Forgotten Buildings–The Murphy Building

The Majestic Theatre‘s next-door neighbor, the Murphy Building, is also an eerie edifice, built right around the same time in the late 1920s. Again, there are trees growing out of it, broken windows, and missing keystones in the arches. But, like the theatre, you can glimpse its beauty, and what it must have looked like “back in the day.”


The front entrance, even with its cracks and dirt and unintended foliage is a gorgeous example of the amount of detail that went into the design of this building, as are the once-grand arches above the windows:

These buildings along Collinsville Avenue are haunting. Attacked by time and vandals, and reclaimed by nature, they’re almost beyond the point of repair, and yet they offer a rare glimpse into the past, and a shopping district that was once frequented by happy shoppers, optimistic about the future of their city.

Forgotten Buildings–The Majestic Theatre

Of all the derelict buildings in East St. Louis, the old Majestic Theatre building is the one that tugs at my heartstrings the most, and it’s not just because it has trees growing out of it (although there are plenty of those).


It was built in 1928 by the Boller Brothers architecture firm, as part of the St. Louis Samuel Komm Theatre chain. When you look at the details on the building, you can see how beautiful it was (still is, really), and how much care went into the design and building of it.

These tiles blow my mind. Not only the sheer number of them, and the different designs, but the color. I can’t imagine that the person who designed it ever would have dreamt that it would fall into such disrepair.


The theatre closed already in 1960, and even though it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, I can’t believe there’s too much hope for saving it…it’s just too badly damaged and overgrown. Like so many buildings in East St. Louis, every time I see this one when we drive by on the interstate, I’m filled with sorrow at the lost beauty and potential.

Mississippi Valley Trust Company

I first noticed the former Mississippi Valley Trust Company building, a St. Louis city landmark, in January when I was downtown for the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up. There’s something about it that made me smile, because it’s such a small building compared to those around it. I finally got a chance to got back and take some better pictures of it last week.




Built in 1896 to house the Trust Company, which was a supporter of the 1904 World’s Fair, it was already vacant by the 1930s, after Mississippi Valley Trust merged with Mercantile Bank and Trust. It has housed several different businesses of wildly different types since then, from an aircraft company to a medical clinic, and has most recently been home to the Schupp Company, an advertising agency. It appears that company is looking to lease or sell part of the building, following the loss of a major client.

I guess this is more of an overlooked building than a forgotten one, but either way, I wonder how many people realize this landmark exists or wonder about its story?

Forgotten Buildings–Union Trust Company

The Union Trust Company Building in East St. Louis is another building at the intersection of Collinsville and Old Missouri, the last remaining historically intact intersection in East St. Louis, that really intrigues me. It was designed and built in the early 1920s in the Classical Revival style by Thomas Imbs, architect for August Schlafly, who with his brothers, had a banking empire in Southern Illinois. This style was popular with banks beginning in the 1800s because it represented permanence and trust, and yet it was the first (and only) bank of this style built in the city.

The bank went through several name changes, and eventually moved its headquarters east to Swansea. The building was vacated in the mid-1990s, and it still stands empty today, the only former bank of its style in the city.

Forgotten Buildings–Old Walgreens

I don’t really know much about this old building in East St. Louis, other than it appears that it used to be home to Walgreens. You can still the beauty of the store and all its details. It’s another one of those buildings that, even though it’s falling into disrepair, allows you to peek into the past, and picture what downtown East St. Louis must have looked like at one time.

Forgotten Buildings–The Spivey Buidling

The 12-story Spivey building in East St. Louis is the tallest building and only skyscraper in southern Illinois. The former editor of the Journal, A.T. Spivey, had it built next to his newspaper office, and at one time it housed shops and the offices of prominent doctors, lawyers and other professionals. It was designed by architect Albert B. Frankel in the Chicago School Commercial style, reminiscent of buildings designed by Louis Sullivan, famous for many buildings including the Wainwright Building across the river in St. Louis. Like so many other buildings in East St. Louis, it is now abandoned and crumbling, and yet you can still see what a beautiful building it once was.


A Trio of Once and Current Restaurants

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!

Cass Bank and Trust

Cass Bank and Trust is another cool old (although crumbling), building we stumbled upon while cake hunting.

I really love finding and photographing these old buildings before they disappear forever!