By. Chris Stritzel - 15 Minute Estimated Reading Time
If you've driven, taken a stroll or live West of 14th Street in Downtown West, it's no secret that there is construction work going on at the former International Shoe Company Building (1509 Washington). The building is one of the largest on the stretch of Washington from 14th to 18th only to be beaten by the Ely Walker Lofts in sheer size. Constructed in 1910, The I.S.C.O Building is a symbol of an era gone by in St. Louis and that era was our "fashion" days. Washington Avenue was once home to numerous fashion companies producing clothes and shoes. The name given for Washington Avenue is known as "the Garment District". While the St. Louis Fashion Fund tries to recreate this historic corridor into a modern version of the days gone by, one project is standing out and that's "The Last" Hotel.
The Last does not mean the literal last hotel in Downtown St. Louis but rather represents a piece of history in the shoemaking business. A "Last" is a wooden form for making shoes. They resemble a human foot thus allowing shoe artisans to create a shoe to a very specific size as defined by the Last. The hotel bares it's name from this, and rightfully so, as this building is called "The International Shoe Company Building". The building is connected to the City Museum by a 9 floor skywalk as the City Museum was once part of the International Shoe Company complex downtown. Even though the two buildings will never reopen the skywalk to the public between them, it remains an icon to those visiting the City Museum and history buffs who know the history of it.
After being unveiled in February 2016 by Fe Equus Development, a company based in Milwaukee Wisconsin, construction didn't officially begin on the $54 Million project until late January 2018. The new hotel venture is Fe Equus' first in the St. Louis area and they've had tremendous success in their one other hotel, the Iron Horse in Milwaukee. According to Google, TripAdvisor and other hotel booking sites, the Iron Horse scores, on average, a 4.7 stars out of 5. Tremendously well for a hotel that opened a decade ago. The same success is planned to be emulated here as the history and rustic-vibe of the I.S.C.O. building shines through to the modern design elements. Every single element has odes to the past while embracing modern finishes.
With all of this said, it was time to begin a "hard hat" tour of "The Last" Hotel on Washington. The actual tour began at the construction office in the City Museum Building and we worked our way down. For the sake of this post, I am going to work my way up for simplicity.
Washington Avenue is St. Louis' premier street showcasing shops, restaurants, lofts, hotels and office buildings so it makes sense that Fe Equus would place their entrances on the street. I said entrances because there are two. One, which is below the "International Shoe Company" sign and is heavily decorated, will be the way hotel guests access the elevators without going through the lobby. The other entrance, which is underneath the "Roberts Johnson & Rand Shoe Company" sign, will flow directly into the lobby. The new addition here will be a large glass canopy as this entrance will be the main one that guests checking in will access the hotel through.
The small details on the street level façade of "The Last" are hard to miss. There are faces and human shapes on the building along with art-deco features. The copper accenting is also unique as each panel follows a distinctive pattern found only on this specific building. The main entrance is flanked by two stately Corinthian columns which is a nice welcome to a hotel that odes a lot of it's design to the past show making business. Let's go inside and get this show on the road.
Once you enter through the main door, the current status of The Last Hotel is anything but ready for it's public debut. In what will be a "grand arcade" when you first walk in is still very much a mess. Crews are repairing the Corinthian columns indoors and framing up walls the bar, kitchens and pantry. Despite all of this work going on, you can still feel how open the space will be once the hotel is open in April 2019. In the panorama above, the door to the left heads out to a small foyer which takes you to the gest elevators. To the slight right of the door, and between the columns, will be the reception desk. The reception desk is set back so that when the public walks in, they don't feel like they are walking into a hotel, they'll feel like they are walking into a restaurant or former shopping arcade.
Straight ahead takes you to The Last's restaurant (Last Kitchen), bar and pantry along with a small mezzanine that overlooks the lobby level. To the far right of the panorama is the building's corner at 15th and Washington. This area will have some TVs, couches, chairs and other things for the public and hotel guests. It will be a sitting area in other words. From here, we head up stairs to the guest room floors, but before the guestrooms, the corridors.
Guest Floor Corridors
Floors 2-9 are guest floors meaning that hotel rooms are on these floors. Each floor has a different perspective on Downtown and even the hotel rooms are different. But the corridors are interesting as well. The Last is a very large building by square footage per floor. Because of this, hotel rooms can only be situated along the 3 outer walls with windows while the interior of the building holds key amenities and operations. Each floor will keep the original elevator door trimming, as seen in the first photo. While the floor dials will not work, they will be set to the floor that you are on. A majority of the floors, six to be exact, will be a unique floor made of repurposed wood from the building, so no new wood had to be produced for this feature. The other two floors will utilize terrazzo flooring.
The actual hallways will have a dark green and cream paint on the walls while the ceilings remain exposed. The exposure of the ceilings is done to allow light to bounce and showcase the unique ceilings. They are unique in the way the concrete has a pattern from the way the floors were built in 1910 by wood planks. Hanging from the ceiling will be lights that will light up the wooden floors the go down the hallway corridors. Towards the end of the guest room corridors is a current atrium. This atrium will not remain as stairs will be built into it to meet the building code. The new stairs will serve all 10 floors.
Some of you may be asking, "what's in the center of each floor?". Well, it depends on what flor you choose.
