Cupples Station Terminal: Washington University and the Development of St. Louis

The expansive scope of influence that Washington University has had and continues to have in St. Louis cannot be understated. A lot of this influence comes in the form of land ownership and development.   Much of the property given to the University over the past decades were gifts in support of endowments and other financial needs.

Here is an excerpt from Cupples Station Terminal : a case study in Urban Preservation about the construction and management of St. Louis Cupples Terminal Station in relation to Wash. U.  —

Brookings realized that something had to be done to alleviate the crowded condition of the waterfront, and his solution to the problem was to develop a new center of shipping, one which would be convenient to the railroads in the city. In 1882, Samuel Cupples began purchasing property, south from Clark Avenue to Popular Street and extending west from 7th Street to 11th Street. Cupples and Robert Brookings, then manager of Cupples Woodenware Company, recognized this location to be strategic location for a freight distribution center.

Brookings announced the proposal construction of a freight terminal in 1889, to be erected on the properties purchased by Cupples. The St. Louis Terminal Cupples Station property was complete by 1917, and comprised of 17 structures covering approximately 500,000 square feet of ground area. The warehouse complex was deeded to Washington University in 1900, before its completion, as an endowed gift.

Today [1980], only nine of the original seventeen warehouses remain…eight structures were removed to make way for Busch Stadium and remaps extending from Highway 40.

Wash. U has a long history of  engaging in business beyond the gates of the university. This past year, [2015] students presented a list of demands to the administration. One demand addressed the need to “revise protocol for future development on properties owned by the university in the greater St. Louis area” in order to minimize gentrification, ensure affordable housing, and improve the relationship between the greater St. Louis community and Washington University.  With new developments continuing to happen, it is important as members of Wash. U to hold our institution accountable for the ways in which we affect all members of St. Louis.

For more information on Wash. U buildings on and off campus, see:


All images below from Building Information Files at WUSTL Archives: 1991005


Cupples Station Public Receiving and Delivery Platform


Cupples Station, Looking East and South from Eleventh and Spruce Streets


General View Cupples Station Terminal Property



About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.