A Startling Collapse, St. Louis Place Park

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Update: I revisited the building in 2018; it was destroyed by fire in November of 2021.

What I try to convey to people about the built environment in St. Louis is not just simply the aesthetic quality of its architecture, but the fascinating stories behind each building. Take the German Freethinkers’ Hall on St. Louis Place Park, which has apparently suffered a severe, catastrophic collapse recently.

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Building permits were being pulled as late as 2003 for conversion of the building into a daycare, but from what it seems, it never came to fruition and the building collapsed recently.

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What a shame, as the building taught me about the Freethinkers, a idealistic group that popped up in the Nineteenth Century that fought for social justice throughout Europe and America. This group, much like the Turners, was a key part of the German history of the neighborhood, which has seen many major ethnic groups pass through its streets and alleys for the last 150 years.

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Look at that cool porch; this building dated back to the mid-Nineteenth Century, and this unique porch demonstrates a style of design that long ended in St. Louis. Now it will end up in a scrap heap in Illinois, most likely. St. Louis Place really is one of our last links to the years of our history right after the Civil War, and its built memory is rapidly disappearing.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom Maher - Kirkwood says:

    The room with the yellow wall looks long and tall; I wonder if it was a lecture hall or ballroom or gym?
    Any info on the place?

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Probably was the lecture hall.

  2. Mary Hogan-Smith says:

    This building was used as a community center in the 1930’s -1950’s. It was called Neighborhood House. My father grew up across the park from this building. He participated in the Golden Gloves and various activities it offered. I don’t know if it was though the city or another organization. He says it was build as a German School.

    1. Larry Mason says:

      I think maybe this is where my Grandfather and Grandmother were caretakers during the 30s and early 40s. But they always referred to it as “Dodier Hall”. They were both german speaking immigrants and were from Autsria. Their last name was Draxler.

      1. Chris Naffziger says:

        How interesting!

  3. Dave Draxler says:

    My father lived here from 1926 till his marriage December 20, 1942: Julius Walter Draxler. I have his framed black and white photo of Dodier Hall. I also have a dance ticket for September 28, 1933: Dance given by the Six Juniors Orchestra at the Dodier Hall 20th and Dodier Streets. Thursday evening, September 28, 1933 refreshments, dancing begins at 8 o’clock Admission: 20 cents.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Interesting, thanks, Dave.

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