Maplewood History: The Unrecognizables

My corralling of Maplewood’s historic photos began early in 2002.  Barry Greenberg, now a councilman, had issued a call for persons interested in starting an historical society.

Recently retired I showed up along with a fair number of like-minded souls. I don’t recall how many were at that first meeting but I know we had around twenty show up for a few of the later meetings.  I didn’t know it then but that was a number that proved difficult to eclipse. Such is the fate of an historical society I would find out later.

Possibly the first event we planned was a physical display of historic photographs and items set up in one of the empty store fronts on Sutton.  There were several to choose from.  Our event took place in one that is now the Maya Café or very close to it.

For that very first display Barry and I walked across the street from his architectural firm, ADG to talk to father and son, Alan and Scott Blood who owned the Maplewood Mill building, the Saratoga building, the “Mule Palace” behind it and the laundromat building now home to the Muddled Pig restaurant.  The Blood family had been active with their woodworking mill from the very earliest days of our city.

Alan Blood, son of the founder of the family business, was still working.  The sometimes cantankerous Alan was very generous that day. He handed me an envelope with maybe a dozen photographs in it that showed the mill building under construction and the yard around it.  That was the beginning of the photograph round up for me.

I took them to Kinko’s and had them enlarged as big as I could on their color copiers.  That was the size of a legal sheet of paper, I think.  Mary O’Neal, another charter member of our historical society, came back from our library with some copies she’d made of some of the historic images in their collection.  Elmer Wind Jr. of EJ Tire and The Wedge fame lent us some of his images and artifacts from his family business. Someone else brought some high school yearbooks.  I really don’t think we had a lot more than that.  I didn’t know it then but I was hooked.

Today almost 15 years later I have 33+ gigs of information on the history of Maplewood in my computer.  When we started I had no idea what a gig was.  I wouldn’t get my first digital camera until December 2005.  From then on there was no looking back.  I never picked up my old Nikon F3 again.

It has been easy to find the location where most of our historic images were captured, but there are still a few that I can’t recognize where they fit in to our landscape.  Have a look and let me know if you can help.

Here is a good one to start with. This is Dr. Cape’s office and I assume home in Ellendale. This is/was not in Maplewood but just east beyond our city limit. Dr. Cape was one of the very early businessmen in what became Maplewood. He built the Cape-Harper building on the NE corner of Sutton and Maple among other buildings. I have never been able to determine if either of the buildings in this photo exist today. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

If you look closely just above the awning this sign advertising Ellendale Pharmacy can be seen.

This fascinating image was furnished by Ms. Peggy Door. She sent it along with three other easily recognizable historic photos of Maplewood so I’m assuming it was here too.  Much thanks to her for sharing her images.

The Lauritson family is well-represented in the historic Maplewood photo archive. I haven’t any idea if the home/s in the photo are still around. I suspect this image was collected by the now defunct Renaissance Society for our 75th civic anniversary in 1983. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

This is the back of the next photo so you’ll know as much as I do. It is also from the Maplewood Public Library.

I believe this is the way this photo was printed but I can’t be certain. It may have come from a slide and they often get flipped. (From the comments below my feeling is that this is the correct image. Judging from the evidence on the Sanborn maps put forth by Mr.Havel, I think there is a strong possibility that this is an early glimpse of the home on the NW corner of Marshall and Vine now owned by Councilman Greenberg. DH 12/21/16)

So here it is flipped. Which looks right to you? What about that house? If it’s still there today it has to have been significantly altered. There isn’t a house on Marshall today that looks like that.

When I first saw this photo I thought I knew right where to go to find it. There are a few small houses on Walter in the 3200 block. Alas when I compared them to the photo they were different enough to make me think the photo was not of one of them.  Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Another image of one of our beautiful homes whose identity has been lost. This one is also from a slide collected by the Renaissance Society. This one may have been flipped too. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

I’ve saved this one for last because I was able to find the location from which the photograph was snapped (or clicked would be more likely back then). Having the numbers of the address made the difference. This also from the collection of the Renaissance Society now at our Maplewood Public Library.

It was taken in front of 7329 Lohmeyer now home to the MacDonald family who have graciously restored it. I shouldn’t have to tell anyone that this is a seriously good-looking house, folks. Much of the exterior work was done by Maplewood’s own, Mark Bisig. Composite photo by Yours Truly.

Reader Bill had asked for information on the MacDonald home. The perception amongst many of us is that it is a very old home. Well it is. Zillow says it was built in 1890. That’s old for our area. The MacDonald’s once kindly allowed me to photograph some interior shots.  Imagine my surprise to find an Arts and Crafts newel post almost identical to the one in my 1910 home. What happened? I don’t know. They didn’t either. Must have been remodeled at some point is my best guess.


25 thoughts on “Maplewood History: The Unrecognizables

  1. Doug,
    Seasons Greetings!
    Elmer John Lauritson is my great grandfather. He owned a plastering business and built many duplexes around the Maplewood area. They are located on the corners of Kensington/Manhattan, Cambridge/Kensington and Manhattan/St. Elmo.
    The home on the very far right is 3601 Commonwealth, where Elmer lived during the Depression with his extended family. After the Depression, Elmer purchased the home to the far left of this image, 3605 Commonwealth. Both 3601 and 3605 remained in our family until the mid/late 1990’s. The dark brown home towards the center is 3603 Commonwealth, belonged to the Crouch’s.
    The only person my family recognizes in this picture is Hazel Potter. She lived on Cambridge at the time this image was taken.
    Hope this was helpful!

