Maplewood History: Let’s Go Get Stoned! Part 1

If that title doesn’t get my article more clicks than one of Miner’s best, then I don’t know what else to try. This is an article about some indispensable features usually found in historic areas – stones and stonework. What historic district would be complete without them?

Stone along with wood and clay is one of the three earliest elements of architecture. Not only is stone cheap, plentiful, useful and durable, it’s also very beautiful. We’ve got many fine examples of stonework in our town and even some outstanding ones.

There are two basic types of stonework, ashlar which designates stones that have been hewn square or rectangular (or masonry composed of these stones) and rubble which is undressed, rough stones laid in a more random method or put another way, not laid in regular courses. There is one ancient rule for stonework that is generally followed even in rubble work and that is: One on two and two on one. That simple formula is what keeps most stonework standing.

Ashlar and rubble. We’ve many excellent examples of both. In this post and subsequent ones I intend to stone you with some of Maplewood’s best. Don’t worry. It’ll all be perfectly legal.

This is the earliest photo we have of our earliest known building - Woodside ca. 1848. Located at 2200 Bredell, woodside was the longtime home of the our pioneer family, the Rannells. As you might expect it contains our earlist known stonework. Courtesy of Greg Rannells.

This is the earliest photo (approx. 1896) we have of our earliest known building – Woodside ca. 1848. Located at 2200 Bredell, Woodside was the longtime home of our pioneer family, the Rannells. As you might expect it contains some of our earliest known stonework. Courtesy of Greg Rannells.

Surprisingly Woodside's foundation is not of rubble as one might expect in a rural farmhouse. it is ashlar. Note the nicely dressed stones.

Surprisingly Woodside’s foundation is not of rubble as one might expect in a rural farmhouse. It is ashlar. Note the nicely dressed stones.

This tone corbeling supports the western hearth on Woodside's first floor.

This stone corbeling supports the western hearth on Woodside’s first floor.

There are fifteen stone homes like the one above. Ten on Big Bend and five on Walter Ave. 3220 Big Bend, built in 1910, has a front porch that was added later. that is why the porch is ashlar and the rest of the house is rubble. The rubble construction of the house to the right is easy to see.

There are fifteen stone homes like the one above in Maplewood. Ten on Big Bend and five on Walter Ave.  3220 Big Bend, built in 1910, has a front porch that was added later. That is why the porch is ashlar and the rest of the house is rubble. The rubble construction of the house to the right is easy to see.  The stone steps and the front yard were lost to the widening of Big Bend in either the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.  Courtesy of the Copeland family.

Many of our older homes have stone foundations. This is a nice ashlar example on this picturesque apartment building. stone is a great material for foundations because it won't wick moisture as bricks would if they're in contact with the earth.

Many of our older homes have stone foundations. This is a nice ashlar example on this picturesque apartment building on Hazel. Stone is a great material for foundations because it won’t wick moisture as bricks would if they’re in contact with the earth.

This crenelated stone wall on Myrtle is just one part of what makes a walk in our older neighborhoods a visual pleasure.

This crenelated stone wall on Myrtle is just one part of what makes a walk in our older neighborhoods a visual pleasure.  It is ashlar.

These beautiful curving stairs at Maple and Arbor once led to the Maplewood train depot which was called, curiously enough, the Maplewood depot. The construction is rubble. It is interesting because the masons also included granite cobblestones along with the limestone. Having found cobblestones at an earlier depot site in Maplewood, my guess is that they used them because they had them around. These stairs are a wonderful detail of one of our oldest neighborhoods. Hopefully someone will keep them pointed up so they're not gradually lost rock by rock. since they are on the property of the railroad, one might want to just go ahead and do it rather than try and wade through the predictable bureaucracy that would weigh the merits of any official requests.

