Above: the view looking west from the now-demolished skybridge of the former St. Louis Centre at 7th Street.
Above: the northern 500 and 600 blocks of Washington Avenue, with the Lennox Hotel visible beyond.
Washington Avenue has long been a notable location in the city. Forming the northern edge of downtown, it became city's garment district after the Eads Bridge opened at its east end in the 1870s. It retained that status until as recently as the 1980s, when the last of the factories moved out and the first of the loft rehabbers arrived. Warehouses, shoe factories, and hat manufacturers lined its blocks from the river out to 18th Street; today, the buildings they put up form one of St. Louis's most cohesive urban vistas.
After slowly gathering steam for two decades, the avenue reached critical mass in the early 2000s, and swiftly transformed itself into the city's premier loft district and most upscale nightlife destination. Gone are the low-budget dance clubs which came and went throughout the 1990s; in their place are elegant lofts, a wide range of restaurants, and trendy high-end stores. The fabulous City Museum resides just north as well.
Architecturally, the concentration of multi-story manufacturing buildings from the turn of the century is impressive; equally impressive is the number of blocks that survive intact. This tour will cover virtually every pre-World War 2 building between 4th and 18th Streets and a few others others besides.
The initial round of photographs was taken during a one-day marathon photography-and-survey session in March, 2001. Since then, the changes on the avenue have rendered almost every one of those photographs obsolete. Old businesses have closed; many new ones have opened, and nearly every building has been renovated and restored. In November 2008, I did a second marathon survey that shows just how much has changed in less than ten years.
My research into the street's history is incomplete and ongoing. If you have stories of a particular building's history and past lives, drop me a line.
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