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If Our Walls Could Talk

by Rebecca DeZeeuw

Full-time working professionals spend much of their lives at the office, and it just so happens that our “work home” at Lawrence Group comes with a quite the history beyond its architectural framework.

Daniel Catlin, a wealthy tobacco magnate and largest holder of downtown business realty, bought the parcel at 319 N. 4th Street in the 1880s and formed a syndicate of important downtown figures to commission a grand office building for the site. They viewed their undertaking as a personal monument expressive of their wealth, status, taste and civic spirit. Named the Security Building, it was constructed in the 1890s by the design of renowned Architects Peabody, Stearns and Furber. It was one of 30 tall office buildings in St. Louis of late 19th Century design, of which few remain today. It survived massive urban renewal programs which removed almost all of the historic 4th Street financial district and remains one of the finest example of office interiors from that era.

An early tenant of the building was State National Bank. Other financial institutions gravitated to the area and 4th Street soon became known as “St. Louis’s Wall Street.” Another famous tenant occupying the Security Building was The Noonday Club. Formed in 1893 for elite St. Louis businessmen, The Noonday Club provided daily opportunities for men to socialize, dine, drink and smoke. The 10th and 11th floors were custom-designed for this organization and originally consisted of a main dining room, library and billiard room.  They occupied the Security Building until the 1960s.

According to The Noonday Club, it was in one of their private dining rooms in 1927 where four club members made plans to financially back Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh’s historic 33.5 hour nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris. Several pilots had died trying, and no one had succeeded by 1927. Member Harold Bixby of State National Bank, who also sat on the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, persuaded Lindbergh to name his airplane “the Spirit of St. Louis.”

There are many documented instances of Lindbergh visiting the Security Building before and after his famous flight. In his autobiography, Lindbergh recalled how he thanked his financial backers here before taking off for Paris.

“I circle once, and point my nose toward St. Louis – I promised to fly over the business district before landing. The city shows clear today, its streets like rule lines. The west wind has carried off the usual pall of smoke. There’s the bump of office buildings that mark the downtown section. There’s Harry Knight’s brokerage firm. There’s Bixby’s State National Bank – I nose down and fly close to the flagpoles, so everyone there will hear my engine.”

Today, Lawrence Group remains committed to the preservation of this local landmark. We occupied the space in 1993. The building was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2000, and Lawrence Group bought the property in 2003, renovating it and achieving the first LEED Silver designation in the State of Missouri. So the next time you’re out and about downtown, pop in to our “work home” at 319 N. 4th Street to take in all of the beauty and history that we breathe in every day.


 This blog was posted by Christina Clagett while serving as a design professional at Lawrence Group.