Laclede Lofts and the Unexpected Redevelopment of Industrial Architecture in St. Louis

Laclede Lofts (S. Pfieffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building)

Back in February of 2010 nextSTL noticed that the S. Pfeiffer Manufacturing Company headquarters at 3965 Laclede was being suggested for National Register listing. For a building like this, that means only one thing: redevelopment with historic tax credits. It seemed unlikely. Built as a warehouse in 1946, the building is somewhat of an anomoly in the city, which was largely built-out decades before. Warehouses and industrial buildings from 1880 to 1920 are much more common, and what most have in mind when thinking of loft apartment conversions. Yet at second, or third, glance the building has a particular charm.

Now, a conversion to loft apartments by Ebersoldt + Associates Architecture may soon be underway. The following rendering was recently posted on the firm’s Facebook page, with the message, “We are excited to announce the Laclede Lofts project has received full neighborhood support!” The current owner is listed as Jeff Winzerling, President of Universatile Development. Wenzerling partnered with Pete Rothschild of Red Brick Management to build the Catlin Townhomes at Boyle and West Pine in 2007 and recently announced plans for four single-family homes on 4200 block of Maryland Avenue.

Laclede Lofts (S. Pfieffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building){rendering of Laclede Lofts by Ebersoldt + Associates Architecture}

Laclede Lofts (S. Pfieffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building)
{the S. Pfeiffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building}

Laclede Lofts (S. Pfieffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building)
{entrance detail of the S. Pfeiffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building}

Laclede Lofts (S. Pfieffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building)
{interior of the S. Pfeiffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building – from National Register form}

From the National Register form: the three-story building was designed in a simple modernistic style, which allowed function to prevail over aesthetics. Although primarily used for manufacturing pharmaceuticals (on the first floor), the building also served as company headquarters with offices on the second floor. Laboratory space was provided on the third floor, which retains the original laboratory sinks and counters. Adolph Pfeiffer graduated from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 1874 and opened a pharmacy in 1879 at Broadway and Salisbury Street. He moved the company, now manufactuing pharmaceuticals, to Laclede Avenue in 1912.

Along with the recently announced plans to repurpose The Cresent building at 4340 Duncan, the Southwestern Bell building at 4250 Duncan, and the Brauer Supply building at 4260 Forest Park Avenue, all part of the CORTEX life sciences district development, industrial architecture in the core of the City of St. Louis is finding new life. And with it, some of the identity of the city is being preserved. While we continue to demolish landmarks across the city (see Pevely Dairy plant and many others), these surprising sucess stories further demonstrate that the real question regarding preservation is almost never whether a building can be reused (it can), but if it will be.

This particular project is especially important as it will serve to better tie together the thriving Central West End with Midtown and Saint Louis University. In reality, just one block separates upscale historic single family homes, the excellent 6 North apartments, Scottish Arms pub and the SLU campus, but it might as well be a mile. The block has a large vacant lot (owned by CORTEX) and empty storefronts, but it’s not quite abandonned. The U.S. Post Office is mid-block and the St. Louis Police Collision Repair Center is here as well (it stays busy).

Laclede Lofts (S. Pfieffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building)
{aerial view of Laclede Avenue and Lofts development (center)}

Immediately across from the Laclede Lofts sits a forlorn building that may find unexpected reuse as well. Also owned by Rothschild and Winzerling, the Scudder Motor Truck Company Building at 3942-62 Laclede Avenue now has a place on the National Register of Historic Places. According the the National Register nomination prepared by Michael Allen of the Preservation Research Office, it was built in 1908 as a carriage factory. Scudder occupied the building as a truck dealership and service shop, a tire shop and an automobile painting shop through 1937. From that year through 1952, the Falstaff Brewing Company used the building as a garage and maintenance shop for its delivery fleet. Since 1958, the building has been a shop for processing and re-plating of automobile bumpers.

The building is being marketed as 3950 Laclede and the historic renovation will feature ‘flex’ space – warehouse space that features significant office, lab or conditioned production area. At nearly 30,000 square feet on a single level, it could accommodate a little bit of everything. Just to the east is a large vacant parcel owned by CORTEX and the likely site of an expanded Center for Emerging Technologies.

Scudder Motor Truck Company Building at 3942-62 Laclede Avenue
{now on the National Register – Scudder Motor Truck Company Building}

3950 Laclede Rendering
{rendering of a renovated Scudder building}

Center for Emerging Technologies III
{rendering of potential Center for Emerging Technologies expansion on adjacent vacant lot}

Take a look around and the 3900 blocks of Laclede and West Pine, for many years a virtual barrier to development, a void, are suddenly perfectly centered. While SLU has largely turned its back on Vandeventer Avenue, the university continues to make significant investments on its Frost Campus. Around the corner, Cafe Ventana is always busy and a block east, a new Jimmy John’s is being built (in a rather urban form for a drive-thru). Although a few years away, a new MetroLink Station could eventually be just four blocks away and a study to evaluate a possible Lindell Avenue streetcar in underway. Whether or not this forgotten stretch becomes a transit hub, investment here is finally starting to stitch the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods together and preserve the city’s industrial history.

S. Pfieffer Manufacturing Company Headquarters Building National Register of Historic Places Registration Form