Maplewood History: Gerry Vazis’ Red Album of Photographs – Part Two

The occasionally unruly crowd that follows this space has reacted very positively to the first installment of Gerry Vazis’ images from her red album.  There are many more to take a look at so let’s try it again.

I don’t need to remind my regular readers that we are seeing these images courtesy of Mary Piles, who curates a large collection of historic images for her employer, Citizens National Bank of Maplewood and Greater St. Louis (6 locations).  Thank you, Mary.

Gerry has labeled this one, “1955 The Lion’s Club Easter Egg Hunt.” The date was April 1.  All of the buildings survive except the one with the white gable directly behind the Lion’s Club sign.  The turreted one at the corner of Hazel and Sutton has been so often misidentified as our first city hall that I did a post about it.Three City Halls and One Case of Mistaken Identity.

This very interesting image was made on the same day as the one prior, April 1, 1955. This must be the Easter parade.  The celebrants are headed south on Sutton having just passed Maple.  Harper’s Pharmacy can be seen at the far left.  All of the other buildings in the image have very nearly disappeared.  The first two houses on Maple and the brick-fronted shops have been replaced by an apartment building and a parking lot behind it.  I know what you’re thinking.  I’d trade that apartment building in a heartbeat to have those fine homes and storefronts back.  The two buildings with the addition to the front that are occupied by the Maplewood Cycle Company still exist.  The front addition does not.  The one on the far right covered with white stucco was the office of William Koester.  (Correction: Koester’s office was in the small building with the hipped roof not the one with the white stucco.) The Maplewood Bicycle shop is still very successful.  It has moved twice since this image was made and is now located at 7534 Manchester.

This interesting little building was at 7172 Manchester, adjacent to the Maplewood Theater. I believe it was lost to fire not all that long ago.  Gerry took this shot on May 27, 1957.  She titled it, “Shops Across from the City Limits Loop.”

This image of the Contemporary Kitchens store was made by Gerry on May 4, 1957.  From the address, 7205 Manchester, the location was in  the Swink Block (covered in the last post).

“1958 Vazis Gets a Facelift.” The image was made on February the 1st. The image is from 1958 and there is a ’58 Chevy and a ’58 Ford parked right in front.  You Vazis out there ought to like this one. It was a shame to lose that store.

May 4 “1958 Shamrock Furniture (Used to be Zimmerman’s Dept.).” Look at this building closely. You’ll be seeing more of it.  On the far left, just the western edge of the fabulous Browne building can be seen with the lit terra cotta torch/candles on top.

This building facade I have liked ever since I stated paying attention to such things.  How could you possibly improve on this shot with a ’57 Chevy in front?  I had one of those, too. I did a post on the building titled, ‘Who’ll Miss a Blue Art Glass Window?” Gerry or possibly Adolph made this image on August 20, 1962.  The image is called, “20th Century Barber Shop (Many barber shops through the years), (Now Clete’s Barber Shop).

This image was also made on August 20, 1962. It is titled, “Looking Toward the Loop From McCausland Area.”  The loop would be the Yale Loop just past Vazis on the right.  Additionally written on pencil on this page is, “Olympic Television and Park Furniture, 905.  The building housing Park Furniture is now known as the Majorette and is an event space.  Believe it or not there are some younger folks who read these posts of mine.  For them, 905 was a chain of liquor stores.

This image called, “Stores Off The Loop, A fire would later destroy several of the stores.” was also made on August 20, 1962.  Kennedy Music was located here when this image was made.  If you haven’t seen Wanda Kennedy Kuntz’s book titled “Kennedy Music”, you owe it to yourself to get a copy.  This whole building has not survived.

The beloved Maplewood Theater building.  Also taken on August 20, 1962, one of the Vazis typed, “The Maplewood Theater with new Marquee.”  Wow!  That’s huge.  The approximate date of the installation of the last marquee.  I have looked a long time for pieces of information like that.  As you may already know from my book or posts, those letters that spell MAPLEWOOD  have been restored and are in the city garage.  The theater may never come back but I truly hope the marquee will be restored some day.  The Maplewood Theater – While We’re On The Subject.

Remember the Shamrock building? This is one of those images that causes you to do a double take.  It appears that only the facade and the side walls are in existence.  What could possibly have happened?  According to Gerry, “1962 The Building of the Drive-up windows for People’s Bank.”  The sign on the plywood says, “Watch for Drive-up Windows Completely Under Roof.”  The People’s Bank building has survived.  The Drive-up windows?  Nope.

