Category Archives: Lucas Place

The Lost Neighborhood of St. Louis’ Gilded Age

At Fourteenth Street begins one of the beauty spots of St. Louis, commonly known as Lucas Place. For full three blocks not a shanty rears its head. All the houses are large and handsome, and the shade trees the best the city can show. The street is paved with large blocks of limestone, and is, consequently, very clean. It is an intensely quiet spot, and if children live there they are kept within doors, and are never allowed to make mud pies in the gutter…”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 October 1880

Lucas Place in Color

Lucas Place between 15 and 16 streets, pho­tographed cir­ca 1880

For only 40 years Lucas Place was the show­place street for St. Louis’ rich and pow­er­ful. Pop­u­lat­ed by suc­cess­ful mer­chants, politi­cians, mil­i­tary offi­cers and physi­cians, Lucas Place was sur­round­ed by some of the city’s finest insti­tu­tions, includ­ing Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, Mary Insti­tute, the Saint Louis Art Muse­um, and the first pub­lic high school west of the Mississippi.


Map of Lucas Place, 1883. The pink shapes show the foot­prints of the orig­i­nal mansions.

But today a vis­i­tor to down­town St. Louis would nev­er know such a place exist­ed. Even the name Lucas Place has dis­ap­peared. Today we call it Locust Street. It is tru­ly a lost neigh­bor­hood that exists only in pho­tos and news­pa­per sto­ries. Camp­bell House is of course the excep­tion to this state­ment. Begin­ning in 1851 it was at the heart of the neigh­bor­hood and today it is all that is left of Lucas Place.


The cor­ner of 16th and Locust Street in 1910.


The same cor­ner today.

For decades the Camp­bell House Muse­um has been col­lect­ing an archive of mate­r­i­al about Lucas Place and now you have a chance to see the build­ings and read the sto­ries that made this street the heart of Gild­ed Age St. Louis in a new exhibit.

Lucas Place: The Lost Neigh­bor­hood of St. Louis’ Gild­ed Age opens with a recep­tion this Fri­day, March 22 between 5:30 and 8 p.m. at Archi­tec­ture St. Louis, the office of Land­marks Asso­ci­a­tion, 911 Wash­ing­ton Avenue, Suite 170. Free and open to the pub­lic. The exhib­it will be open through July and can be viewed 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon­day through Friday.

There is also a coor­di­nat­ing series of lec­tures about Lost Neigh­bor­hoods in St. Louis which is list­ed below.

View of Lucas Place during a parade in 1895.

Lucas Place on parade, 1895

Land­marks Asso­ci­a­tion and Camp­bell House Muse­um are spon­sor­ing this pro­gram in part­ner­ship with the Mis­souri Human­i­ties Coun­cil with sup­port from the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Humanities.MOHuman

Lecture Series: Lost Neighborhoods of St. Louis 

Mon­day, April 1: Bob Moore, Chief His­to­ri­an at the Jef­fer­son Nation­al Expan­sion Memo­r­i­al – Bob will dis­cuss Colo­nial St. Louis and lead a dig­i­tal tour of his 3D mod­el of the town. 12:00–1:15. (Kranzberg Arts Center).

Thurs­day, April 4: Bob Moore – Bob will fol­low his dis­cus­sion of Colo­nial St. Louis with an exam­i­na­tion of Ear­ly Amer­i­can St. Louis. 12:00–1:15. (Kranzberg Arts Center).

Thurs­day, April 11: Ron “John­ny Rab­bit” Elz — Gaslight Square. Ron will dis­cuss the peo­ple, build­ings, and venues that defined one of St. Louis’ great­est enter­tain­ment dis­tricts. (Gaslight The­ater, 358 N. Boyle. Doors at 7:00, pre­sen­ta­tion 7:30–9:00). * This is an evening lecture. 

Thurs­day, April 18: Dr. Hup­ing Ling, Pro­fes­sor of His­to­ry and founder of the Asian Stud­ies Pro­gram at Tru­man State Uni­ver­si­ty – Pro­fes­sor Ling will dis­cuss the 19th and 20th cen­tu­ry Chi­nese enclave that once thrived in down­town St. Louis. 6:30–8:00. Kranzberg Arts Cen­ter. * This is an evening lecture. 

Thurs­day, April 25: Michael Allen, archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an and direc­tor of the Preser­va­tion Research Office, — Michael will dis­cuss the DeS­o­to-Carr Neigh­bor­hood and its suc­ces­sor, the Pruitt-Igoe Hous­ing Com­plex. 12:00–1:15. (Kranzberg Arts Center).

