Maplewood History: From Up In The Air

The dog walks my wife and I took in the spring of 2009 had the potential to be a bit more exciting than usual.  Probably our most favorite route took us past the Sutton Loop park, often down Hazel to Maple. Then turning right on Arbor, we’d head back home along either Flora or Elm.  That spring we favored Flora for the simple reason that there was a chance – a small one – that we’d run into George Clooney.

We never did but many of our neighbors saw him.  If you lived in Maplewood then you couldn’t not be aware that they were filming the movie, “Up In The Air”  where much of the action occurred at Sutton and Flora. I think most of the film shot in Maplewood was in (or just outside of) the Methodist church located there.

By doing a minimal bit of research, I was surprised to discover that it has been ten years since that film was made.  I was also surprised to see how many actors were in the film that were unknown to me then but are familiar now. Actors such as Anna Kendricks, Zach Galifianakis, and J.K.Simmons.  Sam Elliot (who I knew and like) was in it as well but I had completely forgotten that he was.

This is probably the longest lead-in that is completely unrelated to the subject of the post that I have ever done.  The subject is historic aerial photographs and the now demolished buildings they record. The idea came from a comment reader Lynn made to my last post.  She wrote, “The K-Mart development, with the creepy, dark, below ground garage, removed an entire street: Arthur Avenue, where I grew up. It was sad to see the neat old shops torn down with their interesting facades, similar to what are still seen on the south side of Manchester.”

This earlier post contains a lot of useful information on this subject but none on the movie.  Sorry.

Maplewood History: What the Heck Happened to the North Side of our Business District? Part 2

This mid 1950’s photograph was made by Joseph Granich for the St. Louis County Observer where he was the staff photographer. Some of the homes on Arthur Avenue are visible at the top.  Newcomers might note that Oakview Terrace doesn’t line up with Marshall.  Us old timers still remember that offset which existed for a long time after the buildings  on the SW corner were lost.

Perhaps this detail will show up a little better? On my computer it looks about the same size though it is higher resolution.  Oh well. This is the complete Arthur Avenue from beginning to end.  At the top right automobiles parked along Lohmeyer can be seen.  The two large homes at the bottom right were on Oakview Terrace.

Hopefully this will appear a little larger.  Those two homes, surrounded by parking lots, are all that still exists in the mid 1950’s at that end of what was most likely once a fully populated residential street.

This detail, from the lower left corner, shows that the parking area behind the stores was unpaved.  Citizen’s Park now occupies the space where the three lost buildings were once situated.

This is a heartbreaker. The #1 Lost building was this gem. It was located until the 1970’s debacle on the SW corner of Marshall and Manchester.

Same building on an enlargement of a post card about 1916. This image and the one prior are courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

And here it is again in an advertisement by the man who most likely built it. From the 1896 Directory of St. Louis County. Collection of the Headquarters Branch of the STL County Library reference room.  Can we all now agree we shouldn’t lose anymore of these treasures?

The #1 Lost building is on the left in this image from the 1970’s. The #2 Lost building from the aerial photo can also be seen. The building just past it still exists and is occupied by Larder & Cupboard. Not visible on the aerial image is the small alley infill building housing a barber shop. Another one of these infill buildings still exists just west of the Larder & Cupboard. It recently held the Sole Survivor Leather Shop (which now has moved to the old Katz Drug building on the NW corner of Sutton and Manchester). Prior to the leather shop it held a longtime Maplewood business fondly remembered by many residents – Dreamland Shoes.

A 1915 postcard image of a portion of the #2 Lost building.

The back of the prior photo.  If you are sharp you’re thinking it is not in the west 1/2 of the Kennedy Brownie building.  This may not be a mistake.  Check your copy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz’s excellent book – “Kennedy Music”.  If I remember correctly (this is a big if) Kennedy Music was located in both of those buildings.  If you don’t have Wanda’s book, why not?  Google it or try the Book House.

Same building obviously. I think the prior image is the earliest. Notice how the “S” is now missing from the top right window.

This is the only image that I know of the #3 Lost building.  All five previous photos are courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Let’s finish this post off with another closeup of some of the homes on Arthur Avenue. Was one of these yours, reader Lynn?

This image added later to enhance Mr. Smith’s recollection in the comments section. The #1 Lost building shorn of its crest rail, slate roof and finials. Undated image. My guess would be 1973 or so just before these buildings all came down.  Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.


I am getting many (well, a few) questions about the availability of my second book of Maplewood history titled appropriately enough, “Maplewood History – Volume Two”.  All I can tell you is it is at the printer.  I’m waiting on a sample hard copy and a sample soft cover copy as well. Once I see how everything fits when it’s bound we’ll be ready to go.  I hoped to have copies available for my presentation at our Library on September the 19th.  But it is looking doubtful.

