Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hoping for Ghosts in the Builders Exchange Building

Growing up in Freer an oil boomtown in South Texas where there were very few old houses or buildings when I was growing up, gave me a real appreciation for old buildings.
In Corpus Christi, I once lived in an old luxury hotel turned into apartments a block from the waterfront. Later in San Antonio, I lived in a building on North New Braunfels in Alamo Heights, which had beautiful wooden floors, but the toilet was so close to the tub you had to put your feet on the bathtub to go to the bathroom. One day I asked Lupe the maintenance supervisor why the bathroom was so small, he told me the apartments had been built during World War II and there had been a shortage of building supplies. After the explanation, I was more forgiving about the placement of my feet while sitting on the toilet.
When I moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, I looked for an apartment in the heart of the city and came upon the Marott, a 1920s luxury hotel turned into an apartment building. It was the apartment with the most character I have ever lived in. My apartment was on the tenth floor and the bay widows looked out to Fall Creek. Looking out my windows, I experienced the changing of the four seasons for the first time in my life.
When my husband and I moved to St. Louis, we leased an apartment, which took up the second and third floors of the front of an 1880s storefront in the LaSalle neighborhood. The floor length windows on the second floor were great for viewing the fireworks in front of the arch and at the old Busch baseball stadium. Not only did the apartment show us great views of downtown, it was haunted. Yes, at night I would hear heavy footsteps over our bed, which was next to a bricked up chimney going from the first to the third floor. If the footsteps did not wake me the dragging of a heavy chain would make me sit up in bed at three in the morning! The sounds were so real; I kept expecting a man to drop through the ceiling and into our bedroom on the third floor. I solved the mystery when I talked to the archivist at the Missouri Historical Society. In the 1800s, a chimneysweeper would climb up to the roof with a heavy chain with large brushes attached. The sweeper would then drop the chain in the chimney and rattle it back and forth so the soot was knocked off the chimney walls. Once I knew the sounds were from the chimneysweeper just coming back night after night to finish the job, I slept through the night.
When we moved to our historic home in the Benton Park Neighborhood, we must have brought the ghosts with us. For the first six months, once we turned off the lights, my dog and I heard footsteps going up and down the stairs between the first and second floors. The dog would bark, I would tell myself, “it’s just the ghosts checking out our new place and getting acquainted with the other ghosts who were already there,” and I would go to sleep.
When we moved to San Antonio and into our studio/loft apartment at the Builders Exchange Building, built in 1925 image my disappointment, no ghosts here! I guess our St. Louis ghosts did not want to come to Texas. Our apartment building, which started out as office space, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Lots of character, but no residents from the past at the Builders Exchange Building; however, we have a killer view of the Riverwalk. 

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