History With Vitality
Since its construction, The Laurel Building has been a prominent feature of downtown St. Louis. It first welcomed the city’s honored guests and elite citizens, then housed one of the city’s original department stores, and now continues to represent the spirit of progress.
In 1826, Mayor William Carr Lane led the switch from the French street-naming system to the Philadelphia system, naming streets after trees. Hence, the original name of Washington Avenue is Laurel Street.
The resulting sense of newness and other infrastructure improvements driven by Mayor Lane set the stage for continued growth. By the late 1800s, demand for living and business space pushed St. Louis outward and upward. The completion of the Eads Bridge in 1874 made Washington Avenue a major thoroughfare and inspired the grand buildings that line it.
The Lindell Hotel
Affluence and the need for exquisite hotels grew with St. Louis’ international reputation. In 1863, The Lindell Hotel opened at the corner of 6th and Laurel Streets as the largest and one of the most elegant hotels in the US. The city finally had enough first-class space for the political elite, their allies and customers to plan, trade and play.
Sadly, The Lindell Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1867, but pieces of its cream Grafton limestone exterior were salvaged by Henry Shaw, founder of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. He used the stones to create the picturesque ruins behind the Sailboat Pond in Tower Grove Park.
100 Years Standing Proud
The building now standing at 6th and Laurel Streets was created in 1906 by the architectural firm Mauran, Russel & Garden. This distinguished structure housed a preeminent retailer and one of the city’s first department stores, The Grand Leader. Later known as Stix, Baer & Fuller and then the Dillard’s building, it anchored the thriving dry goods district.
Now recreated as The Laurel Building, it is an architectural and historical landmark, and again claims its place as a vital part of the downtown community — a place where the perspectives of past and present combine.