Posted on February 15th, 2007 55 comments
Lately, Overland is notorious as the township with the deluded, egoistic mayor who refuses to relinquish the burning castle. Aside from City Hall ineptitudes that have inspired so many of its citizens to blog, Overland is a nice town; completely suburban, yet old enough to have been formed to urban standards. There is a formal downtown nucleus that spreads out into little tract homes, and at Christmas the main drags are festooned with the exact same lighted decorations decade after decade. Overland retains so much of its original fabric that it often feels like touring a museum of post-World War 2 Baby Boom suburban expansion. Yet the place is alive, feisty and curious in a low-key manner, which keeps it off the hipsters and aggressive developers radars.
These photos are a fair sampling of the commercial buildings along Lackland Road, right in the immediate vicinity of Skeeter’s Frozen Custard. Generally, they were all built between the end of World War 2 and 1955.
This particular building has changed hands many times (it was an upholstery shop for the longest time), with each new owner never feeling the need to radically alter its appearance. And I’ve noticed that about this entire stretch of road: the commercial buildings don’t stay vacant for very long and they seldom get radically remodeled. Some may say that a lack of apparent progress is the sign of a stagnant city, but I see Overland’s constant, gentle ripples as a city finely balanced.
One of my favorite examples of Overland being satisfied with its resources is the above service station. Walking onto the parking lot is like swooshing back in time, with that time being kept by the very same clock that’s graced the building since it went up in 1954.
What year was this photo taken? The only thing that betrays 21st century is a package of blue M&Ms and Skittles in what is most likely the exact same vending machine the original owners plopped into that office 53 years ago.
Heading east on Lackland and crossing over Woodson Road (the city’s main drag), one can see the most curious of buildings. Some portion of the Knights of Columbus Hall was built in 1930, and dusty new additions have been plopped into the mix over the decades. The place is now massive, and appears dead to the world, but its ramshackle appearance always stays exactly the same (indicating regular upkeep), and its website shows a full roster of activities.
Just up the street, the YMCA sports the Deco Moderate look that was popular in new suburbs of the late 1940s. It gave new public buildings a sense of the modern urbanity but without all the drama. This style holds up well, as it never looks too dated (for those who require contemporary) or too radical (for those who like quaint). This YMCA building went up in 1948, is still in use, and still looks fabulous.
At the intersection of Lackland & Brown Road is this simple and handsome building, built in 1945. The curving corner, a ribbon of tiny windows and the dark brick pinstripes of the second floor give it a bit of a Steamliner Deco feel. There is always another business ready to take over any vacancies in this building, and it’s been this way since I first “met” the building in 1984. This intersection has businesses on 3 sides, but it’s a bit disconnected from the main commercial drags by houses. Meaning, it would have been a natural for this building – this intersection – to decay from natural suburban aging. But it hasn’t. What does Overland have going on that similar towns don’t?
Directly across the street is a building that always tickles me. I mentally refer to it as Googie Van Der Rohe because it looks like a Chicago Mies building accented with a Southern California roadside motel lobby. It was built in 1957 as a bank and remains so, and it looks like that!
The SoCal Googie looby was, obviously, the main entrance, meant to be accessed by foot, bus or car from the intersection. But in 1967 they moved the entrance to the opposite end of the building when they expanded that parking lot. The “new” entrance still has that afterthought look, and feels cramped because of the makeshift drive-through lanes crowding its scene.
I love that a bench was placed under the canopy, so that employees can lunch and smoke in Jetsons splendor, and that they have to walk quite a ways to get to it, as that door has a chain on it to make sure it stays shut.
So, the entrance is now useless as such, yet they’ve left it completely intact, with the “crazy man, crazy” light fixture hanging like it’s suspended in prehistoric amber. It’s such a queer thing to have so many different banks move in and out of this building, reconfiguring its guts and alley as banking needs change, yet they leave the essential Mod-ness of it alone. Is it a case of “out of sight, out of mind?” Or that no one bank is ever inside long enough to invest in remodeling the non-essential parts? Or does it cast some sort of 77 Sunset Strip spell over all inhabitants, rendering those who would vinyl side incapable of doing so?
By hanging a U-ey at Lackland & Brown, we drive back toward Woodson Road, hang a right and head straight into the thick of old fashioned Downtown Overland. And it really does seem to have gone out of its way to be old-fashioned from inception. County records show that most of this dense strip of buildings went up in the 10 years directly after WW2, so they built quickly during those last moments in time when pedestrian traffic still influenced how a commercial district was laid out.
The downtown strip has a few stalwart businesses, remainders from the old days. But, again, each time a storefront becomes available, it gets filled much quicker than these types of commercial districts usually do. And by quicker than usual, I mean that we can cruise the central commercial strips of, say, Normandy or Baden or Glasgow Village and see a chain of vacant storefronts. But not in Overland.
And they have never really had the room to renovate for expanded parking. Sure, they’ve taken down a building or 2 to squeeze in some blacktop spots, but overall, its street parking, and those spots are always filled and there’s always commerce taking place.
One of the liveliest spots in downtown is the diner, above. By keeping it tiny (572 square feet being a good definition of such) they were able to push the building up against the sidewalk and use the leftover space for parking, which was quickly becoming a bigger concern when the place was built in 1957.
Half of the building is decked out in Pseudo Deco, vaguely reminiscent of White Castles, while the other half is standard Corner Tavern Stone facade. That they were able to cram 2 distinct looks onto so little wall is most impressive.
And the interior has barely changed in 50 years.
What kills me is that one can easily walk from Paul Bros. service station (4th picture from the top of this entry) to this diner in about 10 minutes and somehow remain in a Leave It To Beaver world, untouched by the uglier aspects of modern time. And we’re not talking some retro homage; it’s the entire genuine article, unfussy and unconcerned that the diner reeks of decades worth of grease. It’s probably those ancient grease odors that makes the biscuits and gravey (spelled, my lord, with an “ey”) so damn great.
The Hacienda Mexican restaurant has long been a popular staple in the downtown strip, but it hasn’t always been this pink. It used to have a more traditional Northwest County Adobe look. I feel they updated the color to Flamingo Pink to better coordinate with the establishment behind it…
…which has spruced up its Lyndon B. Johnson congressional motel look with some hot sea foam green trim. Built in 1965, they were billed as “garden apartments,” for all doors faced into a central courtyard, much like in Southern California.
Every good downtown needs a dollop of seediness, so this place has become rather transient, in the most romantic sense of the word. The set-up is actually quite nice, but I couldn’t get in any closer for better shots, as the working girls crossing the tiny parking lot were real uptight about someone taking pictures of their place so early on a Saturday morning. I respect free enterprise, so I respectfully moved on.
Leaving downtown proper, we head back up Woodson Road, a couple of blocks south of Page Avenue, to one of my favorite buried MCM treasures. Overland is rather hilly, and note how this gem (above) plays with the topography by tapering a rectangle into the hillside. I love the feel of the windows melting into the ground, and the shades of blue springing out of green grass and blacktop.
This place was built in 1958, and it’s a perfect model of that year’s modern aesthetic. Tiny tiles of aquatic blues, the concrete block sun screen that throws polka dots amid the shadows, simple planes low to the ground, cool geometry in service to manufacturing prowess. If this building could have been erected next to the Googie Van Der Rohe bank, the story of 1950s American Progress would have been perfectly told in microcosm.
U.S Band & Orchestra Supplies now manufactures and wholesales instruments, and the building serves them well enough that they don’t think about it’s condition. This building needs some help. A good start would be to trim the hedges and kill the weeds, some waterproofing and paint on the faded surfaces.
Each time I pass this faded beauty, I have to fight the overwhelming urge to have at the tile with a bucket of Spic & Span and a water hose. Just imagine how those tiles gleam when clean, how this building must have impressed when it first came to the neighborhood. And it could do that once again, but the immediate commercial strip in which this building sits is heading toward the kind of decay that invites future developers to go for Big Box infiltration. Should this ever be the case, the one building that just might save the above gem is…
WOOFIE’S! Serving what has been called “the hot dog of the gods,” the building went up in 1955 and is only a dozen square feet bigger than the diner shown above. But this building was dedicated to the car from its inception, so the inside can now concentrate on being a tiny “shrine to the all-beef frankfurter.” It’s clean and bright, and on a brilliant sunny day, Woofie’s contrasted with my blue tile geo gem next door is a sight to break my heart. It speaks to me of all that’s good about America’s mid-century aspirations, and makes me proud that such a unique town like Overland is here for you and me.architecture, art deco, historic architecture, mid-century modern commercial, north county modern, north st. louis county
55 Responses to “Overland, MO Mid-Century Modern”
Norma Turner Gerst July 25th, 2013 at 10:38 AM
Hello – I am the daughter of Paul and Lillian Turner. I am so excited to see all the comments about my parents and their record shop. The shop was my mother’s life after my father died in 1956. She kept that little shop going even when the big box stores started coming in. The first that I remember was Venture on Page. The chain stores could buy the records cheaper because they were buying in bulk (sounds like WalMart today). Hard for the little mom and pop stores to compete. The store was surviving at the end because she was able to provide the older records. She passed away in 1981 at the age of 80 – that morning she was getting ready to go to work at the store. Devoted to the shop until the end.