This article ran in the St Louis Globe-Democrat on June 26, 1961. I guess that explains what happened.

Here is another shot of the fire. This image is not from the Vazis album. It is courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Wouldn’t you think that catastrophic fire was about the worst thing that could happen to a building? Well, it was about the worst but not the worst. The same building had three stories before this fire on February 9, 1936.

I have about nine more images of this 1936 fire but I’m getting off the subject which is the Vazis Red Album.  I think I’ve run all of these images of this frozen disaster in the past but I’m not exactly sure under what title.  If I find it later, I’ll link to it here.

There is just one more image from the Red Album that you haven’t seen.  Here it is.

“The City Limits Loop” also taken on August 20, 1962. The large building has disappeared. The streetcar/bus pavilion has survived and is slated for restoration, I think.  The appliance store on the far right has disappeared but at least part of that balustrade above the showroom window has survived.  I have wondered what that went with.  Finally in the lower right hand corner is an early Plymouth Valiant adding its avant garde looks to this otherwise boxy scene.


That does it for the Vazis Red Album.  You have now seen all of the images it contains.  What you haven’t seen is all of the images that Mary Piles has shared with me.  I will run them in the near future but I have several other posts to get out before I do.  How about a big hand for Mary.  These images are great.

We are living through a very difficult time.  I truly hope that if things haven’t worked out real well for some of you that you can find the help you need.  Keep your chin up and don’t hesitate to tell anyone about whatever predicament you may find yourself in.  I think help is out there and some of you may need help to find it.  Remember this isn’t your fault.  Good luck.

Doug Houser              August 11, 2020





26 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Gerry Vazis’ Red Album of Photographs – Part Two

  1. Thanks again, Doug!! All this SO interesting. Thx to folks like Mary and you to keep these memories alive!
    One note: the Yale Loop photo also shows the three tall apartment buildings in the far right background. It shows how closely together they were built. All one bedroom apartments. The middle building windows never saw direct sunlight on either side. NO investor could afford investing in these buildings to rehab them some 30 or so years ago, until the Maplewood Housing Corporation was founded to use a major govt. loan to tear down the middle building and create two bedroom and handicap accessible apartments there. Sometimes practical concerns do create the need to modify and/or rebuild. (Could you imagine a fire there?). I don’t believe that we destroyed any historic architecture. It does show that Maplewood has welcomed diversity and not an effort to “gentrify” or town as it is second 8 housing.. (P.S. The market started taking over the rehab of individual homes needing attention, next on the group agenda, after this project was complete. It was the groups only project, to the best of my knowledge.) Again, Thank you!

    • Hi Pickett, I remember reading about the project you describe but I never knew exactly where that building was located. Much thanks for clearing that up.

  2. The photo of the Maplewood Bicycle Shop shows a business that I had asked about a couple of times and nobody remembered it. The Priscilla Shop. Wonderful ice cream parlor and a place I used to frequent in the 50s. I lived on Flora between Big Bend and Sutton, so it was close.
    Now if they just had a photo of the Powhatan Theater before the fire.

    • Hey Don, Patience is a virtue, isn’t it. I’m with you on an image of the Powhatan Theater. I’d love to see some but never have.

    • Hey Margaret, I knew some of the members but wasn’t one myself. I worked too many hours back in those days.

  3. There’s a reference to a bowling alley on the second floor of a building on Manchester. I guess it was competition for Saratoga. Never knew of this before. Thanks for the great research Doug

    • It was another “upstairzer” as they were called. If we had two in Maplewood, makes me wonder how many there were in the city. You are welcome, Scott.

  4. I remember a fire I believe it was in the late 1949’s or early 50’s. It was on Manchester and took (I think) the Woolworth Dime Store or the Newberry Dime Store. May Dad was on the Police Force then and I know at least one person was killed. This tragic event really bothered my Dad. Wish I had more information about this , but it wasn’t in the items my Dad saved.

    Thank you Doug and Thank you Mary for sharing these exceptional pictures from early Maplewood.

    • Hi Nancy, the Newberry fire was on January 6, 1946. I have at least one photograph of that happening and the article from the Globe-Democrat.
      You are welcome. Thank you for your kind words.

  5. I seem to remember that there were a large number of arson fires in Maplewood in the 1960s. I was a young child then, but I do remember a lot of fires in Maplewood.

