Maplewood History: Remembering Bill Jones, Maplewood’s Premier Memoirist

Bill Jones, who passed early this year, and his wife Barb are certainly familiar to followers of this space. Nothing lasts forever.  Not trees, not rocks and certainly not people.  Bill lasted longer than most.  He left us his memories of early parts of his long life here in Maplewood.  I know that I am not alone in saying that I truly appreciate and enjoy them. Not too long ago, as I sat with them at their dining room table, the conversation turned to the singing that they both had done in church.  They asked if I might care for a demonstration.  I would so they did. Bill and Barb in their finest operatic voices sang for me a song that I’m ashamed to admit I don’t recall the name of.  Their voices were very clear and powerful, well suited to the large church spaces they were accustomed to singing in.  I remember thinking at the time that this was one of those occasions that one recalls frequently after they have occurred but might not realize the importance of at the time they are occurring.  I did and was happy to be there. Bill’s remembrances of early life in Maplewood are rare and fascinating.

Maplewood History: The Greenwood Historic District

Officially the Greenwood Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places includes nine buildings in the 3500 block of Greenwood Boulevard.  The addresses are 3500-3540 Greenwood and 7518 St. Elmo.  Those of you who are familiar with the neighborhood might ask why only nine when there are many more historic buildings in the Greenwood neighborhood? 

Obtaining an historic district designation is a complicated affair but necessary in order to qualify for historic tax credits from the state and federal governments.  Each building must be judged as either contributing or noncontributing. Descriptions and histories of the buildings involved must be researched and written.  Noncontributing buildings are not eligible for tax credits.  Too many of them in the desired district will render it ineligible. To simplify this astoundingly detailed process, I am only going to focus on two of the nine buildings.  They are ones that have been nicely renovated by a Maplewood resident, the architect/owner, Patrick Jugo.  What follows is by Karen Baxter, an historic preservation specialist, from the application to the National Register. 3518-3520.

Maplewood History: Shady Greenwood – Part Three

Let’s recap where we left off in Part Two.  As you may recall things began to head south on our man, Alfred W. Syrett, around the beginning of 1905 or possibly even a little earlier. In early February, an article reported that the sheriff had seized his home.  It seems attachment proceedings against him had been instituted by one of his partners in the Maple Green Company that had laid out the subdivision of Greenwood. Meanwhile Syrett had disappeared.  His wife said he went to Chicago. But around Feb. 28, he told Captain McNamee (another partner of his in the Maple Green Co.) that he was headed to Jefferson City.  An article published on March 10, said he had been brought back from San Francisco.  By then there were eight charges against him including forgery, grand larceny and embezzlement.

Maplewood History: Shady Greenwood – Part Two

My last post, Shady Greenwood – Part One, ended with an article from the 1904 Suburban Journal extolling the rapid transformation of the Greenwood subdivision from an overgrown “tangled bit of  underbrush with a few scattered houses here and there…” to a thoroughly modern well-populated suburb with all of the appointments one would expect in the very short space of three years.  One man in particular stood out and was described as the “prime mover” of this miraculous conversion of jungle to city.  His name was Alfred W. Syrett. Mr. Syrett, born in England, moved first to Chicago where he stayed for seven years.  He moved to St. Louis in 1896.  By the time the laudatory article appeared in the Christmas issue of the 1904 Suburban Journal, he had been working for the Mississippi Valley Trust Co. for less than a year.  He was the head of their Sales Department, I assume, involved with the subdivision of large pieces of property into smaller lots for sale to individuals wanting to build homes for themselves and their families. Keep in mind that the article was published in December 1904.  How quickly things can change.

