Lucas Place

A colorized street level view of Lucas Place, circa 1885

A col­orized street level view of Lucas Place, circa 1885.

The build­ing that is today the Camp­bell House Museum was built in 1851 and was the first home built on Lucas Place. It is now the sole sur­vivor of Lucas Place, St. Louis’ first pri­vate neigh­bor­hood, and once the city’s social and cul­tural hub.

Fol­low­ing the cholera epi­demic and fire in 1849, wealthy cit­i­zens became con­vinced that it was

Lucas Place, circa 1865.  Looking east towards the levee with the Mississippi River and Illinois in the background. © Campbell House Foundation 2004

Lucas Place, circa 1865. Look­ing east towards the levee with the Mis­sis­sippi River and Illi­nois in the back­ground.
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2004

no longer desir­able to live in down­town St. Louis. James Lucas and his sis­ter Anne Lucas Hunt soon offered a solu­tion. They devel­oped the idea of the “Place,” a neigh­bor­hood with deed restric­tions that ensured it remained apart from the city and gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. The main thor­ough­fare was aptly called Lucas Place. Orig­i­nally Lucas Place (now Locust Street) extended between 13th and 16th streets when the city lim­its were just one block to the west between 17th and 18th streets. When estab­lished, Lucas Place was west of the devel­oped por­tion of the city, mak­ing it St. Louis’ first “sub­ur­ban” neighborhood.

Lucas priced the lots so that only the wealthy could afford the live there. He also built restric­tions into the deeds so that the prop­er­ties could not be used for com­mer­cial pur­poses. A

Lucas Place 1875, from "Pictorial St. Louis."  © Campbell House Foundation 2004

Lucas Place 1875, from “Pic­to­r­ial St. Louis.”
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2004

macadamized street, plumb­ing, paved stone side­walks, and a pri­vate watch­man were some of the ameni­ties offered.

The first house built on Lucas Place was the future Camp­bell House Museum. The street quickly became pop­u­lar for “young money” fam­i­lies. Aside from Robert Camp­bell, notable res­i­dents included Mis­souri Gov­er­nor and Sen­a­tor Trusten Polk, St. Louis May­ors John How and Nathan Cole, Henry Hitch­cock, who founded the Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity Law School, and Gen­eral William Har­ney, who lived right across 15th Street from the Camp­bell House.

Sev­eral insti­tu­tions also set up on or near Lucas Place. Two churches served as “book­ends” to

Southeast corner of Locust (formerly Lucas Place) and 15th streets, circa 1920.  © Campbell House Foundation 2004

South­east cor­ner of Locust (for­merly Lucas Place) and 15th streets, circa 1920.
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2004

Lucas Place, with 1st Pres­by­ter­ian Church on the east­ern end and 2nd Pres­by­ter­ian Church on the west­ern. The first home of Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity was located not far away, along with Smith Acad­emy, where most res­i­dents sent their sons for school. Girls were sent to the Mary Insti­tute, sited next to 1st Pres­by­ter­ian Church. The St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts (now the St. Louis Art Museum) and the Mis­souri His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety (which oper­ates the Mis­souri His­tory Museum today) both had their first homes on Lucas Place. Directly behind Gen­eral Harney’s house was the first pub­lic high school west of the Mississippi.

The last pri­vate res­i­dence on Lucas Place was built in 1877. By then, St. Louis had expanded con­sid­er­ably, and Lucas Place was no longer removed from city life. Impor­tantly, younger res­i­dents no longer viewed the area as desir­able, instead choos­ing new sub­urbs fur­ther west. In 1883, Mis­souri Park was replaced with the St. Louis Expo­si­tion Hall. As fam­i­lies sold or died off

St. Louis' first public high school was at the corner of 15th and Olive, one block off Lucas Place.  © Campbell House Foundation 2004

St. Louis’ first pub­lic high school was at the cor­ner of 15th and Olive, one block off Lucas Place.
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2004

and deed restric­tions expired, the once-elegant homes were con­verted into board­ing houses. Other houses were torn down and replaced with hotels, park­ing lots, or places of busi­ness. Even the name was changed in the early 1900s to Locust Street.

Today, the Camp­bell House is all that remains of what Lucas Place once was.