Big 4 Chevrolet - Jefferson Underground - McKinley Heights Neighborhood

I was sorting through microfilm of St. Louis newspapers at the library trying to find info on businesses along Jefferson near my home.

I found an ad for Big 4 Chevrolet at 2400 Jefferson.

St. Louis Globe Democrat advertisement

St. Louis Globe Democrat advertisement

Now, growing up in Illinois, I remembered Big 4 Chevy being in Collinsville. They moved east after they closed up shop in St. Louis around 1975.

Notice the ad says 75 new cars on display in the building. I believe many were indeed inside the showroom section of the building as it was added onto over the years, spreading south to Victor; but, there is a side lot just north of the building that has been there for sometime. Per Historic Aerials, the surface lot been there since at least 1958.

Big 4 Chevrolet.jpg

Per the above ad from the 1950’s Big 4 claimed to be St. Louis’ biggest and oldest dealer.

The building at 2400 South Jefferson has always been a curiosity for me. It sits in the McKinley Heights Neighborhood at Victor Street. Walking along the sidewalk reveals the inside of half a ship’s hull and strange metallic/reflective paper in the windows visible from the sidewalk. It is a strange site, obviously benefiting the indoor view, not the view from the street.

After a couple clicks, turns out this is an event space with a nice rooftop area. The place looks well maintained and in use for private events, wedding receptions and the like. Look at those beautiful windows.

Per the Jefferson Underground website:

“In 1920 General Motors Corporation purchased the property at 2400 S. Jefferson to build St. Louis main Chevrolet dealership. In 1928 the Art Deco building opened as “Big Four Chevrolet”, 30,000 sq. ft. In 1953 the building doubled in size with a new South addition to 55,000 sq. ft. Car sales and service stopped in 1975 and Giuliani’s Carnival supply took over and operated until 1995. During the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s the neighborhood declined, crime took over, the building decayed, was boarded up, and the city was moving to demolish over 10 square blocks of the neighborhood, as a “Blight Zone”.

Giuliani Carnival Supply was started in 1934 and was operational for two generations.

Jeez, just tear it down…”blight zone”. Damn, when St. Louis was falling in the late 20th Century, the thought of leveling it was always top of mind. Option A. Thankfully the culture of that generation didn’t take it all to the landfill, there is much continuity in this part of town. So much potential in these parts.

This stretch of Jefferson was part of St. Louis’ auto history, just across the street is the former the Riefling-Vigar Automotive Company who sold Fords and later Nash Ramblers. It, like Jefferson Underground is an event space called Riefling South City.

I did a blog on this building’s various iterations back in September, 2015.

The stretch of Jefferson from I-44 down to Broadway is brimming with potential. It is in need of a drastic road diet and traffic calming. People treat it like a speedway.

Imagine a street car running up and down Jefferson connecting the NGA to Cherokee Street. Trust me, Jefferson can spare at least a lane for a street car.

Nowhere in the city makes more sense than here.