Waverly Place: Gibson Takes A Gamble

Charles Gibson

Waverly Place is a truncated street south of Lafayette Avenue, made shorter yet by the incursion of I-44, It was originally the entrance to the estate of Archibald Gamble. Gamble was a judge and ninth Postmaster of St. Louis. By 1850, he, along with Charles Gibson, David Nicholson, Edward Bredell, and Leicester Babcock had acquired practically all of Lafayette Avenue that fronted the park.

These men built impressive mansions with adjoining gardens and orchards. Gamble built a fine home on the south end of what was first McNair, then Cates, and later Easton Place.

 

Gamble’s son-in-law was Charles Gibson. He was a prominent lawyer and held a national position during the Civil War that today would be called Solicitor General. In 1851, Gibson married Virginia Gamble, and built an Italianate style villa at Lafayette and Easton Place. He and his family lived there for nearly fifty years, and also developed Preston Place.

Charles Gibson’s importance to Lafayette Square makes him an easy choice for an early essay here. John Albury Bryan wrote that Gibson did more than anyone to develop Lafayette Park, and to enable legislation from Jefferson City giving Lafayette Square legal protection from “encroachment of any nuisance within a distance of 600 feet from the Park.” Indeed, with Stephen Barlow, he renamed the square of the St Louis Commons as Lafayette Park.

The original marble statue, from which numerous copies have been made, stands in the rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

In 1868, Harriet Hosmer created the Park’s first statue; a bronze rendition of Thomas Hart Benton. One year later, due to the efforts of Gibson, a bronze copy of Houdon’s George Washington was added to the park, directly opposite the Gibson estate.

So, Waverly? Well, Gibson’s favorite writer was Sir Walter Scott. Scott wrote a series of initially anonymous books, known as the Waverly novels. Gibson’s family took to calling the street Waverly Place, in honor of Scott. References to specific novels appear on the 1920’s era multi-family properties on Waverly Place. They are the Mannering, Ivanhoe, Woodstock and Waverly buildings. Waverly was a popular theme in the US in general, and one can find cities in Tennessee, Ohio, Nova Scotia, New York, and Nebraska similarly named.

Thanks to Mound City On The Mississippi (City of St Louis Planning And Urban Design) , Find A Grave website, Missouri State DNR, stlouis-mo.gov, and The Missouri History Museum for research materials.

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