Hickory Street District
The Hickory Street District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2007, The Gombach Group.
The Hickory Street District is significant in the following area:
Architecture: District building types and styles illustrate the evolution of an unimproved rural section of the City Commons into an urban, working-class immigrant neighborhood. Constructed over a period of approximately seventy years (circa 1844-1914), the housing stock provides a good representative inventory of the major trends in St. Louis working-class housing as well as exceptional examples found in a rare circa 1844 stone house and a large 1893 multi-family row. The buildings are distinguished by the quality of their materials, workmanship and vernacular design and are unified by similar size, scale and materials; they exhibit stylistic features of Vernacular Classicism, Italianate/Mansard, Queen Anne, Classical Revival and Craftsman. A functionally expressive 1895 red brick streetcar barn maintains residential scale, materials and elements of detailing.
District boundaries were determined on the west by Jefferson Avenue, an eight lane busy commercial thoroughfare, on the north and northeast by extensive land clearance and on the south and southeast by the adjacent Lafayette Square National Register District from which the topography drops rapidly northward creating a visual barrier.
In 1835, the Missouri State Legislature authorized the City of St. Louis to sell the St. Louis Commons, a large tract of undeveloped land situated southwest of the city limits. The following year, at the urging of Mayor Darby, some thirty acres of the Common were set aside as a public square bounded by streets one hundred twenty feet wide. To the east and west of the Park, the streets were named Mississippi and Missouri Avenues; to the north and south, Park and Lafayette Avenues, respectively. In 1854, the public square was renamed Lafayette Park.
As early as 1837, portions of the Common near the Park were surveyed and subdivided into blocks which were being purchased by speculators who correctly anticipated the city's potential for future growth. Stimulated by an influx of foreigners, St. Louis' static population in fact had tripled between 1830 and 1840. Germans alone accounted for 5000, or an estimated thirty percent of the city's total population by 1840 (16,469); the number of Irish was also steadily gaining. The shortage and cost of housing within the incorporated city drove many newcomers to the outskirts where land was plentiful and inexpensive. Early purchasers of acreage in Lots 11 and 12 of the Common (encompassing the Hickory Street District) included immigrants from England, Ireland and Germany as well as native-born. Some of these landholders were purely speculators who sold relatively quickly while others settled on the land.
In 1838, one of two large landholders in Lot 12, Dr. Frederick Ryhiner, jointly purchased with his brother, Charles, a tract bounded by Park, Chouteau and Missouri Avenues. Ryhiner (1806-1879) had moved to St. Louis in 1837 from Madison County, Illinois, where he had been farming and practicing medicine since emigrating from Switzerland in 1835. According to one account, while living in St. Louis Ryhiner erected the first steam flour mill in Highland, Illinois, but nothing else is known about his activities in St. Louis. He returned to Illinois around 1840 where he was living in February, 1844 when he sold 1 82/100 acres of Lot 12 to Peter Becker for $550. Although the deed of transfer to Becker includes reference to "all the buildings and improvements which was or at any time may be erected" it is not possible to confirm that the stone house now on that parcel (1113 Missouri Avenue) was standing at the time Becker acquired the land.
While doubt remains whether Ryhiner built the stone house, Becker's association with the building is documented in a deed. A native of Westphalia, Germany, Becker's line of work is unknown as he is listed in City Directories without an occupation. (Quite possibly he was involved in agriculture of some kind since the most common occupations of residents in that area reported in the 1840 and 1850 censuses were farmer, gardener and dairyman.) Fronting east on Missouri Avenue and north on Chouteau, Becker's land sloped downward to Chouteau's Mill Creek which traversed the property before emptying into Chouteau's Pond to the northeast. Conservatively assigning a date of 1844 to the stone house still places it among an extremely small number of early stone houses remaining in the city although stone was a relatively common building material in St. Louis during the first half of the nineteenth century. The doorways on three elevations along with the overhanging gabled roof set it apart from other stone houses of the period. Associated with the earliest period of settlement in the Lafayette Park area, the Becker homestead holds a significant place in the evolution of the area from rural to urban residential patterns.
In 1847, Becker, along with adjacent landowners Orsemus and Susan Robinson and Hennerickus Arnd, opened a forty foot wide street (Missouri Avenue) running north from Park to Chouteau Avenues. The same year twenty-five year old Hennerickus Arnd, born in Prussia, platted the subdivision bearing his name which was bounded by Park Avenue on the south and Becker's parcel on the north. Part of the Hickory Street District stands on lots 1 through 9 of Arnd's Addition. At the time that Arnd opened his addition he reserved the right to quarry stone for one year on the undivided parcel located at the northwest corner of Park and Missouri Avenues. The availability of stone nearby accounts for its use as a building material in the Becker house and in at least three other early stone houses close by which have been demolished.
