Maplewood History: The Big Bend Quarry

For many years a quarry of a substantial size operated in Maplewood. Known as the Big Bend Quarry, it does not appear on the 1909 Plat Map of St. Louis County nor is it found in the 1912 Directory of the City of Maplewood. It was in business by 1917 according to an advertisement found in the archives of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The retired firefighter, Dewey Eberhardt, once told me that it was hundreds of feet deep with tunnels that went off in several different directions. I’m guessing that the quarry’s main products were limestone for buildings and crushed limestone for roadbeds and concrete, etc.

(Editor: Read about about a similar quarry in Brentwood.)

The quarry was located just south of the present day Sunnen Metrolink station.  It was east of Laclede Station Road and north of and as close to the railroad tracks as possible. This was probably to facilitate the shipping of the stone.

Once the removal of stone had ceased for whatever reason, the quarry became a waste disposal site. According to Dewey, Mallinckrodt Chemical amongst many others sent railroad cars to be dumped into the quarry.

One would suspect a witches brew lurks somewhere in the depths below.  I’d feel better if I knew that the local office of the Environmental Protection Agency was aware of this site and others like it of which there must be many. I’d really feel better if I knew that they monitor and test these sites regularly to make sure whatever was once put down there stays down there.

Judging from what little can be seen of the automobiles, this photo is probably from the 1950's.  Big Bend is at the top of the photo.  The view is to the east.

Joseph E. Granich/Maplewood Public Library

Judging from what little can be seen of the automobiles, this photo is probably from the 1950's. Big Bend is at the top of the photo. The view is to the southeast.

A group of men are apparently investigating the smoldering contents of the quarry.

Joseph E. Granich/Maplewood Public Library

A group of men are apparently investigating the smoldering contents of the quarry.

It looks like they came up with a plan...spray water on it.

Joseph E. Granich/Maplewood Public Library

It looks like they came up with a plan...spray water on it.

The quarry has filled a bit more in this and subsequent photos.  The quarry building can be seen on the aerial view.

Joseph E. Granich/Maplewood Public Library

The quarry has filled a bit more in this and subsequent photos. The quarry building and the large house can also be seen on the aerial view.

Seems like there's always a flip side to all things beautiful.

Joseph E. Granich/Maplewood Public Library

Seems like there's always a flip side to all things beautiful.

Big Bend Quarry with road

Joseph E. Granich/Maplewood Public Library

Big Bend Quarry w stone wall

Joseph E. Granich/Maplewood Public Library

This advertisement appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in August of 1917.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch archives

This advertisement appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in August of 1917.

There are ten stone homes on Big Bend directly across from the former quarry location.  There are five on Walter.  When first built they were all nearly identical.  The house in the photo at 3220 Big Bend was built in 1910.  The photo is from 1950.  The front yard was later lost to the construction of the viaduct and the widening of Big Bend.  a source long forgotten told me that these homes were built on speculation by the owner of the quarry.

Doug Houser/Maplewood Public Library

There are ten stone homes on Big Bend directly across from the former quarry location. There are five on Walter. When first built they were all nearly identical. The house in the photo at 3220 Big Bend was built in 1910. The photo is from 1950. The front yard was later lost to the construction of the viaduct and the widening of Big Bend. A source long forgotten told me that these homes were built on speculation by the owner of the quarry.

11 thoughts on “Maplewood History: The Big Bend Quarry

  1. I remember it as the Red Feather Express Highway……the Soapbox Derby used to be run on the portion from McCausland down the hill onto the highway. They would close that portion, to be used for the Soapbox Derby. It would be about the area of the exit ramp from the highway up the hill to McCausland, now. We had next-door neighbors who would always be in that race…..(they had a lot of boys). And even up to the 1980’s or so, some of the Dayton boys (and girls) were still building cars and running in the races. A fun time….the 40’s and 50’s.

    • You’re welcome. Pun intended I hope. And “again”? What was the other time?

  2. Looking at the second photo AND taking the photo height of the men standing at the edge of the quarry (1.5 mm) AND taking an average male height of 5 ft 10 in AND doing the math, the depth of the quarry down to what appears to be the ‘water’ level in the quarry is approximately 200 ft. Who knows how deep the water is? But I would suspect that chemicals continue to ooze into the ground water. I am surprised that there has not been more subsidence of the ground surface with all the fill that went into the quarry, particularly since a lot of it appears to be wood that should have rotted away. I would also expect when the next REALLY BIG earthquake occurs along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, structures built on this fill will be more likely to crumble than surrounding ones built on solid rock.

    • Thanks for your input, Sherman. I was told when the elevated section of the Metrolink track was built there it was necessary to skirt the edge of the filled in quarry. It seems to me that the fill would be very unstable but maybe not. The folks who built the Sunnen Business Park were no doubt aware of it and had to accommodate it. Also much of those landfills have been shown to be anaerobic (nothing breaks down because it can’t get air). You might have read of the instance where some very fresh looking guacamole from the 1960’s was found by researchers. Scary thought since ordinarily you can’t leave any on the kitchen counter for a few hours without it going bad.

    • Thank you, Ian. The large house is long gone. The location was probably beneath one of the large buildings in the Sunnen Business Park.

  3. Doug, an interesting thing i’m discovering in the old newspapers – hwy 40 is referred to as ‘the Express highway’ since, in the 1940’s, it was the only highway near the Maplewood area. Just a tidbit of info for ’40 South’ readers.

    • Wanda, as always thanks for your input. I recalled the name Red Feather Express Highway and then after googling it found it was later changed to Daniel Boone Highway which I’m sure many folks remember. I don’t know if I read this or dreamt it but the new overpasses have a stylized red feather incorporated in their design.