|St. Louis Lofts - Downtown Apartments|
Use the slider above to view Washington Avenue at 6th Street in 1914 and 2014. Fast forward 100 years with just the click of a button! The building on the right in the foreground is the Grand Leader, now Embassy Suites & the Laurel Apartments. Most adjacent buildings have been demolished.
The Grand Leader building occupies an entire city block between 6th and 7th Streets on the north side of Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis.
An ode to the heyday of department stores, this massive building was built in several stages and occupied by the Stix, Baer & Fuller Dry Goods Company. The primary structure was originally an eight story building designed in 1906 by local St. Louis architects by Mauran, Russell & Garden. An eleven story section was added to the west side of the building in 1919. Designed by the same firm, the facade of this addition is nearly identical. A ninth story was added to the eight story portion in 1948. (Note that the "before" photo above is from 1914, and therefore shows only the original eight story building without the eleven story section or ninth story addition.)
Stix, Baer & Fuller was one of the largest department stores in St. Louis (its size was trumped by the nearby Famous Barr Dry Goods Company, now Macy's). The construction announcement of the Grand Leader came just after the conclusion of the 1904 World's Fair, dismissing the idea that some had that construction and economic growth in the city would hit a lull when the fair ended.
Photo above: Postcard advertising the opening of the Grand Leader building in 1906.
Construction was completed in 1906. As a modern department store, service was emphasized above all else. The owners wanted to create a luxurious atmosphere with all of the comforts and amenities of home. As such, in addition to the city's best shopping, the building also offered manicurists, hairdressers, abundant lavatories on every floor, free telephone use, and large dining rooms. An upscale party was held when the building first opened, an invitations used slogans like "The Fastest Growing Store in America" and "Ideal Store with High Ideals."
The company's success continued over subsequent decades. It had a substantial impact on the local economy, attributing for as many as 4,000 local jobs in 1950 and producing a record high $49,000,000 in sales revenue in 1953. Stix, Baer & Fuller operated out of the building until 1984, at which time the company was purchased by Dillards. The company suffered due to increasing competition and the change in ownership, and its doors were closed in 2001.
Today, the building is occupied by The Laurel Apartments and Hilton's Embassy Suites. Both opened in 2011 after a significant overhaul and upgrade of the building. Together, these businesses provide high end amenities and modern luxuries in much the same way as the Grand Leader did in 1906.