Maplewood History: Famous Maplewoodians – Ray and Tom Kennedy

In 1934, Ray and Tom Kennedy opened the Kennedy Conservatory of Music in downtown Maplewood.  They sold musical instruments and taught students how to play them. They and their instructors gave singing and dancing lessons.  They also taught dramatics.

Tom Kennedy took an interest in photography and opened his own studio.  Eventually he was hired by the St. Louis County Observer which was published on Sutton in Maplewood.

Ray met and married Edith Mae Heimburger in the late 1940’s.  Together they would operate the Kennedy Music store until it closed in the 1970’s.  While this was happening they managed to raise three very musical children – Wanda, Ray Jr. and Tom.

The three children were all gifted musically.  They all possessed perfect pitch. When they were young they formed a trio.  Later, while Wanda elected to stay close to her parents, both boys made their way to New York City.  They became well known on the jazz circuits and worked with many famous musicians.

The musical Kennedy family is interesting enough to write a book about.  In fact one has already been written by one of the most musical members of the family, Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.  This is a very interesting book with many photographs. If you don’t have a copy, you really should get one.

Tom and Ray are just two of the Maplewoodians who became widely known and appreciated. Stay tuned.  I’ll have posts on some others as well. I think you will all be in for some surprises

Wanda’s book.

Wanda’s reading at the Book House.

Wanda on Kennedy Music’s origin.

About Ray Kennedy’s passing –  includes a video of him performing

This building on the NE corner of Manchester and Oakview Terrace was the first location of the Bank of Maplewood before it became the first location of the Kennedy School of Music.  Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

Another view of the same building. Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

The location is marked, “Bank”, on the 1909 map from the Plat Book of St. Louis County.

The building near collapse. Read Wanda’s book. Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

Ditto. Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

Believe it or not, the building was repaired and houses a Western Auto store in this 1967 photograph from the venerable Arteaga firm.

Until this happened. No date on this event. I don’t know if the building survived this conflagration. Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.

Mae and Ray Kennedy Sr. This is either in the Bank of Maplewood Building or a small apartment they once had on Margarette. Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

An early interior shot of Ray Sr. and brother, Tom, perhaps? Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

An exterior shot while the store was at the SW corner of Manchester and Marshall, I think.  Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

A parade obviously. Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

Taken at the end of a short and economically disastrous move to the far end of the new “Gold Block”. This was at the corner of Manchester and Margarette. Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

I believe this shot was taken in front of the last location of Kennedy Music, the building that houses The Larder today and formerly T. Rohan.  That’s Ray Sr.  Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

From the Post-Dispatch September 4, 1997. There are quite a few notices such as this one in the Post archive.

Also from the archives of the Post-Dispatch. The year was 1997.

The second to last location of Kennedy Music in the mid 1970’s. The SW corner of Marshall and Manchester. The building was removed for an ill-fated redevelopment. Today this is the site of Citizen’s Park. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Another look at the streetscape probably taken at the same time as the prior image. The GFC Loans sign is the location of the Foundation Grounds restaurant today.  Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.

The Marshall side of the building that once housed Kennedy Music.  That is some beautiful brickwork.  It even has this nice little cast iron storefront on this side.  This one we shouldn’t have lost.


Much thanks to Wanda Kennedy Kuntz for letting me copy her images.  I’m hoping she’ll see this and reply below.  You folks who don’t have her book really ought to get a copy.  Look for more famous Maplewoodians in my upcoming posts.


13 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Famous Maplewoodians – Ray and Tom Kennedy

  1. Mark, What I know about the redevelopment effort was as one of the great, divisive movements in Maplewood in the 70s. City officials rezoned properties about 2 blocks to the north and south of Manchester heavily along what is now the central business strip. (I know it did go south on Sarah behind what
    is now Schlaffly as I bought a house still zoned that way when I moved back to town in 1980.) My parents had continually lived in town since the early 50s, so gleaned some info on activity and sentiments via them. The new City Hall had already been constructed in the 60’s. The thought was the loss of business to Crestwood Plaza on Watson meant that we needed to develop something much more modern/similar. The ill-conceived construction of KMart and garage was a centerpiece of that effort. Such animosity came from the outrage by opponents of the initiative. There were scars for years (some in infrastructure and many more in terms of animosity, trust and alliances). SO much has changed since those days, most of us identify with Maplewood before those days and are grateful for the strides since.

    • Much thanks for the explanation, Pickett. Things are so much better these days.

    • Pickett,
      when I moved here about 40 years ago there was still those who loved and those who hated the K Mart build out. Those who were sure it was a thing of great need and those who felt it was a corrupt government plot to destroy Maplewood. I still live here and am now one of those who remembers some of those days. I talked to several of the older neighbors who had nothing positive to say about the process others who felt they Mayor and others were corrupt some who felt the bank president was in it only for himself. Then there were others who said the town was dying and something had to be tried but looking back it should have been done differently. I hope that most have realized that almost none of us like changes and the things we are famililar with we have a hard time giving up. I am one of them. I miss the the little shoe store run by an older couple-Dreamland Shoes or something like that- the work clothing and boot store-Bluestiens I think it was. But they could not survive and we now have new businesses here so it is not so hard to take.

  2. Am I remembering wrong? I thought Kennedy-Brownie was down almost across from the Maplewood theater.
    How did the Brownie name get involved?

    • Hey Don, Page 72 of Wanda’s book says it was once located at 7179 Manchester across from the Maplewood Theater. You’re memory is holding up. I looked for the explanation of the Brownie name but it is eluding me at the moment. Maybe Wanda will read this and explain.

  3. That is some nice brickwork there. Too bad it is gone. Maplewood and St Louis do have some nice brick work on their buildings. What was the redevelopment? Part of the KMart redevelopment or something else.

    Never knew we had someone playing that kind of music thru the years. The loss of a music store makes me wonder where does anyone go to take music lessons anymore. I am not musical other than to play the radio so never really thought about it. But it is another one of those businesses that seems to have disappeared from the landscape.