Old Warehouse Building in Saint Louis MO

Winkelmeyer Building, St. Louis Missouri
Date added: February 22, 2024 Categories: Missouri Warehouse
Looking south (1985)

The Winkelmeyer building on the southwest corner of 11th and Walnut Streets in St. Louis was completed in 1902 from plans executed by St. Louis architect Otto J. Wilhelmi. The Winkelmeyer building is a well-preserved example of turn-of-the-century warehouse design. Though functional and utilitarian, the structure exhibits fine masonry construction and Classical Revival embellishment. The building is one of a small number of extant structures associated with a once-thriving commercial and industrial district in the southwest portion of St. Louis' Central Business District.

Convenient water and rail transportation, cheap coal, and a stable banking climate throughout the financially troubled 1890s placed St. Louis in the role of one of the nation's leading commercial and manufacturing centers at the turn of the century. The city was described in 1902 as occupying the "front rank in the milling, iron and other metals industries, street car building, furniture, saddlery, boot, shoe and clothing manufacture." St. Louis was also distinguished as a major brewing center and boasted the largest tobacco factories, hardware, and woodenware houses. The few years before the 1904 World's Fair saw a quick surge in the development of localized manufactories throughout the city. As a result of this, rapid urbanization, an increased need for expanded warehouse facilities arose in downtown St. Louis. Construction of the modern Cupples Station warehouse complex (1889-1917) near St. Louis' Central Business District was prompted by the existence of rails in this area and by the proximity of this region to the downtown center. By 1900, the construction of the various Cupples buildings had established this section as the primary warehouse district in the city. This new warehousing further increased the value and importance of the area between the self-contained Cupples warehouse complex and the nearby downtown retail center. Following the example provided by the Cupples complex, investors soon increased the density of the adjacent two to three block strip with important warehouse structures.

Under the management of her advisors, Christina Stifel Winkelmeyer, widow of Julius Winkelmeyer, invested in such warehouse properties in the years 1902 and 1903. German-born Julius Winkelmeyer was for many years a partner of brother-in-law Frederick Stifel, and was director of the nationally prominent Winkelmeyer Brewery. After his death in 1867, the business was continued by his widow under the management of her brother Christopher Stifel. When the brewing operation was sold in 1889, Christina Winkelmeyer continued to make various investments in behalf of the estate, including dictating the construction of the warehouse at 101-107 South 11th Street.

Mrs. Winkelmeyer retained her nephew, acclaimed architect Otto J. Wilhelmi, to execute the structure. Wilhelmi attended Washington University and began his architectural career in 1873 as a draftsman for Walsh, Smith, and Jungenfeld. In 1878-79 he completed his architectural training at Carlsruhe Polytechnic in Germany; upon his return, he began a three-year association with Ernst Janssen. By 1902, however, Wilhelmi had built his own impressive practice. A designer of school buildings, theatres, and grand residential structures for wealthy German clients, Wilhelmi was known as a free-thinking architect and apparently never joined the A.I.A. He and his father-in-law, Christopher Stifel, are noted as the founders of the Ethical Society of St. Louis.

Wilhelmi's design for the Winkelmeyer warehouse was perhaps more modest than what was typical of his office; the $34,799.00 structure was erected for approximately 75¢ per square foot, whereas construction costs for contemporaneous residential and educational buildings designed by Wilhelmi hovered around $3.00 per square foot. As the structure was used strictly for storage, Wilhelmi's design was not dictated by the need for an open fenestration pattern to provide ventilation and light for manufacturing employees. In contrast to the Cupples warehouse complex which consciously maintained a consistent architectural treatment characterized by the use of Romanesque Revival forms and the absence of historical detail, the Winkelmeyer Building introduced the Classical Revival to the warehouse district--the most fashionable turn-of-the-century style in St. Louis for large commercial buildings. Wilhelmi's design featured fine classical proportions and Classical Revival motifs on the primary elevation such as the modillioned cornice, moulded window surrounds, and attic story.

The long, subordinate Walnut Street elevation is distinguished by a restrained rhythm of narrow uninterrupted pilaster strips that carry drain spouts, effectively integrating the utilitarian with the architectural. Located a block away from the City Hall, the building asserted a dignified, urbane image appropriate for its prominent site.

Additional properties the Winkelmeyer family invested in at the turn of the century included the adjacent structure at 109-113 South 11th Street. This five-story warehouse, constructed in 1903 for $26,646.00, housed a baker's supply company. In 1947, however, a fire heavily damaged this building and 101-107 South 11th Street. Later that year, 109-113 South 11th Street was reduced to its current one-story height.

