Tag Archives: Lafayette Square

Lucas Place in a nutshell

Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Andy with the crew at 14th and Locust, the orig­i­nal loca­tion of Gov­er­nor-then-Sen­a­tor Polk’s house. Andy is hold­ing a pic­ture of the house.

A cou­ple of weeks ago, we con­duct­ed one of our Lucas Place Walk­ing Tours, and we had a load of fun shar­ing the his­to­ry of our neigh­bor­hood with such an enthu­si­as­tic group. Why, you may ask, would any­one be inter­est­ed in the his­to­ry of this old street? Easy: Aside from its sig­nif­i­cance as the first exclu­sive neigh­bor­hood in St. Louis, the peo­ple who lived here were some of the most influ­en­tial in the region. Much of the his­to­ry of St. Louis is entwined with the peo­ple who lived here.


Cue this song.

In 1850, sib­lings James Lucas and Ann Lucas Hunt (sound famil­iar?) planned a res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment on farm­land they had inher­it­ed from their father. This new “sub­ur­ban” neigh­bor­hood was west of the city, and it stretched along what is now Locust Street between 13th and 16th Streets.

How was this new ‘hood exclusive?

  • They were expen­sive. $100 per front foot. Lots were at min­i­mum 25 feet wide, and nobody bought just one lot. This price exclud­ed all but the wealth­i­est of buyers.
  • It was remote, about 1 mile west of the Mis­sis­sip­pi River.
  • Lucas Place, cir­ca 1875.

    Deed restric­tions were on the prop­er­ty, and this was unusu­al back then. Among them:  hous­es were to be built 25 feet away from the street, thus pro­duc­ing front yards (hous­es were typ­i­cal­ly built right on the side­walk), and the fol­low­ing busi­ness­es were pro­hib­it­ed: gro­ceries, apothe­caries, restau­rants, and theatres.

  • Lucas Place was off­set from the exist­ing street grid with Mis­souri Park at the east end of the street, thus serv­ing as a bar­ri­er between the ele­gant homes and the hus­tle and bus­tle of the city.
  • Lots were a gen­er­ous 155 feet deep. (That’s only 5 feet shy of the width of a foot­ball field.)
  • Place” instead of “avenue” or “street” implied an impor­tant des­ti­na­tion, which rein­forced the exclu­siv­i­ty of the homes and residents.

The tee­ny-wee­nie Lucas-How house at 1515 Lucas Place.


Our Camp­bell House was the first one built on the street in 1851, and it was prob­a­bly the small­est one in the neigh­bor­hood. Homes on the north side of Lucas Place were much larg­er. Case in point, #1515, the Lucas-How res­i­dence. It sat across from Robert and Vir­gini­a’s, and it was rough­ly twice as large as Camp­bell House. We have a gen­er­ous 10,000 square feet, and the Lucas-How house was prob­a­bly about 20,000 square feet. (For com­par­i­son, new homes built in 2010 came in around 2392 square feet.)

Lucas Place was the place to be, and it rep­re­sent­ed the beau­ti­ful side of our fair city. So it should come as no sur­prise that when­ev­er impor­tant guests were in town, they were parad­ed through the neigh­bor­hood. The homes of some of the most influ­en­tial men and women in St. Louis were big and pris­tine with immac­u­late­ly main­tained yards, and the whole street was lined by MARBLE side­walks. (Real­ly.) Lucas Place was a sight to see.

View of Lucas Place dur­ing a parade in 1895.

In addi­tion to the res­i­dences, some busi­ness­es that were not pro­hib­it­ed by the deed restric­tions were on the street, includ­ing the orig­i­nal home of the St. Louis Art Muse­um and Mary Insti­tute (now called Mary Insti­tute Coun­try Day School.) The first pub­lic high school west of the Mis­sis­sip­pi sat behind Camp­bell House at 15th Street and Olive, and Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty was two blocks away on Wash­ing­ton Avenue.


Aside from James Lucas (#1515) and sis­ter Ann Lucas Hunt (#1706), some big muck­ety-mucks were Camp­bell neigh­bors, including:

  • Hen­ry Hitch­cock, the first dean of Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. (#1507)
  • Amadee Valle, Mis­souri con­gress­man and friend to Abra­ham Lin­coln and Hen­ry Shaw. (#1516)
  • Gen­er­al William Har­ney, the com­man­der of the Army’s Depart­ment of the West dur­ing the Civ­il War. (#1428)
  • Trusten Polk, Gov­er­nor of Mis­souri (1856) and U.S. Sen­a­tor (1857–1863). (#1400)
  • John How, May­or of St. Louis, 1853–1857. (#1515 before James Lucas moved in.)
  • Hen­ry Kayser, city engi­neer who designed St. Louis’ first plumb­ing and sew­er sys­tems. (#1420)

View from Camp­bell House at the inter­sec­tion of Locust and 15th, look­ing east on Locust. Cir­ca 1920.


The deed restric­tions expired 30 years after the land was ini­tial­ly pur­chased from the Lucas­es. Since many of the hous­es were built in the 1850s and 1860s, the covenants were expir­ing in the 1880s and 1890s. This is when hous­es were con­vert­ed to busi­ness­es and board­ing hous­es, and the wealthy res­i­dents moved to more fash­ion­able neigh­bor­hoods far­ther west, includ­ing Port­land Place, Lafayette Square and Van­de­ven­ter Place.

The park bar­ri­er between Lucas Place and the rest of the city was removed in the 1890s, and Lucas Place was renamed Locust Street. The area evolved into an indus­tri­al neigh­bor­hood, with ware­hous­es and fac­to­ries replac­ing the hous­ing stock. Camp­bell House remained as the last home from Lucas Place.

Here are a few more notable images of Lucas Place.…

Before: The Kayser House, #1420. It was built in 1864.

After: The Kayser House short­ly before it was razed in the 1930s.

Camp­bell House, cir­ca 1930.