Maplewood History: A Fraser Park Discovery – The Johansen Home – Part One

When the artist, Margaret Keller, and her husband, Rick Puller, bought their late Victorian home in Fraser Park 25 years ago, they knew they were getting a high quality home but little else.  It was one of their neighbors, Dick Walker, who had lived across the street for many decades who gave them an interesting clue to the history of their new/old digs. He told them that it had been built by a shoe manufacturer named Johansen.  He even had a 1997 catalog with information that the company had been founded in 1876. Dick also thought that Mr. Johansen once had a building behind the home in which shoes were made and had loaded shoes on the railroad right there.  Margaret, who has a background in historic preservation, was intrigued.  From the Maplewood City Directory of 1912, she learned that a family of Johansens lived at 7211 Moller.  Her address is 7215.  More searching revealed that the much newer home of her next door neighbor was built on what was once the lawn of the Johansen’s home at 7211.  About 1950 the address was changed.  The new home got 7211 and the older one became 7215. A little while ago, Margaret and I got on the subject of graining.  That is the process of making a piece of wood (or whatever) look like it is a piece of a different kind of wood than what it actually is. There are numerous reasons why one might want to do this.

Maplewood History: Shady Greenwood – Part Three

Let’s recap where we left off in Part Two.  As you may recall things began to head south on our man, Alfred W. Syrett, around the beginning of 1905 or possibly even a little earlier. In early February, an article reported that the sheriff had seized his home.  It seems attachment proceedings against him had been instituted by one of his partners in the Maple Green Company that had laid out the subdivision of Greenwood. Meanwhile Syrett had disappeared.  His wife said he went to Chicago. But around Feb. 28, he told Captain McNamee (another partner of his in the Maple Green Co.) that he was headed to Jefferson City.  An article published on March 10, said he had been brought back from San Francisco.  By then there were eight charges against him including forgery, grand larceny and embezzlement.

Maplewood History: Shady Greenwood – Part Two

My last post, Shady Greenwood – Part One, ended with an article from the 1904 Suburban Journal extolling the rapid transformation of the Greenwood subdivision from an overgrown “tangled bit of  underbrush with a few scattered houses here and there…” to a thoroughly modern well-populated suburb with all of the appointments one would expect in the very short space of three years.  One man in particular stood out and was described as the “prime mover” of this miraculous conversion of jungle to city.  His name was Alfred W. Syrett. Mr. Syrett, born in England, moved first to Chicago where he stayed for seven years.  He moved to St. Louis in 1896.  By the time the laudatory article appeared in the Christmas issue of the 1904 Suburban Journal, he had been working for the Mississippi Valley Trust Co. for less than a year.  He was the head of their Sales Department, I assume, involved with the subdivision of large pieces of property into smaller lots for sale to individuals wanting to build homes for themselves and their families. Keep in mind that the article was published in December 1904.  How quickly things can change.

Maplewood History: Shady Greenwood – Part One

Greenwood, the southernmost subdivision of Maplewood, is wonderfully situated.  Bounded by two railroads and Deer Creek, it is a self-contained neighborhood of tall leafy trees along quiet streets.  It’s a good place to take a walk as the architecture is diverse and interesting.  Given that it is 100% developed and surrounded by the barriers mentioned there are unlikely to be any unwelcome incursions of the retail sort that others have had to tolerate given their proximity to some of the major thoroughfares. With all of those shady streets one might be inclined to think that’s where the name Greenwood originated, but that would be wrong.  According to the retired historian of STL County, Esley Hamilton, “By 1891 Langhome Investment and Improvement Company (whose officers included Moses Greenwood Jr. as vice president) reassembled a number of the inherited Sutton tracts into a single parcel and created the Greenwood subdivision.” Moses named the tract after himself but an English syndicate may have given the streets their English and European names. Greenwood, once beautiful farmland and now a neighborhood of peaceful streets, was once home to a character as shady as any of the streets are today. It sure seems that the owners were pulling out all the stops to sell the Greenwood lots in this ad on June 11, 1891.  “60 Trains A Day, It Must Be Sold, Unique and Unparalleled, Only Electric Light Auction of Lots Ever Held On Earth.”  Whew!  Notice that “M. (Moses) Greenwood, Jr. Representing English Syndicate” gets recognition at the bottom right.  So how did that auction go?

