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Ghost Sign on Centene Center for the Arts

January 27, 2010

Today, while reading Misfit Stream, a great River des Peres resource (there is so much information out there about this river), I stumbled upon a historic photograph with a familiar looking building – the Continental Life.

Olive looking towards Grand in the 1960s(?)

Just above and to the left of the bowling pin on the right side of this photo is a painted sign for the INTL ASSN of Machinists.  This same sign is still visible today on what is now the Centene Center for the Arts.

Centene Center for the Arts - Grand Center

Although it is quite faded, the wording is still fairly legible at the right side of this photo.  The harsh juxtaposition of a busy, dense, street with one that is now all but abandoned is a little bit sad, but it should inspire us to restore Grand Center into an area that better reflects its Grand history.

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3 comments

  1. Hmm, considering all of the automibile dealerships which once were nearby, I wonder if that local represented those workers (mechanics, etc.), or maybe just the regional HQ. Perhaps there were many machine shops or one large machine shop nearby. Ooh, howsaboot the old Carter Carberator plant north on Grand? Lots of machinists and related trades there. Probably a couple of thou at the height of its existence. That would fit just fine.


    • Very interesting. I have been googling for a moment and just found this STL Business Journal article from 2005 which goes into the building’s history in a little more depth. Here is the final paragraph of that article which at least eliminates the Locust Auto Row as a reason for this location (of course Carter Carburetor Corp. is still a big draw in the area that can’t have hurt):

      Part of the building dates from the 1880s when it was a dance academy. The building was expanded in 1907 as offices for the Knights of Columbus, which built the gothic facade now visible from the street. The International Association of Machinists union purchased the building in 1952. It was vacant by the 1970s. Some years later it was bought by the Medinah Temple, a fraternal organization, which sold the property to Grand Center in 1991.


  2. Hmm, it may have been utilised as a gathering hall, rather than a local. That would make sense, since there must be a large room capable of holding several hundred people, something which both the academy and KC would have needed. I should have looked up the proper spelling of carburator…oops. The theater co. my wife works for was mulling over moving here (at reduced rent) back a few years ago. I’ll ask her if she remembers any discussion of a hall or ballroom. The building was just completing the reno at the time.



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