Before Lumen

The long and winding history of our building, from T.S. Eliot to Automobile Row

A little over a century ago, Locust Street in Saint Louis was formally known as “Automobile Row.” This historic street was once filled with car dealerships, auto part stores and showrooms. It was also once a charming residential area packed with commotion as well. One of the most famous people to ever come from this area is T. S. Eliot who grew up at 2635 Locust. He is most famous for his father being the founder of Washington University and for being a remarkable author. Eliot wrote the book, “The Waste Land”. The Waste Land changes voices and locations frequently. It contains lines in German and mantras in Sanskrit. It references to Homer, the Bible, Aldous Huxley, Sophocles, Dante, and even Buddha. The Waste Land is a significant achievement. It’s impossible to not admire the beauty of Eliot’s style. Today there is a plaque at the location where he was raised and many people take bike tours through this part of town to admire it.

Not only was Locust Street a home for many and automobile central, its buildings were also built by famous architects. The man who designed 2201 Locust Street was named John L. Wees and he known for his stunningly ornate buildings. According to the Missouri History Museum this building, originally home to a Packard dealership and show room, this elaborate building remains startling despite the loss of its cornice. The Missouri Packard Motor Car Company building was built in 1913 to house O. L. Halsey Packard Palace. It was the first and longest Packard dealership in St. Louis, and originally housed Halsey automobile showroom, a warehouse and car body storage spaces. Packard was the ultimate luxury automobile during the first few decades of the 20th century, gaining fame as the car of the Astors, the Rockefellers, and the Vanderbilts. Halsey Palace included car body storage because Packard were usually sold with two bodies, a winter and summer. Customers would come in seasonally to get their bodies changed out and could rent a space to store the off-season body until it was needed. Its second owner, the Berry Auto Company, continued selling Packard from 1925 into the 1950s – a remarkably long run for Automobile Row. Today the show room is an events venue called Lumen Private Event Space, with condominiums above it.