The DeMenil Building
119 N. 7th Street
Architect: Isaac Taylor & Oscar Enders
The DeMenil Building (sometimes styled as the De Menil Building after its owner) was a 7-story office building that stood next door to the Wainwright Building and was built only a few years after it. Though not a groundbreaking work like its famed neighbor, it was a finely composed building in its own right. Architect Isaac Taylor was a prolific local designer; here he assembled a crisp and efficient Romanesque composition.
The DeMenil Building was built and owned by Alexander Nicolas De Menil (b. 1849, d. 1928), a capitalist, writer, politician, lawyer and publisher of a magazine called The Hesperian. He was a "direct descendant from the founder of St. Louis", a Washington University alumnus, and prominent local citizen who, having made his fortunes, seems to have happily settled down to a life of literature by the 1890s.
The Demenil Building offered office space to a variety of unremarkable tenants, from real estate companies,
to dentists. When new, it was marketed by the John Maguire Real Estate Company in The Hesperian, who touted its fireproof design, electric heating, hot and cold water, and well-designed offices.
It forever lived in the shadow of the Wainwright, literally and figuratively. When the possibility of the Wainwright's renovation as state-owned office arose, the DeMenil was immediately cast asisde as disposable. A group styled the Friends of the De Menil Building made efforts to defend it, but its preservation was summarily dismissed by state officials, who decided that it was not "historic" based on its non-nomination to the National Register - despite its eligble status.
The building was destroyed in 1976 to make way for an addition to the Wainwright; this modern wing is a blandly contextual non-entity of roughly the same size and mass as the far better building it replaced.
Its destruction was part of the complete obliteration of the Wainwright's historical context, which between 1964 and 1984 removed every building that had accreted around the Wainwright in the decades immediately after its construction.
De Menil Building, Seventh and Pine Streets - circa 1930s image from the Missouri History Museum
The Demenil Building's place in Real Estate Row. Image from the Globe-Democrat Sunday Magazine, July 1, 1963.
The dismal streetscape that stands in the same location today. May 2006.
Image from the Historic American Buildings Survey, from the background of a photograph of the Wainwright. The Holland Building's ornate penthouse is visible at top.
Demenil Building, foreground at right; Wainwright at center; Buder Building at left.
Image from the February 1976 issue of HUD Challenge.