James B. Eads & Co. Shipyards


St. Louis does a horrible job of promoting its pivotal role in American history. How many people know that the ironclads the Union used to conquer the Mississippi River were built in none other than Carondelet by James Eads, the builder of the famous bridge that now bears his name? Or that his stately mansion once stood on Compton and Eads Avenues before being demolished? I looked further into the great boatyards where Union victory began, and found what seems to be the descendent of Eads’s ironclad shipyards in the Sanborn Map below from several decades after the Civil War. It’s in the right place: just north of the confluence of the Des Peres River and the Mississippi.

Carondelet Boat Works

The site is now the former Carondelet Coke, which in of itself was a landmark in the city. I suspect the shipyards were torn down for the construction of the coke factory. Nothing remains of this critical moment in St. Louis’s history.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Ann says:

    That IS sad, that we don’t tout our achievements and that we destroy them.

    But then people like me can be thankful for people like you who do this great research and remind us of what we didn’t know before!

  2. samizdat says:

    Oh, oh, oh, I did, I did, I did! I also knew that these weren’t the Monitor-class vessels, which are more famous due to the innovative nature of the turreted gun battery. And of course the sinking of the first Monitor off of N. Carolina, while it was being towed. Oh, yeah, and the battle with the CSS Virginia, an ironclad built on top of the hull of a Union ship, the Merrimack. Strangely enough, the ironclads Eads built resembled the Virginia (or is it the other way around?), with the sloped sides (an old defensive trick, taken from European fort design) and gun ports built into the sloped cladding. Got any stories about St. Louis Ship?

    Let’s not forget the man Henry Flad, who was so important in the building of the Bridge at St. Louis.

    1. Jenn, South City says:

      You crack me up, Horshack!

  3. James Eads says:

    If they were building iron ships…so ironic

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      It is interesting, especially considering the grand brick factories built in other parts of the city. One possibility is that they were originally built when it was too far outside of the central core of the city for efficient delivery of materials, or perhaps the construction of the ships was so dirty that cheap, easily replaceable structures was more efficient.

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