Maplewood History: Vote Yes On Proposition L For The Library

Dear Readers, Recently, I received this letter from the folks that are working to improve our library. The original Maplewood Pool building, now home to our library, is one of the most important historic buildings in our town. March 1, 2023

Dear Neighbor,

On behalf of the Maplewood Library Preservation campaign, we’re asking you to vote Yes on Proposition L in the April 4th election. The Maplewood Public Library’s home was originally built in 1938 by the WPA to be the changing facility for the Maplewood Pool. This beautiful, historic building became the library’s home in 2007.

Maplewood History: The Miraculous Transformation of 2628 Big Bend

In the beginning… This loading dock was on the Big Bend side. This attractive addition was on the south end.  As the sign indicates, the building would soon become the home of The Saint Louis Closet Company. Here is a better look at the addition without the chain link fence in the way. This free standing structure was even further to the south on the property.

Maplewood History: Charlie Notter and Corkball

Ernie B——t was one of the first fellows that I got to know when I began working at the Chrysler truck plant in Fenton in 1968.  His real last name was Bullock and maybe still is if he’s around.  I was 18.  He was 33.  He’d be 88 today. Ernie grew up in south St. Louis.  I have always been fascinated with the city.  All of my grandparents lived there or had at one time or another. Grandma Amy lived on Virginia near Marquette Park.  Grandad and Grandmother Jackson lived on Potomac near Hampton and Chippewa.  To a boy from the country, they lived in another world. They had something in St.

Maplewood History: Just What Exactly Was The Maplewood Departmental School?

This small booklet was among the many interesting objects, images and documents that Laura Varilek was kind enough to share with us.  I don’t know anything about it.  By 1919, Maplewood was set up pretty well schoolwise having just constructed a new, large high school a couple of years earlier. I don’t know what purpose this small book served.  Any guesses? If you would like to have a look at much of what Laura has contributed to our historic record, here are the links.

Maplewood History: A Followup to Rarer than Rare (Updated)

Maplewood History: Rarer Than Rare – Mind blowing JC Sutton Artifacts Resurface

Maplewood History: Being Made Or At Least Re-Lived

Maplewood History: Previous Unseen Images of Maplewood’s Second High School

Maplewood History: The Bruno Farm

Maplewood History: Exceedingly Rare Images Discovered in the Varilek Collection

That’s an impressive collection.  We are in your debt, Laura.  Thank you so much. Doug Houser         February 20, 2023

Maplewood History: A Rare Image of an Early Kroger Super Market

Another very rare bit of Maplewoodiana has come to light.  Attached to an email from my former neighbor, Bill Smothers, was this wonderful image of an early Kroger Super Market.  I have seen only one other image of a Kroger store in Maplewood.  It is in the collection of our library and not of very good quality. When I first looked at the image that Bill sent, I couldn’t recognize that building as ever having been at that address.  So I pulled up my photographs of the current building and was surprised.  Not only is the part that housed the Kroger store still there but little has actually changed since then.  Note the diamond shaped anchor heads.  They’re still there.  The windows and doors have changed.  The part of the building that the Kroger store occupied was in the western end of the much altered Reller Chevrolet building. Another interesting detail in Bill’s image is the automobile that is parked on the left side of the image with just the front end visible.  It is an Airflow made by Chrysler under various badges beginning in 1934 and ending in ‘37.  The Airflow was one of the most advanced automobiles ever made.  There is a good article about them here.  This is an interesting part of the history of the company where I worked for 34 years. According to the website linked above,, a fully restored Airflow today might cost you from 110,000 to 140,000 dollars.  Way to go, Chrysler! This is a composite image of the Reller Chevrolet building that I worked up for a recent exhibit.  This huge building once had ten bays.

Maplewood History: Buy A Piece Of Your Own At The Chamber Auction

Today is the day of the annual auction to support our Chamber of Commerce.  Instead of the usual fall date, this year the nice folks at the C of C have combined the auction with their Trivia nite. You can find all of the details on their website. Mid-County Chamber of Commerce

As has been my habit for the last decade or so, I created a composite image of Maplewood historic photos to be sold at the auction.  It might take a hundred years but I have to think that eventually these images will be very valuable.  For one thing, hard copies are rare.  Usually there haven’t been more than two print copies made of these images that I donate. Most of them are just one.  They are printed by Diversified Labs, top notch, professional printers here in town.  They are printed on high quality paper.  These prints will be around long after we’re gone. Once again, Mark from Frame of Mind Framing has done a terrific job of making one of my composite photos really stand out.  Tonight all you have to do is bid high and you can take it home with you.

Maplewood History: First There Were Horses – A Repost

Before there were cars, that is.  I had been thinking about running this post again for quite a while.  I had forgotten that there were three separate posts about the horses.  I think we are very lucky to have found so much information.  This one will start you off.

