Retro Storefront in St. John

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Intersection of Brown Road & St. Charles Rock Road
St. John, MO

The McCarty Studios building tells its story with one glance. The building originally went up in 1940, 5 years before St. John was incorporated as a village. The flashy new front facade – by my best guess – went on right around the time streetcars were losing ground to automobiles in the late 1950s.

Along with a house catty corner from it at this intersection, it is the only original building left. The Walgreens sits across the street from McCarty because they tore down the streetcar shed in 1961. The remaining corner has a commercial building that is classic early 1960s Institutional Modern (and now even houses the St. John City Hall).

The McCarty Studios made the architectural leap to be modern during a time when this inner-ring suburb of St. Louis County was booming with activity, they have stood pat ever since and have unwittingly become a retro curio of the recent past.


I love that when they renovated the facade to reflect the new glamor of car culture, they chose to keep their 1948 vintage neon sign. This decision was most likely based on economics: we’re paying a bundle for this remodel – why pay even more money when we have a perfectly good sign?

When working in camera retail several years ago, I used to wait on one of the McCarty sons, and just had to tell him how much I adored their building and sign, and how glad I was that they hadn’t remodeled it into the fake stucco box fast-food look so common in today’s retail upgrades.


He responded that they keep meaning to get a new sign but just haven’t got around to it. I probably spooked the poor man by passionately trying to convince him not to touch anything on that building because its retro distinctiveness was their very best form of 24-hour marketing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Here we are 5 years later, and all pieces remain intact. Here’s hoping they continue to remain so busy that they don’t have time to think about remodeling!

15 thoughts on “Retro Storefront in St. John

  1. I wanted to know the name of the bar that was in McCarthy prior

  2. We lived across the Rock Road in a flat above the beauty salon and bowling alley. My step dad George Norton was good friends with Felix. I remember spending time with Felix.

  3. I remember this corner very well and am sorry to hear they are going to clear it all away. Every Walgreens has a CVR across the street from each other, even here in Florida where I now live.I was born and raised in Overland Mo until we moved to Fl and I still miss my home in St Louis but have very nice memories of my time there.

  4. I dont recall Laleeta but I am sure I would remember her. I granduated from McBride in 1940 and from grade school in 1946 at Our Lady of Presentation school

  5. I’ll never forget McCarty’s Studio. My Mom was a classmate of one of the McCarty brothers. She grew up in what was St. John Station back then. McCarty Studios was the photographer of my mom & dad’s wedding. Sadly Mom is no longer with us, but I have some photos of Ritenour’s class reunions, also photographed by McCarty.

    Demolition of this artistic building will be a sad day for me. Not much of the old St. John’s and Charlack remains. The first change at the Brown Rd. & St. Charles Rock Road occurred on the Northeast corner where the Public Service Bus lot was before being torn up for the Kroger store.

  6. this was very interesting.—– the corner of brown rd and st.charles west corner was my fathers grocery store in 1917. the only grocer between Wellston and Brannekys at Lindberg Bd. He died in l933 — end of probition.It was retended for a tavern and beer garden for a few years but did not make it.Rent of 25 amy be too high.

    The Glover farm grocer took over by Al Barth afater that till about 1940-41. RENT 35.00——A furniture stored items far a view years till I took it over for my studio in 1948 when I got married. I was in Navy from 1942to 1945 as photographer in service.

    Building was remolded in 1962. The Photography Studio now is now in the third generation and have a stuio in Creve Coeur also and will be in St. Johns until ???????? TOM McCARTY

  7. Lots of memories will disappear from view if that happens, but not from my mind. Many people don’t remember that my Grandpa had a grocery store there first. My Dad, Gene McCarty, used to deliver the “phoned in” groceries after school. Later, I remember visiting Grandma and sometimes staying overnight where I’d fall asleep listening to those streetcars passing by at the top of the hill in front of the little cottage nearby.

  8. It will be several more months before anything is done. We will still be operating out of our Creve Coeur location at 11200 Olive. 63141 as we have for over 30 years at that location.

  9. Oh, that’s horrible news! McCarty is such a nice building.
    But that is the typical CVS operating platform – build next to a Walgreens. They tried doing it twice in the Central West End, and were shot down both times because of the buildings they wanted to demolish.

    Aren’t there homes on the southeast corner?
    Were they vacant, or just got an offer they couldn’t refuse?

    Thanks for sharing this information.

  10. Sorry to say this, But sometime beginning january 2013 McCarty Studio and adjacent businesses will be torn down to make way for a new CVS Pharmacy. Silly really, as they will be in direct competition with wallgreens just accross the street. The southest corner of brown road and rock road is also going to be razed to accomodate a new McDonalds. So sad!

  11. I had my high school photo taken there in 1969. I still drive by it at least five days a week on the way to and from work.

  12. When I lived in Maryland Heights and worked Downtown STL, days that I wasn’t too tired I would drive home via MLK-Charles Rock Rd as opposed to 70 or 64 just to see what kinds of architecture and urban decay I could spot! I always intended to go back and get a photo of this place as I always thought it was the most adorable little example of mid century modern- I’m so glad you immortalized it here! Keep up the fab work 🙂

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