OLD WEBSTER HISTORY
THE BRISTOL BUILDING
Some of the earliest buildings have been lost to the demolition ball. One is the magnificent Bristol Building built in 1896 for $30,000. An architectural and commercial focal point of Webster Groves, the brick Bristol Building was built by Dr. Bennett Bristol in the Queen Anne style. Its first floor had cast iron storefronts and housed Webster Groves’ first pharmacy, the Ambrose Mueller Drug Store, opened in 1896 and, after 1901, William A. Straub’s new fine foods grocery. The third floor had a large formal music hall called Bristol's Hall, with seating for 800 as well as a smaller recital hall. The Webster Groves Masonic Hall was located here in their early years, In 1972 the Bristol Building was torn down and replaced by the modern glass Farm and Home Savings Association building that is now owned by U.S. Bank.
First National Bank of Webster Groves bought the building in the early 1920s and moved in and became a prominent institution in town. It was remodeled to expand the sidewalk level retail for the bank and Straub's. The Great Depression was devastating to the bank. To raise operating funds the building was sold to one of the bank's directors, Philip O. Viall on March 6, 1930 but on March 4, 1933 the bank ceased operations. In 1935 Lammert's Department store began a 37 year long tenure at the building and many remember it as the Lammert's Building.
In 1954 a $200,000 remodeling project was completed where a parking deck was added above a new annex that was built to the West of the original building. This added retail space on the street level and much needed public parking on the deck and behind the building. A spiral staircase led from the street to the parking deck. Jordan's Cafeteria opened in the new building. It was intended to "modernized" the street level retail stores to better compete with newer shopping centers.
The building in the early years had professional businesses on the second floor including physicians, insurance agents and lawyers. It also housed a movie theater for a short while on the third floor. In the 1940s till the end, the second and third floors were converted into residential efficiency apartments.
The closing in 1972 was a very sad event. Most people had hoped the building could be renovated and saved. Helen Jordan, who owned Jordan's Cafeteria located in the building said "We weren't worried when the building went up for sale last April and while we expected the new owners would want to remodel we didn't anticipate anyone planning on tearing down the building." They, along with the other businesses and apartment residents had to find new spaces to live and work. She said "we've been here for 16 years. We feel like my husband and I are both losing our jobs at the same time. We've got no place to go. It's a mess. I don't think anybody else in the neighborhood has a place to go." And the regular Saturday morning breakfast patrons were affected. Mrs. Jordan said "It's a get together for them in the neighborhood. There is a regular group of about 25 who come in each week for a 55-cent meal of two eggs, potatoes, toast and jelly." There was just too many structural problems so demolition took place in the spring of 1973. It is amazing to think this beautiful building only lasted 77 years. Maybe if it could have survived another 10 years the spirit of restoration of older original buildings could have saved her.
Inside Straub's first store in the Bristol Building 1901