The Spivey Building: East St. Louis' First and Only Skyscraper

Categories: Architecture

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Christina Rutz via Flickr
The Spivey Building in downtown East St. Louis.
East St. Louis, Illinois, doesn't appear in many architectural guidebooks, but it should. Located just across the river from downtown St. Louis, the city boasts some of the most interesting architecture in the whole region. While much of the city's building stock has fallen victim to neglect and demolition, parts of East St. Louis' downtown remains intact, awaiting the day when prosperity returns to the city and the abandoned buildings find new use. Hopefully that day will come before the wrecking ball does.

Originally known as Illinoistown, the history of East St. Louis stretches back to Native American settlements near Cahokia Mounds. It wasn't until after the Civil War, however, that the city really took off as St. Louis' industrial titans began to relocate factories to the east side of the Mississippi River. East St. Louis' leadership proved more lax and accommodating than those west of the river, allowing robber barons to found independent towns such as National City, Alorton and Monsanto (modern-day Sauget) to avoid paying taxes. For a century the deal worked, as East St. Louis benefited from the income its citizens earned at the neighboring stockyards and industries.

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The Journal Building in downtown East St. Louis. | Chris Naffziger
As East St. Louis' population rose to 80,000 people in the twentieth century, beautiful buildings sprang up on Collinsville Avenue and the adjacent streets of downtown. On Missouri Avenue, A.T. Spivey purchased the East St. Louis Journal in 1915; in the coming decades, he would reap huge profits from the newspaper. But in boisterous (and often violent) East St. Louis, bravado ruled in the tough arenas of politics and business. Spivey soon realized his dream to reshape the city's skyline needed a grand gesture, one that would permanently put his name on the streetscape of East St. Louis.

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Christina Rutz via Flickr
The perfect solution? Spivey would build East St. Louis' first and only skyscraper next to the offices of the Journal. In 1925 he purchased the lot next door to his newspaper offices. Were property values in downtown East St. Louis really so exorbitant that a skyscraper made good financial sense? Not really, but Spivey nonetheless turned to Albert B. Frankel, a local architect, to design his new edifice. William Wimmer, a local builder, would become the general contractor. The name of the new vanity building? The Spivey Building, of course.

Continue to read more about Spivey's dream building.


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16 comments
Couch Pig
Couch Pig

like people want cheap office space in the hood...

Couch Pig
Couch Pig

The recent plans for the Spivey Building reportedly are to spend $6.2 million ($4 million of it from the city and state, not including federal tax credits) to convert the building into “high end” office space. The building now sits, desolate and decrepit, in a downtown area where all the store buildings I remember from my youth remain, but they are unused and abandoned.

John Null
John Null

I doubt all those highways tearing through its neighborhoods did much to actually help it.

Keith Richter
Keith Richter

East St. Louis was a beautiful city. Started decaying in the mid 60's.

David Biernbaum
David Biernbaum

Is the building abandoned? What was the building used for when it was built, and then later? I'm not so sure from reading the article. Thanks though, this is an interesting building to look at.

Tyrone
Tyrone

It needs long strands of weaves on the walls, a gold grille around the doorways, and more gang graffiti near the roof. 

That would help remove the last vestiges of the White Man from this quintessential  African American village. 

Come to think of it, this building does not reflect the past, it is a picture postcard of the future of what nearby downtown St. Louis and St. Louis County will be. 

Robert L Massie Sr
Robert L Massie Sr

And I'm not talking about saplings. I mean real trees! Been there a while!

Lace King
Lace King

Indeed, the Majestic Theatre. But speaking of crazy, abandoned things. SLU should be ashamed that they have left an entire college campus--from classrooms to dorms to flight simulators to everything inbetween--abandoned in Cahokia! It's fun to go to as an "urban explorer," but it's absolutely disgusting that such a rich organization would leave this huge campus derelict as a health hazard and eyesore.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Impressive! A little spackle and some napalm and this place would make a nice mausoleum.

Robert L Massie Sr
Robert L Massie Sr

Isn't there an abandoned ornate theater in ESL's downtown that literally has trees growing on its roof?

Saul
Saul

@wump @Tyrone  

wump ..... your choice of language reflects poorly on the urban black man. Get a dictionary you fucking mental midget.

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