O’Connell’s Pub, St Louis

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O’Connell’s History

O’Connell’s Pub opened in 1962, in an area known to St. Louisan’s as Gaslight Square. Gaslight Square was a bohemian, artistic area, attracting many of St. Louis’s most prominent personalities, some of which, not only frequented, but also lived in the area. Some of Gaslight Square’s residents were Ernie Trova, an American sculptor known for “The Falling Man”; Joe Pollack, noted food critic; Bill Woo, former editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch; and Leonard Slatkin, who has moved on but was the conductor that brought international recognition to the St. Louis Symphony orchestra. Gaslight Square was also known nationally as an entertainment district, attracting up and coming stars such as Barbara Streisand, The Smothers Brothers, Woody Allen, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and countless others. Gaslight Square was named for a bar called the Gaslight Bar, owned by Dick Mutrux. Dick’s Brother Paul Mutrux later opened the nationally acclaimed Three Fountains Restaurant, known for its fine dining. Jay & Fran Landesman who owned the Crystal Palace also wrote a Broadway Show, “The Nervous Set” along with Tommy Wolf. Up and down the street you could hear Jazz and Dixieland music spilling out into the streets. Pedestrians would walk with cocktail in hand from one club to the next. Even for a time you could get a snow cone made with liquor until it was discovered that this was not exactly legal. The birth of Gaslight Square was between the years 1957 and 1959 but by 1967 problems was already evident and the area began its decline.

By 1972 Gaslight Square was all but gone and many of the other clubs and restaurants had moved or simply gone out of business. Jack Parker now had the difficult task of choosing a new location. O’Connell’s was the last to leave Gaslight Square when it moved to its present location at Kingshighway & Shaw. To preserve the atmosphere they took almost all of the original woodwork and fixtures, even the beveled glass windows from the front. Included in the move were the two historically significant chandeliers made of bell bronze hanging by the bar. These chandeliers were from the 1904 world’s fair. They were made in England and hung in the Belgian exhibition hall at the fair. The only significant piece that they left behind was the fondly remembered stone fireplace which was used for heat along with a potbelly stove on occasions when the furnace would not work. One of the bartenders tell of fortuitously driving past the demolished remains of the original O’Connell’s just as the fireplace was pushed into the hole that once was the basement. Gaslight Square now sits as vacant lots and boarded buildings but the memories linger and the legend lives on.

O’Connell’s new location was built in 1905 by Anheuser Busch and originally opened as a tavern. The building has served as a bar since the time it was built, but sometime in the 1930’s it was moved in its entirety from the corner of Kingshighway and Shaw to where it now sits. In June of 1997 Anheuser Busch returned for an afternoon to O’Connell’s to film a commercial. This commercial featured August Busch III sitting at the Bar speaking on the quality, heritage and 121 year tradition of Budweiser beer. This was a full-scale production starting around 5:00 AM, requiring the restaurant to remain closed until the dinner hour. The parking lot was also taken over by assorted equipment, lights, vans, trucks and even a lunch tent was erected to feed the crew of approximately 25 people. Although they were required to remove the liquor from behind the bar there were few changes made aside from moving a couple of pictures. The commercial proved to be a success for them and they filmed again in August of that same year.

Content obtained for this post was obtained from a Sauce Magazine Post written about O’Connell’s Pub.  We could not find a website or social site relating to this restaurant.  Great information!  Thanks Sauce Magazine for the research/information.

08/20/2015 |

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