You can link to the other two through this first one. Enjoy. Doug Houser        January 31, 2023

Maplewood History: The Unnecessary Destruction of the Smokestack at Concordia Seminary

Relax.  This didn’t just happen.  It happened quite a while ago and I’m just now writing about it. This is not Maplewood history.  I’m running it under that banner anyway to connect with my usual audience. Ask any Maplewoodian and they will tell you that our location is ideal.  There are many reasons why.  Access to highways, hospitals ,universities and downtown Maplewood are just a few.  Access to Forest Park is another.  It is only 3 miles away.  From just about any location in our town, one can make their way to the park on a bicycle by cutting through residential neighborhoods and avoiding the busy streets with the exception of crossing them.  For the past 47 years, I have done this hundreds of times.  Usually at some point I’ll connect with Bellevue, take it over Hwy 40 and across Clayton Road.  From there it is just a few blocks through the DeMun neighborhood to the light at Rosebury and then into the park.  Sometimes I’ll ride through the campus of the Concordia Seminary. This is exactly what I was doing one day a little over 21 years ago when I chanced upon a scene of destruction.  I was very unhappy to see that the smokestack at Concordia Seminary was being demolished.  I hadn’t even heard that it was endangered. The stack and the power plant building were an interesting architectural ensemble, nicely done and built to last.  Originally coal was burned to fire the boilers that provided heat to the seminary buildings.  At one time there were many of these anywhere one had large buildings but as the coal-fired heating became obsolete most were demolished.

Maplewood History: A Thatched Roof On Big Bend

Quite a while ago, ( I have forgotten the year), a thatched roof was added to a fairly plain commercial building on Big Bend (next to Mr. Wizard’s Ice Cream Place).  It was added by the owner of the building who, as far as I know, was a woman with a shop there that sold high quality things from Ireland.  I imagine that she added the thatched roof to make her nondescript building more charming for her customers. One day, attracted by the novelty of this, I stopped by with my camera to take a few photos and find out just what the heck was going on.  This was in the pre-internet days.  I really had nowhere to go with the photographs.  This is just the sort of thing I liked to do so I did. The thatcher was a cheerful fellow from New Zealand.  The thatch (reeds, I think he called them), were from Turkey.  He said they could be found growing in many parts of the world but somewhere in Turkey they grew in such abundance that they were regularly harvested and shipped apparently all over the world. We didn’t get much farther than that in conversation when the woman, who I assume owned the building/shop, came out and made it clear to both of us that the thatcher had a job he needed to concentrate on and that my conversation with him was keeping that from happening.  I forget exactly how she put it but that is what she meant.  We both got the message. At that time I had not retired yet.

Maplewood History: A Hunk, A Hunk of Burning…Hobby? Revisited

January is already two thirds over.  I have a couple of ideas for upcoming blog posts but the circumstances of everyday living keep getting in the way of working on them.  Fortunately, fellow Maplewood history aficionado Luke Havel mentioned in an email that he occasionally sees matchbook covers from businesses now long gone that once thrived (or didn’t) in our fair town available on eBay. Wonderful!  I had been planning a rerun of my earlier post on just that particular bit of ephemera.  This was a fun post to make.  I hope those who remember it will enjoy seeing it again.  If this is your first viewing, consider how much history of our community is contained in these small cardboard squares of which the overwhelming majority of have been discarded. Enjoy.

Luke, thank you for reminding me of this.  In the future if any of those covers from Ed’s Tavern show up, you might want to give me a buzz. Doug Houser          January 19, 2023


Maplewood History: Now You Can Own A Reproduction Of A Stan Masters Watercolor!

Dear Readers,

Most of you are probably unaware of the value of an original watercolor by Stan Masters.  For about the past 16 years Stan’s paintings have been ably marketed by the local fine art and antiques dealer Robert Morrissey.  With Robert’s help and marketing skills, Stan’s widow and my friend and former neighbor, Carlene, has done far better than she could on her own. Today, one of Stan’s fine paintings is likely to cost you several thousand dollars and higher.  Stan would be very pleased.  Why is it that we never appreciate these guys until they’re gone? How would you like to own a quality reproduced version of one of Stan’s paintings?  How would you like to have your choice of any of 100 of the paintings he produced?  If that’s not enough, how would you like to have your favorite/s of Stan’s paintings available on a very wide assortment of media?  So wide you won’t believe it until you take a look. After my last post about Stan Masters and the fabulous watercolors he created, I received an email from Robert Morrissey.  He has made high resolution digital images of 100 of Stan’s finest paintings to be reproduced on a wide variety of traditional and non traditional media and objects. You won’t believe this until you see it right here.

