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Simpson Place

Back in July, when I looked at Lafayette Avenue in between Waverly and Simpson places in the Lafayette Square neighborhood, I promised I would come back in the fall and look at the latter historic private street once the leaves had fallen off the trees. As mentioned before, the land for Simpson Place was originally owned by Edward Bredell, who owned a large dry goods store, and had a son who died in the Civil War at Berry’s Ferry during Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign during November of 1864 (some sources incorrectly state it was at Ashby’s Gap). The son has an interesting link to baseball, which you can read about here. They lived in the Italianate house visible in Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis in 1876 (labeled as No. 3); it was surely demolished soon after its depiction for Simpson Place. (No. 2, over on Missouri Avenue, if not already gone by the 1970s, would have been demolished for I-44; it was the home of Carl Daenzer.)

Whipple’s fire insurance map of St. Louis, Mo. Volume 5,1896, Plate 257

As can be seen from the glued down piece of paper on the 1896 edition of the Whipple Fire Insurance Map, Simpson Place was a latecomer, and many of the houses were around the turn of the Twentieth Century. Again, Lafayette Square was not “down for the count” as early as many people believe (though it did eventually in fact decline economically, as we all know). The Bredell estate was clearly sold off and subdivided, with William Simpson, who seemed to have been in the streetcar business, buying the front lot at the corner of the private place.

His house is spectacular, and is a perfect example of how the Romanesque Revival had firmly taken over as the primary style of the wealthy and powerful in St. Louis. Stark, minimal ornamentation meant to look more masculine (and German) contrasted as what was seen as more decorative and effeminate styles such as the Second Empire (and French).

Ornament is created with stone, terracotta or brick, glazed and unglazed, and planing millwork is less common on the exterior. Stained wood interiors become common.

That foliated compound column capital in between the two windows above is classic Romanesque Revival.

The turrets evoke fortifications, particularly as created at the Medieval fortress of Carcassonne and its restoration by Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.

The porch is ingeniously fitted in between the tower and the wing to the right.

To the south, a lone survivor of what had been a row of tract houses on Simpson Place is all that remains from the demolition for the interstate. Interestingly, the plat maps call the land under the house, and the houses across the street, the Christopher Addition. The Simpson House sits on a parcel of land divided straight from the St. Louis Commons, and is not in any subdivision at all.

Crossing over to the other side of Simpson Place, another Romanesque Revival house flanks the entrance to the private street. While in the same style as the house across the street, it is in enough of a different variant that it is not repetitive.

Heading to the south, apartment buildings that show the lessening of the economic and political clout of the Square were built, probably in the early Twentieth Century. Their mates to the south were demolished in the Twentieth Century.

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