Monday, January 7, 2019

Old Customs House St. Louis

There are so many gorgeous historic buildings to sketch in downtown St. Louis. Coming from Central Florida where strip malls seem to dominate our landscape, it was such a treat to have so many choices when it came to sketching classic architecture.

Located at 815 Olive Street, the Old Customs House and Post Office (OPO), was designed by architects Alfred B. Mullett, William Appleton Potter, and James G. Hill, and was constructed between 1873 and 1884. It is one of four surviving Federal office buildings designed by Mullett.

One of the stories surrounding the construction of the OPO is that it was built on quicksand.  In 1873, while the workers were digging the foundation, they struck a large rolling bed of quicksand. Several hundred men worked to stem the flow of the quicksand and only succeeded after driving pine support beams deep into the bedrock, then packing 500 bales of cotton around the beams, and covering it with four feet of limestone concrete slabs. 

The third floor of building was occupied by the U.S District Court until 1935, when it moved to new quarters at 12th and Market streets. The Post Office remained until 1970, occupying the main basement and the first floor. A number of Federal agencies were housed on the fourth floor.

Someone walking by told me that On March 15, 1884, General William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the great Civil War heroes, presided over the dedication of the building. At the time, the building also served as a storage site for up to $4 million in gold bullion.  In January 2006, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, moved its offices to the OPO.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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