These beautiful curving stairs at Maple and Arbor once led to the Maplewood train depot which was called, curiously enough, the Maplewood Depot. The construction is rubble. It is interesting because the masons also included granite cobblestones along with the limestone. Having found cobblestones at an earlier depot site in Maplewood, my guess is that they used them because they had them around. These stairs are a wonderful detail of one of our oldest neighborhoods. Hopefully someone will keep them pointed up so they’re not gradually lost rock by rock. Since they are on the property of the railroad, one might want to just go ahead and do it rather than try and wade through the predictable bureaucracy that would weigh the merits of any official requests.  It is worth noting that I’m not an official of the railroad or the City of Maplewood.  So you’re on your own.  Also I would hope that an effort would be made to preserve these steps should the railroad ever decide to replace the aging bridge (viaduct?) over Maple that is just to the left of these stairs.

Here is a photo of the Maplewood Depot for those that are unfamiliar with it. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Here is a photo of the Maplewood Depot for those that are unfamiliar with it. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

I will close for now with this shot of Dan and Lisa Greenwood's landmark home on the wedge between Hazel and Maple. their magnolias in bloom are not to be missed. It won't be long. I predict at least two more posts on the stonework of Maplewood. Stay tuned. As always I appreciate all of your questions, comments, emails and tips, etc. Unless stated otherwise, all photos are by Yours Truly.

I will close for now with this shot of Dan and Lisa Greenwood’s landmark home on the wedge between Hazel and Maple. Their magnolias in bloom are not to be missed. It won’t be long. I predict at least two more posts on the stonework of Maplewood. Stay tuned. As always I appreciate all of your questions, comments, emails and tips, etc. Unless stated otherwise, all photos are by Yours Truly.

 

 

29 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Let’s Go Get Stoned! Part 1

  1. Howdy Doug, this subject is a bit out of the Maplewood area, however I write to you about it because of the historic significance that is little known. I’m writing about the Oakland House in Affton. It has an amazing history that brought together notable people from early St. Louis history, too much to go into, but well worth anyone’s time who is interested in history. The connection to your articles about stone is that the stone for this grand manor was quarried from the limestone outcrop seen along the
    river Des Peres Drive beside the trail that was recently improved. Going back into a far older era, looking at the origins of all of this limestone (which by the way stores massive quantities of CO2), it is tantalizing to think about the vast seas that lingered here over vast periods of time that brought about the formation of the limestone. Careful inspection of the stone often reveals some of the sea creatures from whose bodies the stone was made.

    • Hey Gary, I think that the Oakland mansion built by Louis Benoist (7801 Genesta, 63123) is one of the most beautiful stone buildings in this area. I’d urge anyone not familiar with it to take a tour. The Afton Historical Society has done an amazing job with the restoration. Oakland was built in 1853. Our Woodside is 5 years older. Hopefully something positive will happen there soon. Thanks too for the interesting information about Oakland’s quarry. I always appreciate your well informed comments.

  2. Doug, I understood that the reason for all the stone homes along Walter and Big Bend – and probably much of the other stonework around here – was a direct result of there being a stone quarry where the Sunnen industrial complex is now. I imagine that ashlar stone was much cheaper if you only had to cross the street to get it. Thanks for the interesting posts.

    • Hey Travis, Stone quarries were numerous. Much closer to each other than we realize. Most were very small with just a few approaching the size of the Big Bend Quarry to which you refer. I’ll have more on this quarry in an upcoming post. You have hit on the reason. The transportation costs of stone are high. Since good building stone is just about everywhere under the City of St. Louis, I think most of the stone was quarried very near to where it was used. I have in my dim memory that there was a very small quarry at Big Bend and Oxford or Cambridge. If I can locate that source again I’ll post it. After a quarry had ceased for whatever reason to be used for stone or clay they often were used as dumps. For this reason I suspect but can’t prove that stone was quarried directly behind our current City Hall and just east of the Ryan Hummert Park. Both sites had been used as dumps as had the Big Bend Quarry. We know from the written record that the Rannells quarried clay on their property most likely near the location of the Metrolink station on Manchester. Another quarry just outside of Maplewood was located just west of the intersection of Hanley and Manchester where the Frederick Roofing Company has been located. In short, quarries were all over. The stone was delivered to the work site as rough building stone. The masons squared it up and dressed it on site after which it would be referred to as ashlar. Thank you for your comment and you’re welcome.

      • Doug:
        When I first moved onto Manhattan in 1977 there was a abandoned quarry down along the confluence of River Des Peres and Deer Creek off of Mac Causland right at Wellington Court. The rocks from the quarry were used in the building of River
        Des Peres by the CCC.