Maplewood History: Stan Masters – A World Class Watercolorist…From Maplewood

Over the twelve or thirteen years since I began this adventure, this site has gained many new readers as one might expect.  While most of what I have posted can still be found, it is not easy.  For one thing you have to know what to search for.  There exists a plethora of interesting articles that a lot of the newer readers have never seen. This is a look back.  It has been nearly nine years since I first made the following two posts about Maplewood’s own Stan Masters. They deserve another look. Stan Masters  First Post

Stan Masters Second Post

Since these posts were made, Robert Morrissey has moved.  You can find him now located at 704 Hanley Industrial Court, Brentwood, MO 63144. 314-644-7066

Doug Houser      January 7, 2022

Maplewood History: The Bruno Farm

John Baptiste Bruno once had a farm adjacent to and just north of James Sutton’s.  Lucky for us area historian, Esley Hamilton had done his homework on this one. NOTES ON THE BRUNO HOUSE


It has been suggested that the house at 7310 Bruno Avenue is the original pioneer Bruno family home, and it is definitely sitting on part of the original Bruno property. An investigation of the history of the property, and an analysis of the style of the house, suggest that this is a later building, probably built by Alfred J. Bruno as late as 1922. The Bruno farm of 52.25 acres was a small part of the vast Gratiot League Square, of which Big Bend Boulevard forms the western edge, in part. This piece was part of a larger tract in the west end of the Gratiot tract that was acquired by pioneer explorer William L. Sublette in 1831 from Pratte, Chouteau and others (St.

Maplewood History For Sale

In 2008, I produced a book for the 100th anniversary of the founding of our town called The First 100 Years, Maplewood, MO. It was a fundraiser for the Maplewood Community Betterment Foundation.  Still is.  If you would like a copy of that book, you can pick one up at Scheidt Hardware (True Value to those of you recently arrived) at 7320 Manchester.  I don’t know what they get for one nowadays.  

Shortly after the first book came out I began what would become my longtime interest – blogging about Maplewood history.  After several years nameless, I hit on a perfect name for my blog – Maplewood History.  And so it has been for the past nine years. Around 2014, I realized that I had already written the equivalent of a couple of books with what was contained in my blog posts.  All I needed to do was select some of the best posts, put them all together and I’d have another book.  This took five years.  I called the book, Maplewood History – Volume Two – Selections From the Popular Blog. The first book is all black and white.  My second book is full color.  It is printed on high quality paper.  My intent was to create a collector’s item.  I think I have.  Anyhow, it won’t cost you anything to look.  There is a sample copy at Scheidt Hardware.  Of course, you can pick up your own copy there too.  The only other place to get one is from me.  They make wonderful gifts just in time for…well, whatever.

Maplewood History: For Sale – A Painted Photograph of Gertrude Harper

Now for something completely different. Recently a man contacted me who has a portrait of Gertrude Harper for sale.  He bought it at a thrift shop sometime ago. Now he is looking for another home for it.  The price is $20 which seems reasonable. Gertrude Harper was the daughter of Dr. Cape and his wife Alice.  She married Bill Harper of Harper’s Pharmacy. It is too bad that we have nowhere in the community to preserve items such as this photograph when they become available.

Maplewood History: Previous Unseen Images of Maplewood’s Second High School

More stunning photos from the collection of Laura Varilek

Maplewood has had three high school buildings.  Some of the images that Ms. Varilek was kind enough to share have caused me to take a look at our historic record.  You get to look too. I think it is worth mentioning that James C. Sutton Sr. was very active in the establishment of the first school in the area.  He was the board chairman until 1866 when his son, John L., took over.  He, in turn, was succeeded by his brother, James, Jr., who served until 1908.  The district had continuous leadership from the Sutton family, the father and his two sons for over fifty years! In 1882, the site was purchased and a one-room schoolhouse was erected and called Bartold Valley School.  The site was directly across Manchester from our present day city hall. Miss Ella Smith, who taught for forty-two years (1867-1909), is in the center of the rear row.  Boy, she looks like fun, doesn’t she?  Mr. Thomas’ daughter, Emma B. is next to her as is Sarah Harrison, Ms. Varilek’s great-great grandmother. One of my sources says another room was added in 1889.  At first the school was called the Bartold Valley School.  This was later shortened to just the Valley School.  In 1892, a four-room two-story addition was added.  In 1901, the first brick building was added- a two-story, four-room addition in front of the eight wood-frame rooms.

In the above image, the four-room wood frame building can be seen in the rear.  The area was having growing pains that the school administrators were continually trying to accommodate.

Maplewood History: Exceedingly Rare Images Discovered in the Varilek Collection

We’ve struck another vein of gold in the mountain of historic Maplewood photographs. 

