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Butler Brothers Building
1717 Olive Street (Olive / 18th / Locust / 17th)
Mauran, Russell, and Garden

This building is truly massive, filling an entire square city block; in terms of footprint, it is bigger than even the largest of Washington Avenue's garment district buildings. Most of that space is solid volume, apart from a small light well in the center. The building contains parking for 200 cars, and office spaces up to 10,000 square feet.

On the outside, the Butler Brothers warehouse shows some stylistic kinship with the buildings of the Crunden-Martin complex, by the same firm and dating from the same period. Behind the facade, it's an early use of reinforced concrete.

Butler Brothers was founded in 1877 in Boston by three brothers, as a mail-order catalog wholesaler serving local retail stores. An innovative ordering system allowed local merchants to customize orders and receive their goods within days of ordering. The company soon moved to Chicago and expanded across the country, including warehouses by prolific St. Louis architects Mauran, Russel & Garden in both St. Louis and Dallas, as well as locations in Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco and Baltimore. In 1927, faced with competition from retail chain stores, Butler Brothers opened its own competing Ben Franklin stores.

In the 1950s, Federal records of civilian Army employees were temporarily stored here. The Butler Brothers company was bought out in 1960.

The building has most recently been renamed the Plaza Square Building. In the two most recent decades covered by online city records, a huge variety of enterprises has occupied the building - including warehousing, printing, a photography studio, office space, and more - though much of its interior remains unoccupied.

The heroically scaled main entrance (long since bricked up and boarded over) faces west onto 18th Street, in the center of the block. The main entrance now faces south, on Olive Street. The eastern face on 17th Street houses docks and a garage entrance.

The projecting cornice and lion heads were removed from the Olive Street and 17th Street facades at some point (such removals were common in the 1940s and 1950s as Edwardian-era buildings aged.)

A comparison of an early postcard wth current photographs shows some strange changes to upper levels - what is a full 8th floor in the postcard is treated as an attic level in the building as it stands, and the cornice was a much heavier design. If the postcard is a photograph, then the upper floor was rebuilt at some point in the structure's early history.

  • Butler Brothers at Wikipedia
  • Butler Brothers Building at St. Louis Patina
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