In April 1850, Becker sold the portion of his property south of the middle of Mill Creek for $2100 to George and Margaret Anthes who held it for forty years. When the 1850 census was taken, fifty-five year old Anthes from the Pfalz region of Germany was living in the stone house with his wife and five children; he was employed in a soap factory and his eighteen year old son was a candle maker. Anthes' neighbors included English-born ropemaker William Humphreys and German-born gardener William Nedderhut both of whom lived on land west of the Becker-Anthes parcel. While most residents in this outlying district were engaged in farming activities in 1850, a decade later the number of skilled and unskilled laborers had risen dramatically. Spurred by the partial draining of Chouteau's Pond in the 1850s and construction of the Pacific Railroad tracks two blocks north of Chouteau Avenue, some of St. Louis' rapidly growing industries had begun to locate immediately north and east of the District. In the following decades, these and other industries would become a major source of employment for District residents. The largest single type of employment in this still sparsely settled area of 1860, however, was work associated with slaughter houses and meat packing. Two city blocks (now cleared) fronting on the east side of Missouri Avenue north of Hickory (across from the stone house) were already being settled by German butchers who later would establish sizeable slaughter and packing plants there.
During the 1850s property fronting Lafayette Park south of the District had attracted a few upper middle-class residents who built large mansions and gave financial support to improving the park site with plantings and a fence to keep out stray animals. In sharp contrast to the more modest development patterns in the Hickory Street District, auction advertisements for lots near the Park were directed to "merchants and professional men" seeking the "charms of a rural residence" situated on a "high plateau," "commanding a fine view of St. Louis" with convenient access to the city by the Horse Railroad. The notices made clear that the lots were not intended for a "mere tenement...for boarders or small families," but were designed for "permanent abodes" where "some taste is displayed in their construction and adornment." Further attempts to control development around the park were made in 1863 when the State Legislature passed a law protecting an area within eight hundred feet of the park from any "gambling, bawdy house, dram shop, beer house, beer garden or saloon, slaughter house, soap or candle factory, oil, glue, vitriol, chemical or other manufactory of any kind" declared to be detrimental to either the use or reputation of the park. Although the northern boundary of the restricted area included property on the south side of Hickory Street, it proved to be a significant, if not precise, demarcation separating the environs of the working-class/industrial Hickory Street District from the predominantly middle-class residential development closer to the park.
The Civil War years retarded new construction citywide but within a few years after the return of peace residential growth resumed in the District. With the up surge of post-war construction came increased demands for building materials and skilled labor, providing employment opportunities for the city's growing number of German craftsmen. St. Louis' rich deposits of clay scattered throughout the city attracted some immigrants to undeveloped blocks which they worked as brickyards. Prussian-born Henry H. Schweer, for example, was manufacturing bricks a few blocks west of the District when he purchased several lots in 1866 on the south side of Hickory Street in William Humphreys' Addition which had opened that year. Schweer's firm undoubtedly supplied bricks for his family home, 2336 Hickory (demolished) and 2344 Hickory, built circa 1875 as rental property. Brickyards were also operating within the District by the 1870s or earlier near the southeast corner of Hickory and Missouri and on the west side of Missouri where Rutger Street would later be cut through.
One of the earliest carpenter/builders to locate in the District was Peter Henry Meyer who emigrated to the United States from Hanover, Germany in 1855 and four years later married George Anthes' daughter, Catharine. Meyer had built 1117 Missouri Avenue by 1869 when the house is mentioned in a deed granting the Meyers a leasehold estate on a twenty-five foot parcel which was part of Anthes' frontage on Missouri Avenue. The two-story, two-bay, red brick house with half-hipped roof is simply articulated with segmentally arched openings and brick dentillation at the cornice. It abuts near-identical 1119 Missouri Avenue, owned by George Anthes and probably built about the same time. Sometime around 1877-80 Anthes built 1109 Missouri Avenue, a house of similar size and detailing. Built parallel and close to the street, the houses conform to a more urban pattern than the irregularly sited stone house set back from the Street. Although stone was still being quarried nearby, brick had become the preferred urban building material.
The pace of construction gained momentum in the 1870s when ten District houses were built on Hickory Street and Missouri Avenue. A demand for small residential lots prompted the re-subdividing of lots 2, 3, 4 and 5 of Arnd's Addition which had been platted fifty feet wide and 240 feet deep. In 1873, Christian Gessert (a south-side saloon keeper) multiplied three Arnd parcels into ten lots, each having twenty-five or six front feet and about 125 feet depth. In Gessert's subdivision, Arnd's lot 2 was reserved for the opening of Hickory Street west from Missouri Avenue 240 feet where it continued through Humphrey's and Staniford's additions to Jefferson Avenue.
