4468 West Belle Place
One of the things I’ve done since starting blogging on St. Louis history in 2013 is to capture the history of old buildings before they are demolished. St. Louis has some of the oldest housing stock in the United States. Tragically, many of the buildings are abandoned and neglected. St. Louis was originally built to house close to a million residents but today the St. Louis’ population is closer to 300,000.
The Lewis Place neighborhood contained some of the most impressive structures in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of these crumbling structures is in the 4400 block of West Belle Place.
4468 West Belle Place was completed in 1892. The Montgomery family were the first known residents of the home. Although it is a single family residence, St. Louis family’s often let rooms in such large homes.
Cornelius Payne owned the home in 1909. Joseph and Linda Barton owned the home in 1911. Not long afterward, they sold the home to James O’Neil. While the home was owned by James O’Neil, a terrible tragedy occurred at 4468 West Belle Place.
James O’Neil’s son Henry met Mrs. Hazel Ritchie in 1914. Mrs. Ritchie was separate from her husband and their three sons were living with relatives. Mrs. Ritchie came to St. Louis, where she worked as a housekeeper for Mrs. Wilson at 4925 Parkview Place.
Mrs. Ritchie engaged in a real or perceived romantic relationship with Henry O’Neil for approximately 6 months. The relationship was not progressing in the way she wanted, when she came to the O’Neil home for dinner on January 12, 1915 at 5:30 pm. After eating dinner, she left a note for Henry O’Neil before consuming carbolic acid. Henry O’Neil entered the front room as Mrs. Ritchie swallowed the lethal concoction.
Henry O’Neil and his mother summoned medical assistance but Mrs. Ritchie died from the carbolic acid poisoning two hours later. She left a note for Henry O’Neil telling him he would now be free and she was going to hell for him. Due to obvious signs of mental illness in the suicide notes, police weren’t sure of the nature of their relationship or if one existed.
Mrs. Ritchie signed the note “Lulu Ritchie”, which confused both Mrs. O’Neil and Henry. They thought she was 31-year-old Hazel Ritchie. However, her death certificate states she was 28-year-old Lulu Bell Ritchie. Mrs. Ritchie was born in Illinois on January 31, 1886.
During June 1951, Sgt. Wilson O. McKindra suffered a slight thigh wound fighting in the Korean War. Sgt. Wilson was the son of William and Anne McKindra, who owned 4468 West Belle Place.
Today, 4468 West Belle Place looks beyond saving and will likely be demolished in the next year or two. Vacant since 2000, the building was still viable in 2006, when the first picture in this post was taken. Sometime between 2013 and 2017, the back wall collapsed pretty much dooming the structure.
This neighboring building shows the potential of these homes. Built in 1894, it was abandoned for a few years in the 1990s. Private ownership restored this building to its original vibrance. What a beautiful and sturdy brick building. With early intervention, 4468 West Belle Place might also have survived.
Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: November 24, 1895, p. 27, December 17, 1909, p. 1, September 17, 1911, p. 31, January 13, 1915, p. 3 and June 23, 1951, p. 5. St. Louis Star-Times: January 13, 1915, p. 1. Missouri Death Certificate DatabasePin It