    • Great info Ellen. I live on Kensington and suspect your Grandfather built the duplex at Kensington and Oxford as well, it is a virtual twin of Kensington/Manhattan and Kensington/Cambridge. I would love to talk more to your and your family about this neighborhood. Please email me directly by clicking on my name in this reply.


      • I agree with Luke. This is great information, Ellen. You and your family have identified the location of another of our historic photos. Thanks for your comments. BTW which lady is Hazel Potter? I’ll add your comment to the metadata with this photo.

  2. Doug,
    The home that you thought may be on Walter is probably one of the Burgess homes across from ECC or it could be 7712 Rannells. Also, the McDonalds purchased the Lohmeyer home from my parents, Barb and Jim Summers who renovated it to a certain degree twenty years ago. We actually entertained turning it into Barb Summers office. It is a gorgeous home.

    • Thank you for this information, Kay. It certainly is an attractive building. The view to the south from the front rooms and attic window is terrific.

  3. When I looked up Arts and Crafts, the Wikipedia article said the movement dated 1880-1910. Therefore, a newel post from 1890 would be correct from that period. My house built in 1924, is after that period even though it has Arts and Crafts features.

    • And that’s probably the answer, isn’t it, Gary? The house certainly looks earlier than it is. I had an expectation of what I would find based on past experience that in this case, probably just wasn’t accurate.

    • My apologies to you and your family, Scott. My brain works slowly sometimes. I didn’t mean to depict your father any way other than the generous soul he certainly was. The historic photos of the Maplewood Mill he allowed us to copy first kindled an interest in me that has not faded.

  4. We use to live in the Lohmeyer home when it was a rooming house back in the early 60’s. We also belonged to the Maplewood Renaissance Society. A great bunch of citizens worked hard to show off Maplewood.

    • Did you take any photos of the neighborhood back then, Tracy. You lived in the Lohmeyer house before the redevelopment debacle. Most folks have no idea what the neighborhood was like before the KMart mess. I agree with your conclusion about the Renaissance Society. I knew a number of those nice folks. They were among the first to recognize the housing assets we now appreciate.

    • You are welcome, Beth. I resigned from the board in June of 2006 but not from the organization. I heard they had one more meeting of which I wasn’t notified and as far as I know they never had another.

    • According to the St. Louis County Real Estate website, the Church and apartments were built in 1945. According to Immaculate Conception’s website the current cornerstone of the church was laid in 1925 but maybe this was for one of the other buildings.

  5. Doug, my guess is that the photo marked “Marshall north @ Vine” should be viewed with the house to the right. The reasons are that there is no house now at that intersection that looks like that, and the house may have been located where the current apartments are near Immaculate Conception Church. I don’t know how old the church is, or the apartments.

    • It is possible that the first picture, with the house on the left, is correct. That house would be mine. I remember seeing a Sanborn map, or area survey, or something similar from that time period that showed a turret on the corner of my house. At the time I thought that it might be a mistake because there was no interior connection of the 1893 house to that corner. Now I wonder if it was only an exterior porch turret. When I purchased the house it had a concrete porch slab and foundation in front that I put a roof on top of. The fact that it was uncovered always puzzled me and it made the house look unfinished. The concrete must have been added later as the main house foundation is limestone. The roof line (12:12 pitch) and the chimney construction are consistent with the existing house. The house had asbestos shingles when I moved in and usually meant that most of the ornamentation was removed to facilitate the asbestos. My original roof probably had shake shingles because the roof sheathing was furring strips under the plywood layer which was installed when the asphalt shingles were put on.

      With Maplewood homes being mostly frame construction, built around the turn of the century, it is logical that they started falling into disrepair in the fifties and sixties. Wood siding and wood shake roofing would be deteriorating without ongoing preventative maintenance. It would have been an easy sell for the Transite salesman to come in with the “wonder” material asbestos and cover up the failing wood lap siding. The same with asphalt shingles. In the process, all of the wonderful brackets, finials, moldings, screens, etc. would have been removed in an effort to modernize the look of the house, essentially ruining the original design. These photographs recall a time when architects and builders ornamentation to express a creativity in the vernacular of the period. Thanks to both Doug Houser and Doug Miner for reminding us we live in a unique and changing community.

      • I’m not saying it isn’t your house Barry, but from the photo, it doesn’t look like just an exterior porch turret to me. It is really hard to tell from that picture since you only see the upper portion.

        • It does look like there are windows which would define it as an interior space, which would be incongruous with the mystery porch theory, but I can’t tell a whole lot. The other clue is that there gates across the street, but that same ancient map showed a drive off of Marshall at the rear of my property.

          • Barry, I am looking at the 1926 Sanborn map and it indicates the corner turret on your house as you describe. Additionally it shows has lines indicating the porch, which was wrapped from the front and around the right side and indicates it as a single story. I suspect the turret was removed and the concrete porch came later, probably around or just before the asbestos siding. The same map indicates a two story home on Moller across from Immaculate Conception that also has a two story bay or whatever those are technically called. Yours has a chimney in it and the one in the photo does not. I propose that the first photo is accurate and the photographer was literally shooting from Vine looking up Marshall and the house is the one across the street that has since been replaced by apartments. FYI, since your home is an old one for the area, it also shows on the 1903 Sanborn Map. Both maps are available online for Free through St Louis County Library. All you need is your library card 🙂