The Crunden Martin Manufacturing Company is a large, multi-warehouse complex on the corner of Gratiot Street at 1st and 2nd Streets near downtown St. Louis that still stands like the Acropolis along the Mississippi River.
Crunden Martin forms the core of Chateau’s Landing, an industrial and restaurant district just south of the famous Gateway Arch. Originally known as the Crunden-Martin Woodenware Company, the company moved to Chateau’s Landing in 1904. The company made a huge variety of wood and wicker products; everything from mops to chairs to kitchen ware to buckets and a whole lot more, and expanded rapidly through the World War I years.
The complex consists of six buildings and a seventh building connected by a covered bridge two stories over 2nd Street. The first building–Building No. 1–was commissioned in 1904, with the last building–Building No. 7–completed in 1920. The complex was built with generous access to the nearby Iron Mountain Railroad yard, a Missouri Pacific predecessor.
In the 1930s the company expanded to build “metal-ware” and larger items to include refrigerators, and built a large amount of military equipment during World War II.
The images above and below are from Google Earth, and show the multitude of large buildings that made up Crunden Martin. The building at the back, closest to the St. Mary Church and School, was damaged by fire a few years ago. You can make out the collapsed roof.
The company was rail-served for its entire corporate existence. Missouri Pacific had several sidings along the river and a curved track that extended between several of the buildings, and the Manufacturer’s Railway reached the opposite side of the buildings from street track on 2nd Street.
Below. A Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, circa 1960s. North is up; the river is on the right.
Above. Looking north, next to the buildings, industrial tracks wound through the multiple spans leading along the waterfront and across the massive bridge across the Mississippi River. In the heyday of the railroads, even more tracks and warehouses were located in this area. Below is another view of Building No. 1, at right, along the river, with the remnants of the rail docks and doors visible in front.
Prosperity continued into the 1950s and 60s. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1990 and the buildings have been closed ever since, except for the occasional lease for storage. All seven buildings have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2004.
Below is an aerial view from 1956. Note the warehouses and team tracks surrounding the buildings on all sides. Also the curved siding that went through the buildings can be seen.
Crunden Martin provides an ideal prototype location for consigning your model freight cars. Inbound loads of lumber in box cars, gondolas or flat cars would be appropriate, along with inbound loads of lightweight steel sheet, machinery, packing materials, and other items. Outbound loads of finished wooden goods of nearly every type in plain, uninsulated box cars would be standard. Outbound loads of refrigerators and smaller metal stamped goods would also be prototypical accurate. I have not determined if the buildings had their own power plant. A power plant on site would provide additional opportunities for providing coal or perhaps oil.
More photos of the architecture are below. Immediately below are six photos of the Gratiot Street side of the buildings.
This is the only photo I took of the Cedar Street side. There was no rail service on this side of the complex but there are still many interesting doors, loading docks, smokestacks, fire escapes and fixtures to attract your attention.
Next time you’re in St. Louis and are crossing the Poplar Street Bridge on I-44/55/64/70, keep a sharp eye out for Crunden Martin. – John G