The 1870s houses illustrate the conservative building practices of the working-class neighborhood as they deviated little from residential forms and styling of the previous two or three decades. While middle-class homes near Lafayette Park and elsewhere in the city had adopted fashionable mansard roofs, Italianate cornices and stonefronts, District houses continued to exhibit austere brick facades sparsely detailed with simple brick dentilation or, occasionally, wood modillioned cornices. Three house types common to similar city neighborhoods appeared in the Hickory Street District during this period. The first, and most typical, was a detached four family, two-story, four-bay building with a low pitch, side-gabled roof. First story apartments were entered through two center-bay front doors and access to second story units was gained by rear wood exterior stairs. The type is represented by 2327-29 Hickory Street and 1201-03 Missouri Avenue the former employing segmental arch openings and the latter, less common, stone linteled ones. Seven District houses illustrate a second type, a detached two-story, segmentally arched, two-bay building with front or side entrance. Roofs are low hipped, side-gabled or flat. At least one example (2344 Hickory) was installed with interior stairs. The third type, and least common, 2322 Hickory, known locally as a "flounder," is a one-bay hall with loft and basement. Its distinguishing feature is a half-gabled profile. A small turned interior stair leads to the loft in this example.
During the next decade a flurry of construction brought the District twenty-one new houses, half of which were located east of Missouri Avenue where the land use changed from brickyards to residential. As more style-conscious detailing filtered into the vocabulary of some District vernacular builders, the popular two-story, two-bay house gained mansard roofs, Italianate elaborated wood or brick cornices and dressed ashlar stone facades. Older traditions lingered on, however, in the two and one-half story flounder at 2306 Hickory. New house types appeared with the construction of six-bay, three family 1210-14 Missouri and an attached row of seven (originally nine) two-bay facades faced with brick or stone at 1216-28 Missouri. An unusually fine six-bay stonefront for four families at 2221-23 Rutger also illustrates the increased bays and living units; its use of streetfront entrances and interior stairs to upper story units (also employed in 1210-14 Missouri) was a significant design advance from working-class multi-family buildings of the 1870s.
Approximately half of the 1870s and 1880s houses were built by owner/occupants almost all of whom rented part of the house. Except for the row of seven on the east side of Missouri, the remaining houses were built by homeowners living nearby, often on an adjacent lot, who constructed the houses as income-producing property. Representatives of St. Louis' two largest nineteenth century ethnic groups, the German and Irish, built the majority of the houses; the Germans tended to concentrate on the southside of Hickory and the Irish and native-born on the northside. Occupations of District residents indicated a solid working-class neighborhood. A number of original owners were employed in the building trades and no doubt were involved in the construction of the houses. For example, George Bruce, a stone cutter from Scotland, built 2221-23 Rutger; carpenter/stair builder Thomas Stone, 2327-29 and 2331 Hickory; Henry and William Bewig, bricklayers of German descent, built 2346, 2348 and 2350 Hickory. As might be expected, machinists and laborers accounted for a sizable number of residents who found ready employment in the industrial area north of Chouteau Avenue where manufacturers of stoves, glass, carriages, wire and bed springs were established along with several stone cutting yards, brass and metal foundries, iron works and lumber yards. On the east side of Missouri north of Hickory, a slaughter house, sausage factory, pork house and glove factory provided jobs for District butchers and tanners. One of the 1880s rental properties, 1210-14 Missouri, was constructed by German-born butcher John Daniel Berger, whose establishment was among those on the east side of Missouri.
While District residents were within walking distance of employment, streetcar lines had figured significantly in stimulating residential development of the Lafayette Park area to the south. By the late 1850s a horsecar line reached the park from downtown St. Louis and later, the Chouteau Branch of the Lindell Railway Company ran west on Chouteau to the city limits. In 1882, new service to the area was pioneered by the Jefferson Avenue Railway Company, incorporated that year as a crosstown mule line connecting Lafayette Park on the south with the Fair Grounds district on the northside. Owned and operated by a syndicate controlled by the city's four largest rail companies, the Jefferson Avenue line first operated out of a building constructed in 1882 on the southeast corner of Jefferson and LaSalle. This building was replaced in 1895 by a larger facility on the same site after the company had abandoned mules and small cars for electric cars. Articulated with extended rhythms of piers and segmentally arched bays embellished with corbeled brick, the one-story red brick building integrates well with the residential fabric. In 1899, the Jefferson Avenue Railway Company was acquired by the newly formed United Railways Company which consolidated all but one of the city's street car lines.
