We come up the steep incline and reach North First Street, where the above photograph captures the street in 1968, right before the grand plans for redevelopment had begun. Interestingly, old fashioned street lights had already appeared. Below, on the southwest corner, a plaza that appears to still be incomplete replaced the vacant lot where the old Switzer Candy Company buildings stood. I covered their tragic loss in one of the first posts I ever did for this website way back in May of 2007.
Moving north from the corner of Lucas Avenue and North First Street looking at the west side of the street, we encounter the hulking mass of the Christian Peper Tobacco Warehouse which takes up the east side of the block to Clamorgan Alley on the west. His family still lives in St. Louis.
The southern three-quarters is a simple design, an addition to the original Italianate building to the north, which we’ll look at in a second. The walls, according to fire insurance maps, are two feet thick at the base and taper up to sixteen inches at the top. Tobacco is heavy when bundled into bails and stored in large quantities!
If I remember correctly, the warehouse was originally redeveloped into a small shopping mall and offices, but I believe it is now apartments in the most recent refurbishing. There are surely wonderful views of the river.
Then we get to the famous building on the end, which was designed by Frederick W. Raeder for Christian Peper.
Opened in 1874 as a tobacco warehouse, the Italianate cast iron building is one of the last, and as far as I know the largest of what was once hundreds in St. Louis. The others were destroyed in massive urban renewal projects in the mid Twentieth Century. New York City now makes millions in marketing its famous cast iron buildings, but St. Louis sent its same buildings to the landfill or scrap yard. Great job, St. Louis!
This building was one of the few I captured back in 2010.
Looking down Lucas Avenue from First Street, we see one of the parking garages that is now blocked off and sitting abandoned. It will either need to be fixed up or demolished. It is not protected by a levee or floodwall, so redevelopment is tricky. Looking at fire insurance maps, we see the lots along this block were already empty by the early Twentieth Century.
There are some nice brick arches on the parking garage facing the city. I have received word that the parking garage is marked for demolition.
Looking down, we see more blocked off thoroughfares, in this case the alley behind the east side of First Street.
More surface parking generating little tax revenue and little street life.
Looking at the east side of North First Street in the photograph below, a shocking realization dawned on me: past the three buildings in the foreground, all of the historic fabric to the south has been lost since
The building below was actually a stove manufacturing company known as the First Street Ironworks. It started as the Buck Stove and Range Company in 1875, and I suspect that is around the date of the building’s construction.
As can be seen below, the building seems to sport a more elaborate paint scheme than it did in 1980, though it is abandoned now.
On the corner is late 1970s or early 80s in-fill, which is empty, as far as I can tell. It is an interesting building and fits in well, in my opinion, wrapping itself around a couple of old structures.
This sign for the President Casino on the Admiral is now historic; that gambling boat on the once storied excursion craft was the first in the City of St. Louis so this door should go in a museum–no seriously.
I find the backs of these buildings to tell interesting stories.
This lonely building sits on the other side of the MLK Bridge.
And is that a beaver running into the undergrowth?