Perhaps two of the most interesting blocks in Soulard are 13th Street between Barton and Shenandoah. I’ve looked at this stretch before, but mainly on the east side, back in November of 2019. There are a host of interesting houses, including these which I also examined around the same time. The first thing to realize what is now 13th Street has had three other names in its history: Summer (as seen above), Morton and Closey streets. It is part of the Allen Second Subdivision, named after Thomas Allen, who subdivided the property in 1849.
By 1876, the house was labeled as No. 16 on Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis and owned by F(rederick) Spies (No. 17 is labeled as Adam Fischer, which has now been demolished and replaced with other houses). We’ll talk more about No. 16, which was built in 1850 in a little while. As can be seen in person, and in Compton and Dry, the subdivision allowed for the building of individual houses on the lots laid out in the Allen’s Second Addition.
This first house, which I would call the Italianate style, was clearly built before Barton Street (formerly Martha Street), on the left, was graded, as its basement is almost entirely above ground now, and there is a massive retaining wall holding up the front yard on side elevation as well as the 13th Street frontage as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if this house was from the 1860s, as it is a transition away from the Greek Revival to more modern styles.
It is a handsome house, and typical of the era, its beauty is in its proportions, and does not rely on a large amount of ornament.
Next up is another house in that transitional style between the Greek Revival and Italianate, and due to the early year of this subdivision being platted, the house is sited on its lot like a country home. There is even a half flounder service wing out the back.
Again, we can see the original lay of the land before street grading of 13th Street brought the thoroughfare down to its current level.
It was clearly painted white at some point, and I’m happy that the current owner is allowing it to fade away and return to its original color. Due to the color of the brick and its condition, I can tell this is a very old house, perhaps even the 1850s.
Next up is the sadly demolished, but incredibly historically rich 2345 S. 13th Street. It was built in 1850, and was an incredibly rare early example of an Italianate country estate. Once owned by important Judge William Ferguson, the home once extended back further before the cutting through of the alley and had over 25 rooms. I believe it was the first house built on the block, and served as a residence until it actually became the first location of St. Luke’s Hospital, which is now located in Chesterfield. The lease began in 1866 and extended for five years until 1870, for $2,000 a year, paid in quarterly installments of $500.
St. Luke’s moved out and then Frederick Spies, who owned it when Compton and Dry stopped by, moved in. The house went through a series of owners until it came to the inevitable dead end of becoming a rooming house. I assume deferred maintenance caused it to be demolished sometime in the mid Twentieth Century before help could arrive.
This Second Empire house, hiding in the trees, also has an interesting story. What I find so strange about this house is that it is really a row house, but it sits in the middle of a large lot. The house we just looked at was designed to sit in the middle of a large lot, but this one looks like it would be more comfortable tucked in a row of other houses, not sitting by itself.
Nonetheless, it has always been like this, sitting right in the middle of one of the largest parcels of land in Soulard, and it is a fantastic house. One of its most recent owners in the 1940s was Johanna Busch and Johannes Schmedtje, who married on May 28, 1878. Apparently they took advantage of the large grounds to have peacocks, pheasants and other animals run free throughout.
Johanna was the daughter of Henry Busch, a brother of Adolphus, the famous brewery owner. Henry owned a saloon at 3rd and Plum streets, in what we now call Chouteau’s Landing.
Sadly, their son, Johannes, Jr. committed suicide in New York. The house, like the others on the west side of 13th Street on the block, sits high up on the original topography of the land.
If you look closely, you can see that the retaining wall was once concrete, but now is cut ashlar stone. Someone went to considerable expense to restore the wall to what would have been its original appearance.
The whole block, looking south, gives a unique view for Soulard.
We have now crossed over Lami Street, named after a French colonist who once owned that long, skinny piece of land that disrupts the street grid along Arsenal Street (and previously named Ohio Street), and discover by looking at Compton and Dry again that there was originally another house on the site of our next house on the northwest corner.
No. 1 is labeled as W(illia)m. Brown, in what looks to be a small Italianate house which was built in 1874 after being sold by Thomas Allen in his Second Addition. It is now long gone…
…and this giant Romanesque Revival manse has replaced it. This 4,050 square foot house is the Christian Marquard Forster Residence, who was a German American Brewer in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. City records say the house was built in 1879, but William Swekosky’s research shows it was built around 1892. Marquard served as vice-president of the St. Louis Brewing Association, working at the City Brewery branch of that conglomerate that tried to consolidate smaller breweries together to compete against the titans of Anheuser-Busch and Lemp. It failed, just as the IBC did (though the latter produced a legacy root beer).
His father, Marquard Forster, founded the Hyde Park Brewery and Christian originally served as the manager of that business. Interestingly, Christian died at an address on McPherson Avenue. Perhaps he moved out of the rapidly unfashionable Soulard to north of Forest Park towards the end of his life. He was married to Katherine Schlossstein, who was the daughter of another brewer.
As can be seen on the right, there is a missing cornice that has been filled in with brickwork.
We can see what it looked like originally in the historic photograph below.
The complex roof lines and finials evoke a medieval castle or church.
Next up is a house that has clearly lost its Mansard roof, which I confirmed by looking at Whipple Fire Insurance maps. It was probably built in the late 1870s, as it does not appear on Compton and Dry.
The rest of the buildings on the block after this house are modern in-fill before we reach Shenandoah, which was originally known as Arrow Street.