Timecapsule Thursday: Red Kate

This article originally ran in the January 2005 issue of the Shaw Neighborhood Newsletter.  Photo attributions are updated.

Red Kate Kindles Shaw

By Cara Jensen

I believe there might be an extra spark in the Shaw air to inspire people into activism.  How poignant that we have a notorious example in our past – socialist activist Kate Richards O’Hare resided at 3955 Castleman from 1913 to 1917.


Touted as the most radical public figure in pre-World War I St. Louis, “Red Kate” spoke for victims of oppression, especially poor working women, and against entrenched economic and political interests.  She worked tirelessly with local progressives for social change, but unlike most middle-class women she did cast her reform agenda in pa

image via Hathitrust library

rtisan terms.  O’Hare was a socialist and editor of the National Rip-Saw, a socialist monthly published in St. Louis.



In 1910, Kate O’Hare ran for a congressional seat on the Socialist ballot, and in 1913 she represented the party at the Second International in London. In 1917, as chair of the party’s Committee on War and Militarism, she spoke coast-to-coast against U.S. entry into World War I.  She was indicted under the Federal Espionage Act and imprisoned in the Missouri State Penitentiary with fellow activist Emma Goldman. In 1920, as the culmination of a nationwide campaign by socialists and civil libertarians, her sentence was commuted; she later received a full pardon from President Calvin Coolidge.

O’Hare’s distress over conditions for female prisoners sparked a life-long crusade for penal reform.  After leaving St. Louis, she became assistant director of the California Department of Penology where she implemented prison reform at San Quentin.  Kate O’Hare was also active in Upton Sinclair’s 1934 “End Poverty in California” campaign for the governorship.

image via All Empires History forum

Kate Richards O’Hare raised her young family in the Shaw neighborhood. She spent those years firming her ideals and beliefs and left the community stronger than when she arrived.  I honor the spirit of Red Kate, who leaves a legacy to inspire subsequent generations of Shaw activists.

Timecapsule Thursday: Lester’s Music Building

So glad that Mrs. Lester fought to keep the building at 39th and Castleman – imagine what a thriving business district we might have had if more people had done the same!  The priority for destroying commercial and retail in favor of creating a ‘bedroom community’- like neighborhood in Shaw seems sadly shortsighted now.

23 May 1988 Lesters
23 May 1988 Post-Dispatch

Is this Gothic Farmhouse the Oldest Shaw Residence?

via Google maps

Every time I drive down Shaw Avenue, this tiny house whispers to me -almost hidden behind the large apartment building on the corner of Spring and Shaw, its gothic architecture and wooden siding seems an anomaly among the bricks and mortar of its neighbors.

I know from my extensive peering at neighborhood census records that there were houses along Shaw Ave.  that predated the platting of the rest of the neighborhood.  Could this one be a remnant from that era?  My curiosity got the better of me once again…

Compton & Dry's Pictorial St. Louis,1875, Plate 67

Here is an image from Compton & Dry’s 1875 Pictorial St. Louis that shows the area in question.  This is the corner of Grand and Shaw looking west – notice the Compton Heights reservoir (the water tower wasn’t built until 1898).  According to the key on the plate – the houses belong to (starting in the upper left along Shaw)a  M.N. Burchard (#1), Fred Holmes (#2), then on the NW corner of Shaw and Grand is N.C. Hudson (#3), north of that is J.G. Butler (#4), and the large building (demolished for Hwy 44) is the Episcopal Orphans Home.  Notice that Shaw Place has not been constructed yet.  (The oval drive was platted in 1879)

I am interested in #1 house – owned by Burchard.  In 1878, Mortimer Burchard is listed as living on Shaw avenue west of Grand; the 1880 US Census lists him as living on Shaw Avenue, and in 1885 he remains listed on the NW corner of Shaw/Cabanne (currently Spring).  According to this bio in the Book of Chicagoans (1905), Mortimer left St. Louis for Chicago in 1888.

Between 1885 and 1900 records are a bit sparse.  (there is no 1890 Census) However, in the 1900 Census, 3801 Shaw was RENTED  to a widow Francesca von Fragstein, her two children, parents Carl and Sophia Richter, an Austrian servant and two boarders – must have been crowded!

