Lafayette Square certainly has clearly defined borders; on the west it is the traffic sewer that is South Jefferson Avenue. Automobiles hurtle along this stretch, rushing to get to the I-44 interchange since there is not a complete set of onramps from Highway 40/I-64 due to the aborted construction of 755 in the late 1980s. It creates a boundary that separates neighborhoods, in this instance the Gate District to the west.
In 1876, when Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis captured the city as it looked a decade after the Civil War, the neighborhood was still largely undeveloped. A large pond covered most of the north side of Park Avenue between Jefferson and Missouri avenues, and most of the houses had not been built that would eventually fill the block. The one house that has been built, the Second Empire residence of Phineas J. Thompson (no. 5), would later be demolished. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from the early Twentieth Century showed the block beginning to develop to its current form.
The two story office building anchored the northeast corner was built for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, opening on August 1902, and designed by architect N. LeBrun & Son.
It’s a nice building that fits in well with the street wall of Park Avenue, while on the Jefferson side, it lies uncomfortably close, no doubt a victim of the artery having been widened in the Twentieth Century.
The hourglasses with wings are a nice touch, and reflect a poor translation into Victorian English of the Latin phrase tempus fugit, from the Roman poet Virgil’s Georgics. The correct translation of fugit is to “flee” or “run away,” but the Victorians translated it as “fly,” in the awkward meaning of “flee.” We get the English word fugitive from the Latin rootword.
Up next, moving east, are two “non-rowhouses,” reflecting houses built in the last years of the Nineteenth Century, with an eclectic mix of revival styles drawing from European architecture.
The two houses were clearly built at the same time and are actually mirror images of each other, and not copies.
Then there are two nicely rehabbed four-family flats converted to two condos. They probably date from the Early Twentieth Century and reflect the time period when the wealthy of Lafayette Square were heading to the Central West End and neighborhoods further west, and the area slipped into the working class.
As you can see below, four doors have been replaced by two.
Next up is a good solid Second Empire house with a dormer, which is often lost on many buildings of this style in St. Louis, removed due to maintenance costs.
But then sitting right next to it, in what is still a large parcel, is a two-family Southwest City Arts and Crafts style building. Again, this was a building built in the Twentieth Century when the wealthy had left the neighborhood.
Finally, on the land vacated by the demolition of the Phineas J. Thompson residence is this nice row of in-fill from 1983, which is ironically of much higher density that this block ever possessed historically. But it’s nicely done, and the houses pay a lot of real estate taxes, which is what this City needs so badly. I like them.