Hotel Mark Twain
Later the Pick-Mark Twain
116 N. 8th Street at Pine
Architect: J.T. Craven Engineering Company
Replacing the Stratford Hotel which had stood on the same site (Sanborn map, 1909), the Mark Twain Hotel rose 15 stories from the southeast corner of 8th and Pine. Its design was neither groundbreaking nor lavish, with light Classical ornament at the street and top stories, and unadorned brick walls between.
Listed designer John Thomas Craven (1879-1947) was a civil engineer who began his career in Louisville, Kentucky, first working with the E.H. Abadie Company until 1909 - or possibly 1908, when he and another engineer from the firm jumped ship to start their own operation, Harris, Craven & Von Borries. That firm reorganized in 1911, leaving Mr. Harris as the sole named partner. By 1918 J.T. Craven had relocated to St. Louis, having taken offices in the Century Building by 1921. His other known works include the reinforced concrete C.J. & F.E. Briner Building of 1916 (1007 Morgan Street, long since demolished), a two-story building at 1210 Washington Avenue, and the Leonardo apartment building on Lindell from 1925. The latter resource notes that Craven was not an architect, raising the possibility that he teamed with another, as yet unknown firm to handle the design work.
The Mark Twain Hotel began life as a project helmed by the Dollar Investment Co. syndicate. Solicitations for bids on the building appeared in 1928, and included an estimated cost of $1.2 million. It was either built as, or soon became part of, the Albert Pick Hotels chain.
The building's interior included 300 guest rooms, and some well-known public spaces: the elegantly appointed dining space known as the Versailles Room, and a popular ballroom known as the Steamboat Room. The hotel was a popular convention and meeting destination from the 1930s into the 1960s.
The Albert Pick company went out of business in the 1960s. Unable to generate business in the flagging downtown area, the Pick-Mark Twain Hotel was sold in 1966 and closed a few years later; it was demolished in 1976 (GD Jul 30 1976), clearing space for the construction of the Wainwright annex. It was not even 50 years old.
The hotel's name passed on to the former Maryland Hotel nearby.
1940s colorized postcard. This fanciful image omits the rest of the block, going so far as to turn the alley at left into a full-fledged street.
1950s colorized postcard - the marquee and entrance on Eighth Street.
The Art Deco cocktail lounge in a 1940s colorized postcard
The Mark Twain Hotel - seen at left - has been half demolished in this aerial view. To its right, the Demenil Building is already gone, dating the image to 1976. Published in Inland Architect, June 1977.