Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ellis Wainwright

Ellis Wainwright was a significant figure in the history of 19th century St. Louis. Born on August 3, 1850 in Godfrey, Illinois, Wainwright was a prominent businessman and brewer and his name is linked to two of the more important pieces of architecture in St. Louis.

His father, Samuel Wainwright, was the founder of the Wainwright Brewing Company, which began operations in 1846. While the history of the company is complicated, Ellis Wainwright gained control of its operations by 1875 and incorporated it as a stock company in 1883. In 1889, the company was bought by the St. Louis Brewing Company, of which Wainwright was president. The company was probably the second largest brewing company in St. Louis during the 19th century.

In 1890, Wainwright wanted a new office building for the company and hired Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler to build it. The Wainwright Building, at the corner of Seventh Street and Chestnut Avenue, was completed in 1891 and was one of the prototypes of the modern office building and the modern skyscraper.

In 1902, Wainwright was caught up in the Boodle Scandal (along with Charles Hunt Turner) and he is mentioned in Lincoln Steffens' The Shame of the Cities. As a result of the scandal, in which he was accused of bribing Missouri legislators, he fled to Paris, where he lived for the next twenty years. It appears that he returned to St. Louis in 1911, when he was indicted for his participation in the scandal, but the charges were dropped in November of that year due to the fact that all the main witnesses had either died or fled the city. Wainwright then immediately left again for Paris.

At some point in 1924, Wainwright once again returned to St. Louis and died in the city on November 6, 1924. He is buried in the Wainwright Tomb at Bellefontaine Cemetery. The mausoleum, like the Wainwright Building, was designed by Louis Sullivan and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been described as one of Sullivan's masterpieces.

The two photos above were taken by Connie Nisinger and Jim Miller respectively and appear at Find A Grave.

Wainwright, as I've been chronicling lately, was also involved in the establishment of the Union Association and was one of the owners of the St. Louis Maroons. His involvement with the Maroons is significant, I believe, because it appears to represent an attempt by the establishment of St. Louis to regain control of the city's baseball market after Chris Von der Ahe had seized control of the Brown Stockings in 1882.

No comments: