2347 Virginia Ave., c.1870

2347 Virginia Ave., c.1870

The Tower Grove East neighborhood is bounded by Shenandoah on the north, Nebraska and Gravois on the east and south, and South Grand on the west.

The neighborhood was originally part of La Petite Prairie, which was settled by the French in the early 1700s. Grazing land was held in common, and farming land was divided into long narrow tracts. The commons system was abandoned around 1800, and the land began to be sold into private hands. By the 1850s much of the property was owned by German Catholics, recent immigrants from Germany’s 1848 civil war. The German dairy farmers found it ideal as pasture land. They built comfortable homes and began creating a community toward the end of the 1800s. Blocks were developed, upon which many of the prosperous German immigrants built grand homes.

The owners and builders in the early days of Tower Grove East were for the most part siblings, cousins and extended family members of the prominent Germans living in Compton Heights. Thus architectural trends originating in Compton Heights and Flora Place influenced the designs of homes on South Compton, Shenandoah and several of the other residential avenues. Like Tower Grove Heights, these residences were built on the four-square plan.

Entrance Gate, Tower Grove Park Grand Ave. and Halliday, c. 1870

Entrance Gate, Tower Grove Park Grand Ave. and Halliday, c. 1870

The typical house is a pyramid or hipped roof on a two-story cube. Often, a pressed brick or limestone course separates the stories. The original developers then varied the theme through detail choices. Attention was heavily focused on the entry, cornice and windows. Buyers would often choose the architectural elements from pattern books that illustrated multiple styles of windows, doors, stairways and fireplace mantels. Thus the interiors of the homes in Tower Grove East are full of surprises. The often austere exterior facades typically hide a wealth of richly designed entries with carved fretwork; built-in hall benches, mirrors and bookcases; wood paneling; stained-glass windows and elaborate staircases.