The St. Louis tornado of 1896 was a powerful and destructive tornado that struck the city of St. Louis, Missouri on May 27, 1896. The tornado was part of a larger outbreak of severe weather that affected much of the Midwest and Great Plains regions of the United States.
The tornado struck the city of St. Louis at around 4:30pm on May 27, 1896. It began in the western suburbs of the city and traveled eastward, passing through the downtown area and continuing into the eastern suburbs. The tornado was moving at a speed of around 60 miles per hour and was accompanied by heavy rain and strong winds. It caused widespread damage to homes and businesses in St. Louis, with hundreds of structures destroyed or severely damaged. Many of the buildings that were hit by the tornado were made of brick or stone, and they were unable to withstand the force of the winds. The tornado also toppled trees, utility poles, and other objects, causing further damage and disruption.
The St. Louis tornado killed at least 255 people and injured over 1,000 others. It was one of the deadliest tornadoes in American history at the time, and it remains one of the most destructive natural disasters to ever hit the city. Many of the fatalities were caused by collapsing buildings or flying debris, while others were due to injuries sustained while trying to escape the storm.
The tornado caused widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure in St. Louis, including the destruction of hundreds of homes and businesses. The tornado also damaged a number of important landmarks, including the Old Courthouse, which was left in ruins. In the aftermath of the disaster, the city of St. Louis launched a major recovery effort, with volunteers and rescue workers working to provide aid and assistance to those affected by the tornado. Despite the damage and loss of life, the city was able to rebuild and recover from the disaster, and it continued to thrive and grow in the years that followed.
The tornado struck this intersection in Soulard with particular force, causing many deaths at this location. A large crowd gathered at the site of Mauchenheimer's saloon, whose address had been 1300 South 7th Street. Across the street, Klute's Grocery, at 1305 South 7th, still stood. In the distance the damaged church of St. Vincent de Paul, at Park Avenue and 9th Street, can be seen.
Walls and roofs are missing, broken telephone poles and wagons are heaped in the street, and people are milling around or busy trying to clean up. Freudenberg's saloon (1437 South Broadway), a brush company, and a liquor store are among the businesses visible in this photograph.
The building on the right is the streetcar shed of the People's Railway Company, one of over a dozen privately owned rail companies that served St. Louis at the time. One car can be seen on the unroofed 2nd floor. It seems to be car 12, Fourth and Chouteau line. The words Fourth and Chouteau can be seen on its side, and some of the words on its roofline seem to be stops on this line, such as the Iron Mtn. Depot, Lafayette Park, and a Garden. The People's Railway Company's offices were at 18th Street and Park Avenue, on the east side of Lafayette Park.
The building on the right is the streetcar shed of the People's Railway Company, one of over a dozen privately owned rail companies that served St. Louis at the time. One car can be seen on the unroofed 2nd floor. It seems to be car 12, Fourth and Chouteau line. The words Fourth and Chouteau can be seen on its side, and some of the words on its roofline seem to be stops on this line, such as the Iron Mtn. Depot, Lafayette Park, and Shaw's Garden. The People's Railway Company's offices were at 18th Street and Park Avenue, on the east side of Lafayette Park.
Its streets curve gently around landscaped areas in a deliberate change from the traditional grid pattern, and are named for important literary figures. Many of the upper class homes built there lost walls and roofs to the tornado. One of these homes is that of Dr. Hugo M. Starkloff, physician and father of St. Louis' famous Health Commissioner Dr. Max Starkloff.
A newspaper reported that a woman who tarried there after the others had left thought it would provide shelter during the approaching storm, but was forced to flee outside when the roof caved in. Although it lost its entire roof, this church was rebuilt on the same site. Note the dozen or so mattresses draped on a tree. Armstrong Avenue is now named MacKay Place.
The Union Depot Railroad was one of the largest of the dozen or so privately operated rail and streetcar companies that served St. Louis in the 1890s. Curtains were sucked out of windows of its headquarters, located at the corner of Missouri and Geyer Avenues just south of Lafayette Park.
The tornado struck the Christopher & Simpson Architectural Iron and Foundry Company, located on Park Avenue between 8th and 9th streets. An overturned streetcar is seen at center right, and the iron pillars for buildings that this company made can be seen on the ground at left.
The Compton Heights neighborhood, laid out in 1889, was an early planned residential development. Some of its streets curve gently around landscaped areas in a deliberate change from the traditional grid pattern, and are named for important literary figures. This group of homes was all but destroyed by the tornado. The photograph identifies one of these homes as that of Dr. Hugo M. Starkloff, physician and father of St. Louis' famous Health Commissioner Dr. Max Starkloff.
Soulard Market, established in 1841, is one of the oldest surviving open-air farmers' markets in the country. Still located at South 7th and Carroll Streets, the buildings that were destroyed by the 1896 tornado dated to the late 1840s. Several people lost their lives at this location.
City Hospital was the earliest charitable endeavor of the City of St. Louis, established in 1845 to provide medical care to the indigent. The building that the tornado destroyed, located at Lafayette Avenue and 14th Street, had been built in 1857. Its 450 patients were moved to temporary locations, but replacement structures were not finished on this site until 1905.
This mansion, built by Jonathan O. Pierce in the 1860s, was nicknamed the Cracker Castle because Pierce's fortune came from part ownership of a business that supplied crackers and hardtack to soldiers during the Civil War. Located at the corner of Chouteau and St. Ange Avenues, it was struck by lightning and one of its towers was hurled away during the terrible tornado. It was damaged beyond repair and was demolished.