St. Louis couthouse with the St. Louis arch in the background.

St. Louis architecture probably contains the largest ecclesiastical architecture in the nation. In this article, we explore some of the most famous architecture in the city.

A little About The City

St. Louis is the 2nd largest city in Missouri. It sits near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and is home to the iconic Gateway Arch. Named after the then king of France, Louis IX, the city is also referred to as “The Gateway to the West”.

The city is an aesthetically beautiful midwestern metropolis filled with street-level green spaces, historic structures, and contemporary culture. The environment around the city shapes the community and reflects the past. Buildings from different eras that represent the past, merge on the St. Louis streets, forming a historic continuum.

Types of Design Influences in St. Louis Architecture

St. Louis exhibits a variety of monumental, commercial, and residential architecture throughout the city. With design influences that range from French Second Empire and French Colonial to German, Victorian, and European influenced, and from early American to modern architectural styles displayed all over.

Prominent Architects Who Contributed to the City’s Artistic Structures

Distinguished architects who have built some of the best architecture in St. Louis include:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright was the designer of the house of Russell and Ruth Clark in Ebsworth Park.
  • Theodore Link, not only designed Union Station but also his own residence located on West Cabanne Place.
  • Leopold Eidlitz designed the St. Louis Christ Church Cathedral between 1859 and 1867.
  • Harris Armstrong and Eames & Young, George I. Barnett also contributed to some building designs in St. Louis.
  • Henry Isaac designed the Pilgrim Congregational Church and Odd Fellows Hall.
  • Thomas Walsh designed the Municipal Courts Building and the Lindell Hotel.
  • Thomas Annan and Francis Lee designed the second Merchants Exchange.
  • Theodore Link designed Union Station.
  • Meriwether Lewis Clark designed the St. Louis Theater
  • Henry Spence designed the huge Planters Hotel.

Great Architecture in St. Louis

The Gateway Arch

The world-famous Gateway Arch is a 630-ft monument built in the 1960s and designed by Eero Saarinen, a German-American structural engineer, and a Finnish-American architect. Not only is the iconic Arch the tallest man-made monument in the world, but it’s also one of the most popular monuments in the nation. Built with stainless steel as an inverted and weighted catenary arch, this famous St. Louis symbol sits at the Mississippi River’s west bank. It forms a spectacular skyline and is the centerpiece of the St. Louis Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

City Museum

The St. Louis City Museum is not just a great sight to see, but it is also something extremely exciting to experience. It features marvelous exhibits that consist of repurposed artifacts from industrial sites and buildings that form an ensemble of slides, bridges, tunnels, and passages you must go through when touring the museum. It launched in 1997 from inside the International Shoe Company forùer warehouse and is currently among the most famous structures in St. Louis, with visitors in the hundreds of thousands lining up each year for the one-hour tour. The museum’s motto is “expect the unexpected”, which is entirely true about this awesome place.

The Saint Louis Cathedral Basilica

The Saint Louis Cathedral Basilica is found on the west side end of the city and is one of the best churches in the United States. It was completed in 1914 and was dedicated to the King of France, Saint Louis, in the 13th century, whom the city is also named after.

The church was created to replace another church that was dated back to 1834, known as “the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France”. Thus, this newer church was much larger with some of the most amazing artwork inside and is renowned for being one of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest mosaic installations. In its crypt, the church features tombs of some prominent Catholic church members, just like many other churches in Europe.

Old Courthouse

When viewing photos of the iconic Gateway Arch, you will notice a green dome sticking out either in front of it or behind it, depending on which angle the picture was taken. This is the dome of the amazing St. Louis Old Courthouse, a magnificent neoclassical structure built between 1816 and 1864. The copula and dome were inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica, which is among the most famous church buildings in Rome. After it was completed in 1864, the copula stood at 192 feet (59 meters), making it the tallest building in the state of Missouri until 1896 when Union Station was completed. Today, the Old Courthouse displays historic exhibits, and it is one of the Gateway Arch National Park features operated by the National Park Service.

Wainwright Building

The Wainwright Building is a 10-story high red brick office building located in the downtown area of St. Louis, Missouri, at 709 Chestnut Street. Built sometime between 1890 and 1891, and designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler in a Palazzo style, it is one of the world’s first skyscrapers. The building was named after building contractor, financier, and local brewer, Ellis Wainwright. It is listed as both a local and national landmark and described as “a highly influential modern office building prototype by the “National Register of Historic Places”.

Majestic Hotel

The Majestic Hotel, located in St. Louis, Missouri, built-in 1913 through 1914, was originally a Tri-part structure that included a shaft, a capital, and a base, divided by white terra. The Hotel is109 feet tall, nine stories high, includes 72,000 square feet of space, has concrete floors, brick curtain walls, 91 guest rooms, and it sits on a steel frame base. The “National Register of Historic Places” listed the hotel in 1984, and it is also a Historic Hotel of America member, which is the ‘National Trust for Historic Preservation’s” official program.

U.S. Customhouse & Post Office

The Custom House & Post Office is a St. Louis, Missouri courthouse designed by architects James G. Hill, William Appleton Potter, and Alfred B. Mullett, between 1873 and 1884 in a Second Empire architectural style, which was popular during the Civil-War era. Located at Eighth Street and Olive Streets intersection, it is one of the three Federal office buildings left designed by Mullett. The others are the Century Post Office located in Raleigh, N.C. and the “Eisenhower Executive Office Building” located in Washington, D.C. The Other Second Empire buildings designed by Mullett that were located in Cincinnati, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City have been demolished.

St. Louis Architecture is a gem of its own

St. Louis is a great place to see some outstanding buildings. From the massive St. Louis Arch to the Old Courthouse, and all the stops between, any architecture tour of St. Louis is sure to excite architecture enthusiasts.

For St. Louis architecture today, turn to Jimmy O’Loughlin’s team at Budingen Architecture LLC. Whether you’re a homeowner looking for a custom design or a builder looking for a creative, licensed architect, Budingen Architecture is at your service.

Click here to get started and receive a free consultation about your project. We look forward to working with you and contributing more great work to this city!