Maplewood History: Shady Greenwood – Part One

Greenwood, the southernmost subdivision of Maplewood, is wonderfully situated.  Bounded by two railroads and Deer Creek, it is a self-contained neighborhood of tall leafy trees along quiet streets.  It’s a good place to take a walk as the architecture is diverse and interesting.  Given that it is 100% developed and surrounded by the barriers mentioned there are unlikely to be any unwelcome incursions of the retail sort that others have had to tolerate given their proximity to some of the major thoroughfares. With all of those shady streets one might be inclined to think that’s where the name Greenwood originated, but that would be wrong.  According to the retired historian of STL County, Esley Hamilton, “By 1891 Langhome Investment and Improvement Company (whose officers included Moses Greenwood Jr. as vice president) reassembled a number of the inherited Sutton tracts into a single parcel and created the Greenwood subdivision.” Moses named the tract after himself but an English syndicate may have given the streets their English and European names. Greenwood, once beautiful farmland and now a neighborhood of peaceful streets, was once home to a character as shady as any of the streets are today. It sure seems that the owners were pulling out all the stops to sell the Greenwood lots in this ad on June 11, 1891.  “60 Trains A Day, It Must Be Sold, Unique and Unparalleled, Only Electric Light Auction of Lots Ever Held On Earth.”  Whew!  Notice that “M. (Moses) Greenwood, Jr. Representing English Syndicate” gets recognition at the bottom right.  So how did that auction go?

Maplewood History: Fraser Park from the Air & Misc.

For those of you who saw my last post on Fraser Park and have been thinking that you have seen just about everything possible about FP except an aerial photo, well, here you go. In addition to Fraser Park from the Air made possible by the late and fondly remembered Syl Beletz, I will include a couple of other related tidbits most likely of marginal interest to most of you (but what else am I going to do with them)?  Remember you’re not paying for this.  And since you’re not paying for this the very least you can do is support our sponsors. The following article ran on January the 22nd, 1901 in the STL Post-Dispatch.  John Wilson of Fraser Park had gone missing.  Hmmm.  Foul play?  You be the judge. Well, I don’t know what to think about that story.  Doesn’t sound good for old John though.  I don’t know if he ever showed up again.  I included the Garrison Cafe ad because I thought that must have been an example of the very cheapest ad you could buy. By the land transfers we can see that Bill’s wife’s name was Catherine but by this image of his stone, that I found on Find-A-Grave, she apparently wanted to be remembered as Kate.

Maplewood History: Fraser Park

All I know is what I read in the papers. Will Rogers.  That was a line he used many times and with many variations.  The article often referred to as containing the first use of that line ran in the New York Times on September 30, 1923.   But Rogers was a syndicated columnist whose humorous takes on world events once ran in as many as 600 newspapers.  He apparently opened his stage performances the same way. I could say the same thing about one of Maplewood’s earliest subdivisions, Fraser Park.  Of course, my “papers” these days are ephemeral points of light that disappear as soon as I hit the switch. I’m not complaining.  This sort of research is much easier than it used to be.

Maplewood History: The Location Of the Barry and Johnston Caves

To try and solve the mystery of the location of the Barry and Johnston caves, I contacted Joe Light of the Meramec Valley Grotto, a nonprofit dedicated to the study, exploration and conservation of area caves.  I met Joe and some of his compatriots ten years ago when they generously answered an invitation from me to have a look at the entrance to the Sutton Cave here in Maplewood. Joe kindly sent me everything his research had discovered about the two caves in question with the caveat that I not reveal the location of the entrances to the cave to the general public. This is the standard policy of his organization.  It is necessary due to the fact that many of the caves are very dangerous for various reasons.  In many there is always a risk of cave-ins.  In an urban area the caves are often polluted by sewage and the air is unsafe to breathe.  And these folks are preservationists of caves.  Amateur spelunkers not only risk injury or death to themselves but they often damage fragile natural features of the caves and harm the environment in the process. Joe asked me to be vague about the location of these caves so I will.  He is going to approve this before I post it.  I can say this honestly that it will do no one any good to search for the entrances  for one of them has been so modified as to make entrance impossible and the other has a building built on top of it. Hopefully Joe will approve of my telling you that one of the cave entrances (now completely paved over) was located a short distance west of the Schnucks store at Brentwood Blvd.

