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The Paul Brown Loft Apartments


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BUILDING HISTORY

From the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 11th, 1980:

      "Paul Brown's life story also would excite curiosity. A 16-story building at [206 North 9th St.] bears his name, but who was he?
      Few today remember that he was a poor man who became rich, a living Horatio Alger story. Brown once told a friend, 'A day not spent at work in St. Louis is a day lost.' At his death in 1927, his estate, which included the Paul Brown Building, was valued at $13 million.
      Paul Brown was born in 1847 in Eldorado, Arkansas. He started his business career in a tobacco factory at age 17. He later sold tobacco from a wagon and then spent several years working on his mother's farm (his father died when he was five years old). Eventually, he returned to the tobacco business and made enough money to open a company in St. Louis, where he became one of the principal promoters of the 1904 World's Fair, one of the great events in St. Louis history.
       After his death, his assets were listed in the newspapers like a rich man's shopping list. Among other things, he owned thousands of acres in Florida, prized race horses and an investment business. He married three times."

 

In 1925, Paul Brown commissioned the renowned architect Preston J. Bradshaw to design an office building in the Renaissance Revival style. Bradshaw's original plans for the building indicated a full 16-story building; however, the first-floor tenants of the existing Oddfellows Building on the north half of the site insisted on staying. The solution adopted was simple: the Oddfellows Building would be partially demolished, leaving the first floor intact. The north wing of the new Paul Brown Building was then built on top of the existing structure. As might be expected, this compromise led Bradshaw to limit the height of the north wing to 12 stories, while the south wing rose to a full 16 stories. Thanks to the ingenious design, however, the finished building functions seamlessly as a single structure. In addition to the Paul Brown Building, Bradshaw also had a hand in creating the Mayfair Hotel and the Soldiers Memorial.
     Over the years, the building served as a pre-eminent location for many professionals, and businesses including numerous attorneys and accountants. It also held numerous retail businesses, most notably many small jewelers and furriers, as well as several restaurants and stores.

 

The significance of Bradshaw's design has been recognized in recent years, as the Paul Brown Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in December 2002.
      It is a masonry structure in a base and crown (tripartite) architectural style, with terra cotta ornamentation located on the first several floors then again at the upper floors and at the roofline. Corridors throughout the building feature herringbone marble floors, wainscoting and crown molding. The historic 1st floor lobby is distinguished by a spectacular 18-foot tall, barrel-vault ceiling adorned with ornate plasterwork, elevator doors of elegant brass, floors and wainscoting of St. Genevieve marble.
     However, during lean years for Downtown St. Louis, starting in the 1960s, owners of the building allowed its original glory to fade. The remarkable barrel-vault ceiling over the first floor lobby was concealed by suspended acoustic ceiling tiles. In addition, the corridor floors of herringbone Georgian marble, as well as the original hardwood floors found throughout the building, were inexplicably covered with unappealing carpet. For several decades, these elements of the building's original appeal were hidden from visitors. Fortunately, damage and deterioration were avoided, leaving this ornamentation in near-pristine condition, ready to be cleaned and restored.

 

After a period of vacancy during the 1990's, Pyramid Construction bought the building in 2000 for renovation. Rosemann Architects devised the adaptive reuse of the building into residential apartments, interior parking, and retail space. Paric Corporation began construction on December 30th, 2003. In June 2005, a new chapter in the building's history will begin, when it becomes a vibrant residential community in the heart of Downtown St. Louis.