The History of the Globe Building

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, so 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 shovels, and each individual floor was poured concrete, the piers were poured concrete, this building was built to withstand the ages. 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. 

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. A couple of 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 companion moved to South America and the money was never returned. 

Therefore, in the middle of the 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, 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. 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 every day on mapping and plotting the logistics for World War Two both in Europe and the Pacific.

Eventually, streetcars began disappearing as automobiles became more prevalent. Passenger service was officially discontinued in 1958. 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.

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. 

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 every day through the railroad, and then all of the newspaper that went out every morning.

The Globe-Democrat newspaper thrived in this building through the 1960’s, through the 1970’s, all the way into the late 1980’s. 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 region's fastest-paced companies, we now find a modern-day technology hotbed. Yet again, The Globe Building is at the forefront of a booming industry.

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.  

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.

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. Through the 1990’s and 2000’s the data center usage of this building has continued to grow and thrive.

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.

There are tenants here that are creative agencies, video production agencies, and they have this advantage here 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 

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.

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.