Maplewood History: O’Brien’s Nationwide Grocery – Part One

A reader of my blog once commented that these posts are not only about the history of Maplewood, they are also the history of America. I hadn’t thought of it that way before but the reader was absolutely right. Horse drawn streetcars yielded to electric ones only to be replaced by cars and buses at great cost to our community. Numerous entertainment venues offering vaudeville and silent movies all faded until only one was left. It too eventually failed and has been shuttered for many decades.

Retail food suppliers all went through a similar evolution. Once upon a time future Maplewoodians doubtless bought much of their food from the backs of farmer’s wagons. The wagons were eventually replaced by the corner grocery stores that eventually fell to the rise of the supermarket. Nearly all of the wagons were destroyed long ago. Not so the buildings that once held the neighborhood grocery stores. I haven’t taken a tally but it would be interesting to know how many survive.

This post is about one such building that once held O’Brien’s Nationwide Grocery at 7327 Commonwealth in the Greenwood neighborhood. (Clarification: The address of this building is 7327 Commonwealth.  The building is located on the corner of Commonwealth and Tennyson in the Greenwood neighborhood). Just like many of my posts I don’t have a lot more information than what is contained in the photos. I’ll include what I know and hopefully my readers can fill in some of the blanks.

See also: Maplewood History: O’Brien’s Nationwide Grocery – Part Two

All of the photographs and information come to me from Mrs. Maxine Fellhauer through my good friend and her neighbor, Gary Tash.  Thank you to them both.

Let's start with this photo because it has a good view of the building. The young man, probably a neighbor, is Chester Rose and the year is 1955.

Let’s start with this photo because it has a good view of the building. The young man, probably a neighbor, is Chester Rose and the year is 1955.

Anna O'Brien and her husband, John D. were early owners of the building and the grocery.

Anna O’Brien and her husband, John D. were early owners of the building and the grocery.

John D. O'Brien

John D. O’Brien

Mrs. O'Brien behind the store.

Mrs. O’Brien behind the store.  Martin Fellhauer (in the hat and looking very young here) would go on to marry Maxine (from whom these photos come) build a house and live for many years next door to the store.

Another photo most likely taken the same day as the one prior. Martin Fellhauer in the hat is the only person identified by Maxine in her notes.

Another photo most likely taken the same day as the one prior.  Martin Fellhauer in the hat is the only person identified by Maxine in her notes.

Another early photo of Anna. Maxine's notes say she never allowed her hands to be photographed due to some sort of deformity. Ah..the good old days. Many folks lived their whole lives with conditions that modern medicine easily corrects today.

Another early photo of Anna. Maxine’s notes say she never allowed her hands to be photographed due to some sort of deformity.  Ah…the good old days.  Many folks lived their whole lives with conditions that modern medicine easily corrects today.  The mount is interesting as well.  Sometimes it is possible to get a fair idea of the date of the image by the type of mount.  Other similar mounts can be found in archives that have had names and dates inscribed on the back.

An undated image of Martin Fellhauer now considerably oder and John D. O'Brien in front of the store. The car is early 1930's.

An undated image of Martin Fellhauer now considerably older and John D. O’Brien in front of the store. The car is early 1930’s, I think.

A good shot of the front of O'Brien's Nationwide Grocery. This type of border was popular in the 1930's.

A good shot of the front of O’Brien’s Nationwide Grocery. This type of border was popular in the 1930’s.

I like this early lighting.

I like this early lighting.

I'll close Part One with this undated photo. The people are also unidentified. It has interest to me because the large white oak tree in the backyard of the house across the street, Tennyson, is one that I have admired for many years. Still do.

I’ll close Part One with this undated photo. The people are also unidentified. It has special interest to me because the large white oak tree in the backyard of the house across the street, Tennyson, is one that I have admired for many years. Still do.

 

11 thoughts on “Maplewood History: O’Brien’s Nationwide Grocery – Part One

  1. you are confusing two different buildings on Commonwealth.

    I believe the grocery store was at the corner of Commonwealth and Tennyson, not at Greenwood.

    look at the details of the roofline. the diamond pattern gives it away.

    • John, Apparently your confusion comes from thinking I wrote above that this building is at the corner of Commonwealth and Greenwood. I didn’t but I’ve added a clarification as you are not the only one was confused. My apologies to all if my wording caused the confusion.

  2. Doug – the large oak you mention in the last photo is a Missouri State Champion, Gary Tash told me.

    • That is interesting. It is a mammoth tree. Some of its lower branches alone are the size of many mature trees.

  3. Doug, I have lots of questions. First, how are Mrs. Anna O’Brien and Martin Fellhauer related? Second, if the mature lady putting out the laundry and holding the pan is Anna, does the way she is holding the pan indicate a thumb missing from her right hand, or is that possibly an artifact of the photo (she could have moved her thumb while the picture was being taken)?

    • One possible explanation –
      She appears to be holding a piece of cloth in her right hand, which would be gripped between her thumb and forefinger.

    • Sherman, I don’t know the answer to your questions. I can tell you that the Fellhauers became owners of the store building at some point. Maxine later sold it to Gary Tash who has done a wonderful job of restoring it.

    • Mrs. O’Brien had deformed hands and feet and always tried to hide them when pictures were taken, yet she did excellent needle work. Martin’s mother, who died in childbirth, was a distant cousin of Mrs. O’Brien. As Martin was only 18 months old at the time of his mother’s death and Martin’s father was a farmer (farm was near Creve Couer Lake), the O’Brien’s were asked to raise Martin. Many years later Martin’s father wanted Martin to return home to help with the farm, but the O’Briens had become his family and he refused to go. Shortly after this, the father committed suicide and Martin never recovered from this. By the way, as the Maplewood Lutheran chuch was the subject of a previous posting, it should be noted that Martin was its architect. Gary Tash

      • That is just extremely interesting, Gary. The story would make a good book or a movie. Thanks so much for sharing those details with us.