1858: The Palmatary Map of Lafayette Square

Richard Compton and Camile Dry rightly deserve credit for their amazingly comprehensive 1875  pictorial map of St Louis. It is the standard by which others are judged, and certainly worth your study if new to the subject. I highly recommend the expandable version on the Library of Congress site: https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4164sm.gpm00001/?st=gallery

There have been other pictorial maps, but an early form caught my attention recently

James Palmatary was a New York lithographer in the 1850s. Appearing to work his way West, he drew pictorial maps of Baltimore, MD, Alexandria, VA, Dayton and Columbus, OH, and Indianapolis, IN. After 1855, he remained in Ohio, drawing Milwaukee in 1856 and Chicago in 1857. This last map sold in 2017 for $160,000, being perhaps the only remaining good look at the city before it was destroyed by fire in 1871. He distinguished himself by working in colored inks. 

The largest map he drew was of St Louis in 1858; 41/2 by nearly 8 feet in size. Lithographs of this size were prohibitively expensive to print, so must have been priced accordingly. The few surviving copies either indicate a small market for them, or the difficulty in maintaining the easily damaged works over time. 

To get an impression of the cost, in 1864, he proposed and won a commission to sketch Syracuse, NY for $10,000. (about $1.6 million today). Remember, there were no movies and no TV in those days. The showing of a major painting would cause long lines to form for the pleasure of enjoying it.  

So from the macro to the micro, let’s take a Palmatary look at what there was to Lafayette Square in 1858:

Here is a view of two of the earliest big players in the area, City Hospital and Christian Staehlin’s Phoenix Brewing Company:

City Hospital had a rough start. It was originally laid out here on the corner of Lafayette Avenue and St Ange (now 14th) Street in 1845. It caught fire and burned to the ground in 1856. Rebuilt the next year, it was a sprightly two years old when Palmatary drew it. 

And here is how it appeared to Camile Dry, 17 years later, in 1875: 

Note the distinctive arched window framing and four chimneys on the original main building. It was destroyed once again in 1896, and rebuilt in 1907. The main building is today’s Georgian Condominiums. 

The other feature of note lies immediately west of the hospital, on Lafayette Avenue. Christian Staehlin was one of the original fat cat landowners to settle the Square. He lived on Lafayette Avenue near his Phoenix Brewing Company, which, in 1858, had been in operation for 20 years and was one of the largest breweries in St Louis. 

Staehlin held a place on the Board from 1857 – 1862. An expressive sort, he had his brewery painted a fearless shade of pink.  

 Thick black smoke was a constant in advertising an industrial business in those days. It served as a sure indicator of modern prosperity. Factories were drawn wreathed in plumes of coal smoke, but so, apparently, were breweries and even hospitals. Ah, progress…

Staehlin sold to Anton Griesedieck in 1877, and the brewery closed in 1920. The Phoenix building hung on through 1949, when this photo was taken for the Globe-Democrat: no smoke, little prosperity. It was razed in preparation for I-55 in 1964.  

Now direct your attention a short distance west on Lafayette, to the area that fronts the south side of Lafayette Park. These were the first parcels of the Square to be developed, and by 1858, contained all the movers and shakers necessary to get both park and neighborhood established. 

Leicester Babcock was a city council member and St. Louis deputy recorder. “In 1856, he planted many of the trees in the park with his own hands,” and went on to plant more along Missouri, Lafayette, Geyer and Jefferson Avenues. Befitting a man of such activity, he lived to the age of 89, and died in his home across from the park in 1903.

Edward Bredell was president of the Missouri Glass Works, and on the park Board of Improvement from 1852 – 1857. His son was instrumental in bringing baseball to St Louis, way back in 1860. William Simpson purchased the estate in 1892, and sold the northwest portion to his brother-in-law Jacob Christopher. It is today’s Simpson Place.

Charles Gibson was a land title lawyer, known as the father of Lafayette Park, and responsible for many of the improvements made there. He also secured the legislation that protected it from any close industrial development. Sir Charles spent 50 years in Lafayette Square and seven on the Board, from 1866 – 1874

Archibald Gamble was a lawyer, St Louis postmaster, and recorder of deeds for many years. He served on the Board of Improvement from 1857 – 1859, and built his house well inset from Lafayette Avenue, in 1850. Gibson developed the front of the estate when he married Gamble’s daughter, Virginia in 1851. 


