The History of The Globe Building (FULL VERSION)


After hosting the 1904 Worlds Fair, St. Louis
found itself experiencing unprecedented growth. And with the 1910 completion of the McKinley
Bridge, rail service to and from Illinois spurred the surge of an already booming industrial
trade. As the Illinois Terminal’s limited infrastructure
became increasingly inadequate, the company commissioned a multi purpose facility through
Moran, Russell, and Crowell, an architectural firm that designed some of downtown St. Louis’
most famous buildings. We discovered some original marketing materials
from the 1920’s where the building was marketed and presented as the “New Midwest Terminal
Building.” Ultimately, it became known as the Illinois
Terminal Building. And that was the company that built it, it was called the Illinois
Terminal Railroad. So much of this was literally hand built,
the piers for the footings were hand dug with buckets and shovels…and each individual
floor was poured concrete, the piers were poured concrete, this building was built to
withstand the ages. And as we stand here today, it really has
stood the test of time. Originally, this was part of a multi-building
complex by the Illinois Terminal Railroad. This was intended to be a freight warehouse,
and just to the south of us was intended to be a passenger terminal as well as the corporate
offices for that Illinois Terminal Railroad. Underneath us was multiple access points for
heavy railroad, light railroad, trolley cars, and even city buses. So where we’re sitting is literally the
hub of lots of logistics and transportation infrastructure that was really important to
the St. Louis of the 1920’s because the city was growing so fast… it was a commercial
hub, a banking hub, and they needed more infrastructure to move goods and people across the country. Although the structure was designed to support
20 floors, the building had just 7 with the option to build upward in the future. So a couple years after construction began
on this project, something changed, something dramatic changed, so that the scale and the
scope of this building were dramatically downsized. We assumed for a long time that that was attributed
to the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Now since then, we have met some other historians who
have told us that there was actually more than that. That there was a senior-level executive at
the Illinois Terminal Railroad who left St. Louis, left the country, left his family,
and left with several million dollars that were slated for this building. And he and
his, uh, companion, uh, moved to South America and the money was never returned. So therefore, in the middle of construction
of this project, most of the money was gone. So the project had to be dramatically scaled
down. At that time they had built up to 7 floors, so they basically capped if off at
7 floors. And the building next door to this building which was to be a passenger terminal
— that was scrapped completely. And then this building became both a freight terminal,
and a passenger terminal at the same time. As St. Louis entered 1933, both freight and
passenger trains began servicing the building. There was also a fascinating use of this building
during the Second World War. Several floors of this building were taken over by the war
department and it became the defense mapping agency. We have blueprints and drawings from
that period of time that show extensive construction and several hundred people working here everyday
on mapping and plotting the logistics for World War Two both in Europe and the Pacific. But eventually street cars began disappearing
as automobiles became more prevalent. Passenger service was officially discontinued
in 1958. So when the building opened in 1933, from
the beginning it was a huge success and really did well until the late 1950’s when railroad
passenger service started to be supplanted with air travel as well as the growing highway
system. So by 1958, all of that railroad activity
had diminished to the point where the building was underutilized. At that stage, one of the local newspapers
here in St. Louis called the St. Louis Globe Democrat was in a building right up the street
and they had a need for more space to accommodate more presses, to accommodate more ink, to
accommodate more paper. This became the perfect location for that,
specifically because of all the railroad access underneath the building. So in 1959, this building went from the Illinois
Terminal Railroad and became the Globe Democrat Building. Certain floors were for the advertising department,
other floors were for the editorial department. And of course there were the huge printing
presses here and the huge barrels of ink which would come in everyday through the railroad
and then all of the newspaper that went out every morning. So the Globe Democrat newspaper thrived in
this building through the 1960’s, through the 1970’s, all the way into the late 1980’s. And at that stage, the newspaper business
started to change. St. Louis, for a variety of reasons, no longer could support two major
daily newspapers, and it was the Globe Democrat that folded up and closed down for business. As the Globe Building found new life at the
turn of the millennium, now, in what used to be St. Louis’ industrialized downtown
with the regions fastest paced companies, we now find a modern day technology hotbed.
And yet again, The Globe Building is at the forefront of a booming industry. So in the mid 1990’s, it was recognized
that this building had all of the elements to make it a perfect location for data centers.
Access underground, what were once access for the railroad lines, now the railroad lines
have the dark fiber, the data fiber running along those lines. And you also have the advantage, since the
building was originally intended to be 20 stories, and was stopped at 7 stories, there
are several vacant freight elevators. So these elevator shafts allow the data centers to
run those lines up to the upper floors from where it comes in on the bottom. And then you have the reinforced flooring
here with 250 pounds per square foot, you can hold a lot of weight, have access to a
lot of power, access to a lot of data lines. And thorough the 1990’s and 2000’s the
data center usage of this building has continued to grow and thrive. So as the utility of the building became more
and more recognized for data center clients, more and more data center clients have moved
in here, there’s other tenants that have recognized not only that advantage of that
fast data speed, but also, these wide open, cool modern spaces with lots of natural light. So there’s tenants here that are creative
agencies, video production agencies, and they have this advantage of being wired into
the backbone of the internet which converges underneath the building. As we look to what made the city an industrial
giant in the past years, the same qualities will propel the globe building forward into
another era of greatness So as you look at the sort of entire timeline
of history of The Globe Building it’s really fascinating that it was originally conceived
as the hub of transportation as a railroad terminal, and then evolved in the late 1950’s
and early 1960’s into a hub of information with one of the country’s largest daily
newspapers headquartered here, and then evolved again in the 1990’s and into the 2000’s
as a hub of connectivity. With data coming in and going out and being stored here and
massive access to power. And then today we have multiple uses for the
building as this part of St. Louis along Washington Avenue continues to sort of reinvent itself
and there is a renaissance here of creative agencies, of start-ups, of tech companies,
of internet companies. They are all here. They are right in the neighborhood and they
are moving into this building. And they are taking advantage not only of the power and
the speed of the data, but these beautiful spaces with this large open natural light
that makes it a perfect location for so many companies to thrive.

Comments 2

  • Truly a great building both aesthetically and infrastructure. For tech companies who need flexibility in both space and data infrastructure there is no better than the Globe Building!

  • I had friends who worked there in the mid-90's. I always liked the building and, when working on a (still unfinished) mystery novel, I put my fictional detective's office there. I learned a lot in this video that I never knew before.

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