Maplewood History: Fraser Park

All I know is what I read in the papers. Will Rogers.  That was a line he used many times and with many variations.  The article often referred to as containing the first use of that line ran in the New York Times on September 30, 1923.   But Rogers was a syndicated columnist whose humorous takes on world events once ran in as many as 600 newspapers.  He apparently opened his stage performances the same way. I could say the same thing about one of Maplewood’s earliest subdivisions, Fraser Park.  Of course, my “papers” these days are ephemeral points of light that disappear as soon as I hit the switch. I’m not complaining.  This sort of research is much easier than it used to be.

Maplewood History: The Barry and Johnston Caves – Part One

Articles on caves are always very popular. My previous posts about our Maplewood caves (Sutton, Ellendale, Cool Cave Tavern at the Bartold location) have drawn some interesting responses from readers that caused me to do a bit more searching through the old newspapers. Recently I discovered a fascinating article that I think many of you will be excited to learn about. Let’s start with a comment that a Mr. Brian Peters posted in 2012 in response to an article I had run about the Sutton Cave. Brian Peters

8:09 pm on Monday, June 25, 2012

I brought this story up to my father, and SURPRISE TO ME.

Maplewood History: 1915 Mitchell Place – Dogtown

Generally I confine my investigations to within the boundaries of our fair city, but now and then a subject of exceptional interest comes along so I make an exception.  This is one of those as were my last two posts about the De Soto Run bicycle challenge.  I really strayed beyond our borders for those two.  I was able to confirm that John W. Rannells, who once occupied the same terra firma as we do now, won a bicycle race.  I was not able to determine that he ever rode the De Soto Run.  I did discover that I had unknowingly ridden a very small part of the De Soto Run when I was a child living nearby.  Therefore the only Maplewood connection to the De Soto Run is me.  That’s it.  So far. Regular readers will recognize by now Mary Piles’ name.  She has contributed much to this space in her role as the curator of things historical at CNB-STL. Just like me she often finds things of interest that have nothing to do with whatever she was actually searching for.  This post is one of those. Very cool, Mary.  What a loss.  The original house on that site was very beautiful.  Is that image from the National Archives?  Thank you for sharing this with us. Christmas is almost upon us.  For the first 70 years of my life, my parents were part of our family’s annual celebration.  This is the first year that neither of them will be here.

Maplewood History: Evelyn McGregor’s Ginkgo Is At It Again

If you are familiar with ginkgo trees you know that the leaves all turn a brilliant yellow in the fall.  Then the tree drops them…(in what seems like) all at once.  Every year about this time my wife and I, and I’m sure others, try to keep an eye on the landmark ginkgo tree at 7380 Flora.  The yellow carpet created by the falling leaves is worth the walk to see as well. The McGregor legend says that a treasured family matriarch, Evelyn, bought the tree at Shaw’s Garden (Missouri Botanical to you younger folks) and planted it in front of her home.  As we have record that the McGregor’s bought the home in 1922, it seems likely to assume the ginkgo will soon be approaching 100 years on this planet.  A cakewalk for it.  Ginkgos have been known to live 1000 years. If you would like to revisit the posts on the McGregor family, here are two. A Serendipitous Encounter with the McGregor Family Home and History

The McGregor Bakery and the Family Behind It

As followers of this space probably already know I used the carpet of leaves from Evelyn McGregor’s ginkgo on the soft cover of my new book, Maplewood History – Volume Two.  If that seems curious, I used maple leaves as well.  My goal is to increase awareness of this very special tree.  It is as much a part of our history as most of our buildings.  I am sure there are many other trees that qualify.  We must remain mindful of them and not lose them needlessly. If you couldn’t get over to see Evelyn’s ginkgo’s display this year, here are a few of the photos I took today.

