The Pierce Building
112 N. 4th Street
Architect: Frederick C. Bonsak
The Pierce Building was the project of capitalist Lawrence Blunt Pierce, a real estate and financial investor. A 1911 account in Who's Who in Finance, Banking, and Insurance, Volume 1 cites it as "the largest building west of the Mississippi River, containing nearly 1,000 rooms"; in St. Louis, the Fourth City, 1764-1909 it is credited with helping to keep 4th Street as a significant part of the city's financial district in the face of the business district's general westward drift. C.L. Gray Construction Company was the general contractor.
The Pierce Building was a direct contemporary of the Third National Bank Building and the Wright Building, and comes from the same Chicago School influences - it is powerfully vertical, with piers running bottom to top; it had large areas of glass; it featured a tripartate design with a clear base, middle and cap; and it concentrated its ornament at the bottom and top. Architect F.C. Bonsack was heavily involved with the creation of Granite City, and designed the Wagoner Funeral Home.
The building offered vast amounts of office space, and accordingly housed numerous companies and agencies over the years. Mr. Pierce kept his office there, as did number of other bankers and financiers. Sample tenants from info available online include:
The Law Library Association of St. Louis (relocated to the Civil Courts Building in 1930)
A variety of feed, flour, milling and grain concerns
The St. Louis Court of Appeals
Various freight forwarding companies
The building lost its cornice some time between 1956 and 1964. By the mid 1960s, nobody cared much about the Pierce Building anymore - but people did care about the Gateway Arch, and so many photos capture the building's mid-century years.
In 1984, a $125 million project designed by Halevy Simmons of the HBE Corporation totally transformed the building - stripping it down to the structure, expanding it with two long eastern wings, and recladding it with a new brick skin. The converted building reopened as the Adams-Mark Hotel in 1986. The Adams-Mark chain mostly disolved in the 2000s; the former Pierce Building became a Hyatt Regency Hotel in 2008.
Images from elsewhere:
The Pierce Building, photographed from atop the Old Courthouse dome with Planter's Hotel in the foreground. A 1920s photograph by photographer W.C. Persons; Missouri History Museum.
The Pierce Building from the street. A 1920s photograph by photographer W.C. Persons; Missouri History Museum.
The Pierce Building in 1953 - a rare color view of the building at mid-century. Photograph by Ralph D'Oench; Missouri History Museum.
The Pierce Building. Colorized postcard view circa 1920.
Detail of the building's entryway and street-level ornament. Excerpt of a 1920s photograph by photographer W.C. Persons. Image from the Missouri History Museum's online archives; refer to the links at left for more photos, which reveal tremendous detail when zoomed in.
The building's neighbor, the Merchant's Exchange, was demolished in 1957; a parking lot occupies its site in this 1970 view from across the river. The Pierce Building's cornice is gone as well. Image from This Is Our St. Louis, Harry Hagen, Knight Publishing Co., St. Louis 1970.
The Pierce Building and its neighbors, circa 1970. Image from This Is Our St. Louis, Harry Hagen, Knight Publishing Co., St. Louis 1970.
The Pierce Building circa 1977. Planter's Hotel and the Times Building are gone, replaced by Boatman's Tower at left. Part of the Old Court House is visible at the lower right. Image from Inland Architect, June 1977 issue, p. 12.)
The Pierce Building is reclad and expanded into the modern hotel that stands on the site today. Photograph by Ted McCrea; image from the Missouri History Musueum collections, 1984.
The building as it stands today, altered beyond recognition.
Postcard view circa 1920.
Roughly the same view, 2008.