Thurs­day, May 2: Andy Hahn, Direc­tor, Camp­bell House Muse­um, and his­to­ri­an Tom Gron­s­ki- Andy and Tom will dis­cuss the build­ings and res­i­dents of Lucas Place. 12:00–1:15. (Kranzberg Arts Center).

Thurs­day, May 9: Thomas Danisi, local his­to­ri­an and author of the crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed book Dis­cov­er­ing Meri­wether Lewis – Thomas will dis­cuss his new research into ear­ly set­tle­ment of the St. Louis Com­mon Fields. 12:00–1:15. (Kranzberg Arts Center).

The Kranzberg Arts Cen­ter is locat­ed at 501 N. Grand in Grand Cen­ter. Street park­ing or at the Scot­tish Rite Garage, 3634 Olive. Feel free to bring lunch to the day­time talks. Talks are free and open to the public.

For more infor­ma­tion please call 314–421-0325.

Missouri Park and Lucas Place

The small park behind the St. Louis Pub­lic Library is called Lucas Park in hon­or of the fam­i­ly that once owned the land.  In about 1810 Judge J.B.C. Lucas pur­chased a large par­cel of land that includes today’s Lucas Park.

In 1850 the Lucas fam­i­ly devel­oped a new res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood on their land, which they not sur­pris­ing­ly named Lucas Place. From its con­cep­tion this neigh­bor­hood was intend­ed to be very dif­fer­ent with wide build­ing set­backs and deed restric­tions ban­ning com­mer­cial activ­i­ties. The new street Lucas Place was also off­set 50-feet from the city street grid.


Mis­souri Park and Lucas Place, from “Pic­to­r­i­al St. Louis”, 1875

A defin­ing fea­ture of Lucas Place was a new green space called Mis­souri Park, which the Lucas fam­i­ly had deed­ed to the city in 1854. Mis­souri Park was bound­ed by 13th, Olive, 14th and St. Charles streets. The park stretched across Lucas Place pre­vent­ing through traf­fic into the neigh­bor­hood and was a key ele­ment in defin­ing the neigh­bor­hood as “a place apart”. By 1875 Mis­souri Park boast­ed, “an iron foun­tain, 116 bench­es, 368 shade trees, 277 shrubs, and was sur­round­ed by a wood­en pick­et fence.”  It was also the first park in St. Louis to have gas light­ing along its pathways.

As com­mer­cial devel­op­ment began to encroach on Lucas Place in the ear­ly 1880s, Mis­souri Park was select­ed as the site for St. Louis’ grand­est build­ing of the peri­od, the Music and Expo­si­tion Hall. Com­plet­ed in 1884, this mas­sive build­ing was St. Louis’ first con­ven­tion cen­ter and encom­passed the entire 4‑acre foot­print of the old Mis­souri Park.  Mea­sur­ing 146,000 square feet the Exhi­bi­tion Hall host­ed the 1888 and 1904 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tions and the 1896 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion. The Music Hall sat 4,000 and was the first per­ma­nent home to the Saint Louis Symphony.


Music and Expo­si­tion Hall, cir­ca 1890

The Music and Expo­si­tion Hall was demol­ished in 1907 hav­ing been replaced by a larg­er and new­er St. Louis Col­i­se­um. The site was then select­ed for the new St. Louis Pub­lic Library, built with a $1 mil­lion gift from Andrew Carnegie. Because the Library was designed to use only two-thirds of the old expo­si­tion site the north­ern part of the old Mis­souri Park was restored to green space and renamed Lucas Park. At the same time Locust Street was cut through the space between the new Library and the restored park. When the street was cut through it result­ed in the unusu­al curve at 13 and Locust streets, which can still be seen today.  By 1918 Lucas Park had been plant­ed with “forty-five thou­sands shrubs and flower plants…set out in artis­ti­cal­ly designed beds” and was one of the finest parks in St. Louis.  After 1950, all the old res­i­den­tial build­ings in the vicin­i­ty of Lucas Park had van­ished (except for the Camp­bell House) as down­town was trans­form­ing into an exclu­sive­ly com­mer­cial district.

Like this post? Look for the new exhib­it Lucas Place: The Lost Neigh­bor­hood of St. Louis’ Gold­en Age open­ing March 22 at the Land­marks Asso­ci­a­tion of St. Louis. Exhib­it made pos­si­ble through a grant from the Mis­souri Human­i­ties Coun­cil.


Lucas Park and the St. Louis Pub­lic Library, from a cir­ca 1920 postcard.