Maplewood History: Remember the Fluetsches?

Not to mention the Thomases, Halkers and Doughertys?  If any of those ring a bell you might find something familiar in the following email I recently received from Mrs. Janet Thomas Tigue. DH

Dear Mr. Houser,

I have read and enjoyed a number of your articles on the history of Maplewood.  Although I no longer live in the area and haven’t since 1967, my family roots are there.  My mother, Vera M. Thomas, nee Fluetsch, was born on Bartold Ave. in 1919. My father, Eugene H. Thomas, moved to Maplewood from Sedalia, MO when he was 13.  Both of my parents graduated from M-RH…Dad in 1938; Mom in 1939. My sister and I are both grads as well. Janet Thomas 1963; Evelyn Thomas 1965. My uncle, Hugh T. Thomas was a proud graduate in January 1942.  My cousins Barbara Halker (1957) and Nancy Halker (1959) are also grads.

FYI:  The voters changed the name of the district to Maplewood-Richmond Hts in 1937. In the school year 37-38 there were 1200 senior high students studying 40 subjects.

My mother told me a story many years ago that I have wondered about and I’m hoping you may know something about it.

There once was a street, really more like an alley, named Brent Street.  It was located a block west of Bartold Avenue. Flora Avenue dead-ended into it; a left turn followed Brent Street toward the old bus bridge where it curved left and connected with Bartold Avenue.  There were 2 or 3 old, unpainted houses back there. My mother told me that only descendants of slaves were allowed to live in those homes. Back around the mid 50’s I recall an old black man living back there. I believe he may have been a scrap dealer.  His name was Mr. Dougherty and he drove a stake truck or a similar vehicle. All the neighborhood kids used to yell for him to “Honk your horn, Mr. Dougherty” when he drove by! He did it too!

Technically I was not allowed on Brent Street but the statute has long since expired and both parents are deceased so I don’t expect any repercussions!  If you happen to have any information on this little mystery, I would love to know it.

Thank you!

Sincerely,  Janet Thomas Tigue,  Somewhere in Michigan

Thank you, Janet!  Your recollection provides for some good mental images.  I’m betting you’re going to connect with someone with similar memories.  And thank you for the additional information you provided in a followup email that I have included below.

Walter/Elizabeth (nee Carpenter) Fluetsch  (Vera Thomas/ Marion Halker’s parents)

1st home on Bartold Ave. was, I believe, a rental. It was located near where Bartold dead-ended into Martin, past the bus bridge.  2nd home was 3006 Bartold Ave.

In the second picture of 3008 Bartold that was on your post, the small corner of the brick house on the left, was my grandparents house, 3006.

Eugene/Vera (nee Fluetsch) Thomas (Parents of Janet, Evelyn, Stephen and Mark)  3007 Coleman Ave.

H. L./Arline P. Thomas (parents of Eugene and Hugh) They had a rental home on Gerard (later renamed Flora Ave.) between Bartold and Coleman. Relocated to Shrewsbury circa 1940.

Raymond / Marion Halker (parents of Barbara and Nancy Halker)  Home was located on Laclede Station Rd. between Flora and Kerans.

I still am in contact with a number of people from the M-RH class of 1963. In fact we will be having our 55th reunion in June!

It turns out that Brent St. that Janet recalls was once almost dead in the middle of the path of the future Hanley Road extension from Manchester south to Laclede Station Road. The map fragment is from the old reliable 1909 Plat book of St. Louis County. What would we do without it?

Same map fragment. I drew the yellow path through it to indicate the route that Hanley Road now takes. Nearly every building and many of the streets indicated on this map are now gone. Take note of the intersection of Wall St. and Luda Ave. on the bottom right. Then proceed to the next photograph.

In this undated photo the Maplewood Fire Department is conducting a practice burn on this dilapidated home at Luda and Wall.  Someone once had big plans for this neighborhood.  I wonder what went wrong.  Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

The Fleutsches addresses in 1912 according to the Maplewood Directory from that year. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.  This just in from Janet:  

Just a quick note about the Fluetsch addresses found in the Maplewood directory. I believe the two mentioned on Comfort Ave belong to Walter’s sister (Edna) and his parents Henry and Mary Catherine.   Harry and wife at 7522 Woodland Ave. was Walter’s brother and partner in Fluetsch Brothers…a clay hauling business.
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some good info coming in!

9 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Remember the Fluetsches?

  1. Doug, I am not sure it was a community event but might have been. It could have been some of the volunteer firefighter’s families who came to watch, could have been neighbors, might have been the former owners. He has passed away so I cannot ask for clarification but I do recall him talking about folks watching and the starting and putting it out several times to do the practices and how to deal with various types of fires.

