Every vacant lot in the city of St. Louis has a story behind it; in fact it probably has dozens of stories. Take the southeast corner of Penrose and Blair; the empty lot, now filled with Schoemehl Pots that were extended from the street into the lot when the building on the lot was demolished, as one such example of a piece of ground that once held a building, filled with perhaps hundreds of residents over its existence. Just look at how dense the neighborhood was one hundred years ago; the building probably dates from the 1880-90’s.
This grassy field once held a bustling corner market, owned by the parents of Joyce Pharriss, who grew up in Hyde Park 1436 and 1434 housed the store; the surrounding buildings are still extant.
Joyce recounts the history of her family’s store:
“My parents had a grocery store on the corner of Blair and Penrose, and we lived above the store. The building is now gone, as is the two family flat on Farragut, a couple of blocks away, where my grandparents lived and my dad and his siblings grew up. My parents sold the store and retired about 1962, moving first to Lake of the Ozarks and then to Palo Alto, CA. A few years after they sold it, the store became a church. Later, it was abandoned. The last time I saw the building, it appeared it was being stripped of bricks and pipes.
“Trucks full of cattle were always going through the neighborhood to Krey for slaughter, and one day, one truck broke down and the bovine passengers got loose on the street. It happened on Angelica St, just up from the corner of Blair. One of the steers, maybe more, ran down towards Penrose, and my mom, who was behind the counter at the store, looked out the window to see a steer steaming up the glass.”
Pre-2005 photos taken by John E. Pendleton, courtesy of Joyce Pharriss.
According to city records, the building was demolished persuant an emergency wrecking order; the building must have really fallen on hard times after the above photos were taken.
I’m always looking for more stories and photos of residents of these neighborhoods. Please e-mail me if you’re interested in sharing them. With each passing year, more and more memories of these neighborhoods in their glory days are slipping away…
12 Comments Add yours
So, the pots were put there because cars were traveling through the vacant lot, getting around the pots in the street? Nice.
This website/blog is absolutely resonant with me. My father and mother were born in North St. Louis, each in 1926, of Polish and Irish descent, respectively. My father’s father came from Poland, was a butcher, like so many others, and owned and operated an AG grocery store at 3619 N Broadway. We know it was running in 1936 and someone told my sister that he extended a lot of credit (free food) during the Depression. The property is a parking lot now. My dad was a phone man in N St. Louis after serving in WWII from 1952-92. I worked in N St..Louis 1975-78. I have been a runner on the riverfront trail from Downtown north from 1995-2009, and now road bike all over N and S St.Louis. I think the history, sociology, anthropology, archaeology and architecture of it all are utterly captivating. The pavement, old factories, homes, parks– fascinating. I could go on and on. Thanks so much for your blogs and photos. PS–Carolyn Toft’s book is great.
When my parents first purchased the grocery store and building at the corner of Blair and Penrose, the store occupied the space on the map numbered 1436. In the adjacent space, 1434, was a cigar “factory” that was dark, cool and fragrant with tobacco leaves that were in piles on the wood floors. Two or three old men worked there, sitting at small tables cutting and rolling the leaves into cigars. In the summer, we kids would sit on the stoop outside playing games and sometimes, we’d go inside to watch the men work. Possibly the cigar factory belonged to the Westerheide Tobacco & Cigar Co. , which was at 3612 N. Broadway at one time and whose family members lived within a couple of blocks of the grocery store. Eventually, my parents decided to modernize the store (covering the worn wooden floors with linoleum, adding a freezer for new products like TV dinners, buying a “modern” cash register, getting rid of the tall ladder on rollers that my mom had to climb up and down to retrieve canned goods on high shelves behind the counter, and adding four aisles of stocked shelves to facilitate “self-service”). At that time, too, my parents took over the cigar factory space and turned it into the grocery store’s new stock room.
Thanks for the additional info, Joyce!
These pots are ridiculous. They choke off city streets. Building cul-de-sacs would look better than these ugly damn 80’s-era pots. If these hideous pots are going to be around, the streets requesting them should be required to maintain them – if not – then they go away.
I grew up at 1413 Penrose and probably saw your parents on a regular basis. My sisters and brother and I spent a lot of time in that store, especially on Saturday mornings spending our allowances on the penny candy. You would get a small paper bag and pick and choose your candy. I also remember the wooden floors. Did your dad run the butcher counter? I remember a very nice man doing that. After the new owners took over, it was not as nice. They just weren’t as friendly as your parents. Did you go to the park across the street? My best friend lived on Farragut, just around the corner, past alley way and there was a fenced in duplex. So cool to meet someone from the old neighborhood. I live in Michigan now and when I go back to visit family we go by the old neighborhood but it is so sad. My sister said part of the reason for the pots was to lessen drive by shootings, They have Penrose completely cut off at one end. We went to Eliot School and Central High.
Hello, Cindi. We’ve crossed paths, I’m sure, at Eliot School or Central High or at the little park across from Onions Market or in one of the many other places kids frequented in the old neighborhood. Your old address indicates, I think, that you lived across the street and a few houses down from the store. I still have the cut-glass candy dishes that my mom had behind the counter at the store and from which she filled your bags with penny candies. And yes, that nice man behind the butcher counter was my dad, who gave up cutting furniture patterns in a factory to learn how to cut meat so he could join my mom in running the store. Small world: I lived in Michigan after leaving Missouri…but have been in California now for many moons. I, too, felt very sad to see the old neighborhood in such a forlorn state when I was back in St. Louis for a Central High class reunion. I was the fifth generation of my family to live in the neighborhood, and my grandparents lived on Farragut in the two-family flat right by the alley (their back windows looked out on the alley). My grandfather worked in the store. Now, an empty lot is where their home once was. Thank you for writing and sharing your memories. JPharriss
One of my best friends lived on Farragut! I would go out the back of my house and up to the end of the alley (Blair) and she live in the last house off the alley – it was actually a two family place. All torn up now. I will put some names out of kids – Janice Horton, Ronnie Conway, Pat Brannon, Larry Deason, dont know if you recall any of these families.
Just went on this site again, I still live in Grand Rapids Michigan but go “home” at least once and year and take a ride through the old neighborhood….
My name is John Rogers and my dad Ralph Rogers worked with your dad on weekends behind the meat counter cutting meat. We lived just around the corner on Angelica st. I remember the cattle trucks and the smell they left. We moved from the area in 1959 and went to the area around Goodfellow and W. Florissant. I am a retired Naval officer now living in Oklahoma. Every time I’m in St Lou I drive by the old neighborhood and its still in my fondest memories. If only we could go back. I vividly recall your mom, grandpa and dad. They were all great people. I’ll be 67yrs next month and the neighborhood will always be in my heart.
Hi John…I’m just now reading your post for the first time. When you mentioned Ralph Rogers, I immediately pictured him working behind the meat counter in the store, remember him very well, always a big smile and hello for me. Thank you for writing. jp