Waverly Place, Lafayette Square

Waverly Place, just off Lafayette Avenue, is one of the more interesting private streets in Lafayette Square, and in the city in general. It is also, after Vandeventer Place (which was annihilated), perhaps one of the most devastated by demolition, in this case by Interstate 44. Consequently, and perhaps a bit strangely, the southernmost portion of this private street is now technically in the McKinley Heights neighborhood south of Interstate 44. Above, Waverly Place was just being platted out, and it is the unpaved lane between the mansions labeled No. 5 on the left and No. 4 on the right. Below, in the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, we can see the “heyday” of the street, when all of its buildings were intact. We’ve looked at Nicholson Place, to the east, before.

Looking at the photo below, at an apartment building that looks to be from the early Twentieth Century, we are gazing at the northeast corner of Waverly Place, or the southeast corner of the intersection of the private place and Lafayette Avenue.

If you could be transported back in time, you would instead see this magnificent Italianate villa, looking at from the northwest while standing in the grass median of Waverly Place.

William Swekosky, Charles Gibson Residence, 2046 Lafayette Avenue, Late 19th Century, Missouri History Museum, N33855

This is the house of Charles Gibson, and it is typical of what were once dozens of such houses that could have been spotted in the exurbs of St. Louis after the Civil War, and some were built even before. Almost all of them are gone, including the Gibson House. Below, you can see that it largely survived the Great Cyclone of 1896, but must have been demolished sometime after that. Gibson was a lawyer, commissioner of Lafayette Park, was married to Archibold Gamble’s daughter Virginia, authored the legislation that created Forest Park, and helped build the Southern Hotel.

Damage to House and Trees from Tornado of 1896, Photograph by Fisse, 1896, Missouri History Museum, N39528

As is typical of large parcels of land, numerous apartment buildings, such as the one we already saw before, but now are looking at its western elevation along Waverly Place, were built as the neighborhood went from upper class to middle class.

It was a big parcel of land, so the following two apartment buildings seem to have been built in its backyard, facing the private street.

They are in the style of apartment buildings I would usually expect to see in Shaw.

The grass median is still preserved, but I took this picture where the boulevard stops, demolished further south by the construction of the interstate.

On the west side of the street, we see two nice Italianate and Second Empire houses, such as these two which are still standing. The house on the right is the David Constant Jaccard House, who later joined with Augustus A. Mermod to form one of the most exclusive jewelry and watch companies in St. Louis.

Jaccard Mansion, Waverly Place, Photograph by William Swekosky, c. 1940-59, Missouri History Museum, N03318

Here is the Jaccard house, carefully restored to its Second Empire splendor.

The Italianate house was home of Capt. William S. Cole around the turn of the Twentieth Century.

Next, however, we get to a house that has been demolished. I have to laugh when I see this photograph by William Swekosky, however. This was clearly an Italianate house, originally, three bays wide (meaning count three windows from the left to right). Then, probably to “jazz the house up,” in the late Nineteenth Century the owners added the tower and porch to bring it more into keeping with Romanesque Revival style that were becoming more popular at the time. You can see it in the Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis at the beginning of this post, without its renovations (just above and to the right of the house labeled No. 5). A house in Tower Grove East can give you an idea of its original appearance.

Fielding Mansfield Residence, c. 1870, 1749 Waverly Place, Photograph by William Swekosky, Missouri History Museum, N03480

Next up is a gem, and is No. 5 on Compton and Dry. It is the Archibald Gamble House, and faced the end of Waverly Place. I guess I would call it Italianate, but that almost doesn’t do it justice. It is a fascinating house, and I suspect that the central entrance tower was added later. I even wonder if the wing on the left was actually the original house and the large mass in front was added later.

Archibald Gamble House, 2100 Waverly Place, Photograph by William Swekosky, 1943, Missouri History Museum, N03194

What is really fascinating is that the southern east-west arm of the inverted “T” of Waverly place actually backed up to what is now Geyer Avenue in McKinley Heights. So the photograph below is taken from McNair Avenue and Geyer. Today, the house is obviously gone, and the street is extended north to hook up the now disconnected southern portion of Waverly since the interstate blocks it to the north. To the right, the rest of the old lot is a parking lot.

Archibald Gamble House, Rear View, 2100 Waverly Place, Photograph by William Swekosky, 1940-59, Missouri History Museum, N04018

There are in fact some wonderful houses left, facing the interstate along the old Waverly Place; here is the side of one house that you pass by as you head up the extended McNair over the grounds of the old Gamble House.

Interestingly, these houses are much smaller, but still have a lot of style.

These Second Empire row houses are in excellent condition, below.

At the western end of Waverly Place, we get to some relatively humble Italianate houses which do not actually have streets in front of their doors.

Turning around, I can imagine how cozy it must have been on this place before the interstate came through and destroyed the houses to the north.

Finally, what is going on with this house on the eastern arm of Waverly Place? There is clearly an older first floor with a newer second floor addition.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dan Lewis says:

    Excellent work Chis!
    Love the background history and old photo’s.
    St Louis is so much more than most of us ever realized, Thanks for unearthing the past and showing what remains. Fascinating,

  2. Jay Divine says:

    I’m a 45-year resident of Waverly Place and a modestly published amateur historian myself, and this is by far the best historical treatment of Waverly Place I have ever seen. We are very much in your debt! The piece is well researched, sensitively written, and admirably concise. The photographs and illustrations you’ve assembled, including the invaluable insurance map, Swekosky’s, and I assume your own photo of our French Second Empire Townhouse at 1719 Waverly Place.
    One small oversight is that your layout confuses the Italianate Jaccard house at 1723 Waverly Place and our second empire townhouse. Jaccard lived in the grand Italianate house. He never resided at 1719 Waverly Place, which was built in 1780 and occupied by the family of Loyd Grayson Harris from then until 1918, almost 40 years. You note that the Italianate house was the “home of Capt. William S. Cole around the turn of the Twentieth Century.” This is probably true, assuming that Cole purchased the property when the Jaccards moved to newer parts of St. Louis. Loyd Harris had been a Union Army officer in the Wisconsin regiment of the Iron Brigade. Lincoln personally commissioned him into the Marines as the war was ending. After serving as a supply officer for the marines, he built a successful lumber and manufacturing business here in St. Louis and became a close friend of Robert Brookings, a fellow St. Louis lumberman. After Harris’ death most of his children moved to San Antonio, Texas, marrying into the storied Herff ranching family there and founding the respected statewide Frost Bank empire there.
    Please let me know if I can answer any questions. Again, my real gratitude for this absorbing mini-history of what was in danger of becoming a forgotten Place! We can’t thank you enough.

    PS: I am a cousin of the Noffsinger family who helped settle Virginia and Kentucky. My connections are to the Noffsingers in Mercer County and Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. Do you know of a connection between your family and theirs?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.