    I found it interesting in that I just never thought of how firefighters learned about fires and the thought of practicing by actually burning down a house seemed so odd to me. And for you to have a picture of that happening made me wonder if it might not be that unheard of and done more than I imagine.

    • I know of several instances of houses being burned down by a fire department. All were rural. My great-grandmother’s house in South Dakota was falling down after sitting empty and having been flooded. My great-great-grandparents’ house in Iowa (a 150-year-old house) was burned down by the fire department after vandals burned it beyond repair. The same with a newer home across the road.

    • I agree with Gary Lee. I can think of one other instance when a home was burned as the most convenient way to dispose of it. This was near DeSoto. The home was far enough away from other buildings not to present a hazard. This particular home had been owned by someone with a mental disorder. Animals had been kept in it. You can imagine why no one was much interested in trying to recycle any of the material.
      Now I don’t think even a rural fire department would burn one intentionally. Consider what sort of toxins might be released. Asbestos, treated wood, paints, varnishes, etc.
      Going way back I remember reading that a dilapidated house might be burned and then the ashes raked to recover the nails. I would suspect that may have happened some time prior to the industrial revolution.

  2. I have only lived here like 30 years but when I came here Sunnen was well thought of in Maplewood and a huge supporter of the area. Or at least that was what I always heard from the 3 or 4 families that worked there and told me stories about the company. All those folks have now moved on so I do not have any connection to the place but wondering if they are still a positive force for Maplewood.

    As for the firemen doing a practice run on a burning house I recall a story my dad told me about the local volunteer fire fighters of his town. He told me that people brought lawn chairs and some even packed lunches to watch a house get burned down. He said they took all day because the burned a little of it with some chemical then put it out and walked around to see what a fire started with gasoline or lighter fluid would do. Then they did a grease fire on a stove, put it out and did the same thing. Then set a couch on fire,put it out the checked to see what it looked like. I am guessing in the old days this may have been more common that bringing we might think. He said all the volunteers were both excited and learning to see the differences in fires and when the house finally came down those watching were glad to see it done.

    • From what I have read and heard much of the early positive feelings about the Sunnen Corporation and Foundation were generated by the founder, Joseph Sunnen and his son, Bob. Bob was in charge when I first moved to Maplewood. Sadly he died fairly young in the crash of some sort of light flying machine in St. Clair. I heard nothing but praise for Bob. He was a stellar gentlemen who did good things for the community and humankind as a whole. Both Bob and Joe were believers in a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. They strongly acted to support others who were/are so engaged. I support them in that belief as well. I also believe that the Sunnen Corporation and Foundation carry on their work and are very much a positive force in the community.
      Your paragraph on the burning house is interesting. I witnessed one such event just a few homes away from where I grew up in Jefferson County. It was definitely a practice burn to remove an old farmhouse that was located on property where a school was going to be built. I don’t remember them treating it as an event for the community like the one you describe. I can’t imagine the firemen doing anything like that today.
      I included the photo of the practice house burn on Luda because Janet had mentioned that on Brent St.: “There were 2 or 3 old, unpainted houses back there.” That area was on the fringe of our community and was economically depressed. I thought the unpainted home on Luda would be a good image of what Janet was referring to. With BMW, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Porsche dealers all occupying that location today, it is definitely not economically depressed any longer. The new Sunnen apartment development is bringing back residents too. Although I don’t really care much for the exterior of the buildings, the apartments are very nice. My wife and I looked at a couple of their most expensive ones out of curiosity. One was a bit over 2k per month and the other a bit under. I’m not really the sort of person to whom apartments appeal but continuing to help my parents deal with the effects of aging I realize, if one lives long enough, we’ll all have to adjust. Mark, thanks for your comment. I always appreciate them.

  3. I lived on Caroline before Hanley was extended south. I knew a couple of families that lived on Brent and there was a trash hauling company behind that.

    • Hi Tom, as you are probably aware the last 4 homes on Caroline survived until not long ago. They’ve all now been removed to expand the parking lot of the BMW dealer. Thanks for your comment.

  4. My Grandmother lived on Bartold for years until Sunnen’s finally convinced her to sell her home. She had a house behind her home, too! Seems like Sunnen’s owned most of the property on Bartold.

    • Allan, as I understand it, Sunnen did eventually acquire all of the properties that once made up that neighborhood. You have to admire that they bought them on the open market. Eminent domain was not used to acquire any of the properties. Thanks for your comment.