819 Locust Street
Built: circa 1885(?)
A small and plain 4-story commercial building with a retail space at street level.
The site's early history was tied up in the dental profession, with at least one dentist practicing here, and the Missouri Dental Journal being published here in the 1870s - though whether this is from a previous building or this one is not clear. A legal case makes it clear the building was in place by 1888.
In the 1920s it was home to K.H. Sign Manufacturing Company.
In 1940 it was home to Frank's, Inc., a wholesale distributer who later moved west.
In the 1970s, it was known as the Downtown Medical Building. The company running it was in business from 1962 to 1985.
By the 1990s, it was the last building standing on the block; its small-scale neighbors were gone. 819 Locust was in subpar condition, run down and with only a fragmental portion of its cornice remaining. The last tenant was Chu's Wok House, which had closed by 2000.
Downtown Now bought the building in March of 2000 for $200,000. The venerable little building at 819 Locust was demolished in October of 2002.
In the early 2000s, city residents, urban watchers, preservationists and architecture buffs pulled their hair with frustration at the events unfolding on and around this site. While this entire block sat empty, just across the street the historic Century Building was destroyed in 2004 as part of a misguided plan to build a redundant parking garage. The garage would have fit perfectly on this block, while a renovated Century would have contributed much-needed vitality to the area.
In 2008, the entire 800 north block of Locust was finally redeveloped as an urban park. In a depleted downtown which already had a huge excess of parks, parking lots and garages, the Old Post Office Plaza remains predictably underutilized today.
The building circa 2001.
The building in 1940, home to a business named "Frank's". Image from the Historic American Buildings Survey, from the background of an image of the Victoria Building.
The block was still intact in the 1960s. At the corner of 9th and Locust stood Roosevelt Federal Savings & Loan Association, an 1886 building at 825 Locust with a beautiful Modernist slipcover added in the 1950s. Roosevelt Federal was on the corner from the 1950s into the early 1980s. Image circa 1970; taken from "This Is Our St. Louis", Harry Hagen, Knight Publishing Co., St. Louis 1970.