Benton Park Gas Station to Become Restaurant at 1956 Utah

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An abandoned modernist gas station in Benton Park soon will be serving clean food and grass-fed burgers.

With project leadership by partner Kevin King, developer King Campo LLC is working with restauranteur Carolyn Bauer and her adult daughters, Cora Bauer and Lauren Bauer. The planned name for the new eatery is the same as the address: 1956 Utah.

Designed by locally respected firm Saum Architects and built in 1937 by Harry F. Sieving, the property operated for decades as Burgherr’s Service Station. Before Interstate 55 was constructed, Utah Street provided an uninterrupted east-west connection between Grand and Broadway. This was a street without tracks, a route that allowed drivers access that was unimpeded by streetcar stops.

Drivers along Utah were attracted to the futuristic vision Bergherr’s station evoked. While 1956 Utah is within the Benton Park Historic District, it is not a contributing resource. The property’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places instead identifies the building as qualifying by embodying the distinctive characteristics of the pre-World War II “Oblong Box Type” modernist filling station. 

In 1937, the streamlined modernist service station signalled a shift away from the earlier gabled Craftsmen and Tudor style house-type filling stations. The building’s modern porcelain emameled steel wall panels and flat roof spoke to the cleanliness and efficiency that the automotive era evoked in the 1930s.

The building — vacant since 1997 — still boasts exposed joists and industrial windows. The original wood garage doors remain intact and in place. Storage tanks underground were removed in 2014. King is experienced with historic renovations, and the property is expected to be eligible for state and federal historic tax credits. The architect for the project is Michael Englebert Griffin.

Interior Overhead Doors Facing North. Photo by Andrew Weil of St. Louis Landmarks Association.

 

Interior Window Facing East. Photo by Andrew Weil of St. Louis Landmarks Association.

The developer has received preliminary approval for site development with MSD’s Project Clear grant program. Plans include two large rain gardens and two bioswales that will trap rain water runoff. Working with MSD in partnership with the Missouri Botanical Garden, the design will be populated with native Missouri plants to provide habitat for birds and insects including host plants for Monarch butterflies.

Restaurant plans include seating for 39 inside, plus outdoor dining with new hardscape and fire pits. According to King, the courtyard will be paved with historic street pavers repurposed from a section of Mullanphy Street now being removed for the NGA project north of downtown. 

Elevations by Architect Michael Englebert Griffin.

Chef Chris Bertke will bring to 1956 Utah a mixed menu with a large selection of clean food options — ingredients that avoid the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” foods most contaminated by pesticide residue. Half of the menu instead will higlight the “Clean Fifteen” ingredients most likely to be pesticide free. Plans include GMO-free, organic and gluten-free options.

But the other half of the menu will still focus on American classics. They’ve ordered a brick oven for pizzas. The menu will include grass-fed burgers and fries.

While the owners are aiming to keep the menu affordable, they also are hoping to go tip-free. A previous venture Carolyn Bauer has run with her husband Sam — food service at City Museum — has succeeded tip-free. Sam says that their average worker there makes nearly $40,000 a year because their hours are more consistent. A 16-year veteran from City Museum will be general manager at 1956 Utah.

Operating hours have not yet been determined.

 

Updated 9/26/17 to include the name of the architect and developer

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  • David Doyle

    The Environmental Protection Agency, working with the Missouri Department of Natural Resource and SLDC, conducted the environmental site assessment which included the removal of the underground tanks along with contaminated soil at the site. EPA also developed conceptual site renderings and conducted a market analysis for the property. This was a successful multi-agency government project.

  • Matt Sisul

    CDA-issued the Request for Proposals and was instrumental in selecting Kevin King’s project concept. Also, the article specifically mentions the removal of the storage tanks but doesn’t acknowledge that the site’s environmental clearance was only made possible through the hard work of SLDC staff. Further nods owed to LRA and CRO for their efforts to help get Kevin started. Your City government has been hard at work to make this happen. I wish all the best for Kevin & his team.

    • Jakeb

      CDA is the Community Development Association of the City whose primary focus is affordable housing — new and rehabed– in the City.

      SLDC is the St Louis Development Corporation, the economic development arm of the City.

      LRA is the Land Reutilization Authority of the City which I guess owned the site.

      CRO is Cultural Resources Office of the City that must approve pretty much any project in the City’s many historic districts and who works to preserve the historic integrity.

      • Matt Sisul

        Community Development Administration, not “association”

        • Jakeb

          I stand corrected 🙂

          • thomas h benton

            You probably know this, but Matt Sisul worked (at the CDA, I believe) until a couple of months ago.

  • John

    Great repurposing of the building. Sounds very interesting! If they can truly make quality organic food affordable, I will dine there for sure.

  • Sean Snyder

    Seems like a missed opportunity not naming it “Burgherr’s Service Station”?

    • Jeff Wunrow

      I totally agree!

    • Jakeb

      You completely read my mind and I almost commented exactly that but thought no one would care! 😀

    • paul dinatale

      lets start a movement for at least the menu to have a heading that lists the hamburgers section- “Burgherr’s Burgers”,because i doubt they would rename the application for the business to that great name. a little bit of history of the place could be printed alongside the column explaining the name “Burgherr’s Burgers” section of the menu.

  • thomas h benton

    Interesting background on Utah Street. One quibble, though. Unless I’m missing something, doesn’t Utah still offer an uninterrupted route from Broadway to Grand, even after I-55? In fact, it continues all the way to Gustine.

    • Whipple

      All the way to Morgan Ford (with a jog, and it becomes one way)

  • rgbose

    The sort of thing that could have helped create place in Cortex. Too bad the Wabash signal tower was razed for a sight distance triangle before it could become something like this.

    • STLExplorer

      No joke. Cortex had a lot of smaller buildings that would have been great for startups just growing out of an incubator. Now they’re mostly parking lots.

      As Jane Jacobs said, “New ideas need old buildings.”

      • kjohnson04

        There is a terrifying number of surface lots in Cortex. One Garage could supply all the parking that is necessary.

        • Nick

          Cortex doesn’t have strong-enough demand or density to warrant a garage. There’s still multiple vacant buildings and multiple vacant lots. Maybe in ten years after Cortex develops some more, a a garage would make sense, but right now the demand just isn’t there. Besides, surface lots are easily developed into better uses once the demand is there.

    • Whipple

      So far cortex is a complete joke. Swipe thrus and surface lots, I guess that’s how st louis competes with Chesterworld

  • rgbose

    How many square feet is the building?

  • Jakeb

    This sounds like a fantastic plan.