Maplewood History: The Barry and Johnston Caves – Part Two

This is the second half of an article about the Barry and Johnston caves that appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on July 27, 1890.  I will include the last paragraph of what was previously published.  If you need to take another look at the first post, here is a link.  The Barry and Johnston Cave – Part One. That is a great story, don’t you think?  It is made even better by the fact that this cave is very close to Maplewood even if it is beyond our western border. We need to find out what property was once the farm of Dr. Barry.  It was situated on the Manchester Road midway between the Rock Hill and North and South roads about 9 miles from the city.  What street today was called the North and South Road in 1890?  Rock Hill still exists.  No problem there. The boys entered the Barry cave and hoped to come out of the Johnston cave some 600 yards away.  Also the Johnston homestead was once owned by Judge Molton whose home was the first in the county according to this article.  Surely someone knows where that home was.

Maplewood History: The Barry and Johnston Caves – Part One

Articles on caves are always very popular. My previous posts about our Maplewood caves (Sutton, Ellendale, Cool Cave Tavern at the Bartold location) have drawn some interesting responses from readers that caused me to do a bit more searching through the old newspapers. Recently I discovered a fascinating article that I think many of you will be excited to learn about. Let’s start with a comment that a Mr. Brian Peters posted in 2012 in response to an article I had run about the Sutton Cave. Brian Peters

8:09 pm on Monday, June 25, 2012

I brought this story up to my father, and SURPRISE TO ME.

Maplewood History: More from Mary

Just as regular readers of this space have begun to suspect that Mary Piles, senior curator of things historical at CNB-STL, has no more vintage images and documents concerning her place of employment that we haven’t seen, I have but one word to say – not so fast.  Actually she has shared with us many more that I had been hoping to find an interesting or unusual way to present them to this audience.  Failing that, they’re all lumped together below. If you have forgotten just what CNB-STL means, make a note of this.  It is the new abbreviation for the old Citizens National Bank of Maplewood and St. Louis, now with 6 locations throughout the area.  Some day I will just be able to write the abbreviation and I won’t have to type out the long explanation or have I already done that? Never mind.  Let’s have a look at some of the images Mary has garnered from the 4 corners of the cyber world.  Later on there will be a discussion, “Does a cyber world have corners?”  But first… Earlier this year we posted, Citizens Bank of Maplewood.  Here are a few more images on that subject.

Maplewood History: 1915 Mitchell Place – Dogtown

Generally I confine my investigations to within the boundaries of our fair city, but now and then a subject of exceptional interest comes along so I make an exception.  This is one of those as were my last two posts about the De Soto Run bicycle challenge.  I really strayed beyond our borders for those two.  I was able to confirm that John W. Rannells, who once occupied the same terra firma as we do now, won a bicycle race.  I was not able to determine that he ever rode the De Soto Run.  I did discover that I had unknowingly ridden a very small part of the De Soto Run when I was a child living nearby.  Therefore the only Maplewood connection to the De Soto Run is me.  That’s it.  So far. Regular readers will recognize by now Mary Piles’ name.  She has contributed much to this space in her role as the curator of things historical at CNB-STL. Just like me she often finds things of interest that have nothing to do with whatever she was actually searching for.  This post is one of those. Very cool, Mary.  What a loss.  The original house on that site was very beautiful.  Is that image from the National Archives?  Thank you for sharing this with us. Christmas is almost upon us.  For the first 70 years of my life, my parents were part of our family’s annual celebration.  This is the first year that neither of them will be here.

