Vandeventer Place, Revisited

Update: I revisited the Vandeventer Place gates again in December of 2019.

Four years after I first covered Vandeventer Place, there still is a paucity of information and photographs of what was once the grandest private street in St. Louis. I only could find a couple of grainy postcards that preserve the appearance of the once august street.

I often tell people that if even Vandeventer Place (or Gaslight Square, for that matter) isn’t safe from decline and the wrecking ball, then none of our built environment should be taken for granted.

I drove up Spring Avenue recently, and when I passed through the block where Vandeventer Place once stood, I took a photo to the right and to the left. It is hard to believe that even just sixty years ago Richardsonian Romanesque mansions and Second Empire houses once stood. Instead, I saw a chain-link fence blocking one of the ugliest buildings in St. Louis, the Veterans’ Hospital…

…and on the other side, a forlorn and rapidly deteriorating “youth services facility,” or as one of my students who works there calls it, the teen jail.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Legal Eagle says:

    What a ****ing tragedy.

  2. In all candor – I remember Vandeventer Place from immediately before it was razed. It truly was a dump and most houses looked like there had been no maintenance done for 50 years.. Now, I love old buildings and reveled in SLU's Chouteau House, used when I was there as offices (including the AFROTC office) and the snack bar was in the basement. I always thought it should be used for more appropriate purposes – and it was, albeit long after my attendance. But V.P. was too far gone, at least to my uneducated eyes. And in truth, the land was needed for the hospital – which was positioned to serve the veterans in the Northern part of the City and County.Additionally, there was just not the interest in rehabbing old mansions that were that far East.Now, I dunno when Vandeventer Place started its long deline, but when I told my parents that I'd ventured there, they told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was never to drive in there again, and that it had been a hotbed of crime even in the '20s. So apparently its slide began by the time of WW I.

  3. I should have modified my earlier comment – my venture into V.P was in the Western portion,; the Eastern had been converted into the VA Hospital before "my time."

  4. Chris says:

    I think they could have easily built the Veterans' Hospital to the east of Grand, where an entire neighborhood was demolished.I totally understand from the view of planners at the time that it seemed logical to demolish Vandeventer Place, but remember, these were the same planners who wanted to demolish Lafayette Square…

  5. There's a documentary series they show sometimes on KETC called St. Louis Centuries. It was done back in the sixties, I think, by Charles Guggenheim. There was an interesting bit they did on VP (in the Gilded Age episode) and even back then all that was left were the gates and maybe a fountain. And guess what? For those interested, someone just listed a complete set on Craigslist today. No, I don't know them, I just found it in a google search I did trying to research.

  6. Chris, you need to read Charles Savage's chapter on Vandeventer Place in _Architecture of the Private Places of St. Louis_. Far from a paucity of information, Savage shows that much is known about Vandeventer Place and its mansions. Most of the buildings were photographed, and Savage uses several images to illustrate his chapter. The Missouri Historical Society holds a thorough collection of photographs of Vandeventer Place mansions.

  7. Christopher Bingham says:

    Vandeventer Place was in decline even before the turn of the 20th century due to the city growing up around it, and bringing the inevitable pollution, noise and traffic with the progress. Some families began leaving by 1894 or so, and essentially walked away from the mansions. Others stayed longer if they could not afford to build elsewhere, but maintenance on the expensive homes was sometimes beyond their means, and it made no sense to maintain the grand homes in a declining surrounding environment and when the desire to stay put was flagging. Very few families remained by the 1920s, and as I recall, only one house was still occupied in 1940.

  8. Christopher Galbreath says:

    I lived at 80 Vandeventer Place in the 1950’s. The fountain by the west gate did not work anymore, and I wanted to grow up and have it repaired. At that time it had not been damaged by vandals from the surrounding declining neighborhood. The west end of Vandeventor place was still pretty much intact. Only the east half had been destroyed to give to a local builder for what became the Hospital. The houses were still grand, and most of the families that owned and lived in them did not want to sell, but were forced out. Mrs. Egan and her daughter who owned the house I lived in kept up the place well, and did not know where they would be able to live. The true crime is how long the land of the west end was left vacant after being taken from the residents. Decades!

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Mr. Galbreath, could you contact me at naffziger (at) gmail (dot) com? I’d love to hear more about your childhood!

  9. Don Mc Bee says:

    I am interested in #49 Vandervender place I.W. Morton 1st v. presid. of Simmons hardware. Does anyone have additional History and/or photos. I do have some info. that I can share.

    1. M H A says:

      I W Morton was the 1st President of Noonday Club 1893

  10. Don McBee says:

    Thank you for the wonderful pictures of #49 Vandervender place, one more thing I was wondering is, what would be a cost to build one these homes because just the lot cost over $9,000.00.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      That is a good question. For houses such as those on Vandeventer Place, due to their date of construction, there should be building permits on file. I would imagine upwards of $30,000-$50,000 if not more.

    2. Michael R Boyd says:

      Don, if you will email at thearchitective@aol.com I will share some info on #49 history that I have worked up towards a Vandeventer Place book that is in the works.
      Home costs per building permit records were typically $15,000 – $40,000, with the lots often costing nearly as much, going for $150 – $200 per front foot, i.e. a 100′ lot would cost $15,000 – $20,000. Published costs of the homes tended to be somewhat higher and research suggests that the entire cost of finishing out the homes may not have been reflected in the permit costs. The conversion factor to modern equivalents would be 30x – 50x. A good middle-class income in the 1880s would be about $800 per year. Female servants in these homes made about $100 a year!

  11. Jay Engler says:

    Any information on the Lambert residence? Built by Jordan Wheat & Lily Lambert. Their six children were raised there by relatives and trust officers after their parent’s untimely deaths within several months on one another. Jordan Lambert founded Lambert Pharmacal, Makers of Listerine mouthwash.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Here’s one of them, presumably when they were younger:
      https://mohistory.org/collections/item/N33987

  12. Kathleen Stinehart says:

    Any info about the Catlin house? (Not sure of the spelling.) My grandma worked for them in the early 20’s when she came from Ireland.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Check this out here at the Missouri History Museum website:

      https://mohistory.org/collections/item/N05462

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