhood that looks anything like that. In fact, the one house with all the multi-level porches I think is still there. In any case, the picture you show saying that it was the one that blew up (or was torched by some shady mobster-types that I was seeing every day because I lived and worked across the street the whole time those nasty people lived there) is NOT the house that blew up. In any case, I really appreciate your efforts to document this neighborhood, and I would be happy to share my knowledge with you so you can do it properly. I am good friends with the last member of the family who ran that business on the corner of Michigan and Bowen on the SE corner, and her family had a store there, and earlier on the opposite, NW corner, since right after the Civil War. I knew the people who lived in the house that blew up, before the mobsters moved in. I knew the people who lived in the “blue palace”? I guess you called it that because of the ornate finish on the bricks which is blue and white porcelain finish. It is nice, isn’t it? Thanks again for your work and let me know if you have any questions I can help you with.

  2. Another comment: The captions of the view of the construction of the rock walls “on Michigan Ave.” descending “towards the Mississippi” is all wrong. The first house which is a frame building no longer stands there. The second building still stands there (I always admired the view they have of the river from that front porch). My uncle built the house that is now where the frame house with the wooden clapboard siding sits. My aunt designed it, and she was a very talented artist of note (displayed her works at the Library of Congress). He owned the corner house that now sits at the NW corner of Minnesota and Iron.

    Also, in the photo you can see one of the two towers of the building at 6201 Michigan (still there) and the photo is labeled 1895. The building with the towers is listed on its title (we used to own it) as being built in 1896. That could still be consistent with the photo as the whole building is not visible, so it’s possibly still under construction and this is a wintertime photo, so its possibly late 1895.

    The house shown as the “Primm” house is not the one that I am familiar with, which would be about a couple of hundred feet to the SE of the one in the photo.

    In any case, as I have already said, it is not the house that was deliberately destroyed a gigantic fire set by a group of arsonists who apparently believed they were completely above the law and I hope they got caught although I have never heard what happened in that case (I personally watched the fire the bight it happened as I recall at about 2 AM, and I went over the site the following day and looked around. I saw several gas cans, burned badly, but with the burnt paint spelling “GASOLINE” still clearly visible. One can I found in the stairwell to what once had been the basement. From the placement of one can I gathered that it had been on the roof (it was sitting on top of debris, as opposed to under debris). When I was awakened by the blaze, it looked on my window curtains exactly like the fully-risen sun, that is to say, extremely bright! I said to myself, holy crap! is it daytime already? no, it was only 2 AM, and half the fricking block across the street was in 10-alarm blazes! I estimated the height of the blazes to be close to 120 feet or more! Maybe even 200. That is, the sycamores in front between the sidewalk and the street I estimated to be about 60 feet. I looked for a long time and estimated where I saw the top of the flames. It was intense. Friends from the neighborhood showed up. I met my girlfriend there. That house was (had been) stucco. Not the house in the picture saying it’s the “Primm” house. Incidentally, Primm was a judge from St. Louis who moved to Carondelet in 1849 during the cholera plague. That’s all for now and please contact me for more information that ought to be corrected, and for further contacts in the neighborhood.

  3. One more comment: Judge Wilson Primm is said to have built his home at 6220 Michigan Ave. I do not dispute that. I can only say that the house pictured as the house at 6220 Michigan does not look the same as the one that was burned down by arsonists in the 1970s. It is possible that it was the same one, but only if it was heavily modified and finished with a stucco exterior.

    I met a woman at the SS. Mary & Joseph reunion in around 2016 I think, and she was a Primm. She told me that her family had just sold the house and that it was on Iron St. I thought the Primms lived in the house in back of my aunt and uncle’s on the corner of Minnesota and Iron.

    I hope that someone reading this will be able to add new facts.

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