In the process of cake hunting this year, I learned that the Busch family, with the help of architectural firm Klipstein and Rathmann (also known for their work on the Anheuser-Busch Bevo plant and the Bauernhof at Grant’s Farm), built taverns/restaurants in an Old World style in the early 1900s. This was done in a move to present a wholesome, family-friendly image to the area (as opposed to the shady drinking establishments that were common then), and to protect their interests as prohibition approached. I knew of two of the existing locations (and they both have cakes to mark their importance in their neighborhoods and the greater St. Louis area), but the third one was new to me. Of course I had to get out and see and compare them all!
The most recognizable of the restaurant trio is Bevo Mill. Once you’ve seen a giant windmill in the city, you’re not likely to forget it! It was actually the last of the Busch family restaurant trio to be built (in 1916). August Busch Sr. originally chose this location because it was approximately halfway between the brewery downtown and his home at what is now another popular St. Louis location, Grant’s Farm, so it made a nice stopping place to water the horses along the way. The stones on the outside of the restaurant were chosen by him personally from the Grant’s Farm property. He even had his own private dining room in the restaurant, and apartments upstairs! The restaurant was named to market a specific Busch product popular during Prohibition, the nonalcoholic Bevo cereal drink. Bevo Mill closed briefly in recent years, but was purchased by a new investor, and has been re-opened, mainly for private events such as weddings, but also for brunch.
Arguably the current busiest of the trio is the Feasting Fox in Dutchtown, which includes this charming Old World building, and a banquet hall, Gretchen’s Inn, next door. This is the “middle child” of the buildings, as it was built in 1914. The restaurant originally went by the name Busch’s Inn or Gretchen’s Inn, before it acquired the name that pays tribute to the mascot for the nonalcoholic Bevo cereal drink, Reynard the Fox, a character in a medieval French folk tale. This restaurant also sat vacant, but for a much longer period of time, and was quite neglected until it was rehabbed in the early 1990s. It is now known as one of the few places you can find a German meal in the St. Louis area.
The final of the three, the old Stork Inn, located at Taft and Virginia in Dutchtown not too far from the Feasting Fox, is the one I had never heard of before, which is probably in part due to the fact that it no longer functions as a restaurant. The first of the three Busch family-friendly taverns, it was built in 1910 in the familiar wedge-shape of the flatiron style, but still retains the same old world charm as the other two locations. Like Bevo Mill, the Stork Inn was built to promote a particular Busch beverage, this time Malt-Nutrine, a drink marketed toward pregnant and nursing women (thus the stork imagery, which is very popular in Germany). The building has been restored, and is currently being used as an architecture studio. Note that the white stork on top of the building is similar to the ones on top of Bevo Mill and the Bauernhof at Grant’s Farm.
There were other Busch-commissioned taverns in St. Louis in the early 1900s, all built for the same purpose of putting a better spin on drinking establishments prior to Prohibition, and then offering a progressive alternative during the country’s dry years, but these are the only three that remain standing and retain their historical integrity. As I mentioned earlier, however, the Bauernhof at Grant’s Farm shared the same architects, and it does still retain its historical integrity, as well…here’s a recent shot to compare the style (and the previously mentioned storks):
These buildings are obviously the product of a bygone era in St. Louis, and I’m glad that they are still standing to tell part of the city’s story!