In 1905, Thomas H. Bacon lent his name as the author of "Mirror of Hannibal." This compilation gives an overview of the town’s founding and development, much of which occurred during that author’s lifetime.
Bacon was an attorney and judge, and handled many noted cases during his career.
He wrote from documented facts and his own memory in order to offer a lasting view of life in Hannibal as he saw it.
One small passage in this respected book tells the early story of St. Mary’s Avenue, which is the focus of today’s story.
"An excellent line of public gravel road runs out St. Mary’s Avenue to the old Paris road and thence to Wither’s Mill, in Marion County, Judge Jasper Turner was the leading spirit in this enterprise," Bacon wrote.
And he added: "A great need of Hannibal is a metaled boulevard*. People of means will never settle where they cannot air their equipages. They demand a driveway where they will not be required to turn out every few hundred yards to clear a load of hay."
'New Home Edition'
The Hannibal Courier-Post moved from the northwest corner of Main and Broadway to its new home at 200 N. Third Street in 1952. Many historical stories were contained within the pages of the "New Home Edition," including the story of the Osterhout farm, (recently featured in this column.)
The story not only describes the historic house built upon the William Hubbard homestead, but it also offers some rich history about St. Mary’s Avenue itself.
Mr. Osterhout purchased the 18-acre plot of ground around the same time that Mr. Bacon penned "Mirror of Hannibal."
At that time, Mr. Osterhout told the Courier-Post, there were few houses in the neighborhood. He mentioned the Shepherd house (still standing on the northeast corner of St. Mary’s and Shepherd Place), Judge B.E. Bigger’s house (demolished, roughly located on the site of Griffen’s Flowers’ parking lot) and the Chamberlain/Zimmerman house (at the northeast corner of Pleasant and St. Mary’s Avenue).
During this early era, and for many years to come, most or part of St. Mary’s Avenue was outside of the city limits. From 1905 on, building took place along this corridor, and most residents and businesses were listed in the city directories as "near the city limits," or "west of the city limits." Numbering of properties began at the turn of the century, but would change overtime as more and more people moved west of town.
The 1905 city directory lists house and business numbers, but those numbers would change as the years progressed.
As an example, Judge Bigger, who Osterhout mentioned in the 1952 Courier-Post article, lived at 2511 St. Mary’s, according to the 1911 directory. But by 1918, his house number had changed to 2909.
During that same time, the Osterhout property changed from 2624 to 3254.
One thing that remains consistent is the even/odd assignments. Heading northwest from where St. Mary’s Avenue begins at the intersection of Lamb, the property numbers on the right have been consistently even; while the properties on the left have remained odd.
These numbering changes have created confusion (for this researcher and writer) and undoubtedly others when trying to pinpoint addresses along this route.
Broadway ends, and St. Mary’s begins, at the intersection of Lamb. Houses to the east of Lamb have Broadway addresses; property to the west of Lamb have St. Mary’s addresses.
Today, the first St. Mary’s address is 2600; it is a house opposite of Lamb. The house beside the Lamb intersection, to the north, is numbered 2603. Smith Funeral Home on the left, heading out St. Mary’s, is numbered 2619. The gas station across the street from the funeral home is 2610. Hawkins north and south intersects St. Mary’s Avenue, bringing the street addresses to the 2700 block, where Jason Utterback’s insurance office (the old St. Mary’s Pharmacy) is located.
The 2800 block begins where James Road intersects St. Mary’s Avenue. And 2900 begins where Radcliff meets St. Mary’s.
Radcliff street bears significance in that it was once considered the entrance to Smith Park, which was located up the Radcliff hill during the 19-teens (where the orphanage and St. Thomas Seminary were later located.)
The electric street car brought people from points downtown to the foot of Radcliff, and they walked up the hill for picnics and outings.
In 1937, George P. Bastian had a barber shop on the northeast corner of Radcliff and St. Mary’s. In the same location in 1925, William A. Shaw (and later Smith and Wichern) had a car repair shop on this corner.
Radcliff Street joins St. Mary’s Avenue in the 2900 block. Dreyer Cleaning Company was across the street at 2905 in 1937, as was W.E. Richmond’s grocery store.
North on St. Mary’s in the 2900 block was a grocery store on the left, address 2923. Ila T. Lake operated a grocery there in 1916, and lived on the southeast corner of Hill and St. Mary’s, in a house at 3102 that is currently listed for sale; Clarence Sparrow was listed in the directories as having a grocery store at 2923 St. Mary’s in 1925 and 1937. Adams Market was at this location for many years.
J.B. Shaw lived next door to the grocery at 2927, on the southwest corner of St. Mary’s and West Bird. The house has been demolished.
A.D. Stowell, long-time principal and namesake for the elementary school on the South Side, lived at what would later be numbered 3115 St. Mary’s.
Note: I am compiling a spread sheet containing information about the houses and businesses along St. Mary’s Avenue, and what number addresses have been associated with this street. This will prove to be a useful tool when questions about happenings along this avenue arise in the future. Mary Lou Montgomery
Thanks to Barb Shaw O’Brien for her assistance is studying St. Mary’s Avenue addresses, past and present.
* Wikipedia: "Road metal" became the name of stone chippings mixed with tar to form the road surfacing material tarmac. A road of such material is called a "metalled road" in Britain, a "paved road" in Canada and the US, or a "sealed road" in parts of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com