MU Ellis Library Special Collections Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection

Take a look at the 1903 Sanborn fire maps for this area and note the location of our house in question.  It is on the corner of (now) Spring and Shaw and listed as 3801 Shaw.  Notice that DeTonty does not go through from Spring to 39th (then listed as S. Vandeventer)

So let me jump forward.  The reason I believe the house now located at 3809 Shaw is the house built by Mortimer Burchard is due to the 1920 US Census AND a chance building permit discovery.  So I was researching a house on the 3800 block of DeTonty (the same city block as the house in question) and came across an interesting building permit listing.  In 1910, a house was moved from 3801 Shaw to 3809 Shaw (at a cost of $800) to make way for the construction of an apartment complex.  Ok, that explains the shift of 3801 Shaw to the west.  The von Fragsteins, who were listed on that building permit, are still renting at 3801 Shaw in the 1910 Census with the additional spouses and children of the former children, the loss of the Richters, the same Austrian servant and a boarder.  By 1920, all the von Fragsteins had moved to Lake Co. Illinois.

Back home in 1920 St. Louis, 3809 Shaw (formerly our corner house) was inhabited and listed as owned by widower Mary LeDuc, her sister Julia Warne, and a border Hattie Chase.  Doing a bit of sleuthing unearthed the fact that Mary LeDuc, Julia Warne, and the wife of Mortimer Burchard, Jennie Garrison Warne, were SISTERS.   So in 1920, a house which is suspected to be owned by Mortimer Burchard in the turn of the century ends up housing his wife’s sisters?  Bingo – amazing.

Without verifying the deed research (which I will next time I visit City Hall), I would highly suspect that the house at 3809 Shaw is indeed the oldest residence in the neighborhood by at least 15 years and should be put on the National Register.  I would love to know if anyone has more lore about this Shaw treasure and will definitely be keeping my eye on our Gothic gem!

via Google map


Who lived on the 4100 block of DeTonty?

The 4100 block of the Shaw neighborhood in St. Louis has been slated for redevelopment since I have lived in the neighborhood (10 years).  I am hopeful to see this post from the Shaw housing corporation about a new plan for development this year:

According to the developer, Courtney Mcray, the historic tax credit application has been submitted, financing is in place and work should begin shortly.

The first phase will rehabilitate the building located at 4100 DeTonty. The completed building will be listed at around $150,000 as an affordable housing unit which will have an income requirement. The home will be completely renovated and include 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. The home will be about 2200 sq. ft. The home will have hardwood floors, an open kitchen, second floor laundry, walk out porch, etc. The home will also have a two car garage.

In addition, two NEW construction townhouses will be built on lots 5/6 (approximately) on DeTonty. The homes will be around 2200 sq. ft. Pricing to be determined. The homes will have a large open floor plan with a kitchen, breakfast area and family room all combined. The home will have 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. The home will have a large master suite with 2 walk-in closets and a large master bath.

Once the rehabilitated home is complete and sold and the two townhouses are complete and sold, multiple single family units are planned to fill in the gap. Long term, additional townhouses and single family homes are planned for the remaining lots to the west.

Thanks to Alderman Conway and CDA for working on the project.

Being in the business that I am, and being a curious person, I decided to find some of the people who lived, worked and played on these now vacant lots:

  • Herman Leslie Marten and his wife Pearl Blanche lived at 4100 DeTonty.  Herman was a salesman for the Thompson Biscuit Company and died of leukemia in 1945 at the age of 59.
  • Greek immigrant and restaurant owner Vasilios Millonas lived at 4112 DeTonty.
  • Mrs. Augusta Mallery slipped on a rug and broke her left femur at 4118 DeTonty – she died from her injuries.
  • 4160 DeTonty was home to Russian-born Albert Zasslow, who died of a skull fracture from a truck accident at the corner of Olive and 18th on June 19, 1952.
  • Twice-widowed Bertha Drabelle lived at 4174 DeTonty – she was a stenographer for the City of St. Louis Building Division
  • WWI veteran and Wright Chemical Company salesman Cornelius O’Hare lived at 4176 DeTonty.

This gives you a taste of the working-class neighborhood that was the 4100 block of Detonty – hope you enjoy this snippet of history as much as I have enjoyed unearthing it!