In addition to opening transportation service to the northside, the Jefferson Avenue Railway Company attracted new residents to the Hickory Street District who found employment as conductors, motormen and car repairers, along with rental housing convenient to work. Although streetcar employees were found renting in a number of District houses, the largest concentration over the years occupied a row of eight multi-family buildings constructed in 1893 on the south side of Hickory Street. Fronting nearly 260 feet on Hickory from the corner of Missouri, this large parcel had remained unimproved and apparently was in use as a stoneyard during the 1880s by stone contractor Edward J. Stamm who sold the parcel in 1892 to German-born carpenter/ builder Jacob Schenck, the developer of the property.
The buildings championed a new silhouette for the working-class row house with roof lines punctuated by picturesque Queen Anne gables and facades broken by projecting porches fashioned with spindlework in the Eastlake manner. Unlike the generally flat facades of the earlier houses, these buildings were articulated with center bays corbeled out from the wall plane and given textural contrast by square panels of brickwork. Moreover, the buildings varied the typical uniform solution to urban row house composition by grouping the eight buildings as four semi detached blocks of unequal size. The two center blocks 2307-13 and 2315-21 (each housing eight families) were given emphasis by their greater size and sunburst gable patterns. Flanking end blocks featured scroll pattern gables and housed six families at the west end and five at the east where a corner storefront, 2301, terminated the row. Both first and second-story flats were designed with front and rear access to each unit. A further distinguishing feature of the row (unique among working-class buildings of this period) was the terra cotta or pressed brick lettering which proclaimed the name of the row, "Park Terrace." Perhaps suggested by the English terrace house type or the topography of parcel, the name underscored the unity of the row and exploited its proximity to Lafayette Park.
With the completion of Park Terrace, only a few scattered vacant lots remained, three of which would await development until after the turn of the century. These last three buildings provide representative examples of the final development of working-class flats before the advent of the apartment building. Essentially, they maintain the massing, scale, materials, plan and some of the detailing of the nineteenth century housing while introducing a few variations in facade treatment. Two double-family flats built in 1909 at 1217 and 1213 Missouri illustrate alternatives to facade styling typical of the period. Both expand the two-bay front to three bays with paired front doors leading to first and second-story flats — an arrangement already present in 2355 Hickory (1894). However, 1217 displays one of the standard features of turn-of-the-century private houses: a projecting front porch with Classical Revival detailing. 1213, on the other hand, exhibits characteristics most commonly found only in flats, a planar facade which exploits contrast in brick color for decorative effect and a geometrically styled parapet rising above the roof line. Four family 2303-05 Rutger, built in 1914, combines old and new features in its nineteenth century brick corbeling motif and twentieth century parapet and Craftsman detailed porch.
By the 1890s, residential sectors close to Lafayette Park were undergoing demographic shifts as middle-class owners left the southside area for fashionable new subdivisions in the West End and their homes became rental property. Little change, however, was noticeable in the Hickory Street District which maintained its stable working-class character for the next several decades. As the tide of immigration turned from Germany and Ireland to Southern Europe in the last decades of the nineteenth century, a few Hungarian and Czech families joined District residents. For example, Bohemian John Lacing, a railroad laborer, purchased 1209 Missouri in 1906 and tailor Vaclav Honzik built 1213 Missouri in 1909. (In 1910, a clustering of less financially solvent Croatian and Bohemian laborers, recently immigrated, were boarding nearby on Chouteau Avenue in blocks now cleared.) District residents in the early twentieth century continued to work along lines established earlier such as machinists, streetcar and railroad laborers, butchers, carpenters, brewers and a variety of other industrial jobs. The construction in 1903-1922 of the International Shoe Company complex (listed in the National Register) on Hickory and Mississippi two blocks east of the District added a sizable number of shoeworkers to the District.
In the past two decades or so, land clearance to the north and east of the District has removed almost all trace of the industrial workplaces which once were vitally connected to the growth and development of the Hickory Street District. The former Jefferson Avenue streetcar barn within the District and the International Shoe Company factory outside the boundaries are among the few remaining links to the original working-class neighborhood mix of home and work. Fortunately, a 1971 St. Louis City Plan proposal for demolition and new construction in most of the District was never realized and the housing stock survived with few losses. A renaissance in the nearby Lafayette Square Historic District has gradually brought increased stability to the area. Located only five minutes from downtown, the district's small scale, multi-family buildings have begun to attract owners interested in rehabilitation.
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† Stiritz, Mary M., Landmarks Association of St. Louis, Hickory Street District, St. Louis MO, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.