Lincoln Trust Building
Later the Title Guaranty Building
Chestnut at 7th Street, SW corner
Architect: Eames and Young
Demolished: April 1983
One of the centerpieces of St. Louis's Real Estate Row, the Lincoln Trust Building rose on the former site of Polytechnic Institute, which was sold to Washington University founder Robert S. Brookings in 1890. The building was developed by the Lincoln Trust Company, organized in 1894.
Eames & Young, a prolific local firm, designed an H-shaped building - two tiers of offices with nothing but a hallway and elevator shafts connecting them. Renaissance-style ornamental panels, similar to those found on other Eames and Young works such as the Wright, the Third National Bank and the neighboring Liggett Building, adorned the street level and spandrels. The building's most famed glory, however, was the row of terra cotta angels which lined its top floor below the cornice. Above the cornice, a row of crests crowned the building.
The new building was immediately a centerpiece of "Real Estate Row", the persistent district of real estate offices along Chestnut Street from 6th to 12th Streets. Many real estate companies made their homes in the building through much of its life.
Within, the Lincoln Trust Building offered its tenants lavish common spaces. The lobby was adorned with a stained glass roof, marble walls, ornate lighting fixgtures and hardwood floors. Early occupants included the Wabash Railroad, the building's architects Eames & Young, and the titular Lincoln Trust. The Lincoln Trust Company would be merged away in 1909; under new owners, the building gained its longer-lasting name, the Title Guaranty Building.
A 1962 "renovation" removed or covered up many of the building's interior features. By the 1970s, the spector of civic planning loomed over the Title Guaranty, as it was in the path of a plan to create a linear green park from the Arch to the Civil Courts and beyond. Conceived in 1907 - a time when St. Louis was crowded to bursting and desparately in need of green space - the plan was horrifically outdated by the late 70s, as St. Louis was hemoraging population and downtown had lost significant skyscrapers at a frightful rate.
Landmarks Association of St. Louis entered a vote of confidence by moving their offices into the building in 1981, but the combination of ribbon-cutting politicians, business interests in the "half mall" plan, and outdated notions of progress were too much. The Title Guaranty Building was demolished (by conventional means, rather than the dramatic implosion which befell the neighboring Buder and International) in 1983.
Today the sleek, bland Gateway One Building stands on the Title Guaranty's former site... surrounded by largely unused green space, parkland which the depleted city has constantly struggled to bring to life.
A considerable amount of the building ornament was salvaged and subsequently scattered to the winds. One of the terra cotta angels is in the possession of the Art Institue of Chicago, while another resides in the Southern Illinois Unversity-Edwardsville's library; other fragments are on display in St. Louis at the City Museum and Sheldon Concert Hall.
Title Guaranty Building from the Washington University Eames & Young photo collection - source of several of the above details
National Register nomination form, 1975 with 1981 update - the source of most of the historical information on this page.
Typical floor plan from the Art Institute of Chicago's Ryerson & Burnham Archives
Sequential construction photographs from the Art Institute of Chicago's Ryerson & Burnham Archives
Lincoln Trust Recovery Project at the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation, including images from the salvage operations.
A Look Back: Explosives Drop Old Buildings for Gateway Mall in 1984, including a view of the Title-Guaranty during demolition.
Image looking southwest, circa 1900 - before the Missouri Pacific Building went up next door. Image from the building files of the St. Louis Public Library, published in The Inland Architect and News Record.
The building's main entryway on Chestnut Street.
Ornamental details abound. Details of an image from Washington University's Eames and Young photographic archive.
Pre-construction rendering, showing a fanciful tower that was deleted from the final design. A more modest cupola took its place.
A 1909 aerial view taken from a baloon at 900 feet up. The Title Guaranty is part of a dense cluster of skyscrapers that includes the American Hotel and Theater, the Buder Building, the International Life Building, and the Wainwright.
Street-level detail visible in the background of a 1965 HABS photograph.
The Title-Guaranty is second from left; alongside it, the Buder, the Wainwright, the DeMenil, and the Holland Building. View circa 1966.
The Buder and the Title Guaranty Buildings in a view from the Gateway Arch, 1981. Photograph by Flickr user kocojim.
The site today - 2008.
The Missouri Pacific, the Lincoln Trust, and the International Life Buildings - an architectural tour de force at 7th and Chestnut. Image from Washington University's Eames and Young photographic archive.
Roughly the same angle today, featuring the Peabody Plaza Building - suburban banality in the heart of downtown.
Cornice angels, before and after display installation at the City Museum.
Another cornice angel, on display in the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago.
A cornice angle integrated into a block-ending fountain, 4100 W. Pine Boulevard.
Surviving ornament on display at Sheldon Memorial Concert Hall.