The initial structure built in 1786 on the site where the Raeder Place Building now stands was the home of Jacques Clamorgan, who purchased the land from Native Americans for a yoke of oxen, a cow and two sows. Clamorgan, a notorious fur trader, was a leader of the Commercial Company, which was chartered by Spain in 1794 to explore and develop trade in the Northwest and in Santa Fe.
Clamorgan built a small house on the property and lived there until he sold it to Pierre Chouteau in 1788. Chouteau, the owner of the Missouri Fur Company, was the son of Auguste Chouteau who, along with Pierre Laclede Ligueste, founded the city of St. Louis.
Thomas Brady, an early St. Louis merchant, later acquired the property from Pierre Chouteau. He resided there until he began construction of the Missouri Hotel in 1819.
Thomas Brady built the Missouri Hotel on the corner of what was then Main and Morgan. The firm of Hill & Keese constructed the building and it soon became the principal hotel in the city. It was a two story stone structure, built in the Old French style. The building was so spacious that the first Missouri Territorial Legislature convened there under the first state constitution in September 1820, the year before Missouri was admitted to the Union. The first governor, Alexander McNair, and the first lieutenant governor, William Ashley, were inaugurated in the hotel. David Barton and Thomas Hart Benton, the first United States senators, were also elected there.
The old Missouri Hotel was for many years the place chosen for banquets and for balls. It was in the hotel that his fellow citizens entertained Senator Barton with a grand dinner when he returned from making his great speech in the Senate. Gen. William Henry Harrison, our 9th President, Gen. Zachary Taylor, our 12th President and Gen. Winfield Scott, who ran unsuccessfully for President, were guests at the Missouri Hotel. In the hotel many duels were planned, challenges framed and councils held to meet and prepare for duels. Most duels were held on Bloody Island, an island in the Mississippi that was eliminated when young lieutenant, Robert E. Lee, redesigned the St. Louis harbor.
After Thomas Brady’s death in 1822 the hotel was sold to Major Thomas Biddle, who built an addition to increase the number of rooms. Major Biddle hired a professional hotelkeeper, who opened the hotel with the newest equipment and appointments, which made it the premier hotel of the Mississippi valley. Major Biddle was killed in a duel in 1831.
The hotel had several more owners. The last owner was Christian Peper who bought the building in 1873. Peper had the hotel razed and replaced with the Christian Peper Tobacco Company Building.
Christian Peper hired architect, Frederick W. Raeder, to build the structure according to Peper’s own ideas and especially adapted to the processing and sale of tobacco. The construction began in 1873 and was completed in 1874, the same year the construction of the nearby Eads Bridge was completed. Since there were many ironworkers in St. Louis working on the Eads Bridge, the building was designed with a cast-iron front and cast-iron columns on the inside for structural support. The six-story iron front is light and open with an extraordinary proportion of window area for the period, a desirable effect made possible only by the use of iron. The simple, restrained Victorian detail of the ironwork shows Eastlake characteristics. The original windows of the east facade have wood frames, the north wall of the building, on Morgan Street, is made of brick with stone trim. The internal structure of the building used cast iron columns carrying wood framing.
According to an 1889 picture of the building, except for the removal of the cornices, the Peper/Raeder Building is intact from the time of its construction.
G. E. Kidder Smith lists Raeder Place in the Source Book of American Architecture, 500 Notable Buildings from the 10th Century to the Present. Published in 1996 by Princeton Architectural Press.
The building has been renamed for its architect, Frederick William Raeder. Raeder was born in 1832 in Coblenz, Germany. He studied architecture and engineering for five years in Darmstadt, Karlsruhe and Berlin before coming to this country in the 1850s. After working on the Crystal Palace in New York, an important iron and glass structure of 1853 inspired by the Crystal Palace in London, he gained design experience as an engineer with several railroads. In 1867 Raeder was living in St. Louis, and had built an important architectural practice designing numerous schools and churches. Later, he specialized in industrial architecture and by the 1890s was designing grain elevators, breweries, and large factories. From 1871 to 1878 he was a Professor of Architecture at Washington University.
Christian Peper was born on February 16, 1826 in Hille, Prussia. After his father died, he immigrated to America at the age of thirteen with his mother and four siblings. The family settled near Cincinnati in Covington, Kentucky. When he was sixteen, Christian Peper was managing his mother’s farm. He drove into the city from time to time to market produce. Studying the supply and demand of the city people, he came to the conclusion that a crop of butter beans could be very profitable. He went home and told his mother that the next year he was going to raise all the butter beans he could. The result of the experiment was between six and seven hundred dollars profit. In 1844, at the age of eighteen and with this capital, Christian Peper came to St. Louis and worked in a grocery store at Sixth and Wash Streets. He saved the money he earned and eventually bought the store, the ground and the building. That property was still owned by Mr. Peper at the time of his death.
With the profits of the grocery business Christian Peper bought the southwest comer of First and Morgan and built a six-story tobacco warehouse. While excavating for the building the workmen uncovered chambers carved in the limestone during the colonial period, presumably for refuge in case of attack, or perhaps for the storage of fur pelts, before they were transported on the Mississippi River.
