• The Rep - A Dolls House

Washington Terrace Clocktower Gatehouse

The Washington Terrace Clocktower Gatehouse will be featured along with six historic mansions in the Central West End Association House & Garden Tour set for May 11-13. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
April 11, 2012
Just south of Delmar Boulevard along the west side of Union sits the Waterman Place/Kingsbury Place/Washington Terrace Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Impressive entryways mark the thresholds of the historic district's three private streets, with none more unique than the Washington Terrace gatehouse.

This picturesque structure, circa 1892, is the work of journeyman draftsman Harvey Ellis. The gatehouse and six historic Washington Terrace homes will be featured May 11-13 on the Central West End Association (CWEA) 2012 House & Garden Tour.

"The Washington Terrace gatehouse is one of the landmarks in St. Louis that every architectural historian loves," said Lynn Josse, architectural historian and acting director at the Chatillon-DeMenil House Foundation. Josse, also a historic preservation consultant for the Preservation Research Office, helped residents of Waterman, Kingsbury and Washington Terrace obtain the National Register of Historic Places listing in 2007.

"The gatehouse is so different," she said. "It's so creative, and the architect Harvey Ellis is just such a fascinating character."

Beloved Vagabond

St. Louis City Hall, the Compton Hill water tower, the former St. Vincent's Hospital in Normandy, and the Washington Terrace gatehouse are all local landmarks attributed to Harvey Ellis.

Harvey Ellis (click for larger version)
Ellis mostly did design work for other people, said Josse, especially the architect George Mann of Eckel & Mann.

Ellis has been characterized as both a brilliant draftsman and "beloved vagabond" who made an indelible mark on Midwestern architecture.

According to accounts in "Terrace Tales: A Contemporary History of Washington Terrace" by author Jeff Tallent, Ellis confounded biographers.

"It is not known how widespread his influence was," Tallent writes, "because he used false names and addresses, refused to acknowledge his own accomplishments, and punctuated his work with long disappearances."

What is known is that Ellis was born in Rochester, N.Y., in 1852 and attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for a time. In addition to St. Louis, Ellis-designed buildings can be found throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

"He is known by the end of his life primarily as a designer of beautiful Craftsman furniture," said Josse, most notably for Gustav Stickley in Syracuse, N.Y.

Washington Terrace gate residential street scene photographed from Union Avenue in 1890. photo 6619 Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections (click for larger version)
Ellis died in 1904.

"Ellis was one of the greatest architectural delineators – a term that's used for artists who do perspective drawings – in American history, certainly of that era," said preservation historian Esley Hamilton. "A lot of his drawings were published because they were great works of art. The drawings have beautiful detailing that often got eliminated in the actual construction because of budgets."

One of the reasons people are attracted to the Washington Terrace gatehouse, said Hamilton, is because Ellis was able to execute his vision with all of the detailing intact.

The Gatehouse

Washington Terrace resident Lou Goltermann III. The plaque to the right reads: “Washington Terrace has been placed on the National Register Of Historic Places.” photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
Ellis created the entrance to Washington Terrace in 1892 for the architect George Mann. The rust-colored structure is made of Roman brick and plum terra cotta and topped with a spire. A delicate wrought-iron clock, still keeping good time 120 years later, looks out over Union Boulevard.

The gatehouse, with its conical towers, is said to be reminiscent of the gates to the medieval German city of Lübeck. Two pillars flank the street, topped with terra cotta lions made by Winkle Terra Cotta of St. Louis. Wrought-iron arches, known as "overthrows," crown the drives in and out of the street.

The gatehouse has its own address – #2 Washington Terrace – and houses a minimal kitchen, bathroom and living space in its tiny two-story interior.

"A watchman lived here for awhile and provided security for the street," said Lou Goltermann, one of three Washington Terrace trustees.

Trustees rented the gatehouse out to students in the 1970s in exchange for part-time maintenance tasks. Currently, the gatehouse serves as an occasional rest stop for St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department 7th District officers who patrol the area.

Washington Terrace

One of the historic homes on Washington Terrace, as seen from the inside of the Washington Terrace gatehouse. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
Goltermann and his family have lived on Washington Terrace, one of St. Louis' many private streets, for 10 years. A native of Ladue, Goltermann said he was attracted to Washington Terrace for many reasons.

"We were drawn to the history of the street," he said. "The tall ceilings in the homes, the old architectural millwork – this is all stuff you can't get in newer houses. We also enjoy the fact that we have the park and zoo so close by."

Washington Terrace's three elected trustees ensure that each resident follows the street's deed of restrictions, which has remained almost completely unchanged since its inception. The rules ensure the historic neighborhood remains relatively unchanged as well.

"One of the wonderful things about Washington Terrace is that there are so many architectural styles represented there, and so many of St. Louis' top architects were able to design houses there," said Josse.

The list of prominent architects includes Theodore Link, who designed St. Louis Union Station; and Henry Hobson Richardson, who popularized the Romanesque Revival style of architecture in that era.

"One thing people don't realize, partly because Washington Terrace doesn't have the parkway down the middle, is that it has some of the greatest architecture in St. Louis," said Hamilton. "One of the greatest houses on that street was designed by the chief architect of the World's Fair, Isaac Taylor."

Guests of the 2012 CWEA House & Garden Tour will get an inside look into some of those grand mansions, as well as a peek at the interior of Ellis' historic gatehouse.

For more information, plus a listing of additional upcoming spring home and garden tours, see adjoining house tour story.

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