Maplewood History: Last Days of the Wedge

If you’ve been following the action here at Maplewood History you already know that Jim Fischer, whose family had early connections to Maplewood, gifted us with a good-sized box of  crumbling, brown newspapers and other items that had once belonged to his parents.  

He also threw in a small box of interesting old pamphlets that have nothing at all to do with Maplewood.  They once belonged to a neighbor.  I’ll have to get her story from Jim once more. I’ll post some of the more interesting of those possibly under a title such as, “Completely Unrelated Stuff Found While Looking for Maplewood History”.

Among some of the stuff that is related in Jim’s box is the following article that was published in the St. Louis County Observer on Wednesday July 25, 1973.  This is the article we’ve been looking for.  It drives the final nail into the coffin of our historic building known as “The Wedge”.  This article makes it clear that the demolition of the Wedge on Friday, July 27, 1973 kicked off the destruction derby that cost us the northern half of the 7300 block of Manchester and some fine buildings on the south side too.

Though this original redevelopment plan eventually collapsed, another was created which resulted in the construction of the much reviled parking garage crowned by a K Mart store.  It took Shop’N’Save to get rid of that mess which is one reason why those of us who remember the K Mart debacle are so content with S’N’S.  Another reason is that the folks that work there are very nice and the place is always spotlessly clean. I even get my flu shots there.  So far, no flu.

The headlines accompanying this article are “Maplewood Renovation Program Starts” and “The Headache Ball Will Swing Friday Night”.

It seems sort of unbelievable today that they were celebrating but we know how the story ended. Also seems crazy that they were demolishing their own historic buildings to replace them with some new ones with faux “gas lamps and antique brick Williamsburg accents”. This while they were hauling their own antique bricks to the landfill.

Also in Jim’s box are two very similar photos taken by the Globe-Democrat photographer, John M. Bloomquist. This one never ran.  They are both large high quality photographs.

This is the one that was published in the Globe-Democrat to accompany their article about the demise of the Wedge by Deborah Mann.

In this detail from the first photo, Brody’s Lamps can be seen in their original location just west of Bellevue.

In this detail from the second photo we get a glimpse of a couple more of the buildings that were lost at the same time as the Wedge.

By the time this article was published in the St. Louis County Observer, a little less than two years later, the original redevelopment plan had collapsed. But the course was set for K Mart and the destruction derby was on. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

See it was really called the Wedge. I didn’t make that up. This ad is from the 1912 Maplewood Business Directory. Southwest Avenue was once Manchester Road and then later Old Manchester Road. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

30 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Last Days of the Wedge

  1. There was a mom and pop store there in the 50’s. Used to go there for candy and models of planes. Believe it was on the north end there at Big Bend and Folk Aves.

  2. The license bureau was on the corner of Gayola Place and Big Bend. The building that housed the license bureau was torn down when Big Bend was widened.

    • pj and others, I can’t comment on the location of the license bureau. That must have been before my arrival at the end of 1975. I don’t have any information on it.

  3. It looks like from the pictures, that they may have been preparing for a parade. Do you know if this picture was taken around the time of a Maple Days parade?

    • Mike, I think they were preparing for the parade to celebrate the redevelopment of the area.

    • DS, I believe you must be referring to Mr. Holton mentioned in the article above. I can’t comment because I have no knowledge on the subject one way or the other. I do know that many of these folks were trying desperately to save the commercial districts in their communities. Sprawl, the malls, white flight, etc. were causing major problems in thousands of communities like ours. A lot of the measures they took didn’t work.

  4. The ill-advised plan to redevelop the 7300 block of Manchester resulted in the loss of many small “Mom and Pop” type stores on the North side of the street. Eddies Bar and Grill among them. That was a real loss. They were replaced by store fronts under the overhang of the two story garage and only two or three of them were ever occupied. The garage itself was a disaster. Not long after K-Mart closed, it was obvious that it was becoming structurally unsound. An engineering firm was employed to make an inspection and make recommendations. The recommended fixes did not work and it had to be razed.
    In the opinion of many, the dark stores on the North side helped the demise of those on the South side. Maplewood just wasn’t a “destination” shopping district anymore. Many of the South side fronts were empty for years.

    • Tom, thanks for helping us all understand what transpired. Here’s hoping we’ll be wiser the next time. Actually we already were wiser come to think of it. I’m remembering when the people of Maplewood wholeheartedly rejected a terrible redevelopment plan for the area bounded by Big Bend, Manchester, Sutton and Hazel in 2005. Bill McClellan wrote about it. It truly would have been another fiasco had it happened. If I recall correctly there were 29 buildings in the target area. 23 of those could be regarded as contributing to a historic district and at least 10 of those could be considered as community landmarks, including the 6 Dr. Cape buildings, the Holekamp Lumber building (now the Side Project brewery) and 3 in the Maplewood Mill complex which includes the Saratoga building. The redevelopment proposal would only have saved a handful of those buildings. One developer, who absolutely should know better, proposed a 10 (I think) story tower of condos to be built…guess where? Give up? Smack in the middle of Sutton Loop park. Can you imagine? What a mess. That was only 11 years ago. You have to think the madness is still out there.

      • The owner of TKO DJs, Matt Williams and Mrs. Williams (Jennifer), owner of St. Louis Closet Co, both at that time located in the proposed development area, lead the opposition. They paid for the yard signs which read, “Is My Block Next”.

        • I’m so thankful they did. I dislike the destruction of lovely old buildings that should be preserved. I’m also sad to see homes taken down like those in the Sunnen development.

          • “….or the demolition of the older home in Maplewood for the new pool parking lot.

        • The effort to squelch the proposal to blight and “redevelop” the heart of Maplewood was hard fought by all the commercial property owners and the affected business owners as a group. Many meetings were held to brainstorm ideas and many people volunteered many hours to make sure the voting citizens of Maplewood knew that the city was once again about to make another terrible mistake in the form of “civic progress”. Thanks to the hundreds of citizens who told city hall to drop the idea – or lose there seats at the council table

          • I don’t remember all of the details but this redevelopment issue happened right when the Supreme Court reached a decision allowing a town in the east to take with eminent domain someone’s property in a similar situation. The situation being taking property from a small business owner or resident and giving it to a larger business owner with the idea that would improve the local economy. That really lit everyone up. The “Is My Block Next” signs were genius. Guess what? It turns out that almost no one wants their property taken and given to a large business owner. Duh. Bill McClellan gave Jennifer Williams his award of Citizen of the Year or something like that. Her impassioned speech at the council meeting (with hundreds of people in attendance) was memorable.

      • Doug, I don’t suppose you have any pictures or anything else concerning the old K-Mart? Growing up in Brentwood in the 70s and 80s I remember going there many times with my parents. The upper level of the parking garage really vibrated. You could feel it if you were standing on the deck when a car drove by.

  5. “Park-like setting, gas lamps, Williamsburg accent” (from the first photo’s caption)!!!! That’s what I remember the ‘old K-Mart garage looking like 🙂

  6. Hey Doug, with the blurb about Brody’s Lamps in this post, I was curious if you knew the purpose of the building they currently reside in on Big Bend…any idea?