Amid the French-inspired, tri-level Saint Louis Club, perched atop the Pierre Laclede Center in downtown Clayton, more than 600 prominent business, civic and community leaders, as well as guests from St. Louis and around the globe, recently celebrated its golden year.
The 50th Anniversary Gala honored the prestigious Club’s present, with specialty fare prepared by former White House chef and current Club executive chef Pierre Chambrin and entertainment by the city’s top talent; as well paid homage to the various incarnations of the Club, through a museum of photos and memorabilia harkening back to the first downtown Club's opening in 1878. Among those serving as gala committee members this year are: Dr. William Sasser (gala chair), Carl Barnes (Club president), Denny Reagan, Lawrence Sumner and the entire Saint Louis Club staff.
The star-studded gala continued the Clubs' illustrious tradition of presenting some of St. Louis' most elegant events, while playing host to notable celebrities, businessmen, politicians and athletes.
In the early 20th century, former Saint Louis Clubs commonly welcomed presidents and foreign dignitaries. During the 1904 World’s Fair, the Club on Lindell Avenue hosted President Theodore Roosevelt. President William Taft also was a regular visitor, and Prince Henry of Prussia stopped in for a two-day stay during a cross-country U.S. tour.
Soon after the opening of the current Saint Louis Club in 1964, it rolled out the red carpet for exclusive guests, including President Richard Nixon. “He briefly spoke on President Reagan’s foreign policy while attending a dinner for his longtime friend (and club member) John Olin,” explains Saint Louis Club archivist Robyn Caldwell. In 2010, President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush attended a Saint Louis Club banquet during a national book tour. President George H. W. Bush, vice presidents Joe Biden and Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also have dined at the Club.
Stars of the stage and screen also have graced the former and current incarnations of the Club through the years, including Sammy Davis Jr., Paul Newman, Mia Farrow, John Goodman, Raymond Burr and Tony Curtis.
Legends of the sports world visited the Clubs, as well, from former member Stan Musial to Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog, Bob Gibson and Matt Holliday, and Jack and Joe Buck, Mike Shannon, Brett Hull and Wayne Gretsky.
Today, the current Club remains a prominent business and social gathering place with ballrooms and meetings rooms to accommodate intimate gatherings to large events with as many as 1,200 guests. During the past five years, remodels of each of the Club’s 14th, 15th and 16th floors have taken it to the next level.
As the Saint Louis Club looks to the future, it has plans for even more improvements, while carrying on its rich history of fine dining and superior service from seasoned staff in an elegant atmosphere for the most prominent guests around the city and the world. “We want to move the Club into the 21st century,” notes Helane Bernath, director of marketing and membership. “We always want to keep one foot in the past and one foot in the future.”
The Saint Louis Clubs Through the Years
The original Saint Louis Club is housed at the Lindell Hotel on the corner of Sixth Street and Washington Avenue, and soon moves to its own building at 1532 Washington Ave.
A new Saint Louis Club is built at Ewing Avenue and Locust Street, the heart of the St. Louis business district at the time.
Ground breaks on a new Saint Louis Club, constructed at Lindell Avenue for $1 million (equivalent to more than $23 million today), and opens in 1900.
Due to a fire, the Saint Louis Club on Lindell Avenue closes.
The current Saint Louis Club, designed by Alan Ferry of Atlanta, opens atop the Pierre Laclede Center, developed by G.J. Nooney & Co. and designed by Smith & Entzeroth architectural firm, at 7701 Forsyth Blvd., the heart of the growing Clayton business district.
The Club’s 14th, 15th and 16th floors receive remodels to update furnishings and function, while retaining its traditional design to convey its French heritage.
The current Saint Louis Club celebrates its 50th anniversary on Oct. 18 with a gala hosting more than 600 guests.