The Gill Building
622 Olive Street (also 224 N. 7th Street)
Architect: Moritz Eyssell
The William A. Gill Building was built for a St. Louis jewelerly dealer. Clad in gleaming white glazed terra cotta, valued for its "self-cleaning" properties in a time when the city's air was choked with soot, it paved the way for several more such buildings on its block, culiminating in the enormous Railway Exchange Building directly across the street. Inspired by Kansas City's Boley Building, the Gill Building sports large panes of glass, unusual non-Classical ornament, and an innovative structural system for its time, including cantilevered floors and a curtain wall system which allowed for an unobstructed corner entrance at the street.
Today the Gill Building is overshadowed by the comically overscaled Famous-Barr parking garage behind it, constructed in 1961 (the building's rear fire exits empty into the garage's stairwells). More maddening still is the loss of the other three white terra cotta buildings on the block: they were demolished in 1988 for a surface parking lot, absurdly redundant in light of the giant garage next door. Downtown St. Louis Inc. bestowed upon it a Cityscape Award (thereby affirming a total lack of understanding of downtowns or cityscapes.)
The building held a variety of tenants over the years, with retailers on the ground level and offices above. Jarman Shoes for Men had occupied the ground floor by 1940; by the 1970s a different shoe store - Flagg Brothers - was in the storefront.
The Gill Building's modern history took a Kafkaesque turn in 2002, when the May Company essentially strong-armed the building's owner, attorney Jack Randall - who lived in a third floor apartment - into vacating it, by refusing to renew the lease on the fire exits and sprinkler piping which both ran through their garage. The ham-handed move also closed down Sen Thai Cuisine restaurant in the basement level; the building sat vacant for years.
Randall, owner of the building since 1976, passed away in 2008; the building was sold later that year to Mark Pitliangas, developer of the Thaxton, who renovated it in 2010 and brought in Antidote media company as a tenant.
National Register nomination for the Terra Cotta District - including photographs of the three lost buildings on the block.
National Register nomination for the Gill Building, including a more specific and thorough history