Merchant Street

Compton and Dry, Pictorial St. Louis, 1876, Library of Congress, Plate 6.

Probably almost nobody in St. Louis remembers Merchant Street, and the bustling community that once lined its two blocks between Second Street and South Broadway. Originally named Carondelet Street, it was basically wiped away in the urban renewal plan for what we now call the Kosciusko neighborhood, but for over a century it represented the critical urban link between downtown and the South Side. Just look at the number of businesses that paid to have their names added to the key at the bottom of Plate 6 of Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis above on just that short stretch of street.

Compton and Dry, Pictorial St. Louis, 1876, Library of Congress, Detail of Plate 6.

Platted out to bring traffic from the busy Second Street, which was the center of German American business life before the Civil War, Merchant Street provided a convenient link over to South Broadway and the French Market area, which of course became the road south to the town of Carondelet and its industrial suburb of Patch.

Lafayette Bank, northeast corner of Broadway and Merchant Streets. Photograph by Oscar Kuehn, ca. 1910. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS31114. Scan © 2006, Missouri History Museum.

You can see the bank building above on the Compton and Dry view. Below, you can also see this building to the northeast up Merchant Street.

Corner of Rutger and Second Streets at Junction with Merchant Street, Looking Northeast, c. 1920, Missouri History Museum, N39288
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1908 December, Sheet 077

Basically everything you see in the Sanborn maps above and below has been annihilated for the usual reasons–the same reasons they were going to use to demolish Soulard and Lafayette Square, of course.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1908 December, Sheet 117

Today, the southwest block of Merchant Street has been removed from the street grid, but the cross street of Rutger Street, which still appears on maps, now exists only as a grassy strip vacated by the City and fenced in from Third to Broadway.

To the east from Third to Second, the right-of-way and pavement still exists, sort of, but it has been blocked off.

There’s all sorts of great stuff that has been burned down here! Just look at how well the Kosciusko Urban Renewal Plan worked out for St. Louis!

If you look closely below, you can see that the fence goes off in the distance at a 45 degree angle, and the trees are in a row at the same degree. This is the remaining right-of-way for the northeast block of Merchant Street, which still technically exists. The long-term storage facility’s official address is still technically on Merchant Street, perhaps the only government-based recognition that the street still exists.

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