Maplewood History: The Maplewood Bike Shop (Updated)

In the early 1970’s I lived for a while in the Delmar Loop area.  I had a very cheap ten speed bike that I had purchased used from a friend.  I didn’t need a lot of money to live on in those days.  Somehow I had managed to accumulate the staggering sum of $325 in my savings account.  It seemed perfectly reasonable to take $125 of it and buy my first fairly good bicycle. I went down to the Touring Cyclist Shop which was in U. City on Olive.  I had made up my mind to buy a Peugeot bike.  I had spent some time looking at one while I was in the army.  Also I remember reading an article about a local fellow who was discharged from whatever branch of service he was in near Seattle.  He had bought a Peugeot bicycle there and ridden it to his home in St. Louis. That was good enough for me, I thought. I’ll get one for myself.  So I took my money, went into the bike shop and was promptly dissuaded from buying the Peugeot bike of my dreams.  The bike repairman/salesman somehow, in ways I don’t remember, convinced me I’d be better off with a Raleigh Grand Prix.  He had a beautiful blue one.  It had no kickstand so at my insistence he installed one made of an aluminum alloy.  He sawed a couple of inches off the end of it and threw the scrap in a bucket.  He was saving the alloy for a friend who was building his own airplane, he told me.

Maplewood History: (Well, kind of) The Barron Mansion – Part 2

Let’s pick up where I left off yesterday which was in about the middle of the demolition process of the Barron Mansion. 
If you missed yesterday’s post you can link to it here.  Barron Mansion – Part 1


What makes it worse is that we keep doing it.  You’d think we’d learn. Since it is now Halloween, here is a bonus ghost story about the Barron Mansion that is from photocopies that were in Joellen’s file.  I don’t know who the author is so I apologize to him/her ahead of time and will happily give them credit once I find out the author’s name. Don’t you love a good ghost story!  I hope to see a lot of folks doing safe trick-or-treating.  Happy Halloween, everyone. Doug Houser     October 31, 2020


Maplewood History: (Well, kind of) The Barron Mansion

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.

Maplewood History: Where was the Maplewood Laundry?

Perhaps the title of this post should be Where was the Maplewood Laundry and Why Would Anyone Care?  In just a couple of minutes you’ll be able to answer both of those questions.  Though I don’t know the exact years, the Maplewood Laundry prospered more than 100 years before today’s Maplewood Wash House. The impetus for this post is an article about the Maplewood Laundry that Mary Piles, relentless curator of things historic at our town’s Citizen’s National Bank of Maplewood (now known as CNB St. Louis Bank) had uncovered in her research.  I decided it would be interesting to include what images I could of buildings that once shared space with the laundry on Manchester.  Thanks again, Mary.  

There is a lot more but the size of Charlie’s fictional walk is getting unwieldy.  I’ll continue it at some point in the future. This is my three hundred and third post about Maplewood History on 40 South News.  I was in a couple of other places prior so there should be somewhere around four hundred posts floating in the ether.  I started with Doug Miner and 40 South almost exactly seven years ago.  My first post was on Oct.

Maplewood History: A Couple of Surprising Discoveries About the Scheidt Hardware Building

If you are not buying everything you can from Scheidt Hardware…well, why the heck not? It is located in one of our best historic buildings.  It has been continuously in business for 115 years, 104 in its current location at 7320 Manchester.  It is a rare survivor.  Nearly all of the neighborhood hardware stores have fallen to the big box ones.  We are very lucky to still have it. I usually park around back to avoid the traffic on Manchester but you can quite often park almost directly in front of the store and be maybe 50 feet away from the object/s you desire.  As for desirable objects, they have very many.  The interior of the store is very clean, well-lighted and a masterpiece of efficient packaging of the very large inventory of goods that they offer. I am familiar with a few of the objections some customers had in the past.  Specifically tobacco smoke and a radio playing a program that a few of us didn’t agree with.  But that was a long time ago.  The new owners, Ben Reynolds and George McCandliss and family, are unfailingly cheerful and accommodating. You owe them your patronage while at the same time you are helping to preserve one of our finest examples of early Maplewood architecture.

Maplewood History: Walter, Charles and Assorted Notters

Walter Notter lived in what would one day be Maplewood as early as 1892. He lived with his parents at 7516 (or possibly 7511) Woodland. His WWI draft induction notice says Woodlawn but other records show Woodland. In 1930, Walter and Lillian bought a house at 7237 Bruno for ten dollars.  A handwritten deed seems to attest to this fact.  They raised four sons, Charles, Edward, Joseph and Donald, all of whom served in the military.  Charles, the oldest, served during  WWII. (Correction: Should read, He served immediately after WWII.)  His son, Edward, has very kindly shared these images with us. I would like to thank Ed Notter and the Notter family for sharing these items with us.  It is very hard to imagine what it must have been like to live in our community in the past.  These images make it a bit easier. We are in to September already.  This fact causes this summer person to worry.  Soon we’ll again be inflicted with the annoying coolness.  I know, I know, a lot of you claim to enjoy it including one very close member of my own family.  Just keep it to yourself and wear your masks.

