HISTORICAL POSTCARDS OF SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI
St. Louis Street
St. Louis Street began as an Indian trail before the Springfield area was settled. The Old White River Trace was its first name followed by St. Louis Road and eventually St. Louis Street. It, along with Boonville and East Walnut became one of the leading residential streets of Springfield. Some of the prominent Springfieldians who built fine homes on St. Louis Street were John S. Phelps, whose house burned during the Civil War and was not rebuilt, Josiah Keet, Charles Holland, the Sheppards, the Kimbroughs and W.T. Bigbee.
St. Louis Street begins on the east side of the Public Square and continues east to the city limits of Springfield. It has the distinction of being the only street in Springfield ever paved with wooden blocks. This was an experiment that was considered a failure because bulges and rough spots in the pavement resulted when water swelled the blocks. It was repaved using more traditional materials in the 1930s.
In 1926 St. Louis Street was designated as part of United States Highway 66, better known as Route 66. Drivers traveling Route 66 west through Springfield would turn south on Glenstone to St. Louis, proceed through the square to College and continue out of town. Later the West Bypass and Kearney Street were built and St. Louis Street became the Route 66 Business Route.
The coming of Route 66 changed the character of St. Louis Street from an upper-class residential street to a business center. A few commercial buildings preceded the coming of Route 66, such as the Shrine Mosque built in 1922 at the northeast corner of St. Louis and Kimbrough and the Lohmeyer-Windle Funeral Home built in 1923. But it was after 1925 that significant commercial development began to change the character of the street. The Shockley Tire Store (later Firestone) was built in 1925 and was followed by the Kentwood Arms Hotel, Sears, the Don-Lo Drive-In and many other businesses.
The street began a decline that continued through the 1960s. St. Louis Street near the Square is currently an important part of the new Jordan Valley Park.