A Timeline of High-Rise Residential Towers in the City’s Central West End

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CWE tower graphic_logo

With new towers planned, proposed or rumored, we take a look back at the history of high rise living in the Central West End of St. Louis. The first residential building to reach ten stories in the neighborhood was the Fairmont in 1921, which originally faced Euclid but now is oriented toward Maryland Plaza. Since that time, 27 other apartment, residential hotel and condo buildings have risen nearby. Here we chart out a century of vertical living in the city’s favorite neighborhood.

A lot of these buildings originally were ‘residential hotels.’ Such structures formed a third category between our modern notion of a nightly hotel and our notion of an apartment. While you could get a room for a night at a residential hotel, these buildings had weekly and monthly rates and a lot of long-term residents. They provided larger units like an apartment building, but offered the amenities of a hotel. Many successful professionals lived their entire lives in residential hotels. It was a fairly common lifestyle choice for single professionals (male and female) who had no spouse to do the housekeeping.

Seeing these towers divorced from their urban context triggers a lot of thoughts about the buildings that help define the city. You’re reminded that the amazing urban wall on the north side of Lindell Blvd. actually consists of nearly a dozen individual buildings. Even tall buildings can function to define an urban space — to say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that each piece of our built environment must defer and yield to the creation of this living entity we call the city.

A visual timeline also lets you view these structures in the context of one other. You notice how so many of them look so very alike. You notice the familiar tripartite form with stone or terra cotta base, red or tan brick shaft and terra cotta top. And you can observe how the repetition of this form creates a foil against which the truly exceptional is recognized. You notice the fantastic vertical banding of the Pierre Chouteau. You see the stepped ziggurat of the Park Plaza. You admire the elegantly executed modernism of Lindell Terrace. And — at least in your memory — you might notice the quirky form of the Round Building, that now-demolished roll of paper towels that once stood out on the Central West End skyline. It was a building you either loved or hated. Or you loved it from a distance but hated it up close.

Seeing the timeline, you also realize how loudly the 1920s roared in St. Louis … and how silent things became after the 1931 opening of the Park Plaza, that swan song of a booming era. You see the twenty year silence during depression and war, the burst of new life in the 1960s followed again by thirty years of relative quiet.

And then you notice the new towers: the Park East on Euclid and the building at 4545 Lindell. Then you think of the proposed Covington tower at 4494 Lindell and hear rumblings of perhaps others on the way. You wonder whether the Twenties and Sixties might be followed by the roaring Tens. Unable to see where the timeline leads beyond the present, you still look at these newer projects — at the investment and people and relationships they represent — and you ponder whether the Central West End has entered a new golden age of growth and vitality.

CWE high-rise towers

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  • http://www.gatewaystreets.org/ Herbie Markwort

    Where’s the 11-story San Luis Apartments?

    • Presbyterian

      Good question! We originally had it in the story but dropped it because San Luis (the DeVille Motor Hotel) was built as a hotel in the modern sense — nightly rates without permanent residents. The residential conversion came later.

  • Adam

    also, Executive House (a.k.a. the Doctors’ Building) has obviously been demolished.

    • STLgasm

      I think you are mistaken. The Executive House is on West Pine between Newstead and Taylor. It is still very much standing. The Doctors Building was never a residential building, so according to the criteria for this list, that’s why it is not included.

      • Adam

        My bad. The Exec House looks pretty similar to the Doctors Bldg. I though maybe that had been its name in a previous life.

  • Alex Ihnen

    The headline says it, but I didn’t make it clear on the graphic – these are residential buildings. Some have had other purposes at some point in their lives, but all were built as residences, or in some cases residential hotels (see added paragraph above for a descriptor).

  • John R

    When was the Round Building demolished? I also think The Coronado is outside CWE boundaries.

    • Presbyterian

      Fair question about the Coronado. Boundaries for a study like this are relative. I decided to include the CWE in its looser and more expansive 1920s sense. Heading west on Lindell, the 361- Forest telephone exchange and 63108 zip code would include buildings fronting onto Union, which were considered CWE (not DeBaliviere). Private streets like Washington Terrace and Kingsbury Place were also considered CWE.

      To the east along Lindell, buildings facing Lindell west of Spring were commonly thought of as CWE and had more in common with other Lindell highrises than with the Continental or University Club in Midtown. This mental category of the Central West End is broader than the modern neighborhood classification as defined on the city website.

      • dempster holland

        In my day (1940s, 1950s) the CWE was generally from Whittier to
        DeBaliviere or possibly to Skinker. The “West End” was broader and
        if considered from a socio-economic viewpoint could be considered to
        go all the way to the eastern boundary of Ladue. This area in its
        signal family configuration contained a substantial portion of the
        economic and professional elite, who existed in a somewhat self-
        contained group of social and family connections. As the third
        generation matured in the 1960s, most joined the ever-growing
        movement to West County. But the area also had economic and
        social diversity, with many apartment units and excellent public trans-
        portation to downtown

    • Presbyterian

      Round Building was demolished in 1998. Old-school demolition with a medicine ball.

  • Imran

    What about that neat hotel/apartment building at Taylor/Pershing? and then there’s the one at Taylor and Maryland (where Pizzaria Mia just opened), York House building, St Regis and the Leonardo on Lindell at Whittier . Not a big deal, just wondering :)

    • STLgasm

      The Fremont and the Ellsworth too.

    • Presbyterian

      This graphic includes residential buildings ten stories and taller. If you add eight- and nine-story residential, then add these seven:

      St. Regis 4950 Lindell 8 stories 1903
      York House 4935 Lindell 8 stories 1922
      The Ellsworth 4405 W. Pine 8 stories 1926
      Maryland Manor 4501 & 4515 Maryland 9 stories 1925
      The Embassy 500 N. Union 8 stories 1925
      Leonardo Apartments 4166 Lindell 9 stories 1925
      Roosevelt Towne Apartments 711 N. Euclid 8 stories 1928

      All but one from the 1920s. Quite a decade!

      • STLgasm

        How tall is the Fremont on Lindell and Convent Gardens on Taylor & Pershing?

        • Presbyterian

          Fremont is seven, as is Convent Gardens.

  • Mike F

    “…how loudly the 1920s roared in St. Louis.”

    The 20′s roared everywhere in real estate. The boom–or bubble, to be more precise–and its subsequent bust, was one of the precursors to the Great Depression. St. Louis Hills/Holly Hills were also built during this era.

  • STLgasm

    This is a great thread. St. Louis is not typically thought of as having a “tall” skyline, but aside from Chicago and Detroit, St. Louis definitely has the most historic residential high-rises outside of its downtown. Way more than Cleveland, way more than Cincinnati, way more than Milwaukee. And of course, Indianapolis and Columbus aren’t even close. I’m not talking about modern towers, but specifically pre-war. You can almost see how high-rises would’ve filled in around Forest Park and throughout the central corridor had the city kept growing. If you get up high on a building along Skinker and look east, it’s very clear that our central corridor skyline, with a few contemporary exceptions, is almost frozen in time (like 1960s). Definitely has a vague New York influence (more so than Chicago for sure). I think pretty awesome how grand and urban the core is despite its abruptly stunted growth. And it’s not just the central corridor– the stately high-rises along S. Grand are pretty cool too. You can tell Grand was a swanky address back in those days.

  • opendorz

    Great article, graphics and discussion. I love this stuff!

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