Damage to the structure designed by Wilhelmi was repaired.

The Winkelmeyer building has served as a warehouse space for many St. Louis businesses, the most notable being the May Stern and Company between the years 1927 and 1932. Incorporated in 1913, the May Stern firm was advertised as the "Largest Home Furnishers in St. Louis," carrying furniture, appliances, floor coverings, clothing, and jewelry in their showrooms on Olive Street. Much later, the Winkelmeyer building also housed the Missouri Furniture Association, a firm incorporated in 1881. This operation commissioned the lower story alterations to the structure in 1955. The design for the newer windows was executed by the firm of Shapiro and Tisdale; the contractor employed was J. Shulman and Sons.

In the mid-20th century, the introduction of new highway and air transportation systems contributed to the eventual abandonment of the established rail network in downtown St. Louis. These years saw the diminution of the Cupples Station warehouse district and the decay of many small warehouses and manufactories in the surrounding area. One of the last vestiges of a once thriving localized industrial district, the Winkelmeyer building is now isolated by extensive demolition. New investors plan a sensitive conversion of the former warehouse structure into office space.

Building Description

Otto J. Wilhelmi's Winkelmeyer building is located on the southwest corner of 11th Street and Walnut Street in the St. Louis business district. Completed in 1902, this structure measures 62'6" by 152'6" and features pressed, red-brick bearing walls rising five stories. Though constructed for use as a warehouse, the three-bay by eleven-bay composition is quite ornamental and is embellished with a variety of classical stone and metal detailing.

The 11th Street (primary) elevation is horizontally divided into a traditional base, shaft and capital. The three-bay first story (or base) is articulated by brick piers capped with stone and employs blind, round-arched openings with shuttered, six-light rectangular windows and a paneled door enframed by wood pilasters and a broken pediment. Above the second-story stone sill course, bays are defined by molded brick banding. Recessed spandrels demarcate rectangular six-light windows with heavily molded frames. Attic story round-arched double-hung windows are divided by iron colonettes and are ornamented with metal molding and spandrels. The primary facade is terminated by an enriched denticulated, modillioned metal cornice.

A comparison of the exterior of the building today with its appearance circa 1950 indicates that the lower story of the primary facade is the only elevation to have been altered on the Winkelmeyer building. Openings on this elevation originally spanned the width of each bay, and sixteen light transoms capped two pairs of paneled double doors in each opening. This arrangement is similar to the existing lower-story openings on the west elevation. The new owners of the building may restore the primary elevation to its original appearance in the conversion of the warehouse space into offices.

The eleven-bay south elevation of the Winkelmeyer building has no openings. Originally, the adjacent structure rose five stories. When the building was altered to its current one-story height, this elevation was exposed. The opposing eleven-bay Walnut Street (north) elevation is articulated by brick pilasters and features slightly projecting corner bays. The corner bays are horizontally divided by stone sill courses at the second and fifth-story levels. Additionally, the enriched metal cornice also returns about these bays. Round-arched, two-over-two sash windows with metal sills are utilized on the lower four stories of the outer bays; attic story windows are smaller, paired double-hung windows. The central nine bays employ paired, segmentally arched sash windows with metal sills between each five-story brick pier. Similar attic story windows are embellished by corbeled imposts. On the first story, the central entrance bay is distinguished by a blind horseshoe arch enframing a pair of paneled wood doors. A turn-of-the-century spiral fire escape is installed on this elevation, and a simple banded cornice caps these bays.

Paired, segmentally arched windows identical to those seen on the north elevation are also utilized on the upper stories of the west elevation. The lower story features large paneled double doors with eight light transoms. The rear elevation has no cornice; rather, the roofline is coped with terra cotta tiles. This elevation also features the remains of a painted wall sign advertising the Missouri Furniture Company, a tenant of the building in the mid-20th century.

The interior of the Winkelmeyer building exhibits straightforward mill construction in a rectangular grid of columns, and, unsheathed masonry walls.

Winkelmeyer Building, St. Louis Missouri Looking northwest (1985)
Looking northwest (1985)

Winkelmeyer Building, St. Louis Missouri Looking southwest (1985)
Looking southwest (1985)

Winkelmeyer Building, St. Louis Missouri Looking southeast (1985)
Looking southeast (1985)

Winkelmeyer Building, St. Louis Missouri Looking northwest (1985)
Looking northwest (1985)

Winkelmeyer Building, St. Louis Missouri Looking south (1985)
Looking south (1985)