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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sigma-Aldrich Now Owns "The Brick" Building

Last fall, chemical giant Sigma-Aldrich Corporation purchased the historic building housing The Brick bar located at 3548 S. Broadway in Marine Villa. The bar quickly shuttered and the building, built in 1887 by brick maker Paul Oehler, is now vacant. So far, Sigma-Aldrich has not announced plans for the building, although speculation of eventual demolition has begun. The Sigma-Aldrich plan sprawls on the southeast side of this stretch of South Broadway. In recent years, the company has wrecked many buildings on Broadway across from the Lemp Brewery complex.

That the building is the work of a brick maker is no surprise. The masonry details of the corner building are unusual for a south city corner storefront. The strongly articulated piers, recessed planes, fine arches and what remains of the blind arcade on the top of the wall reward many viewings. The spandrels (areas under the windows) combine brick patterns and stucco in a manner that suggests later Arts and Crafts experimentation.

Oehler came to St. Louis from Germany in 1861, and quickly established one of south city's largest brick manufacturing operations. His yard was locate don nearby President Street. Among the founders of the Concordia Turners, Oehler was prosperous. Oehler bought the corner lot in 1885, and by the end of 1887 had completed the substantial three-story building and adjacent one-story feed store.

The cast iron storefront is impressive, with ornate columns and tapered headers. (The false doors and stained glass transoms in the openings are not original.)

Oehler's company did not make the transition from hand-made brick to hydraulic press production, and the business died with him. However, the family was quite well off from real estate investment alone. After Paul Oehler's death in 1891, widow Franziska Oehler constructed the three residences at 3542-46 South Broadway in 1893.

The row's staggered fronts articulate the bend that Broadway makes here. These are typical Romanesque residential buildings for their time. Handsome Roman arches create the window and door openings, ornamental brick friezes and cornices mark the top of the second floor and modest mansard roofs form the third floor. One of the brick dormers retains an original metal finial. The foundation fronts are trimmed in cut limestone. While the mansards are covered by later materials, the row recently was renovated by developer Ben Simms. The units are rentals -- nothing fancy, just good apartments with a lot of historic character.

The residences and the the corner building comprise the National Register of Historic Places listing for the Oehler Brick Buildings (8/1/2008), written by Andrew Weil and myself for Landmarks Association of St. Louis. The listing recognizes the unique origin of these buildings, which provide a strong anchor on a changing section of South Broadway. With the Lemp Brewery across the street, and the houses and storefronts of old Marine Villa surrounding Broadway, the solid forces of old industry and brick architecture are palpable here. Sigma-Aldrich can help keep it that way.


Eric said...

I don't understand why Sigma would need this space. Has there been any uproar with this purchase from neighbors?

Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think you have to travel that far from the city to find an open field. Why do they have to destroy this building?

Now, if they gutted it and made it into offices that's one thing. But just to level it is horrible

How is this building not preserved?

(sorry for all the questions!)

Mark Groth said...

It's strange Sigma would want to destroy this building as they have lots of space to expand in the general vicinity. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one.

Anonymous said...

wouldn't a demo have to pass preservation review since the buildings are on the national register? or would it even matter... it's not like preservation review means much in saint louis.

samizdat said...

Just a *cough* "campaign contribution" *cough* to the alderman, and a little sumpin'-sumpin' to the Building Div., et voila! vacant lot. Hmm, a couple or three other buildings up the block came down last year, and I was wondering why some idiot would tear down perfectly fine and stable dwellings. I guess Sigma-Aldrich--and our corrupt City officials--are the cause. Oh, but wait. It's a private peoperty and they can do whatever they...blah, blah, blah...droooool.

DeForest said...

Does anyone know the latest update with this? My great great grandparents were Paul and Franziska Oehler and I'd hate to see history be lost in this outcome.

Hope they're still standing - they're gorgeous buildings!!