As part of a series of major initiatives meant to push the city forward with improved services and greater focus on creating healthier conditions, Mayor Lane was also the driving force behind the expansion and extension of the city’s streets.
Infrastructure improvements and the sense of newness created by the new names set the stage for growth over the next several decades. By the late 1800s, demand for living and business space pushed St. Louis outward and upward. The Eads Bridge was completed in 1874, making Washington Avenue a major thoroughfare and inspiring the grand buildings that line it.
Affluence grew along with St. Louis’ international reputation, and so did the need for exquisite hotels. In the early 1860s, The Lindell Hotel was completed at the corner of Laurel and 6th streets to complement the famous Planter’s House and Barnum hotels. The city finally had enough first-class space for the political elite, their allies and customers to plan, trade and play.
A classic creation of architect Thomas Walsh, The Lindell Hotel opened in 1863. It was considered the largest and one of the most elegant hotels in the United States before it was destroyed by fire for the second time in 1885.
Pieces of the Lindell’s cream-colored Grafton limestone exterior were salvaged by Henry Shaw, founder of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. He used the stones to create the picturesque ruins behind the Sailboat Pond in Tower Grove Park.
In 1906, the next building on this site became the home of one of the city’s first department stores, The Grand Leader. Created by the architectural firm Mauran, Russel & Garden, it was a distinguished structure worthy of one of the country’s most preeminent retailers. Later known as Stix, Baer & Fuller and then the Dillard’s building, it anchored the thriving dry goods district.
After welcoming the city’s honored guests and elite citizens, and later the first shoppers to one of St. Louis’ original department stores, The Laurel now welcomes you to downtown’s most enticing address.
For decades, Washington Avenue has been where so much of our city’s energy emanates.