Maplewood History: Gerry Vazis’ Red Album of Photographs – Part Two

The occasionally unruly crowd that follows this space has reacted very positively to the first installment of Gerry Vazis’ images from her red album.  There are many more to take a look at so let’s try it again. I don’t need to remind my regular readers that we are seeing these images courtesy of Mary Piles, who curates a large collection of historic images for her employer, Citizens National Bank of Maplewood and Greater St. Louis (6 locations).  Thank you, Mary. I have about nine more images of this 1936 fire but I’m getting off the subject which is the Vazis Red Album.  I think I’ve run all of these images of this frozen disaster in the past but I’m not exactly sure under what title.  If I find it later, I’ll link to it here. There is just one more image from the Red Album that you haven’t seen.  Here it is.

Maplewood History: The Fennell Trove – Now At SHSMO

The mission of the State Historical Society of Missouri is to collect, preserve, publish, exhibit, and make available material related to all aspects and periods of Missouri history. SHSMO also seeks to generate interest in and appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of the state and its people through education and outreach. The main archives and storage facility of SHSMO is located in Columbia. In addition SHSMO has an office on every state university campus.  Persons interested in items in the collection can request that they be brought to the campus office most convenient for them. This courier service is an important feature that is not offered by other libraries or historical societies.  This is why I recommend SHSMO over the Mercantile Library which is also on the campus of UMSL.  The SHSMO office, called the St.

Maplewood History: Shearer Chevrolet and later…Hudson

This post and my earlier post (titled, A Startling Glimpse of a Stertzing Past) are both a response to a particular vintage photograph.  Two buildings are visible in this image.  The Stertzing building can be partially seen on the far right.  But the main subject of the photograph is the Shearer Hudson dealership. A quick search on revealed an interesting story that concerns this dealership.  First, let’s take a look at the image again.  

There are a few folks in high places today who don’t want their tax returns examined.  One fellow who would not wonder why is F.W. Shearer. This is another sad story.  History is full of them. I ordinarily choose not to post stories that are depressing or would open old wounds.  With that in mind I apologize to any family and descendants of F.W. who might someday read this.  But there are several lessons one can take away from this.  The obvious, the bigger they are…

Maplewood History: It was May-May, Not May-December by Mary Piles

Mary Piles, who has seen a lot in her 43 years of employment at the Citizens National Bank, recounted this story while commenting on the relationship between Waldemar Stertzing and his newly adopted daughter, Gertrude Madden. I started to include it in one of the posts about Stertzing but then thought that this is such a great story that it deserves its own post. 

Mary wrote:

Adult adoption must have been a kind of common thing to do, to adopt a person no longer a child. Many did it through unconsummated marriage.  We had a customer who was a maid in a home as a teenager.  She cared for the mother of the family during the diphtheria epidemic. The mother eventually succumbed to the diphtheria as did their 20 year old son. 

After the son’s death she remained in the father’s employ.

Maplewood History: Cora Clamorgan – Part Eight

The Saga continues. That poor family.  What nonsense that they had to put up with.  Keep in mind that even with as many posts as I have made of this event, there were many more articles that I am not posting.  So far I have only posted articles from two of the St. Louis papers – The Star and the Post-Dispatch.  This story was carried in newspapers all over the country.  The Clamorgans must have suffered through a nonstop barrage of reporters and who knows what other offenses for at least several months. In their Sunday edition on June 25th (nine days after the above article ran) the Post-Dispatch ran a full page which except for a small article in the lower right corner was entirely devoted to this story.  It is so chopped up with graphics I’m not sure how it will look on your device.  Bear with me and I’ll try to post the most important parts of it. Let’s hope that the baby Virginia Blanche did have a rosy path before her.  I wonder how much of this story did she know in adulthood.