French Market Area, Revisited

View Looking North Up Broadway From Hickory, French Market in Distance, Photograph by Emil Boehl, 1872, Missouri History Museum, N14773

I looked at the French Market area almost a decade ago in February of 2011 when there was a thick coat of ice on the ground in the area south of the elevated lanes of Highway 40 in the area that is known as Frenchtown. It was once a bustling area, anchored by the French Market, which was closed down almost a century ago. I wrote an article in St. Louis Magazine about it and other now-vanished markets a year ago. Soulard Market was once just one of the largest of many in the city.

I went back in much better weather and photographed the towering warehouses, one of which was converted into lofts. The rest seem to still be abandoned. That seems to be the story of the revitalization of St. Louis’s former industrial zones into residential areas; there’s one building that is rehabbed, but then the rest are abandoned.

But along South Broadway there is one bar that is still proudly holding on in what is an interesting row of buildings.

I suspect these buildings are either from the first decades of the Twentieth Century, or received new fronts around that time and are much older. The area had declined and become gritty by then, with the hulking mass of the MacArthur Bridge, then known as the Municipal Free Bridge, towering over them.

I still think they all have potential for some reuse, perhaps for tech companies or design firms. God, that sounds so yuppie of me to say but it’s true.

Then the interstates come in and completely ruin everything. How does anyone expect there to be a lively and thriving city when these monstrosities are in the way?

This is what was destroyed. Yes, they were rundown, but guess what? This is what Soulard looked like into the 1970s, and now that neighborhood gets into all of the tourist brochures.

French Market Area Formerly, 1204-8 S. Broadway, Photgraph by William Swekosky, c. 1940-59, Missouri History Museum, N04793

I have no idea why there is a pile of ketchup packets just lying on the sidewalk.

South Broadway, both a bad highway and a bad city street at the same time.

More detritus of an American wasteland.

Turning at Park Avenue, the city starts back up again, but I can’t help but notice that the building owners have fortified themselves away from the street. I can’t blame them. The traffic is fast and loud along here.

It’s a cool building, with some nice streamlined curves on the corner.

This whole row of buildings going up South Seventh Street is incredibly historic, and the red brick buildings could easily date to before the Civil War, judging by their appearance.

They’ve obviously been heavily modified, but let’s take a closer look.

This first pair probably originally was Federalist, Greek Revival, but the gabled roof with dormers was removed and a fourth floor was added with a Mansard roof front when the Second Empire became popular after the Civil War.

The first floor very well may have had a storefront or been purely residential. They appear to be in Compton and Dry’s 1876 Pictorial St. Louis, right where they should be.

The next building retains its original elevation, and roofline, though it’s a bit hard to see. The simple lintel points to the influence of the Greek Revival and an early construction date. Obviously the bricks filled in the storefront later, and I’m starting to think the commercial space was a later addition, too, after construction.

The last building is unremarkable, and probably dates to the 1940s or 50s.

Oh look, the nearby company has built an employee patio under the interstate!

One bright spot comes into view: 4 Hands Brewing Co., which moved into a series of empty warehouses along Eighth Street.

This next building might have been the Moloney Electric Company, but I am not sure. It almost looks like a streetcar barn, but not exactly.

The first three bays to the south have a different colored brick, and then the part to the north looks like it was added on, which would match up with the Sanborn Map from 1908, which shows only the southern part complete.

Then we arrive back at the warehouse that was converted into apartments.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Everett says:

    Chris, thanks for all of the interesting photos and articles showcasing what’s left of the architectural treasures of St. Louis.
    I agree with you completely regarding those horrible elevated freeway structures and how they can ruin the urban streetscape so badly. The Embarcadero elevated freeway in San Francisco was one of the more egregious examples. It cut downtown off from the port and created the same sort of netherworld void illustrated by your photo. Fortunately an act of nature, namely the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, destroyed much of it and the city wisely had it torn down and never replaced it. Now the city is reconnected with the port and the famous Ferry Building.

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