        It seemed like every Saturday night someone was starting fires down there. I also used to hear someone doing target practice down there.
        I believe it was in the late 70’s or early 80’s that the warehouses that sit there now were built.
        Thank you for all of your great comments.

        • Margaret, thanks for this information. That’s another quarry location to add to the list.

  3. Doug,

    Thanks for posting this fantastic article! I believe the stonework is also along the Maplewood pool, the wall that separated the old high school parking lot from the pool overlooking the children’s pool with the lions head, it was a popular hang out place in the 70’s. The stone wall follows at the corner of Lohmeyer and Bredell. There was a huge old house on that corner now torn down. The entrance of the pool is stonework as well. I believe the stone was also found at Lyndover School (now Ryan Hummert park) in the rear and the front of the building.

    • Hi Kay, this subject of stonework seems to be pretty popular. I am working on the followup posts to this one. It now looks like there will be four all total. The stonework you mention will be featured. Thank you very much for your comments. They are always appreciated.

  4. Excellent article! this is one of your best yet, Doug, and I enjoy them all. The architecture in Maplewood is beautiful, and I’m always seeing something I hadn’t noticed before. You are so informative and enlightening. I appreciate your activist approach, as well. Wish I were a tuck-pointer so I could help out with the steps. And I agree with you re: the pharmacy cabinetry. I asked to go into the pharmacy years ago (when it was closed) just to see the cabinets. I was awed with their beauty. I lost long-held respect for the Sierra Club and the owner of the building when the cabinets were removed.

    • Hi Patty, Perhaps all is not lost. I’m hoping that the cabinetry is still in the complex of the three buildings. Several of the businesses there are using some of the cabinets. I don’t hold that against them. Who knows some of the cabinets may survive because of it. David Schlafly who owns the building had to know going in to the deal that the cabinetry was highly regarded in the community. I appreciate that he managed to bring a difficult building back on line. No small task that. I admire his ability to do it. He did not return my email when I offered to meet with him so I can’t say what was on his mind. What I can say is what was on the director of this chapter of the Sierra Club’s mind. He refused to consider reusing the cabinetry. We walked and talked for probably a half hour and he would not budge. They could have been all set up in the fabulous Harper Pharmacy interior instead of with the standard office equipment they moved into their highly visible location. Makes me wonder what other dumb decisions they’ve made. The Sierra Club is full of great people. I appreciate the work they’re doing. The problem is with the leadership of this chapter and this area who approved this architectural vandalism, the removal of the Harper Pharmacy cabinetry. I invite any of these folks to reply in this space.

      • We used to shop at Harpers and I remember as a young child being impressed by the cabinetry in the store. I loved going there as a child just to see the interior. Even then I appreciated great workmanship.

        • Margaret, it’s too bad more folks aren’t as perceptive as you obviously were at an early age. If they were we wouldn’t constantly have to defend what should be universally regarded as architectural treasures. As far as I know that was the oldest and the last intact original pharmacy interior in this area. Please correct me if I’m wrong. We lost it two years ago this coming April. When I moved to Maplewood in 1975, Bill Harper was operating it as a photography store. I bought equipment there and also had my film developed there. I was in awe of not just the cabinetry but the interior as a whole. It was a step back in time. After Bill’s store closed I entered that space whenever I could. I could see some of it by peering through the windows. When the Black Cat Theater was there, they weren’t using the space for much but at least it was preserved. There was comfort in that. Many long time Maplewoodians knew that interior and knew that it was something special. Part of the uniqueness of our community. That is what makes it particularly galling to lose it to an organization like the Sierra Club whose leaders should know better. They could redeem themselves yet. Just reinstall as much of the cabinetry as possible. Otherwise they’ve given me something to write about for a long time.

  5. No progress on Woodside since the big uproar and promises a year ago. It’s falling down. It needs to be torn down NOW!

    • dc, I appreciate your comment even though I don’t share your conclusion. I can understand how you are frustrated by the lack of progress on our most historic residence, Woodside. Can you imagine how frustrated those of us who have worked years on this project are? I think not. Many, many times we all thought the battle was won only to have it collapse and have to start all over again. We’re not giving up. A new nonprofit called Friends of Woodside, Luke Havel presiding, is up and running. I expect good things from these folks. I predict you’ll be hearing more about them shortly. And dc please use your real name when you comment.

