St. Louis is nationally famous for multiple things. There’s the Gateway Arch, the Cardinals baseball team, and a world renowned zoo (that’s free!). Not bad for a city of just under 320,000 and a population ranking of 59th in the USA (source 2010 census). Many much larger cities would be thrilled to have just one of these assets.
But here’s the thing. When it comes to our region’s greatest asset, I’d argue that none of these three, or any other of St. Louis’ many treasures one could name, even comes close to what should clearly be considered St. Louis’ single most greatest asset. It’s a jewel that almost never gets mentioned, never gets the attention and love it deserves. What I’m talking about here is quite simply the finest residential architecture in the nation.
Just look at these beauties:
I'm a title.
I'm a title.
Above - A St. Louis classic “Gingerbread”.
Below - Incredible detailing in this small home. Common in St. Louis but not found in other cities.
A closer look - Check out the beautiful and intricate brick-work of the dentil shelf below the cornice!
Brick Bungalows feature spacious and elegant covered front porches. “Relax … time to chill … pop a cold one ... and do it in style …” That seems to me to be the fine message these front porches are telling their owners to enjoy.
Charleston, S.C. is nationally famous for its “Rainbow Row” of attractive housing. St. Louis has its own version, but few people know it.
OMG! And these are just the smaller homes!! Please read on. The success of this website is up to you.
As a lifelong resident of the region, I just don’t get it. We have this phenomenal residential architecture, and it’s hardly ever talked about. Why is it so underappreciated? Is it because so many folks live in the outer suburbs and just don’t know it exists? Hey, if area residents don’t pay much attention to it, why should anyone outside the area? This should be one of our region’s biggest bragging points!
So there you have it – the mission and purpose of this website - to advertise and promote a greater understanding of and appreciation for St. Louis’ outstanding residential architecture. And this won't be about the large mansions and landmark homes, they already have their boosters. This site will be about the homes and apartments most of us can afford, and that receive very little notice.
Here’s what others have said:
“St. Louis has more beautiful homes than any other city in the world.” Burton Holmes, world famous travel lecturer and filmmaker.
“We are fortunate that our cities, despite neglect, still retain examples of decorative tradition. Decorative brickwork still lines streets in such cities as Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. It is in St. Louis, however, that there seems to be the most complete statement.” James Stokoe, author, Decorative and Ornamental Brickwork.
“We moved here from Seattle, where brick houses are rare, and only inhabited by the wealthy. We desired a house with character, and boy, did we find one! We dig our brick! It’s our own, private coffee house.” Anonymous, Mark Groth’s stlcitytalk.com.
Before pressing on, I must make one more extremely important point. Not only does St. Louis have this great wealth of beautiful residential architecture, but it’s also very affordable. And that’s because of simple economics. High quantity and lower demand equals bargain prices.
First let’s talk about the high quantity part of this equation. St. Louis benefited from an exceptional and unique convergence of resources and time. Well after the city’s founding, it was discovered that St. Louis was located above vast deposits of clay and coal, the two primary natural resources necessary to make bricks. These discoveries, along with new manufacturing technologies and a large supply of inexpensive newly arriving immigrant labor, all came together during the time of St. Louis’ greatest period of expansion in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A rapidly expanding city required a readily available and inexpensive building material. Because brick could be produced less expensively here, and new city ordinances were enacted improving construction methods after the Great Fire of 1849, brick became the building material of choice – nothing else even came close. A descriptive and appropriate nickname for St. Louis could well be “Brick City” because so much of its pre-World War II construction was built from brick.
My gosh, in St. Louis, even its horse stables were built of brick!
Anheuser-Busch brewery stables built in 1885 – home to its world-famous Clydesdales.
Lemp Brewery horse stables on Cherokee Street – now home to a craft brewery. Ask yourself this: in how many U.S. cities were horse stables built so beautifully, that they can now serve as an attractive space for humans to congregate and enjoy?
Even the lowly detached back alley garage is brick in St Louis!
With so much brick construction happening, it was inevitable that St. Louis builders would develop new techniques, styles, and patterns to give themselves an edge over their local competitors. As a result, this region’s brick construction features a consistently high level of ornamental decoration that simply can’t be found anywhere else. In St. Louis, as this website will amply demonstrate, even its smallest and most unassuming older homes contain beautiful and elaborate decorative work.
And the other thing about brick buildings – they last! – maintaining their beauty and charm far longer than homes built of other materials. NiNi Harris, St. Louis historian extraordinaire, said it best:
“It gives St. Louis a permanence, an architecture like other cities do not have. It has given our buildings the stability to have survived in many cases generations of neglect, that they could then, even after all this neglect, be restored. Because of that we have a Victorian city. So it is what makes St. Louis special and unique.” Source – Brick by Chance and Fortune.
That covers the high quantity, high quality part of the equation. Now for the lower demand part. Most of the homes and apartments featured on this website were built in the later 1800s and early 1900s, which means they exist almost exclusively in St. Louis City and its inner suburbs. These are the areas where populations have generally decreased as suburban sprawl has marched ever outward. Such a mass migration obviously leads to lower demand in the areas people are leaving. And while many of these areas have enjoyed a resurgence in demand in recent years, a high quantity/lower demand environment is still prevalent, making the purchase or rental of superior homes and apartments like the ones on this website a real bargain.
For most of us, living in and surrounding ourselves with this extraordinary level of craftsmanship, architecture, and beauty simply isn’t financially feasible, or even available, in other cities. But here it is, right here in St. Louis. For our family, it’s not just a home. Strange as it may sound, living in neighborhoods and homes like these makes us feel like we are, literally, living inside a work of art. And that my friends, feels very good.
For a more in-depth look at St. Louis' many home styles, please click the "EXPLORE MORE!" button above, or here below: