A Few Blocks of Gravois on a Sunday Morning

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Gravois & Quincy in the Princeton Heights neighborhood
South St. Louis, MO

There’s been some renovation work going on at the Jimmie’s Saloon building (built circa 1906). Permits are taped to the windows, and one day, all of the 2nd story windows were gone in anticipation of replacements.  As happy as I am to see it coming back to life, I worry about the fate of the signage… will they keep it in place? Oh please, say yes!

So I had other places to be on this Sunday morning, but stopped just a moment to take a few photos of the signage, and peer through the windows to see what they’re up to. Then I started looking around and in that moment of looking I finally SAW this part of town, and I just kept walking and snapping, totally gaga over finally seeing the truth.

I saw that in the same block we have two head shops. I’ve been in one of them before, but can’t quite remember which one it was, heh heh. This started life in the early 1920s as a Kroger grocery store, and also housed Southside Cyclery before they moved to a bigger space just on the other side of the Jimmie’s Saloon block.

I saw that from Quincy to Kingshighway, this section of the Princeton Heights neighborhood was dense and alive and useful. It was everything we remember/crave in an urban environment, and it’s all going on without any revitalized fanfare because it just keeps on keeping on.

The head shops are divided by a building all vacant and boarded up, slightly forlorn, but look at that entrance!

This building is circa 1924, and used to be a 5 and 10 cent store.

This block of Gravois is directly across the street from the QT. That side of the Loughbourough intersection has been demolished and given car-centric infill, but the rest remains refreshingly intact and vital.

This place still retains part of the Ragsdale Beauty Shop legacy, evolving into Randy Ragsdale’s barber shop.

This building just recently came back to life with a new business. And even though this circa 1924 building has been greatly altered throughout its life, all it took to abide by the latest tenant was lots of paint, new doors and grill work and some ingenious interior remodeling to be back in action.

This place (built circa 1920) has long been a curiosity to me. It underwent a renovation around 2004-2005, with new windows, tuckpointing, refurbished interior… it was a joy to watch it coming back to life after being vacant for so long. This building is too pretty and in too prime a spot to still be vacant.

Directly across the street is a favorite neighborhood restaurant to walk to. The original building dates from 1908, with a newer bump out. To one side is the suburban-esque tear out for a former 7-11 (and that building is being re-used, which is good), while the other side of Apollonia continues on up the hill without any interruption to the original density. Actually, both sides of this block are uninterrupted, which is a glorious (and rare) sight to behold.

Moellenhoff’s neon sign is an old beauty, but it’s not the original business for the spot. And the circa 1907 building right next door is also owned by the Moellenhoffs, now housing Bo Fung Chinese, which has been there seemingly forever because it’s pretty good take-out. I also love the the nonsensically off-kilter windows of the newer-period street-level bump out.

One thing to note about all the businesses in the blocks between Lougborough and Kingshighway: On-Street Parking. Not a one of them has a parking lot visible from Gravois. And many of the businesses in this block have been there “forever,” so this does not seem to be a detriment. I wish City Hall would take note of this the next time a new city business says they need to tear down a perfectly good building next door for more parking. If you maintain the density of the area, a quarter of the people walk to the place, another quarter takes the bus, and the driving half never seem to have too tough a time with parking to keep them from coming back.

Gravois Glass is one of those businesses that also seems to have been here forever, though the Elvis TCB on the corner post and signage is a relatively recent addition. Which just makes them cool.

I absolutely adore this building, which dates to circa 1948.  With Vitrolite and glass block and stainless steel, it’s simply Retail Art Deco charming.

It’s a minor miracle that the original doors have remained in place, and standing next to them always makes me feel all cosmopolitan and clean.  Need to do some research to see what was originally in these two separate store fronts (or if you know, do speak up). There’s been a few different business in here since the 1990s, and a Bosnian bakery just only recently closed. Here’s hoping new tenants arrive soon, and that the owners continue to baby this fabulous facade because that is the calling card.

Here’s the true King of Forever on this block – Arnold Hardware. Ain’t nothing can dent their productivity, not even the bank and its parking lot that went in next door a few decades ago. That bank killed the density winning streak on this side of the block, but across the street…

…these two buildings continue the chain all the way to a break in “the wall” for the old St. Marcus cemetery/park.  Losito Brothers Auto carries on the tradition of that spot, while the clay tile roof of the tower is always a striking sight (in fact, it inspired one renter of a house behind here to draw it on a bedroom wall!).

I was gloriously lost in crushing hard on these few blocks I’d seen and used a thousand times but never appreciated fully, when I realized I was supposed to be somewhere else and better get a move on. I need to come back with a better camera and also do some research where the awesome website of the Princeton Heights Neighborhood Association has yet to fill in.

And while driving away, I – who does not have a degree in urban planning and such – wondered exactly how did these few blocks survive so relatively intact? How did they remain so consistently vital while other similar blocks in similar neighborhoods did not? Let’s also ponder how little attention they get because they never died and needed oxygen pumped back into its lungs.

The City of St. Louis has plenty of workhorse stretches of original density and vitality that deserve a little lovin’ for takin’ care of business for so long. They may not be glamorous by revitalization standards, but you don’t have to be a star, baby, to be in my show. I just love knowing that you’re always there for us!

25 thoughts on “A Few Blocks of Gravois on a Sunday Morning

  1. I grew up on GOETHE in the 1970s and 80s, went to Gardenville school, remember going to Arnold hardware and I believe it was called herrings Pharmacy next-door many times, I also remember the Kingsland theater which had the best haunted houses, and when we were kids, leader on when I was a teenager it actually became a movie theater for a short time, and I actually worked there for a while, Such great memories!

  2. Lived in the area during the 70’s. 905 liquors and the Schwinn bike shop used to be next to Jimmy’s…Also remember Old St Marcus cemetery and riding my bike thru there. It had been abandon and overgrown. Kind of sad, but later was made into a park, as you know.


  4. I grew up here in the early 40’s till I got married in 61. Went to Gardenville grade school & Cleveland High. The site of Jimmie’s was Ray David’s Tavern, the building across Quincy was Gene’s Hardware as I went to school with his son Eugene Vasel.
    We shopped ad the dime store, the 2 grocery stores, Klunds Bakery (the best bread ever) & got ice cream at Velvet Freeze. There was a dress shop in between the grocery & dine store. Quethm’s Drug store was on the corner of Gravois & Loughborough & Millers Pharmacy & Drug store was on the corner of Gravois & Blow St.
    They tore down a restaurant on the opposite corner of Blow & Gravois (called Straum’s or Traum’s or something like it) to house the new Schwinn bicycle shop. You had everything you needed right there in a 2-3 block area!

  5. Paternal grandparents lived on Cecil Place and maternals lived on Quincy during the 30’s through the 50’s. Great times visiting them and the area back then. Remember a tavern at Cecil and Gravois , Dohlers barbershop. Causey furniture store Quethems and Paradise sweet shop. Down past Jimmy’s was Harold Wolf”s tavern and Brouck Pharmacy.

  6. Your photography is outstanding! I used to love shopping here when I was a kid. Great article!

  7. My father was a doctor, his office was in the 6817 Gravois address (Clara Hempleman Building) all thru the 50’s and early 60’s. Dr. Schialfa, a dentist, was upstairs. There was a podiatrist upstairs too but I don’t remember the name.

  8. Boy, did this website bring back memories! As soon as I saw that Jimmie’s Saloon photo, I remembered how for two years (starting in late 1981) I commuted to the downtown on Gravois Rd. by bus. During my 16 years in St. Louis, I did end up recording a few scenes off Gravois here and there, such as the old Lemmon’s Restaurant sign, Johnny’s Market, the Affton Dairy Queen, stuff like that. It was a neat commute, I thought. And who could forget that Federhofer’s sign or the one at Phil’s Barbecue? Great website!

  9. My grandmother, Clara Hempelmann, built the building at 6819 Gravois in 1949. She opened her business, Clara Hempelmann Realty Company in the storefront at 6819 when the building was completed. There was a dental office, also a doctor or two, upstairs. The storefront at 6817 was a Velvet Freeze. Downstairs was a “rathskellar” which was rented out for showers, wedding receptions, birthday parties, etc. I have wonderful memories of running around and playing in that building. Our family sold in 1986 after both my grandmother and father died.

  10. My mother grew up at 4928 Blow Street, she went to Gardenview School and worked at the original old bank that was across the street from it. We used to shop all up and down that Gravois strip when we stayed overnite at my grandma’s on Blow…from what I remember (I’m 62 now), starting at Blow, there was a drugstore on the corner where we hung out and bought comics and “sodies”. Up a little was the Schwinn, then a bakery, maybe a meat market, the A & P – which became Alhambra Grotto.
    Up from that, towards Kingshighway, in the art deco building you liked – that was Clara Hempleman Real Estate, the original builders I believe. In later years – my late teens, I played accordion in a band and we played many weddings and anniversaries in the Clara Hempleman “Hall” downstairs – they rented it out for years, a few decades.
    Most of my family has exited this world through the Zeigenheim Funeral Parlor.
    We used to take a bus from Fenton (Murphy actually) and ride it to the turnaround at the big Vess soda bottle across from Musial Lanes (bowling). Then we would walk up to Blow street, many times on top of that long stone wall along the cemetery on our way to Blow St.
    Went to many of the of the old theaters there. My grandma and grandpas favorite hangout was Phil’s Tavern, just down from the Bevo Mill. The doctor who delivered me – a Dr. Gunn – had his office in a little building at the corner of Dahlia and Gravois, by Christy and Gravois.
    When I was born we lived on Milentz Ave. Lived there until I was around 3 or 4, then moved to Murphy – the family called up the “country cousins”.

  11. You HAVE to check out the Quincy Street Bistro. And they did keep a Jimmie’s sign up. COMPLETE renovation will leave those that frequented Jimmie’s with a smile on their face. I remember how crowded it would get and the back room for ?? But the menu, staff, upstairs room, new decor, and soon to open (this summer?) roof-top patio, will leave you impressed. Mike Enright and Kevin Winkler have done a great job and kept menu and prices true to the neighborhood with an added flair that only Kevin and staff can do. This is going to be a great place to have private parties too. Walking up the double-wide stairs to the huge upstairs room is nice with big screen tv’s for your viewing pleasure.

  12. I grew up in this area. The block with the head shops also had the best bakery, Klunds. There was a Tom Boy store and a florist on the same block, along with the Schwinn shop before it moved. The next block, north of Loughborough, had Alhambra Grotto, a big white family house (with a cool family in it), a window treatment shop, and another florist (Flowers By Jean) on the corner. The corner building on the other side of Tyrolean, was a shop repair shop. The Gravois Glass was around the corner on Tyrolean actually. Herrings pharmacy was next door to Arnold’s Hardware. Across the street at the chinese restuarant, Bo Fung, was the home of Elicia’s Pizza before it moved up the street. There was a small hair place where the restaurant is now. The corner, where the old 7-11 building is, has been a few things. Before 7-11, I remember Arthur Treachers Fish ‘n Chips and a Shell Gas Station before that, just as Amoco was across the street where the QuikTrip is now. Oh… and Frank Muscus’s belly dancers was on the corner of Quincy and Gravois, diagonally across from Jimmie’s Saloon!
    Boy how I miss that neighborhood! A lot of great memories. I’m glad it’s still hanging on.

  13. Jimmie’s is now sporting a sign that says “Quincy Street Bistro” and it looks like they’ve done a significant amount of rehabbing on the building. Do you know any details on it? I haven’t found anything online.


  14. The building that’s the “…and Sons Monuments” with the oversized glass windows used to be a very musty Old School South Side meeting house/small banquet hall of some sort. I remember being forced to attend a fairly grim family function there when I was young. Those display-ready windows were entirely absent, leaving the interior space dark, like a back room in an old corner tavern where they had union meetings.

  15. More great photos. I once lived in the 4-flat right next door to Jimmys. The place was always kind of a dive. Arnold Hardware has been there as long as I can remember. I used to go there with my dad when I was a kid.

  16. Great post. This is one of my favorite stretches on the so. side. One of the head shops (I can’t remember which either) has a full line of ninja swords, gear, etc. as well as the obvious other stuff. I always thought that a strange combination.

  17. funny, my friend Maxine bought a house nearby (Gravois between Christy and K’hwy) about a year ago and I spent the weekend of the 20th there. fairly cool area (I also took your advice about Crystal VN over on K’hwy at Oleatha, and like it)

  18. HA! And they HAVE removed most of the signage at Jimmie’s Saloon. Good thing we all got shots of it before it disappeared.

  19. I was ALSO out shooting photos of some of these very places last week. We’re probably making the locals nervous!

  20. I used to live a few blocks away and I always appreciated this stretch along Gravois.

  21. Gravois is such a visual treasure trove — I was out shooting photos of some of these very places last week.

    Love your eye, and you documenting all of this.

  22. The ‘Sandwiches’ on the Jimmie’s sign is a lie. The only food you can get there now is frozen pizza and the beer selection is 3 or 4 domestics.

  23. I love this article. I’ve always wondered about the building that is R&B Bakery because I thought it is so beautiful. I also got a huge kick out of your shutters article. I passed it on to my wife because we’ve pointed shutters out in conversations wondering why there were so many differences. Thank you for this blog. I visit daily.

  24. The crappy door on that one storefront is matched by crappy windows. The entire storefront needs to be redone so the proportions are better. Great post, it is nice to take a look at our commercial areas up close.

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