Park Avenue Between Benton Place and Mississippi Avenue

The block between Benton Place and Mississippi Avenue is well-preserved, with many of its original houses from the 1870s still standing, but with some interesting twists and in-fill, both from the late Nineteenth Century and early Twenty-First Century.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps reveal the block at what might be described at its “Platonic Ideal,” after its thrashing by the Great Cyclone of 1896 that hit Lafayette Square, but also preserving interesting details. For example, the beautiful house below, once featured a wood porch that wrapped around its southwest corner. Was it original? I don’t know

Note the weird mismatched brick on the upper right window of the west side of the house in the photo below from 1940. I suspect it was once a French window that allowed access to a balcony. Maybe.

William Swekosky, James H. Britton Residence, 2015 Park Avenue, 1940, Missouri History Museum, N02985

Regardless, I do know one thing for certain, the white extension out the back of the original service wing dates from the early Twentieth Century when this house was converted into an apartment building or rooming house.

The owner at the time added on not for aesthetics but to maximize rental income on the parcel, the original builder long since moving out west.

Next up is one of the most beautiful houses in the City of St. Louis, the James H. Britton House, which is clearly labeled on Pictorial St. Louis as No. 18.

Its harmonious composition is not perfectly bisymmetrical, but yet it is balanced.

The pedimented dormers on the Mansard roof are in excellent condition, with their decorative volutes either intact or replaced. The decorative metal tracery above has been replaced. It is a perfect example of the Second Empire style.

As I’ve mentioned before, Lafayette Square’s houses benefited from the increased railroad connections that brought more and better stone quarries within reach of St. Louis. Note the gray granite columns, which obviously did not come from anywhere within a short wagon ride of the city.

Two story bays and ornamental brickwork on the chimneys continue around to the sides, on the private elevations of the house.

While Compton and Dry reveals that No. 22 on their Pictorial St. Louis was owned by the J.S. Thomas Estate, it has been owned by many families, including the prominent Blair Family.

William Swekosky, Blair-Huse-Conely House, 1940-1959, Missouri History Museum, N02961

What I love about the historic image above is it shows the absolutely deplorable condition of the house next door, which is the one you see above, restored to impeccable grandeur. The Post-Dispatch featured the rebirth of the house, and the trials and tribulations it went through (of course, I can’t find it now–let me know if you can). Even more amazing, it looked like this for years, patiently waiting its restoration.

And then there’s this late outlier, probably constructed in the late 1880s, but no later than the 1890s. Lafayette Square was probably already losing its most fashionable and wealthiest residents, but nonetheless, when this Romanesque Revival beauty was built, there were still plenty of St. Louis society’s members who still called this neighborhood home I like this house in particular because of its symmetry: two towers both the same on each side. Usually the Romanesque Revival opted for picturesque asymmetry as we see in the contemporaneous Cupples Mansion in Midtown. I would even perhaps say there is the influence of the French Renaissance, and also the restoration work of that country’s monuments at places such as Carcassonne by Eugne-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.

It is a spectacular house, and a nice break away from the Italianate and Second Empire for about fifty feet, as much as I love those two styles of architecture. To the east are some nice in-fill, which I featured in one of my earliest posts from 2007.

Then, we learn something interesting from two historic photographs from the collections of the Missouri History Museum about a historic house that once stood on a double lot to the east. You might be thinking, “Wait, that house is still there!” But in fact, there is a new duplex house built to look just like the house that was demolished built in 2008. You can see that in-fill house in the third photo of this post from 2015, along with some of its neighbors.

William Swekosky, Emil Pretorius Residence, 2013 Park Avenue, May 28, 1950, Missouri History Museum, N03620

William Swekosky, Dr. Emil Pretorius Residence, 2013 Park Avenue, Built 1867, Razed 1956, c. 1955, Missouri History Museum, N34264

And if you look closely on the far right of the second historic photo, you can see how the owners of the house above and below fixed the third floor of this house after the Great Cyclone. It was restored back to its original form, and it looks great. I’ve looked at it before in this post from 2015.

It is No. 24 and was owned by George C. Miller when Compton and Dry published their Pictorial St. Louis in 1876.

Finally, after the beauty above, we get to the corner of Park and Mississippi avenues, where the corner store, itself a survivor from before 1876, is still an active member of the community, now the excellent Mayo Ketchup.

A photographer captured a similar view right after the Great Cyclone; I was fascinated to learn that the Second Empire house with the turret was not in fact damaged during that natural disaster. It is clearly intact in the picture, so it must have been removed later.

Views Taken After the Tornado, Lafayette Park, c. 1896, Photographs by Leonard Hunt, Missouri History Museum, P0031-02, Page 1

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