Old National Hotel, ca. 1935

From the Historic American Building Survey is this photograph taken by the Piaget-van Raavensway team in the 1930s. Although not as imposing as other structures taken down at the riverfront, this particular building would have been ripe for historical tours. The Old National Hotel was built in 1847 on the site of the former Old National Hotel, which in turn had been built in 1831 (on the site of the first Protestant church in St. Louis). If the building had been saved, it would immediately become one of the oldest buildings in the area, and certainly the oldest standing hotel in the city.

But that's not all. Bear me a brief history lesson.

In 1846, the Whig Party had succeeded in getting a candidate elected to the United States House of Representatives from the state of Illinois; indeed, he was the only Whig from Illinois in the Congress. The man was tall, gaunt, and rather stiff when posing for his first photograph -- a daguerreotype, to be precise. The elections were held in late 1846, but the the first session of the 30th Congress did not actually begin until December 1847. Thus, to arrive in time, the man left Illinois on October 25, 1847, with his wife and two young boys in tow.

He had been to the big city of Chicago in July 1847 (then the home of some 25,000 souls). He also had been to New Orleans in 1831 on a flatboat (even in 1831, home to some 45,000 people). Memphis, also on the Mississippi, housed only some 10,000 in the 1840s. St. Louis was massive by comparison. In October 1847, at least 75,000 people teemed in the city's narrow streets. French, English, German -- all tongues mixed in the metropolis of the West. Thus, the biggest city of this man's life now lay before him, as he waited to board a train bound for the East Coast. In the coming years, he would take a stand against the Mexican-American War, return home to Springfield, return to elected office in 1860, and lead the nation through the worst crisis in its history. In October 1847, he was only beginning that journey. And at the start of that journey, on October 28, 1847, he stayed at the Old National Hotel.

Abraham Lincoln upon his election to Congress, 1846

The Old National Hotel, located at Third and Market streets, was demolished for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in 1948.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Makes me wonder what their criteria were for saving buildings if a visit by Honest Abe wasn't enough.

All they wanted to do was clearcut.