Much thanks to everyone who contributes, images, information,comments or whatever.  Couldn’t do this without you.  My apologies that it sometimes takes me awhile to get back to some of you.  If you’ve submitted a request and I haven’t done anything or responded, submit it again.  It probably got lost in the shuffle.

I hope you are enjoying these last days of summer.  I am.

Doug Houser 8/28/2019






24 thoughts on “Maplewood History: From Up In The Air

  1. Thanks, Doug, for the Katz Link above. Great story and photos, including one with buildings on Manchester torn down for the Kmart (now Schnucks). Kmart sliced up and damaged the main Maplewood Business District and surrounding neighborhoods.
    Officials from Maplewood, Richmond Heights and Brentwood: PLEASE STOP APPROVING HUGE FOOTPRINT PLANS (i.e. Target, Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes, Menards, and Quick Trip (mega gas/convenience stores). Deny more drive-throughs (i.e. Starbucks and Andy’s Frozen Custard). We already have too many polluting cars, buses, trucks and traffic snarls in our small communities. BETTER PLAN: The Boulevard (across from the Galleria).
    The well-being (including health) of residents, should be the FIRST consideration before approving any plan.
    Also, when is enough sales tax revenue enough?

    • Lynn, You are welcome for the Katz link. Kmart wasn’t the cause of the buildings being demolished. Read much more about what happened here:

      I feel pretty much the way you do about the rest of those things but I also realize they are necessary because we do need the sales tax revenue. Ask our first responders whose pay has been brought up to parity with the surrounding communities due to the revenue from Walmart, Sam’s and Lowe’s. I wasn’t in favor of these businesses coming and to date I haven’t been in the Walmart or Sam’s. I do go to Lowe’s. These businesses were necessary due to the way the tax money is distributed according to point of sale.

      As for Quiktrip, I was against them locating here when they first came in 1987. I had studies showing that the convenience stores weren’t particularly healthy for a community in the long run. What I didn’t know was that QT is the Cadillac of the convenience stores. Eventually I flipped from opposing them to going up there every day until I started having the New York Times delivered (Qt carried it at the request of my wife and I) and I mostly stopped drinking soda. Their fountain soda with the crushed ice is awfully good. From my visits I learned that they run a tight ship. They hire talented people and they pay them better than the industry average. I still buy all my gas there. When they moved to the corner of Manchester and Big Bend it cost them a lot to have the unsightly building that sat there removed. I am a historic preservation advocate and I toured that building. Even with the interesting lamella roof over the service area I couldn’t see where a case could be made to save that complex. It was a mess. It had to be a good business move for them. I bet their business tripled.

      As for your question, when is enough sales tax revenue enough? I don’t know.

  2. Doug: Part of `Up In The Air’ was also shot at Affton High School during our summer break where I was taught history for many years . I was surprised to find that George Clooney and Vera Farmiga (the co-star) crawled in the window of Room 40 (my old classroom) in one of the scenes filmed at the school. Knowing that Clooney is a good friend of John Goodman’s (who graduated from Affton) we all figured that John (great alumni and benefactor to his alma mater) must have recommended AHs. As a 25 year resident of Maplewood, I have two connections to that fine film. There are photos of Clooney (and Goodman, of course) wearing Affton T-shirts online. Thanks for your remembrances and historical interests.

  3. Hi, Doug! I checked out the film “Up In the Air” on Wikipedia which lists places in St. Louis where the movie was filmed. (Scroll to “Filming”). Thanks for the amazing photos on this post, Doug! My childhood home (built in 1904 and sadly taken by eminent domain in the mid 1970′ for the Kmart, now Schnucks), was about half way up the now non-existent Arthur Ave. It doesn’t show in the photos above.
    Maplewood residents: Follow what happens at City Hall Board meetings. Show up and fight to preserve the jewels (buildings) you have in the Manchester Ave./Sutton Ave. areas. The character is so special there!

    Two suggestions for lost buildings photos:
    1. Arthur Ave. before Goldie’s took nearly all homes on the east side of the street for their large parking lot (likely late 1940’s or early ’50’s).
    2. Stores on Manchester (north side) between Sutton and Oakland Ave., torn down for the Kmart.

    Also, below is a link to a great article and photo for Katz Drug Store (Manchester Ave. at Sutton Ave., northwest corner). If you solicited posts on Katz Drug Store alone, I bet we’d read tons with stories/memories of the popular place.

