There are certain buildings that conjure up memories of my visits to all 79 neighborhoods years ago. The Mendenhall building is one.
Locust used to be the automotive strip in St. Louis back when the auto industry was exploding and we made stuff and had a teeming population putting their stamp on this evolving Industrial Era city.
The memory that burned its way into my mind is the concrete wheel details on this building that makes me think of the Detroit Red Wings uniform, one of the best in all of American sports.
The preservation of these buildings popped up on my radar in an April NextSTL article. Yet another reason to be optimistic about St. Louis’ future:
So much detail and craftsmanship will be saved with this one.
There is a plaque on the building dedicated by the Horseless Carriage Club of Missouri and Hilliker Corporation. It reads:
“The eastern, two level portion of this building was built in 1914 and for two years was the home of the Hudson-Phillips Motor Car Company. In 1916, Mendenhall Motor Company opened its Ford dealership in the building. In 1924, Mendenhall added the matching, western, two-story portion of this building. Mendenhall motor company remained a Ford dealer at the location until 1950 although it did vacate the western addition for three years during the depression. During 1936, the addition was occupied by the Auburn Distributing Company of St. Louis.
The 1916 Fords first sold in the building where the last mile tees trimmed with brass. The Model T had 20 horsepower and 100 inch wheelbase. During the early 1920s, there were more for Model T’s on American roads than all other makes of cars combined. The simple design and high production volume of the model T enabled dealers such as Mendenhall to sell the tow door roundabout model during 1925 in 1926 for only $260.
The last Fords sold in this building in 1950 with a streamlined “shoe box” design with the 100 horsepower and a 114 inch wheelbase. in 1909, Roy D Chapman and Howard E Cochran, veterans of the old motor works Chalmers-Detroit and Thomas-Detroit established the Hudson Motor Car Company with the financial backing up Joseph L Hudson, owner of Detroit's Hudson Department Stores. Hudson built quality mid-priced cars from 1909 until the merger in 1956 with Nash-Kelvinator creating American Motors Company.
1936, the year Auburns were sold in this building, was the last year of Auburn production.”
Man, Downtown West has seen so much demo and abandonment over the years. So many vacant lots and surfacing parking scars.
Schlafly Taproom has been the anchor of this part of town in my lifetime. You know, they were truly a pioneer in these parts. I respect them for that, even if they did choose to expand in Maplewood instead of the Hill.
Schlafly is still in my memory as one of the few places you could go after 10:00 PM in downtown St. Louis back in the early 1990s when we moved here. We loved it. It was an oasis in what we thought of as a dustbowl vacant place…like a Jim Jarmusch movie.
The area around the Schlafly Taproom is amazingly cool. It is pretty quiet, even though the Packard Lofts, Westgate Lofts, Locust Street Lofts and many other have brought people to this former ghost town part of town just west of Downtown.
The buildings directly to the east of the Mendenhall & Beuamont buildings are gems, as are the other buildings to the west at Jefferson.
When I read of the renovation of the Mendenhall building renovation I was thrilled. Downtown West can and will be a place that will become more vibrant in 10 years or so, and this is a step in the right direction.
I’m hopeful that infill takes place at some point filling in all the holes and gaps that make this part of town feel a little desolate.
A preservation win for sure.
My next post will cover another DTW development announcement that is promising and exciting.