Lionberger Building (Warehouse), ca. 1890

From the Catalogue of the Annual Exhibition of the Saint Louis Architectural Club (1899). The Architectural Club sponsored a yearly exhibit in which architects from across the country were invited to display their most prominent subjects or recent buildings. St. Louis buildings featured prominently in the catalog. Above is the Lionberger Building (Warehouse), designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge from designs by Henry Hobson Richardson in 1887-1888.

The building was executed quite nicely from Richardson's plans, and fronted Washington Avenue, but extended down 8th Street to St. Charles Avenue; the warehouse extended west along Washington to about midblock. Tragically, this masterwork was gutted by fire in 1896, too late for another Richardsonian Romanesque temple of commerce to be erected in its place. It was one of only a handful of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge or Richardson commercial buildings to be built in St. Louis. Within decades, the site was occupied by the building that now serves as the Renaissance Grand Hotel.

A description of the fire from the Middleville Sun (Mich.) in 1896:

Ely-Walker Dry Goods Co. Burned Out
Loss $1,500,000.

Fire Monday gutted the mammoth seven-story granite building at the southwest corner of 8th street and Washington avenue, St. Louis, Mo., occupied by the Ely-Walker Dry Goods Company. The loss will be close to $1,500,000. One human life was sacrificed and several people were hurt.

The fire was one of the worst the St.Louis department has had to cope withfor a long time, and for a while it looked as though the Washington Avenue wholesale business district would be wiped out.

The building burned was known as the Lionberger Building. It fronted on Washington Avenue, running north along 8th Street to St. Charles, and extended west on Washington Avenue to the middle of the block. The firm's enormous stock of goods was recently increased by immense purchases from the East, and consequently every inch of available floor space was occupied by great piles of dry goods of every description for the spring trade.

The insurance on the stock is about $1,000,000. The building was insured for $200,000. It was owned by the John Lionberger estate and was built about eight years ago at a cost of $500,000. Before the blaze was mastered one fireman, George Gaultwald, was killed by a falling wall at the 8th Street end of the building, and during the fire several other firemen were more or less seriously injured.

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