Maplewood History: A Fraser Park Discovery – The Johansen Home – Part Two

While researching these Maplewood stories I have found that it is extremely rare to find one that filled out a whole page in one of the larger of the St. Louis newspapers.  This is one of those cases.

A more accurate title for this post would be the Johansen Shoe Manufacturing Business.  Too bad I didn’t think of that earlier.  If you missed Part One about the lovely Johansen home, you can find it here.

Mikkel and Hilda Johansen. We probably need to retire the tired old saying that behind every successful man is a woman.  Hilda certainly did her part.  They had 7 children, 6 survived…5 girls and a boy.

What follows is the aforementioned full page story about the Johansen family and business.

Out of curiosity, I googled 3642 Laclede to see what occupies the site today where the very modern Johansen Shoe factory once stood.  A parking garage for St. Louis University has replaced their fine building.

Hilda passed in 1937 having outlived Mikkel by 12 years.

An interesting article concerning one of the Johansen’s daughters, Minnie, was discovered quite by accident.  It ran in the July 7, 1911 edition of the STL Post-Dispatch.

Times have certainly changed, haven’t they? I imagine if some of the folks mentioned in this article could have seen some of the suits at any swimming pool today, the sight might cause them to have cardiac arrest.

The Johansen home was located very close to a tremendous explosion that occurred in 1916.  I reread the articles as I was curious if there was mention of the home or occupants having been damaged or injured.  There was not.  However I did notice that one of Minnie’s friends, mentioned in the article above, Isabel Bouche and her family were hurt.

Let’s go out with a few more photographs of Margaret and Rick’s and Mikkel and Hilda’s great Maplewood home.

The original clawfoot tub.

Margaret’s setup for an absinthe party.

Their Christmas card from a few years ago. I told you she was an artist. (Whoops, I stand corrected. The card was made by a neighbor, Chuck Hill, using his Photoshopic skills. Nice job, Chuck.)

I have added this article from the June 3, 1995, STL Post-Dispatch hopefully to answer some of the questions reader Mark and others may have had.


We can’t thank you enough, Margaret and Rick, for sharing all of these very attractive parts of your life with us.

The power of this blog to generate new material related to the history of our tiny burg never fails to amaze me.  Today, I received another, at least the third, box of documents and photographs from Nancy Fennell Hawkins.  I can’t wait to take a look at them.  Also Laura Varilek, a descendant of James Sutton has emailed me some phenomenal early photographs of Sutton himself and members of his family.  There is much more to come so stay tuned.

As always, I appreciate your interest and support.

Doug Houser        March 12, 2021.

14 thoughts on “Maplewood History: A Fraser Park Discovery – The Johansen Home – Part Two

  1. Doug: thanks for your hard work rounding all this stuff up. Even though i moved out of maplewood, i love learning more about it, the history
    PS: Charlene at MPL is looking for your email address. I think she might have some things for you

    • You are welcome, Kathy Whipple. You were here for a long time. Your moving is Maplewood’s loss. I hope you are enjoying your new place. Tell Gray, I’ll see him at the pool. I have sent Charlene an email. Thanks for your comment.

  2. My Mom spoke of wearing woopie socks ( short socks ) not the full length stockings that were black, heavy weight, and held with bands or garters in the 1930s, she was in 8th grade, her Father whipped her legs because she was caught with them on. I can imagine barefoot, and many years earlier was wicked. LOL Loved the story Doug, as always!!!

    • Wow. Thanks for your story, Mary. I’ve never heard of anything like woopie socks. Whipping her legs seems so severe to us now. Times were tough.

  3. I may have missed it but I do wonder what happened to the Johansen family and the business. It still amazes me to think of St Louis as a major shoe manufacturer over the years and we had one of those founders living in Maplewood. I am guessing since the current owners are not related to the Johansen family that they all moved out of the area, there were not some family member that might have more to share with us about the place or the business or the family. It is a very interesting story and one of those stories that I am sure was refered to as “the American dream”.

    • I have to agree with you, Mark. The story of the Johansen’s success is the epitome of the American dream. Mikkel and Johan created a very successful business that outlasted them by many decades. I will add an obituary above that mentions the company was still operating in the US in 1995. As always, thanks for your comments and observations.

    • Hi Mark. The shoe company is still in business but moved out of St. Louis. Here’s a link!
      And here are some of their women’s shoes today:

      Their website says they make oxfords for the US military. There must be family still, descendants, since the two brothers had so many children. I’m hoping to look some up and maybe see what our house used to look like!

  4. Doug, you really made the Johansen family come alive, along with their growth from itinerant Norwegian cobblers to owners of one of the largest shoe companies in America. Thank you so much for sharing these stories and your research. Without them, we would never have known about the mysterious past of our house. Your posts connect us all to the past and help us understand the present. They are the best ever! Keep posting.

    • Will do, Margaret. I am so glad that you liked them. Thanks to you and Rick for sharing with all of us your beautiful home.

  5. When I was growing up in Richmond Heights, on Del Norte, our neighbors were Emma Kaster and her maiden sister Tillie Peterson. I am off on a search to try to determine if this is the same young girl in the photo at the pool with her bare feet dangling in the water. I think the time line is probably right. Both sisters were my honorary grandmothers when I was married in ‘77. It is intriguing to think this timid little woman would have done something so bold in her time. What resources can you point me to to help in my search?

    • Never mind. The spelling is different and I had it backwards, the maiden name was Kasten and the married name was Peterson. So similar. She would have been 12 years old in 1911. Cemetery records got me straighten out.

      • Well you got straightened out so that’s all that matters. Thank you, Wanda, for being a follower of this adventure.

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