My last post covered my recent meeting with two descendants of Sarah Wilgus Sutton Humphreys Harrison, Laura Varilek and Will Holmes and their visit to their great, great grandmother’s home which is now the J.B. Smith Funeral parlor.  If you don’t remember it well or missed it, you can read about it here.

At the end of that post, I deliberately left my readers hanging because the discovery of these images is so exciting I wanted them to be the focus of a post on their own.  Nearly fifteen years have passed since upstairs at the funeral parlor Millie Hardy handed me the original photograph of Manchester Road looking towards Big Bend. I know now it probably came with the building when J.B. Smith bought it in 1932. To this historian, many of the images in this post are pure gold. Prior to having the images that Laura Varilek has shared with us, this was the best image that I had of Sarah Wilgus Sutton Humphreys Harrison’s home which is now the J.B. Smith Funeral Parlor.

Maplewood History: Being Made Or At Least Re-Lived

Sarah Harrison’s Family Came to Town
Recently, I was pleased to entertain the first, as far as I know, out-of-town, Maplewood History-inspired tourists to this lovely village of ours.  They even stayed in a Maplewood VRBO on Lanham which I didn’t even know that we had.  Actually, it may be in the City of St. Louis but if it is, it just is by a few feet. Laura Varilek, a longtime follower and contributor to this space, arrived from Rapid City, South Dakota.  She was joined by her I-don’t-know-what-number cousin (correction: uncle) from Denver, William Holmes.  Both Laura and Will are descended from our pioneer family of James Compton and Ann Wells Sutton.  Additionally, they are both descendants of James’ and Ann’s child, Sarah Wilgus Humphreys Harrison. Sarah Harrison has gotten a fair amount of press on this site.  I wonder if anyone would remember why?  I won’t keep you in suspense.  It’s because Sarah’s home was one of the first four residences on the real estate that once was the Sutton farm and later became the City of Maplewood.  When Sarah’s home was built in 1891, she might not have ever heard of Maplewood.  Even if she had, she most likely would not have been pleased to know that some day most of the farm once owned by her Dad would be named Maplewood. She would probably have been of the same mind as her brother-in-law, William Lyman Thomas, who felt that the name of the town should have been City of Sutton because “there were many more Suttons on the farm than there were Maples.”

Sarah Harrison’s life and mansion have been the subject of at least a few posts.  Her mansion deserves attention, discussion and examination because of the unusual situation it is in at present.  Just as many others had done, the J.B. Smith Funeral Home began its operation in the building that had once been Sarah’s mansion.  Over the many decades it has been in business much modernization of the building has taken place.  About the only part of the building that is unchanged from Sarah’s time is the second floor.

Maplewood History: 7309 Maple Avenue

Let’s try this again.  The first post has evaporated somehow.  I’m thankful that it was just this one.  Most of my posts I have copied and pasted into PDFs but I am way behind.  Hopefully having to redo this one will inspire me to keep up with the task. A Detailed Examination of One of Maplewood’s Great Homes

A purely serendipitous encounter with Sam Rainwater recently has resulted in this post.  Sam and her husband, Doug Nickrent, live at 7309 Maple Avenue.  They’ve been there for 27 years.  Sam mentioned that she had a descriptive letter from a former owner and would I be interested in seeing it.  I was and did. In my experience, letters like this one of Sam’s are extremely rare.  I have only found a few in the 20 years I’ve been examining the history of our town. There is a historic connection between Sam and Doug’s house at 7309 Maple and their next door neighbor’s at 7305 which is on the corner of Maple and Marshall.  Let’s look at Sam’s home first. The next image is of their neighbor’s home at 7305 Maple.

Maplewood History: Happy Halloween

In my neighborhood, the Shields subdivision in south Maplewood, a couple of 12 foot tall skeletons have been up for quite awhile now.  They preceded the yard inflatables.  Not sure why. They seem to be the cutting edge in Halloween decorations this year.  Perhaps the owners just want them to get maximum air time? Thanksgiving is unhandy for decorating coming so soon after Halloween.  It sort of interferes with getting your Christmas stuff out early like so many businesses seem to want to do lately.  Maybe we need to space these things out a bit more. One problem is that Easter is mobile.  The pilgrims don’t need that moonlight any longer so how about we just pick a day in April and make it the same for Easter every year?  Then we would have space in March for Thanksgiving and we could avoid the colliding end-of-year holidays. Or if we can’t move Thanksgiving, maybe some enterprising inventor could come up with some house decorations and yard inflatables based on the idea behind the children’s toys called Transformers?  Those inclined could buy one set to be put out early in October that would have all of the features built in for the three colliding holidays.  The 12 foot skeleton could be converted into a 12 foot pilgrim in time for Thanksgiving and a 12 foot Santa for Christmas.