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Building Records at the Library

November 6, 2016

On one of the recent Saturdays that I volunteered, giving tours at Central Library, I heard from another docent (thanks Cathy!) that the Special Collections librarian was showing some St. Louis City building records that were recently added to the collection. This is just the kind of thing that docents go crazy to see! Cathy had found the date of when her house was built and some other information that she hadn’t known. So, of course, I wanted to see if they had any records on the BAB.

The first step was to look through some binders to find the number of the book that includes the map of our area.


Our records were in this volume. This kind of librarianship is not for the weak!


Then we found the page that shows our lot.


Wilmington Ave was formerly Wilmington Road, Colorado Ave was formerly 9th Street.


Written diagonally across the lot in black ink are two numbers. These are two records that the city documented for the construction and expansion of the building. The BAB is the biggest of the red outlined buildings, of course.


The numbers are references to a specific page in a record’s notebook.


The first record, 57038, is dated November 19, 1913. This is when the building was first constructed. It indicates that the builder was Murch Bros Con’t CC and Odd Fellow Bldg., which I think was the company’s address. 

Murch Bros. Construction Co. was one of the bigger builders in town. They built for Brown Shoe, Shapleigh Hardware, the Mercantile Trust and they built the Orpheum Theatre, among other prominent buildings of the time. In an interesting overlap, Murch also constructed some of the Library’s first branches. They built the Theodore Link designed Barr Branch in 1906 (still in use) and the 1909 Eames & Young designed Crunden Branch (unfortunately demolished in 2005).


The second record, 083057, is dated May 11, 1928, documenting the addition but, unfortunately, not much, else. We think this was the last addition to the building. It is interesting that the interim additions, 1923 and 1925, are not recorded. 

I expect these record books were taken to the job site by the recorders. The handwriting varies from book to book. The big map would have stayed at city hall, carefully updated periodically.  The lettering and the precision ink hand drafting are impressive- a skill that we are losing. These notations would not have been easily corrected if the drafter made a mistake.


The drafter left a notation and date on the bottom corner of each page. The date is long after the dates of the records, so this might have been when the page was retired, maybe?


I’m going to guess that when these maps were actively being used, they wouldn’t have been bound into books. The sheets were probably loose, stored in flat files. It would have been very difficult to make the updates if they were bound. The binding was probably done when they were retired, for easier storage and reference.

Once again, it is amazing what you can find at the Library!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jason permalink
    November 7, 2016 7:43 am

    I’ve been quietly sampling articles about the B.A.B. for a while now, and with each post I think to myself “these people sure are cool”. I’m always inspired by what I read here, and I leave your blog feeling motivated to try new things. All that was missing to make this the best blog ever was a tie-in to the public library.

    Now I have another excuse to visit the amazing downtown library. Maybe I can find some interesting tidbits about the history of my own (little) building. Thank you!

    • Chris Hammer permalink
      November 7, 2016 11:39 am

      Same for me, Sue. Your posts and BAB are so inspirational and motivate me to do something new, including volunteering. Thanks.

    • Sue permalink*
      November 7, 2016 1:21 pm

      Thanks! The best way to find the relevant information is to call ahead and make an appointment with the librarian. That way they can be sure to have a staff person available and have the materials pulled in advance.

  2. Maurine Pruchnicki permalink
    November 7, 2016 7:31 am

    What an interesting find. Now you really have to work to preserve it. Congratulations.

    • Sue permalink*
      November 7, 2016 1:21 pm

      Thanks Mom- there is always more to do!

  3. David Smith permalink
    November 7, 2016 7:03 am

    Very Cool!

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Sue permalink*
      November 7, 2016 1:22 pm

      Your house probably has an interesting history!

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