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…