Cherokee Street's Cinderella Building Finds Its Prince Charming

Categories: Architecture

Photo: Melinda Stewart and Will Liebermann
The Cinderella debuted as a skating rink in 1913 and later served as a movie theater.
The Cinderella Building proudly sits in the middle of the booming Cherokee Street shopping district just west of Jefferson Avenue. It is easily one of the largest buildings around and continues to host a variety of businesses on its first floor. Continuously occupied since its construction, the once grand building underwent a misguided "enhancement" decades ago that defaced its architecturally significant façade. Enter now Will Liebermann, the Cinderella's current owner, who is working to return the building to its original glory.

Photo courtesy of Melinda Stewart and Will Liebermann
The Cinderella Building with its "renovations."
The Cinderella Building began life in 1913 as a skating rink built and operated by Harry and Eugene Freund. Two years later they converted their building into a movie theater, and the Wehrenberg Theater chain purchased the building in 1932, using the second floor as their corporate offices for several decades. As business declined in the 1950s, Wehrenberg closed the theater and left Cherokee Street. While the first floor storefronts remained occupied, the rest of the building fell into disuse until the St. Louis Juvenile Court moved into the office space.

Photo by Chris Naffziger
Terra-cotta detail on Cinderella Building.
The Cinderella Building is a triumph and tribute to the versatile skills and craftsmanship of St. Louis terra cotta in the early 20th century. St. Louis produced millions of bricks to build this city, and the nation, but the role of terra cotta remains less well-documented. Terra cotta (literally "baked earth") consists of clay shaped into ornament and other decorations that is fired in a kiln. Terra cotta, unlike most brick in the city, often then received a coating of glaze in various colors to add personality and finesse to St. Louis buildings. In the case of the Cinderella Building, white glazed terra cotta creates a unified composition that befits its princess namesake. Sadly, as tastes changed in the in 1950s, the first floor's terra-cotta ornament came down, and more "modern," and incongruous, plain white tiles went up in their place.

Go to the next page to see the rebirth:

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