Overview – The Vision of Tuxedo Park

Before You Begin Your Walk

The area known as Tuxedo Park began as three large subdivisions in the late 1800s. At the turn of the century, these neighborhoods gave rise to a thriving business district along Marshall Avenue, the Tuxedo Park School, three churches, two railroad stations and a streetcar line. But it was the Tuxedo Station, the vision of businessman Lilburn McNair, that anchored the neighborhood.

Long before train stations and streetcar lines delineated these neighborhoods, the land rising up along Deer Creek was part of Louis Bompart’s Spanish Land Grant, and the land south of Marshall Avenue was part of John Sarpy’s land. Slaves tended Bompart’s land, and in 1845, Dr. William Brown, a Virginia physician, purchased 233 acres from Sarpy, and his slaves cultivated orchards there.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad laid tracks through Dr. Brown’s orchards in 1853 and built Fairview Station where the tracks cross Marshall Avenue. Everyone in the area began giving their address as “Fairview.” Dr. Brown subdivided his orchards in hopes of creating a little village around the station, but with the Civil War looming, there were no takers. After the war ended, William Groshon, a St. Louis haberdasher, purchased the south end of Bompart’s estate from Marshall Avenue to Deer Creek and created a subdivision called “Town of Fairview” in 1867.

In the 1880s businessmen living in the neighboring community of Webster Groves began building Queen Anne houses on speculation to attract other successful businessmen to the area. Then in 1887 Harper’s Weekly wrote about the ultimate subdivision: Tuxedo Park in New York. The subdivision had its own country club and train station, and its residents wore gold oak leaf pins in their lapels. Inspired, Lilbrn McNair, one of the biggest real estate developers in St. Louis, bought 200 acres of Dr. Brown’s estate and laid out his own Tuxedo Park, east of the Missouri Pacific tracks. McNair was the grandson of Alexander McNair, the first governor of Missouri. He built the Tuxedo Park station out of stone in the Queen Anne style. It was the finest local station of its time, and he gave it to the Missouri Pacific Railroad for $1 so that his subdivision would be attractive to commuters.

McNair’s subdivision had deed restrictions prohibiting houses that cost less than $1500, saloons and stores. McNair arranged for free excursion trains to Tuxedo Park for prospective buyers, and he published an advertising brochure in the shape of an oak leaf, called “Leaves of Tuxedo.”

When the Webster Park Subdivision was established just to the south in 1892, commuter trains were stopping every four minutes as they passed through Webster Groves. In December 1892 the Missouri Pacific Railroad announced that it would close the Fairview Station. There was such an outcry from the Fairview commuters that the railroad company sent a section crew to Fairview at midnight to remove the station from its foundation, place it on a flatcar and haul it away in the dark.

At the east end of the Town of Fairview lies the Zeta Dell Subdivision. Henri Picotte, a French fur trader, bought 25 acres between Marshall Avenue and Deer Creek and gave the land to his daughter, Celeste, before the Civil War. Celeste married Dr. Louis Pim, a prominent St. Louis physician in charge of the Confederate hospital system. After Dr. Pim died in 1890, his daughter subdivided the land creating Zeta Dell, a subdivision with no deed restrictions. A small, vibrant commercial district grew up along Marshall Avenue, and in 1896 the Suburban Street Railway Company laid out tracks for the Manchester Streetcar Line down Summit Avenue.

In 1896 the City of Webster Groves annexed Old Orchard and Tuxedo Park in order to increase the tax base to pay for sewers, waterlines and paved streets. For the next 20 years residents of Old Orchard and Tuxedo Park tried to secede, fearing that incorporation would bring the evils of urban life. Today Tuxedo Park is an integral part of Webster Groves, a splendid example of the early suburban dream of Planned subdivision development.

This overview of “The Vision of Tuxedo Park” was compiled and written by Ann Morris.

Sites on the Historic Webster Walks have been selected for their architectural or historical value, and they are identified on this website by the names of the people or businesses that originally occupied them. Distinguished sites have been awarded bronze medallions which are embedded in the sidewalks in front of those sites.