Jenn M August 19th, 2013 at 9:44 PM
So glad I found this site. I grew up in Overland in the 60’s & 70’s. My parents lived there since the early ’40’s until my Mom’s passing in 2003 & raised 9 kids in a 2 bedroom & 1 bathroom then added on to have a 3 bedroom but still 1 bathroom house. The house is on Lackland & was built in 1912, an old farmhouse. I love hearing all of everyone’s reminising & remembering along with everyone. I recall the Arlan’s store at Town & Country Mall & the A&P grocery store. Originally Schnucks was on Lackland where Walgreens is now, or was the last time I was by there. Lots of memories of Overland like Bernice at the Chix Shop & getting school uniforms there. Brockmann’s store where my parents bought there 1st non-cabinet TV. I think they called it a portable TV at the time because you could put it on one of those carts & move it around, it was still heavy. Does anyone remember a mansion home on Lackland where the old Post Office is now?
Jack Mooney August 20th, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Thank you so much for the memories. I was born in 1944 and lived at Lackland and Charlack for 18 years of me life. At Lackland and Brown was Clarks Drug store where I worked when I was 14 years old.Across the street before the bank or any houses were built was a big field that we used to have Easter egg hunts there every year. This lot went along Brown rd. all the way to Lakeside Golf course.which was about 1/2 mile down the steet. This was a grand place to be as an adventerous lad. Caddied at the golf course for a few years where I learned to love the game of golf which I still play with me son. Down the street on Lackland was Barclays bakery where me sisters worked for years. Across the street was the Y where I learned to swim and later lifeguarded at the Legion pool on Midland. Ortmans funeral is still there and buried me mum from there. Hacienda resturant used to be a Western Auto store and across the street was the A & P grocery store.
Across the street from A & P was the Overland show which burned down and is now a parking lot. Downtown Overland was a magical place and all the various shop were your kingdom. From the A & W next to the diner to the clothing store where the owner was always singing to his customers. Things have changed a lot in me 68 years but oh the memories will always be with me. Me mom died in 2003 and at that time she was the longest Overland resident of 57 years. I was irritated the the city could not acknowledge her long time residency in Overland having raised 9 children at Lasckland and Charlack. I don’t know how they would have known this or if they would have even cared but it just seemed a shame. Jack Mooney 9005 Lacland Rd. OVERLAND, MO.
X-Huskey September 3rd, 2013 at 2:11 PM
Thoroughly enjoyed the article but, since I was there in the very early 1960’s. I knew some of the building as something other than what they were in the 1980’s and ’90’s. And I wish the author would have said their 1960 names. Also, what about Town and Country Mall at the corner of Woodson and Page? I grew up hearing that was the oldest covered mall in the St. Louis area! Could this be true! Which one came next Crestwood or my beloved Northwest Plaza who went the way of River Roads Plaza? Thanks again.
Norma Turner Gerst September 19th, 2013 at 11:35 AM
Thanks everyone so much for the comments concerning your remembrances of my parents record store..
@ Jack Mooney – your mother was ignored by the city when she passed. I am sorry they did that – but I can relate. When my mother passed in 1981 she had been in business for over 47 years at the same location and was also ignored by the city. I felt that some sort of tribute should have been given to her. Finally I mde a comment to someone who relayed it to the mayor and he did stop by at the visitation. Obviously things have not changed much in all these years.
Sue Edwards November 15th, 2013 at 8:47 PM
I grew up on Tennyson Ave south of Midland.It was the perfect spot for a kid, a small city park one house down,Marion school a block away! American a Legion pool and fish fry also a block away and best of all Spencer’s confectionary at the north corner of Tennyson and Midland .Man did we buy some candy there not to mention the cold Dr Peppers on a hot summers day.Walking down Midland with my Mom to go to Woolworth’s where I fell in love with my first Barbie! Then later by myself with friends to go get the latest 45 from Turners my first being Love Potion No.9.I remember Mrs Turner fondly she was always so nice.I live in Bridgeton now and drive through Overland frequently and am so happy there’s been minimal change.Thanks for the site and the memories shared!