Mr. Peper realized the opportunity Missouri had to become a great leaf tobacco producing state. He spent thousands of dollars in efforts to encourage Missouri farmers to improve the tobacco to their own advantage. He freely distributed many hundreds of pounds of seed which cost from $2.40-$4.00 a pound. He wanted the Missouri farmers to grow burley tobacco but they wanted to grow the old style, yellow prior grades. Kentucky farmers opted to grow burley tobacco. The tobacco industry in Missouri languished. St. Louis lost an industry, which might have been of great value, and was left to do a reduced trade with England and Spain. In the sections of Missouri adapted to tobacco growing, the farmers finally realized what Kentucky farmers had accomplished and began to grow burley. Mr. Peper’s investment in the tobacco industry began to pay off as the improved crops came to market. For a third of a century, daily auctions of leaf tobacco produced by the farmers and brought in by country dealers were held in this warehouse. These sales were called “brakes” and were attended by foreign and domestic buyers of tobacco.
Christian Peper was involved in many successful businesses for fifty-two years without a partner. After his retirement, his generosity to St. Louis and St. Louisians was represented by his donations of over $1,200,000. That amount had been given, without expecting a dollar of return, to benefit St. Louis, through assistance to other businessmen and through gifts to various charities. He gave generously to orphanages, but he especially delighted in anonymous charitable acts.
Christian Peper died in 1903 and many people came to morn him. Many businessmen said “We owe everything we have to that man- he started us in business and stood by us. We owe everything to him.”
When Mr. Peper died he was survived by five children and five grandchildren.
In 1976-1977 the architectural firm of Kimble A. Cohn & Associates took on the task of renovating the Raeder Place Building. They planned to make a National Historic Landmark into a luxury, multi-tenant office/showroom center, which would compete with the newest office centers in the region. As the ‘lead’ development in a prominent historic district, they planned to establish a strong visual and circulation focus for the neighborhood which would communicate ‘New St. Louis’.
After the renovation and restoration was completed the Raeder Place Building was selected best of 135 buildings designed by members of the American Institute of Architects in the 36h Annual Central States Regional Award Competition in 1981. The building, selected for the first of three “Excellent” Awards, was the lead project for the renovation of the Laclede’s Landing area, and was the recipient in 1980 of the Craftsmanship Award by the St. Louis Chapter, AIA and in 1979 the first in the Tri-enniel Producers Council Award Program.
Laclede’s Landing consists of nine city blocks. it is the only surviving portion of the street pattern laid out in the original survey for St. Louis, which grew up around the trading post established in 1763 by Pierre Laclede Ligueste and Auguste Chouteau. The grid system established in the 1780 survey was reminiscent of town planning in New Orleans, i.e., regular, rectangular superblocks knit together by narrow, 32-foot streets with ;the only expansion at a commercial center reserved for a church and its traditionally associated market.
St. Louis was a planned town, not a chance growth around a mission, not a gathering place of frontiersmen, not a boatmen’s landing, not a backwoods settlement. From its earliest days it was a commercial center and a seat of government.
The 1803 signing of the Louisiana Purchase brought Anglo-American culture to St. Louis. Streets were renamed Main, Second, and Third, and brick replaced earlier building materials. While growth in the frontier town proceeded at a leisurely pace, the self-contained homesteads of Laclede’s Landing began to be removed for transitional hotel and commercial functions. The Missouri Hotel was completed in 1819 and soon other hotels and inns began to appear on adjacent blocks.
Steamboats, introduced to St. Louis in 1817, provided regular service linking the Mississippi Valley to the Ohio River system. New wharf and warehouse concentrations mushroomed along the river on both sides of the old French village. Soon steamboats brought the first major influx of European immigrants and transformed a frontier town into a cosmopolitan, commercial center of national importance. Many of these immigrants were to play an important role in the development of Laclede’s Landing.
By 1840 Laclede’s Landing included a mill, a foundry, commercial shops, and owners’ places of residence. As the economic lifeblood of the city, the levee was a place of business, and the Laclede’s Landing area was lined with steamboats.
In 1849 the steamboat “White Cloud” caught fire, igniting four other boats and spreading rapidly through fifteen square blocks just south of the landing area. The first detailed drawing of the city after the tragedy shows the riverfront completely rebuilt. Pre-fabricated, iron-fronted building, cast-iron skeletons, and iron pillars, railings, shutters, and ornamental details manufactured in St. Louis help to make recovery possible almost overnight.
Virtually dependent on the river traffic, St. Louis suffered serious economic problems during the Civil War, due to blockades down river. In the decade immediately following, however, the city emerged as the fourth largest in the nation, and Laclede’s Landing assumed much of its present form and character. By 1875 most of the present buildings on Laclede’s Landing had been constructed.
In 1954, Siegfried Giedion in Space, Times and Architecture; The Growth of a New Tradition, recognized the St. Louis waterfront as an equal to New York City’s “Cast-Iron District” in the number and quality of commercial buildings employing this particular design technique. However, since the time of Giedion’s publication, most of the St. Louis waterfront has been lost. The only exception is Laclede’s Landing.
Laclede’s Landing area is now being utilized to preserve the nineteenth century commercial character of this portion of the old St. Louis waterfront.
First Morgan (314-726-0000), a limited liability company, owned by Jerome Glick, purchased the property in October 1994 from Goldome Credit Corporation which had acquired the building as a result of foreclosure.
At that time the building was approximately 35% occupied and had been neglected for a number of years. Raeder Place Building is currently 93% occupied with all systems operational and upgraded, including energy management systems and cutting-edge fiber optic communications.
First Morgan has restored Raeder Place Building to its former glory and it has once again become one of the prime office buildings on Laclede’s Landing and downtown St. Louis.
On April 30, 1998 in a ceremony officiated by Charlie Brennan of KMOX Radio. Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan dedicated a new plaque extolling the history of Raeder Place and the earlier buildings on First and Morgan Street.