Maplewood History: The De Soto Run – Part Two – Frisco Hill

If you are like me you will have trouble remembering just where I left off on my last post titled, The De Soto Run.  Maybe I should go back and retitle it as The De Soto Run – Part One.  Anyway that link will get you there if you want to refresh your memory. Responding to a comment from reader Mark, I stated that as a result of the research I have done regarding this area in which I grew up I had a desire to go back and drive these roads I knew in my youth.  I was afraid that they may have been modernized and updated.  Reassured by my sister that they hadn’t been, I have done just that. Returning from Farmington, I cut over Hwy 110 to 21 and then picked up Old Lemay Ferry just north of the Sandy Creek covered bridge.  Some very early memories of mine are of swimming in the creek below that historic bridge. Very soon I was headed up the south side of what we called Snake Hill.  It is still known as that.  Longtime Maplewood supervisor of the Public Works department and former Maplewood resident John Meyer has told me he lives somewhere on it.  I was pleased that the road was very much as I remember.  As the name implies it is very curvy.  I am more appreciative of the beauty of the area now that I’m an adult.

With Snake Hill behind me the road flattens out as you approach the town of Antonia (known as Bulltown to the early cyclists).  Just south of the town I got a shock when I saw what had been done to Hwy M.  It runs between Hwy 21 and New Lemay Ferry (AKA Hwy 61-67).  Hwy 21 runs along the tops of many ridges.  Turning east on M, before it was modernized, one first encountered numerous dangerous curves, no shoulder next to a very deep ravine. I recall that view from the window of a school bus fitted with chains to handle slippery road conditions.  This still gives me pause to think about it.

Maplewood History: The De Soto Run – Part One

Early in this millennium, recently retired, I was searching for reasons to show why Charles and Mary Rannells’ farmhouse/mansion, Woodside, should not be torn down.  It is the oldest building in our town, Maplewood, Missouri.  While searching for Mary’s name I happened upon an article that ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 31, 1882 that described the events that occurred at a meeting of the Missouri Bicycle Club on their first anniversary. It noted that Mary and one of her sons had invited members of the Missouri Bicycle Club “to spend Wednesday evening at their residence at Bartold’s Grove.” (Woodside). This caught my attention because I love bicycles.  I have ridden a bike most of my life.  Having been raised in a very hilly area, I have long understood that the reward for struggling up one side of a hill lies just on the other side.  A recent discovery has allowed me to see just how very important the hilly terrain of my youth was to the first bicyclists in this area. I grew up on a road that runs east and west along the tops of four ridges.  It is not surprising that the name of it is Four Ridge Road.

Maplewood History: A Powhatan Theatre Movie Guide and A Salvation Army Photograph

Often the reason there is a lot of time between my posts is that the length of the one in the works just keeps getting longer and longer. That is happening right now.  I’m working on a long one about bicycles which still is not ready.  Meantime former councilman Onis Harper dropped off photocopies of a couple of interesting things.  So let’s take a look at those. First up is a copy of a 1939 guide to the movies at the Powhatan Theatre.  What interests me about a brochure such as this is that until now I never knew they existed.  When you think about it, probably most of the theaters had their own.  Still this is the only one I have ever seen.  

Thank you, Mr. Harper, for sharing these with us.  Are you related to the Harper family of the Harper Pharmacy fame?  Harper is a surname well known in Maplewood since the beginning. As always, thanks to everyone who contributes, tips, suggestions, or whatever.  Everything is appreciated.  And don’t forget to wear your mask.

Maplewood History: John Stillwell Stark – New/Old Images Are Found

Many readers of this blog will recall John Stillwell Stark, the music publisher, from my series of posts on Famous Maplewoodians.  John’s story is complicated.  You are more likely to appreciate this post if you reacquaint yourself with that original post so do that now.  Here is the link.  John Stillwell Stark. For this post I am pirating a column from the internet by this fellow, Larry Melton.  He has his email address at the bottom.  Once I have published this I intend to send him a link and hope that he approves.  If he doesn’t, look for this to disappear very rapidly.  Larry, if it helps you reach a decision, I can guarantee that there is no money involved.  Take a look at my previous post on Stark.  You are welcome to copy it. The image that was most interesting to me was the third one.  Stark’s son, Etilmon and his wife, Margaret are standing in front of their home at 7377 Maple in Maplewood. This is the only known image of that home.  An apartment building occupies the site today.  Stark lived with his son for awhile at that address.  Eventually he purchased a large home across the street at 7360 Maple that still exists. It was there that he died in 1927.