Gamble House in 1940; William Swekosky; MoHist

James S. Watson was a wholesaler on Main Street for many years, director of the Mound City Mutual Insurance Company, and president of the Southern Bank of St. Louis. John C. Rust was a director of the Mutual Fire Insurance Company of St Louis. His estate sold at auction in 1866. 

John C Rust House, 2240 Lafayette Ave in 1940; Swekosky c/o MoHist

Here is where each lived in 1858: 

As a speculative historical exercise, Mike Boyd and I discussed where, in 1851, the earliest folks facing the park along Lafayette Avenue were located. Based on the available information, we decided that the order, from Missouri Avenue to Park Place (Mississippi Ave,) was Edward Bredell (sold to William Simpson in 1892), Charles Gibson, with Archibald Gamble out back (estate divided in 1868), James S. Watson, and John C. Rust.

Eight years later, the real estate company Belt and Priest put out a map of the Lafayette Square plats, and featured this configuration of the four homeowners facing the park: 

It was opportune of Palmatary to introduce his giant map when he did. The city limits moved west from Second Carondelet (18th Street) to Spring Street three years earlier, and the real estate boom on the west side of the Square began. In that same year of 1858, Stephen Barlow laid out the first subdivision in the Square, along the length of Kennett Place. At nearly the same time, the firm of Newman and Howard laid out another tract east of the park, from Mississippi Avenue to today’s Vail Place (1859).

The Dillon Brothers Addition, facing both the park and Park Avenue was platted and offered for sale in May that same year. Leffingwell and Company noted a new omnibus line and confidently predicted creation of a “horse railway” to support further development. The park frontage was compared to that of New York’s Central Park, and the ad cautioned “persons intending to purchase should inspect the grounds and be prepared to compete for the choice spots.” The M’Anulty holding between the Dillon’s and Newman & Howard, held out until 1868, when it too was subdivided. 

Also in 1859, the Lafayette Addition was platted and sold. It is today’s Preston Place, and extended on both sides of Park Place (now Mississippi Avenue.) Here is an ad for the development. Note the comfort of knowing enjoyment of your new home won’t be compromised by the presence of “dram shops (bars serving liquor), soap factories (a scourge, the odor of which floated over exclusive Lucas Place a decade earlier), or houses of entertainment (be they what they were.) This was all by city ordinance relative to Lafayette Square, though Papin and Brothers happily appeared to generate this guarantee. Interesting how they also traded on the strength of the names of those who already inhabited the area:

Sale of Lafayette Addition; May, 1859

Sale of John C Rust Estate; 1866

1859 was a happening year for the Square. The Lafayette Addition filled in east of the park along Lafayette Avenue toward 18th Street. John C. Rust died that year, and his estate was sold to Staehlin. Bankruptcy forced the brewer to sell his property at auction in 1866. It was then subdivided for Parade Place, and David Nicholson bought up most of it. Nicholson was the most famous grocer in St. Louis, now remembered for putting his name to David Nicholson 1843 Kentucky Bourbon. He developed the original houses of Nicholson Place in 1876, and his mansion lasted until 1959. It was razed for decidedly unhistorical apartments, on the street that bears his name.

Lafayette Square was off and running, from simple but influential beginnings. 

Thanks to research sources, including.  

The inspiration for this was a recent (April 4-6. 2020) series of Lafayette Square architectural posts on Chris Nafziger’s reliably comprehensive St Louis Patina. Here, you can read about Nicholson Place, then scroll back and forth through other LS areas at the bottom of the post. Highly Recommended. http://stlouispatina.com/nicholson-place-lafayette-square/ 

Views And Viewmakers Of Urban America; John W Reps; 1984, University of Missouri Press.

Leicester Babcock quote from St Louis Republic; June 22, 1903.

JW Parmatary Map courtesy of Missouri Historical Society. 

Lafayette Square by John Albury Bryan (1962) was the primary source for settlement dates

The Report of the Board of Improvement of Lafayette Park, 1874 was primary source for service dates of early residents. 



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,