The block between MacKay (formerly Armstrong) and Benton places might be short, but it is jam-packed with history and beautiful architecture. It has also changed very little since 1876, when Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis was published. Two of three buildings were already constructed, and the addition of a second house is the only major change.
First up, at the northeast corner of MacKay Place and Park Avenue is the former “Church of the Unity,” which was a Unitarian Church. I seem to remember it being an African American congregation in the not-to-distant past, but it now appears to be vacant and is now owned by an LLC.
It is a nice simple Gothic Revival church, and as the photograph below shows, it has changed little over the years. I am suspicious, due to its large lawn facing Park Avenue and a smaller backyard, that maybe the original structure was intended to be converted into the transept of a much larger church, much as Jamison Memorial Church in Midtown was. There is precedent, but it never happened if it in fact was ever planned.
The house below, the George Bain House, is the one that appears in Compton and Dry as No. 14. This house’s address has had an interesting history. As you can see, the house to the east of it was parceled out later, so originally the Bain House had a Benton Place address: 46, which came from its lot number in the subdivision. When the house was built to the east, 46 Benton Place no longer made sense, so it received a Park Avenue address.
Other than losing the decorative railing along the roofline, the house looks largely the same as it did when it was photographed in around 1890.
We even have a window into the appearance of the house at the height of its opulence, courtesy of a picture from the Missouri History Museum.
The house next door is not too bad, either. The date of 1885 for its construction in the City records is suspicious; as I’ve said in the past, officials just filled in that date for many houses. For example, the Bain House next door also has the same date listed, even though we know it already had been built before then.