Jefferson and Gravois, Revisited

I’ve looked at the intersection of South Jefferson and Gravois avenues in July of 2012, and I came back over the course of several months to photograph the crossing of two of the most important streets in the inner South Side. It’s come a long way from when it was a small exurban village surrounded by sinkholes and wood frame houses.

The southwest corner is now a Lee’s Chicken, and a large swath of asphalt parking.

Views that were once not possible are now possible all the way over to Texas Avenue in Fox Park, past more parking lots.

Drugstore on the Southwest Corner of Jefferson and Gravois Avenues, c. 1920-29, Missouri History Museum, N29430

But back in the early Twentieth Century, we would have seen the above drug store, anchoring the southwest corner with an urban walkable streetscape.

Jefferson and Gravois, Photograph by William Swekosky, c. 1940-1959, Missouri History Museum, N04900

The northeast corner, seen above and in context below with the other corners (note the drug store seen on the southwest corner had been replaced by the 1930s), also possessed a building built right up at the sidewalk.

Street Scenes, Commercial District in South St. Louis, Jefferson and Gravois, Photograph by Dorrill Studio, August 6, 1934, Missouri History Museum, P0243-12561-01-8n

The bank building is still there, now belonging to a national chain.

But there was actually a building in between the bank and the corner with Sidney at one point, which you can see below, when the bank was under construction or being expanded.

Richard W. Lemen, South Jefferson, Gravois, and Sidney Avenues, c. 1930. Lemen Streets and Sewers Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, St. Louis Public Library, Lemen1017.

It was probably demolished for the widening of Gravois, or simply for more room for the bank. The building to the right is still there, now housing a hair products store.

Dr. Thomas E. Buck Residence, 2610 S. Jefferson, Photograph by William Swekosky, c. 1940-59, Missouri History Museum, N02991

The building that was demolished was very old, probably dating to the 1870s if not older.

Witte Clothing Company, Southeast Corner Jefferson and Gravois, Photograph by William Swekosky, c. 1940-59, Missouri History Museum, N04772

It has now been replaced with the building below, which may have been an expansion of the bank in the 1980s.

On the northeast corner in between Gravois and Sidney was this stately building, anchored with a giant corner tower.

Herman Pockels Paint Store, Southeast Corner Sidney and Gravois, Photograph by William Swekosky, 1931, Missouri History Museum, N04747
Jefferson Gravois Bank at the Corner of Jefferson and Gravois, June 11, 1926, Missouri History Museum, P0245-S03-00037-8n

By the 1970s, looking west on Sidney, the intersection was looking gray and worn out. The historic buildings that would be demolished for the 7-11 were still standing.

Susan Mattison, Jefferson Ave. down Sidney St., looking west, 1977, Benton Park District Slide Collection, St. Louis Public Library, 110.

Their loss, especially considering their construction back in the 1860s or 70s, is especially tragic since they were replaced with a 7-11 that has proven to be a nexus of crime and other nuisance behavior for years.

But just look below at what used to be there, and this was all demolished in less than fifty years ago.

Rite-Way Sandwich Shop, Jefferson and Gravois Avenues, Photograph by William Swekosky, c. 1950, Missouri History Museum, N34900

The spire of St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Oratory still stands and dominates the streetscape to the southwest, much as it has for over the last one hundred years.

2600 Block of Gravois, Photograph by Ralph Ross, January 1960, Missouri History Museum, N38850

Below are the Whipple Fire Insurance maps showing the different corners of the intersection. See some of the oldest houses on nearby Indiana Avenue.

Whipple Plate 253, Vol. 5, 1896
Whipple Plate 254, Vol. 5, 1896
Whipple Plate 264, Vol. 5, 1896

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Dan Lewis says:

    Nice work Chris. I always enjoy it when you show the history and the present.
    Thanks to you I am still learning things I didn’t know about my hometown.

  2. Bob says:

    Fantastic job, Chris! Thank you!

  3. Chris Naffziger says:

    Thank you!

  4. TR says:

    Great write up! How did you come across the whipple plates? I’m looking for an intersection close to Gravios & Jefferson.

  5. Dee Rubie says:

    We lived above the Rite-Way Sandwich Shop, Jefferson and Gravois Avenues about 1965. The entrance was on Sidney but, as I recall, the address was 2601 S Jefferson.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Wow, what was it like? That building was approaching 100 years old at that time.

  6. Joshua Vise says:

    Amazing job as always!

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