    • Margaret, I remember seeing a newspaper clipping in our library’s collection. The heading was something like “Seven fires in One Night in Maplewood.” I don’t have a copy of that one but perhaps I can find it in This happened at a time when a lot of apartment buildings were being constructed. An old timer told me this was a land clearance method without a lot of red tape. I don’t know how true that was.

      • Doug
        I remember someone being caught for arson back in the day. I did not know about the coal dust. I do know when my husband took down the ceiling in our living room I spent days on my hands and knees scrubbing coal dust out of our wood floors.

  6. Doug,
    Does it not seem like Maplewood has had a huge number of significant fires? Was it that common back in those days or just a strange coincident? The photo with the 57 could only look better if it were a 2 door or 4 door no post!

    • Hey Luke, fires were a lot more common in the past. Part of the reason had to do with the coal-fired boilers and furnaces used to heat the buildings and homes. The coal dust and soot built up in every crack and crevice of the buildings. As anyone who has worked on these old buildings will tell you, it is still there unless the building has had a full gut rehab. The dust is very flammable. Stud bays and joist pockets full of it need only a tiny spark and away they go. The retired Maplewood firefighter, Dewey Eberhardt, once told me he thought that nearly every commercial building had caught fire at one time or another. I hear you on that “57 Chevy. 2 door hardtop was the way to go. Mine was a two door post.

    • My ’57 Chevrolet a, model 210, was fire engine red with a white top.
      Bought it at Bilgere Chevrolet across from Sportsmens Park.
      With white sidewalls = $2,200.

      • Hey Tom, My “57 Chevy was black. I don’t remember exactly how much I paid for it but I believe it was $150. It was about 12 years old when I bought it. $2,200 seems like a lot of money for 1957. According to one of the online calculators, that would be the equivalent of $20,484.00 today. That’s really not too bad. Did you see my post about Babe Ruth and the Chevrolet dealer?
        Thank you very much for your comment.

        • I had a 56 Chevy in tourquoise and white. What I remember the most was the wipers were connected to a vacuum system that meant when you pushed on the gas the wipers slowed down and could almost stop if you pushed on the gas too hard. Not sure if that system was on later models but was not something I was aware of when I bought it in 1970 for $250. Only car I sold a for the same price as I paid for it a few years later

          • Wipers stopping when the gas pedal was pushed too far was common in all cars at that time.
            The ’57 had a two interesting innovations:
            The radio was a hybrid consisting of very low electrical drain vacuum tubes and a transistor output stage. Prior to that, car radios took a lot currant to operate. Many a driver played the radio too long and killed the battery. It often happened to couples lingering in the moonlight with the radio on.
            The clock was unique. It was a traditional spring driven “tic toc”, but it was wound electrically by itself. Sometimes if you were in the car and it was quiet, you heard a Zzzzpp sound as it wound itself up.
            57’s are popular with auto restorers and there are usually several at antique car shows.
            I traded mine in on a ’60 Pontiac. Before we could finish the paper work and I could hand over the title, they were pulling off my plates. A young couple wanted that car.

            • Hey Tom, I remember the wipers stopping because it happened to me many times. I did not know those interesting facts about the radio and clock. Friends of our family had either a 59 or 60 Bonneville. Called a wide track that vehicle was so wide a grown man could stretch out sideways in the trunk. This was a source of much pride to the car owner and resulted in many demonstrations.

  7. Doug, Your recent posts have been a warning lesson to historians that you can’t assume that the way you see a building now is the way it has always looked. To take just one example, you would never know without these pictures that the Koester office on Sutton hadn’t been calmly sitting there for the past century except for maybe a few changing paint colors. Instead, we now know that during its midlife crisis it was relegated to the back end of a display room. Great research!

    • Hey Esley, It is amazing and a source of unending fascination to see what changes took place in our historic architecture. Your comment about Koester’s office made me go back and recheck. I got it wrong. His office was in the small building with the hip roof and dormer. Andy Kunierkiewicz’s office was in the adjacent building covered with stucco. Andy, an architect and very active member of the community, bought the Koester property which included his home and the two buildings with the front addition as pictured in the photograph. They were in poor condition having been occupied by a plumbing company. Andy removed the front addition and did a charming restoration on the two smaller buildings. I remember walking by and seeing him working sat his desk. Andy was also one of the founding members if not the main one of the Renaissance Society which did many fine things for the historic preservation effort in our town.