The Italianate mansion that Henry Barron, the dentist, had built for his wife and family (I suppose) in 1868 was built to last. And last it did for 134 years until it was taken down. It was located at the SE corner of Clayton Road and McKnight in Richmond Heights. So what does this have to do with Maplewood history, you’re thinkin’? Keep reading.
Followers of this blog should have a great deal of knowledge about one of our most prominent Maplewood residents, William Lyman Thomas, 1846-1914. If you have just recently joined us or have gotten a little foggy on the details of WLT’s life, here is a link to take you to a post I made in December of 2019 that contains links to all 28 posts that I had made regarding Thomas including a few concerning his father-in-law, James C. Sutton, Sr.
William Lyman Thomas’s father was Jacob P. Thomas, a Pennsylvanian who moved to St. Louis in 1835. His mother was Eleanor G. McCutchan, daughter of William and Rebekah McCutchan, Virginia pioneers who purchased a farm on the Clayton road. Jacob with his brother-in-law, Samuel Black, established a livery-stable business on Walnut St. in St. Louis. On June 17, 1854, Jacob was killed in his stable by a kick from his own horse. His tragic death left his wife, Eleanor, with four boys (Philip G., William L., Bernard and Jacob P. Jr.) to provide for.
After his father’s unfortunate demise, it was necessary for 8 year old William to move into the household of his uncle and aunt, Dr. Henry Barron and his wife, Eleanor’s sister, Elizabeth. Now you see the connection. In 1866 William enrolled in the Missouri Dental College. In 1868, he and two other young men became the first graduates of the first dental school in Missouri. He opened an office on Fifth Street downtown. He soon discovered that he had no taste for the business. He abandoned it and took a job in the publishing industry where he did well and remained for the rest of his life.
William married Kate Sutton in March of 1869. It is unknown if he ever lived in the mansion his aunt and uncle had built but he almost certainly visited there. It was brand new.
The Second Baptist Church bought the property that included the Barron Mansion in 1954. By 1958 they had constructed a new church building in a very modern style a short distance behind the mansion. The mansion continued to be used by the church for many different functions until 2002. At that time the decision was made to demolish it. I learned of its impending destruction shortly before the demolition began. I still believe it should not have come down. It was a high quality, solidly built building that could have easily lasted many more decades.
Esley Hamilton did a very fine bit of research on the mansion and the church. I’ll be happy to send a copy of it to anyone who would like to know more about this very complicated story.
This post could not have been made without the assistance of two very dear friends. Joellen McDonald, the historian of Richmond Heights, was able to retrieve for me these slides that I had given her 18 years ago. Not bad. Additionally she shared with me the personal research she had done on this subject. Esley Hamilton, the historian of St. Louis County, was kind enough to share his extensive research of the Barron and McCutchan families and his history of the Second Baptist Church.
I have many more images of the destruction. I’ll continue with this post tomorrow. This should give you something to think about until then.
Doug Houser October 29, 2020