Sue, I grew up on Tennyson Ave. south of Midland too! Our house was the brick house on the corner of Midland and Tennyson. I remember walking to “downtown Overland”
robert davidson February 5th, 2014 at 2:48 PM
I live in my childhood home on lackland near charlack, been in overland since 1961. I would very much appreciate it if someone could send me some photos of the old town and country mall, inside and out. I have so many memories of that place. Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org
A little more history about the building at 1933 Woodson Rd. The Blue tiled one that you admired . It was designed and built by Architect Meyer Loomstein , an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright . Mr. Loomstein also built and owned , the Guild Building , the Colony Hotel in clayton …now the Holiday , and the Carondelet east and west buildings all in Clayton ,mo. He also designed many other modern buildings and residences in Ladue .I worked in that building for twenty years . the concrete addition to the south was added many years later .It was originally a cabinet business making fixtures for Savings and Loan companies .The new owners have removed the tile and tastefully painted the exterior .The decorative round concrete block wall extended to the end of the building but half was knocked down by an out of control car in the seventies .
laura willis July 4th, 2014 at 1:46 AM
great information it really made me smile. i have some iformation if interested.
laura willis July 4th, 2014 at 1:53 AM
best 4th of july’s ever sitting on he big R waiting to see my dad or grandpa helping to make sure everything was ok before the fireworks started.Mom always made sure we had our bug spray on and a big blanket and chairs.We were taught to oohh and aahh and boy did we a great memory
Chris Eller July 20th, 2014 at 7:45 AM
@Sue Edwards and Mary Trapp or anyone else…I lived on Holtwood and we are trying to find out information about that little city park on Tennyson and would love to find any pictures of it. It is now a residence and we can’t find any info even from City officials. ..they’re telling us it never even existed. We/us are me and some neighborhood kids that used to play baseball there and have such great childhood memories. ..any help would be appreciated! Thanks!
Bryan Mooney May 10th, 2015 at 11:07 AM
My home town. I loved growing up there. I just wrote a book about growing up there in Overland.
I lived on Lackland and the majority of the book takes place in and around Overland, Clarks Pharmacy, Brown Road, Lake Sherwood and many other places. The book is titled Once We Were Friends. Set in Overland in the fifties and sixties.
Remember Sycamore Inn? Nielsen’s? Clarks Pharmacy? Barclays Bakery. Midland? Brown Road? Sherwood Golf Club?
Such memories. Loved it!
Bill Bowers May 12th, 2015 at 9:39 PM
Jack Mooney I was raised on Baroda and back around 1959 or 1960, you and your brother, gave me a puppy that I believe had been abandoned by your house. It was a beagle mix that I named Skippy. He was a fence climber and spent the next ten years roaming the neighborhood. Oh how I loved that dog. My Grandma Hilda live directly behind you on Baroda Place. Skippy made regular trips up the street to visit with my grandmother and would argue through the fence with your dog from time to time. If I recall correctly, yours may have been a beagle.
This website is a great find. I have enjoyed reminiscing about all the old buildings and people in the old neighborhood.
patty bowers clark May 12th, 2015 at 11:00 PM
Jack Mooney, I lived on Baroda Ave. My grandmother, Hilda Bowers lived directly behind your house and we lived a couple of doors down from grandma. Your sister Joanie and I played together sometimes. If I remember correctly, Joanie went to school at Presentation. I was in your house once or twice. After I was an adult, I would see your mom out working in her flowers when I would visit grandma. Your mom and my grandma liked to talk about flowers.
Laura L. Valenti June 10th, 2015 at 3:54 PM
In 2010, the YMCA where I worked for several years in the 1960s as a swim instructor, had been converted into an Ethiopian church. A very nice gentleman gave me a tour when I explained my interest, including a look at their sanctuary, built over the old, covered over pool. So many memories…I grew up at the corner of Lackland and Walton, where my mom dad dad owned and operated Rogers Hornsby TV for years during the 50s and 60s. Remember the color TV in the window that teens used as a free drive in?
Jan Brown September 5th, 2015 at 6:53 AM
Does anyone have any pictures/menus of the old Sycamore Inn Restaurant? My parents Al and Lorna Harnagel owned it from 1962 – 1980.
Jan Harnagel Brown
Bosalar"Bos"Sallee November 5th, 2015 at 10:29 AM
Ive lived in the area most of my life, transplanted to the area in the early 60’s and lived on the edge of Charlack and remember many walks up Lackland Rd to Overland it seemed like there were many small businesses along the way that were landmarks in there own right “Fav’s” service station on Lackland(the original 1920’s era building still stands) , the “Rodgers Hornsby TV”(where you could sit in your car tune your radio and watch TV)
Everything else you mention is very accurate,so maybe I can jog your memory to tell about large old building that once sat in spot now occupied by the large blue tank that sits in the area between Midland/Lackland and Walton rd. It seems many years ago I was told that it had once been a hotel way station that served the many stage coach lines that served the westward movement
Margie Summers December 26th, 2015 at 9:44 AM
Hi… love your site. Was wondering if you or any of your readers can help me with this one. I’m trying to recall the name of the hotel that used to be on the west side of Woodson Road not far from 70. It was not a chain, I don’t think. It had a small bar in the basement. I believe it’s now a Holiday Inn. Anyone know which place I’m talking about?
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