Location: downtown riverfront
Built: 1881 (center), 1883 (north), 1946 (south)
Status: demolished, August 2008
St. Louis's northern riverfront has lost another one of its jigsaw puzzle pieces. The McPheeters Warehouse, a three-part building originally used for dry and cold storage, was demolished in August 2008.
For me, the warehouse is of interest as part of the northern riverfront's maze of industrial buildings. Collectively, they tell the story of the riverfront's history. They are viceral evidence of just what an industrial powerhouse St. Louis was at the turn of the century.
I have always found a sense of wonder in this part of town. Every time I go there, I'm overawed by the scale of the buildings, their complexity and detailing, and by their sheer number. The idea that so many of these behemoths says that there was a lot going on here, that this was an important place with big things happening!
Today, many of these buildings are underutilized or even abandoned. Quite a few have been lost, such as the Belcher Sugar Refinery, which stood directly west of the reknown Ashley Street Powerhouse, and just north of McPheeters. The foundations of still other lost buildings stand to the north. The ensemble is being eroded, piece by piece.
That's a shame in more ways than one. Not only is this area an architectural treasure box, but industrial buildings offer that most cherished of real estate commodities: raw, open space, easily converted to commercial or residential use. As downtown slowly but surely fills up, this area offers spillover space.
But under pressure from the adjacent casinos, the buildings were demolished. Just how this constitutes an improvement is beyond me, but it's a moot point now. Vacant land now stands where a piece of the city's brawny industrial past once held court.
- Michael Allen provides a detailed history and commentary at Vital Voice