  6. Keep up the good work, and the old photos, I lived on Moller ave and my foundation was made of stone, house was built in 1895, 3 Story etc, right house, wrong time… Wish I was there now

    • Mr. Butler, thank you for your comments. Your 1895 house was a very early house for Maplewood. You lived in the subdivision known as Frazier’s Park. Just on the other side of Marshall is the historic Maplewood subdivision. Most of the homes there were built several years later than yours. From memory our oldest commercial building is the 1898 turreted building on the NW corner of Hazel and Sutton.

  7. Doug do you know what the stone wall was for at Flora and Big Bend? I have always been curious about it. Thanks for the great Maplewood history lessons.

    • Mike, the stone wall you refer to was once between a parking lot and Flora. The lot was in the rear of a business known as Ted’s Corner. Ted’s advertised “Beer and Sandwiches”. Ted’s building was lost to the widening of Big Bend. I’ll have photos of Ted’s in an upcoming post. You are welcome. Thank you for your comments.

  8. This was a well timed article. I have a front porch made of ashlar along with many of my MW ward 2 neighbors. Mine could use a little maintenance so stone has been on my mind. I wondered why all these brick homes were built with stone front porches. I suppose the article answered the question by stating how cheap stone is. Or is there another reason?

    • Hey Joe S., Stone as an original building material is very cheap, free if it’s close to the surface. Wood must be milled. Bricks have got to be fired. All one needs to do with stone is gather it. It’s ready to use. It’s cheap until you want to do something elaborate with it. Like ashlar. Then it becomes more expensive than brick because it’s harder to work. It’s more labor intensive. You were on the right track in thinking that your having a stone front porch had to with cost. But you have that porch because it cost more not less than a brick or wooden one. Think of it as a little flash and dazzle added to the front of your brick home. The most likely explanation for these porches is just that were a style that appealed to people for awhile. Many homes featured them when they were new and some homes were retrofitted as an update.

  9. Just a great piece. Perfect blend of the informative and the aesthetic. Thanks so much for this, and please keep ’em coming. Your well-informed and historically tuned work is much appreciated. It inspires us to protect what is beautiful and fine about our little city, and to keep a critical eye on its further development.

    • Yojimbo, What can I say? You are getting the message. I am an arts and historic preservation advocate. I think what I’m doing gives us a base that we’d otherwise not have. I hope that by seeing images of some of the great buildings, stone walls, historic cabinetry, etc. we’ve lost, we’ll resolve not to lose the great stuff we’ve still got. In addition to being an historian, this job requires being an activist at times as well. For as long as I’m here I will continue to remind folks that we lost a terrifically important historic interior, the Harper’s Pharmacy, to the boneheaded decision of the leaders of our local Sierra Club chapter. I’ve supported them in the past. I won’t in the future until they correct this mistake. They have the word “Protect” on their window. They should put an asterisk after it. Thank you very much for your comment.

  10. Believe it or not I’ve never known what the Maplewood Depot looked like, nor just where it stood. Much appreciated. I’m looking forward to more on the subject.

    • Tom, After I’ve said all I have to say on the subject of stonework, I’ll post about the train stations that once served Maplewood. I’ve been posting on the history of Maplewood for 6+ years now. The first two years were on the City of Maplewood’s Facebook page. I have no idea if any of those posts are still accessible. The next two years were on the Maplewood/Brentwood Patch website. Some of those are still out there but the site has greatly gone down hill. Two years ago last October is when I started posting on Doug Miner’s excellent 40 South News (What did we do before him? We didn’t know near as much about what’s happening). I mention this because I’ve posted about the train stations before and I tend to assume that most interested folks have already seen them. I forget that some folks have come in in the middle of this play and missed the first acts. I need to repost some of the best and most interesting. I’ll work on that. I always appreciate your comments.

      • That’s right — I came in in the middle. And I’ll bet there’s others who did, too. We’re grateful for what we get, and regret what we have missed.