1896 St. Louis Cyclone Damage

Images contributed by Terry Harmon

 

Broadway and Soulard. The corner building, occupied as a furniture store, was completely leveled, piling up in the mass of ruins: building, stock, and occupants. [Enlargement]

"Buildings swayed and creaked in the powerful blast. The wind came down in the streets, picked up buggies and turned them over.  It bounded to roofs, rolled up tin covering like scrolls and deposited them in telegraph wires. It filled the air with flying bricks and timbers and made the ears horrified with the crash of falling signs and breaking windows and the shrieks of men and women. And all over the city fire engines hurried to and fro and flames broke out in such a multitude of places that the hearts of the brave firemen sank within them when they contemplated the possibilities of a general conflagration. But in this the allied forces of wind and fire worked at cross purposes--for the rain served to largely undo the work of the other elements."

"The rain continued to pour in torrents, but in half an hour the wind, tired out, subsided; only, however, to gather fresh strength, and twenty minutes later it came with the same thunderous rapidity--this time from the northeast--and lasted for fully fifteen minutes, adding to the wreck and ruin that its predecessor had so wantonly inaugurated."

     "The cause of the tornado and its lines of destruction may have been rigidly planned.  If so, it was done by a captain who picked some of the choicest spots in the city upon which to leave the blight of his ruthless wrath.  It commenced in the southwestern portion of the city and took a zigzag course for more than two miles long and quite a mile wide.  Within this area starting down on Jefferson avenue it swept north crumbling great stone houses and residences, demolished the mammoth power house of the Union Depot Electric Railway on Jefferson and Geyer avenues and dashed across to beautiful Lafayette Park around whose broad squares stood long rows of palatial homes of stone and brick., filled with families happy in their luxuriance and comforts of life.  The park was admittedly the most picturesque and charming of its size in the United States, finely set in towering trees, platted with choice flower beds, with winding walks of macadamized pebbles, pretty retreats of shaded grottoes, and sparkling fountains.  Not a tree on all the broad acres was left standing in its stately beauty, but they were torn up by the roots, twisted and torn from base to top."

"The splendid business house at Broadway and Soulard [see photo above] crashed down upon a half-dozen men who, perhaps, scarcely knew what had happened before they were lifeless.  On from thriving Broadway, four blocks more to the raging river banks--along which stood towering elevators filled with grain and black with the smokestacks of mammoth factories in which thousands of hands earned bread for themselves and families--the devastating winds swept, bearing down upon them with an irresistible force that sent them crackling and crumbling to the ground. Nor did it stop at the river's bank, but with a bound of insatiable fury itself upon costly palaces of the river and every humble craft that floated in its wake, spinning them on the water like tops, snapping forecastle, spar and beam until the waters rushed in and finished the fiendish work, and boat, crew and passengers alike went down to arise no more, or struggling to waters' surface were beaten down by hurling timbers, buffeted from wave to wave; and then the winds stopped not, but sped on across the bulging river to strike a death blow to St. Louis' foster city on the Illinois side."--published turn-of the-century account

 

Broadway and Chouteau Avenue. Broken and crushed furniture, mixed with beams, rafters, and roofing material marks the site of a handsome furniture store of yesterday. [Enlargement]

Soulard Market. Death as well as disaster came with the tornado to this busy south side mart. [Enlargement]

Church of St. Peter and Paul. Directly in the path of the storm, this temple suffered severely, but was not wholly damaged. [Enlargement]

Union Club, Jefferson and Lafayette Avenues. The beautiful modern home of this south side organization where happy evenings were spent in pleasant intercourse is a thing of the past, save a small portion of the first floor on the Jefferson avenue side. [Enlargement]

The City Hospital. The condition of the city hospital as seen above, indicates the sufferings of the many sick. Fortunately the only deaths were due to exposures. [Enlargement]

 

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