Maplewood History: Taverns of Maplewood and Richmond Heights

Reader Ed Notter has done us all a great service with this exhaustive survey of the many fine watering holes located within and around our two favorite communities.  Here’s Ed to start us off. Not sure if this would be of any interest to you but here’s some “tavern” history of MRH+ in my lifetime. If you don’t think it’s appropriate for 40 South you’re not gonna hurt my feelings, it was fun to put together. The numbered ones are those I frequented at some point in my life and my opinion of them. If you do see a use for it please let your readers know I concede my fallibility and memory loss.

Maplewood History: When Did Sutton and Marshall Avenues Exchange Names and Why?

Those are two questions that I would like to know the answers to but don’t.  All I can say for sure is that sometime between 1893 and 1909 those street names were swapped.  Seven years ago I made a post about the Sutton/Marshall family connection.  You would do well to take another look at it because I don’t want to repost everything and the information is relevant, sort of, to this post.  So go ahead and take a look at The Sutton/Marshall Family Connection.  We’ll wait here. OK, if you didn’t know about the Sutton/Marshall family connection, now you know.  That very first image of the Marshall family home is from the collection of the Maplewood Public Library.  It is very large for a tintype image at least in my experience.  I don’t think it is quite an 8×10 but approaching that.  The last image is lifted from the map of Maplewood in the 1909 Plat Book of St. Louis County.  You can see the footprint of their home still in its original location even though some commercial buildings have been constructed along the road frontage on Manchester and Sutton.  



The good ol’ days?  Anyone wanting to go back to them is delusional.  It is up to us to make the days ahead as good as we possibly can… for everyone.  Our time on this planet is growing shorter.  2020 was in a lot of ways one of those years that stressed many of us to the breaking point.  In 2021, aim high, not low.

Maplewood History: William Lyman Thomas – Spelunker and Other Cave Stories

William Lyman Thomas needs no introduction to regular readers of this site. If you are not one of those, here is a link to a post that has links to the 27 other posts I have made regarding Mr. Thomas and family.  27 posts about the Sutton/Thomas families. What follows is a very interesting article that ran March 25, 1888 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  It mentions a cave in Ellendale that was once explored by Mr. Thomas who along with his wife Kate Sutton were the owners of Ellendale and the developers of the same.  I suspect many of my readers know that Ellendale is the name of a subdivision adjacent to Maplewood but lying within the boundaries of the City of St. Louis.  They also may remember (but this is a long shot) that William and Kate named Ellendale after their daughter, Ella.  I know.  Go figure.

Maplewood History: Evelyn McGregor’s Ginkgo Is At It Again

If you are familiar with ginkgo trees you know that the leaves all turn a brilliant yellow in the fall.  Then the tree drops them…(in what seems like) all at once.  Every year about this time my wife and I, and I’m sure others, try to keep an eye on the landmark ginkgo tree at 7380 Flora.  The yellow carpet created by the falling leaves is worth the walk to see as well. The McGregor legend says that a treasured family matriarch, Evelyn, bought the tree at Shaw’s Garden (Missouri Botanical to you younger folks) and planted it in front of her home.  As we have record that the McGregor’s bought the home in 1922, it seems likely to assume the ginkgo will soon be approaching 100 years on this planet.  A cakewalk for it.  Ginkgos have been known to live 1000 years. If you would like to revisit the posts on the McGregor family, here are two. A Serendipitous Encounter with the McGregor Family Home and History

The McGregor Bakery and the Family Behind It

As followers of this space probably already know I used the carpet of leaves from Evelyn McGregor’s ginkgo on the soft cover of my new book, Maplewood History – Volume Two.  If that seems curious, I used maple leaves as well.  My goal is to increase awareness of this very special tree.  It is as much a part of our history as most of our buildings.  I am sure there are many other trees that qualify.  We must remain mindful of them and not lose them needlessly. If you couldn’t get over to see Evelyn’s ginkgo’s display this year, here are a few of the photos I took today.