  4. I loved Dreamland Shoes. My mom bought us Converse tennis shoes and I believe some jeans that they sold. I remember the ladder that slid back and forth because the shelves were so high. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hey Deborah, I never bought any shoes at Dreamland but I truly hated to see it go. It was one of those very narrow one aisle stores that were a throwback to an earlier era. I lived in the U City Loop for a few years before I moved to Maplewood in 1975. I remember a store across the street from Blueberry Hill called Gus Gellmann’s Menswear. It was just like Dreamland. One aisle right down the middle with rows of suits on either side. Gus used to stand in the doorway and trim his mustache with a small mirror. He looked (to me) kind of like a used car salesman. I have to be careful saying anything like that because I may hear from one of Gus’ children or grandchildren. I guess I probably felt like that because I had long and ragged hair in those days and Gus’ was slicked down and neatly combed. Funny the things that stick in your mind.

  5. Kevin Renick is a local songwriter who wrote the theme song to “Up in the Air”. He submitted his song on a cassette tape and it was the one they ended up choosing for the film! I perform around the St. Louis area with him now. Come check us out!

    • That is news to me, Denise. Do either of you live in Maplewood? Not that it matters. What sort of music are you performing and where at? Thanks for your comment.

      • Hi, Doug. I live in Maplewood. Kevin is looking for a place in the area currently. We have performed a few shows at Stone Spiral and Lucky’s Market, as well as wineries, breweries and retirement homes throughout the area.

  6. Thx for this article, another meticulous piece! The Up In The Air bit is a close experience to several who still attend the Maplewood Methodist Church…the Kuntz family especially! What little I know is that the site was selected because of the house on the SW corner of Sutton and Flora as well as the church. The marquee was changed to be Lutheran (as in the book…and allowed for drinking ? in the fellowship hall basement reception scenes.) It still had the old school tile-square flooring, etc. Many (I know a few others around besides me) had wedding receptions there in the 60s and 70s joining a long history of weddings there. The sanctuary (wo the window air conditioning units) has been there unchanged for SO many weddings over the decades. (One couple was there to renew their 60 year wedding vows just this month.) The cardboard cut-out of George Clooney made the rounds of get togethers and parties for several years. Up In The Air received Oscar nominations that year as well. On close examination, folks will also recognize other local and STL scenes. The movie was about travel to many cities but most of the many office scenes were filmed in downtown offices here. It would be great to have a Maplewood showing of the film including your commentary and that of others with some knowledge (better than mine) about the scenes and the experience. Thx again!!

    • You are welcome, Pickett. Thanks so much for all of the information you have provided. I agree that a Maplewood showing of the movie would be a great idea. How about once a year in the summer in the Sutton Loop Park? Make it an annual event. We should turn it into something like a cross between “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. By that I mean where folks in the audience know all the words or responses and yell them out at the appropriate times. It would even be all right with me if members of the audience want to dress in an unusual manner. I remember seeing the line of people outside the Varsity Theater in U City waiting to see the RHPS. Their costumes were interesting to say the least. I’m open minded but don’t expect me to show up in costume. I’m very comfortable in cargo shorts and sandals.

  7. Thank you Doug for these types of posts. I love looking at these old pictures and trying to find those places I had been to or remember seeing. It is sad to see those old buildings that have since been demolished and think how the area would look if they still existed.

    • You are welcome, Cathy. I couldn’t agree more. Those old buildings are infinitely more picturesque to me than a big box store and parking lot.

  8. I always enjoy these photographs. You’re right, the “#1 Lost Building” really is a heartbreaker.
    Thanks for sharing, Doug.

  9. You are correct Doug. The wedding scene from Up In The Air was shot at the Methodist Church.
    Both exteriors and interiors.
    For the better part of a week the streets nearby were filled with huge trailers, for, I guess costumes, make-up dressing rooms, a power generator trailer, etc. etc.
    Since the wedding was supposed to be in winter, they covered the grassy areas with some kind of white stuff. Looked just like snow.
    There have to be hundreds of pictures of all this as many people crowded the nearby walks and streets every day watching the shoot

    • if the Maplewood history interest continues in another 20 years that will be news to everyone reading and we can see all the pictures that people took of it. That would be neat to start with something today that in a few years will be considered of historical importance

      • I agree, Mark. Clooney photos will be coming out of the woodwork someday. If any of these digital pictures survive. Thanks for your comment.

    • Hey Tom, One of those semi trailers was a cafeteria. I was amazed at how much equipment was needed to shoot what seemed to me like a fairly ordinary movie after I saw it. One day we walked past a long line of “extras”. They were waiting outside what was the Black Cat Theater at that time. I wonder how many of them made it into the movie. I don’t doubt that you are correct in thinking that hundreds of pictures were taken. Probably more like thousands. I have a dim memory of someone letting me copy a photo they took of George Clooney in one of my blog posts but I’m not remembering which one. The movie is pretty highly rated, 91% by critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Hopefully for our as of yet nonexistent Maplewood tourism industry it will become a classic. Good to hear from you, Tom.