The Iron Men Of Lafayette Square – Part One: The Pullis Brothers

1738 Park Place, 1827 Kennett Place and 2008 Rutger Street. There is something that connects these three non-adjacent addresses. 

They were the homes of three men, three brothers, and three partners in one of the most significant industries of late 19th century St Louis. These were the Pullis brothers; Theodore, Augustus, and Thomas.  

Cypress North Pavilion – Tower Grove Park. Built 1871

As architectural ironworks go, Mississippi Iron Works was both huge and diversified. It was originally known as T.R. Pullis & Brothers. and was responsible for a number of the cast iron storefronts you can still see in Lafayette Square, Laclede’s Landing, and in the fanciful gazebos of Tower Grove Park. 

A genealogical highlight in the Pullis story concerns Jane Fusz, the wife of Thomas’ brother William. Firmin Desloge was born in 1803 in France, settled in Ste Genevieve, MO in 1823, and became integral to the development of lead mining in Potosi, MO. He married Cynthia McIlvaine, who survived him in 1856, moving to 5 Benton Place, where she died in 1875. They had four children. Their oldest daughter, Lucie, married John Baptiste Valle’ the son of a famous Creole by the same name who made his fortune in both lead and furs in Ste. Genevieve. The Desloge’s youngest daughter, Josephine was first married to a man who was killed in Potosi by a gang of Confederate irregulars around 1861. She remarried to Louis Fusz, and they raised nine children, the youngest of whom was Jane, and she married William Pullis. Strong regional and historical bloodlines there.

As early as Green’s St Louis Directory of 1844, you can find mention of Christian and T. R.  Pullis – iron railing and bank door manufacturers, listed on West 6th Street south of Green Street. They actually incorporated in 1839, making them the original iron monger in St Louis. 

T.R. Pullis, Jr.

 Thomas Riley Pullis was born in 1817, in New York. As a youth, he served an apprenticeship in a New York iron foundry, coming to St Louis in 1839 with his brother, Christian. He married Harriet Berdan, and they had the three sons listed at the top of this story. 

T. R. Pullis, Jr, born in 1851, entered his father’s business as an apprentice at the age of 17. Upon the retirement of his uncle John Pullis, Thomas Jr. became a full-fledged partner with his father in 1874, when Christian and T. R. Pullis became Pullis and Sons. In 1876, the Pullis foundry was located at the corner of 17th and Hickory Streets. By then, Thomas was very successful, and also sat as a director of Mercantile Bank Of St Louis. The family set down its roots in Lafayette Square. The youngest son, Theodore, lived at 1821 Missouri Avenue and another son, William resided at 1827 Kennett Place. The three distinctive side by side homes there are referred to as Pullis Row, a nod to John Pullis, who built them.

After the death of T.R, Pullis, Sr. in 1878, the family firm continued under the name Pullis Bros. Iron Works. By 1895, Thomas was the sole remaining original partner. His uncle William’s widow Jane lived with the Desloge family at 5 Benton Place. Thomas then associated with his younger brothers Christen and Augustus. They organized and incorporated Pullis Bros. Iron Company, with a capital stock of $200,000. Eventually they set up a branch in Chicago, and he moved there to oversee the Northwest trade. Thomas married in 1877 to Cora Marshall, granddaughter of James Sutton, a large land owner and pioneer of St Louis County. (namesake of Sutton Place in today’s Maplewood). They went on to have three children of their own.

Thomas’ brother Theodore died of “congestion of the brain” in Hot Springs, AR in 1884. He had lived at 1821 Mississippi Avenue in Lafayette Square.

By 1887, the Mississippi Iron Works (“jail work a specialty”), with offices on North Sixth and foundry at Eighth and Hickory Streets, was known  as the oldest and best architectural and  ornamental iron manufacturer in St Louis. It was an opportune time for an iron foundry, as cast iron plumbing and architectural iron were being rapidly adopted throughout the city. They were also engaged in a  range of related iron wares: store fronts, bedsteads, mantels, jails, bank vaults, chairs and settees, fountains, radiators, weather vanes, etc. Thomas and Cora Pullis lived at 2008 Rutger Street in Lafayette Square, and entertained in a grand manner, their “grounds handsomely embellished and illuminated; parlors arranged for dancing and chandeliers and staircase entwined with smilax, while throughout was a profusion of flowers.” (1)

The Post Dispatch in January of 1891 reported that the new Liggett and Meyers Tobacco Building was supplied with iron from Pullis, a contract valued at $300,000. They also provided the iron for the Cupples warehouses. 

Thomas’ older brother Augustus died in 1894. 

The Mississippi Iron Works was largely destroyed by the Great Tornado of 1896. It represented the first shutdown of the St Louis works in 57 years. It put 250 employees out of work for a time. Creditors at the time were largely family: Cora Pullis, Mrs. C. A. Pullis, and Anna Hemphill, in addition to State Bank of St Louis. 

That’s a lot of Pullis’s for one essay. They weren’t the only iron men of Lafayette Square. Wait’ll we get going on Simpson and Christopher! 

 Thanks to Research Sources, Including;

(1) South Side Reception: St Louis Post Dispatch; November 29 1888; Page 4. 

Industries Of St Louis; J.M. Elstner and Company; St Louis, MO; 1887

Encyclopedia Of St Louis, Volume IV, William Hyde and Howard Conard; 1899; Southern History Company. 

The Desloge Chronicles – A Tale Of Two Continents; Christopher Desloge; WLU.com; 2012

coltechpub.com/hartgen/htm/pullis.htm

Green’s St Louis Directory of 1844

St Louis College Of Pharmacy website ; https://www.stlcop.edu/about/history/placesandspaces.html

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