The Center of the Floors
The center of the guest floors are really the backbone of the hotel operations and amenities for guests. On Floor 9 is perhaps the most unique feature of any hotel in Downtown, it's a screening room. There is literally a small movie theater on the 9th floor that can be rented out for movie screenings and/or special events that require a darker environment and a screen. The entrance to this screening room is surrounded by a brass doorway. The 8th floor is the fitness center for guests. Floors 5, 6 and 7 are the hotel's executive offices where the main offices will be.
Floors 3 and 4 are meeting rooms. These meeting rooms will have the same repurposed hard wood flooring in them along with spotlighting, TVs for conferences and other convenient features found in modern meeting rooms. Floor 2 will be a mixture of storage and housekeeping. Each one of these has two bathrooms outside of the "back door" which is situated on the opposite side of the atrium from me as seen in the corridor section above. The executive offices will have a locker room in them as well.
Now that I've reviewed the corridors and have told you what is in the center of the building, it's time to move into the guest rooms.
The Last Hotel offers 142 luxurious hotel rooms ranging in size from your typical 375SF room to the largest Presidential suite on the 9th floor. A majority of the rooms have fairly large windows which let's an abundance of light into the rooms. The larger windows are found in nearly all rooms while a few have different window designs that add to the vibe of the room. Every hotel room is unique in it's own right whether it is the color of the exposed concrete, the view or the window layout. Each room was designed to be the same but it's because of the last usage of the building that ultimately determines the vibe.
All of the rooms have a vaulted ceiling, which is a feature not found in any other hotel in the region that I can think of. Some of the room's vaulted ceilings are more prevalent than others, but I assure you, they are vaulted. There are two presidential suites in The Last. One is a corner room on the 9th Floor overlooking Downtown (picture with the ladder). The other Presidential Suite is significantly smaller and looks like it was the "boss' office" in the days of the Shoe Making business. But this smaller Presidential Suite offers a truly unique amenity not found in any of the other 141 rooms. That feature is a balcony. It's situated just above the doorway guests will access the elevators through. While my photo is hard to see of the balcony, you get the point.
My tour though did not take me through the single completed room. The room was locked but nearly every single room (I would say 75% of the rooms) in The Last were nearing the phase of simply furnishing them. Carpeting was in, light fixtures were waiting to be installed and finishing touch ups on the paint and trim work still had to be done. Despite this, The Last Hotel published two photos of a completed room on Facebook, which I included below.
From what I saw going in and out of the still being worked on rooms, they will be quite nice and these photos prove it. A large couch, rust colored leather arm chair, small tables, artwork and modern light elements make the sitting area of a room. A large bed and nice size bathroom are included in the rooms but not featured in these photos. Those elements are right behind the frame of the photo. Additional photos of the room are on their way.
With the rooms out of the way, and shaping up to be something quite unique, simple and beautiful, it was time to check out the ballroom area on the 10th floor.
The 10th Floor will soon be the place to go for wedding parties, banquets and company events. Featuring 6 ballrooms on this level, the possibilities are endless. Upon exiting the elevator is a "pre-function" area with a bar and repurposed marble flooring. This side of the building overlooks Downtown South towards Chouteau. The ballrooms range in size form 12 to 200 people and are all situated on this floor of The Last. Also included ion this floor is a catering kitchen and a men's and women's parlor. These will be areas were men and women can use the restroom and get ready for whatever function is about too be held out in the ballroom areas.
The ballrooms will feature exposed structural steelwork and exposed concrete. Partitions will also be available to divide the space. The views from the 10th Floor will be exceptional with walls of windows overlooking Downtown St. Louis. To make the experience even better is that the Corinthian columns will be lit up to accentuate their features at the crown.
Now to the star of nightlife at The Last, the Last Rooftop.
The Last Rooftop
Today, and recently, a crane has been swinging structural steel onto the rooftop of The Last, and with good reason, to construct the rooftop bar and pool deck. The Last Rooftop will be a place to meet, hangout and drink in the heart of Downtown West. Following the rooftop bar trend popping up all over St. Louis, the Last Rooftop aims to differentiate itself from the competition with views and amenities never before seen by the general public. People visiting the rooftop will be greeted with sweeping views of the entire City and Downtown areas. The Last Rooftop will be a place to start or end your night out on the town. Food will also be served here but it will stick to smaller bites rather than full course meals. Full course meals will be served in the Lobby restaurant known as "The Last Kitchen".
On my particular visit, the atmosphere was free of rain, fog, smog and haze meaning that I could see as far as my eyes could see. As seen in the photos below, the views from up here are stunning and will truly make anyone's night. Another Paric project is in the picture, Ballpark Village.
Clean & Green
I mentioned it earlier in this story, the 9 floor skywalk that connects the City Museum to The Last. It's an icon in many ways and Fe Equus looks to improve the aesthetics of it. Since it cannot be demolished without causing numerous problems, it also doesn't make sense. The skywalk is part of the history of the buildings and demolishing it would be a loss. In order to cope with the skywalk, Fe Equus has ambitions to turn it into 9 floors of Sky Gardens. While Jonathan didn't describe to me how they would do it, he says that it is an idea that they are seriously looking into.
With that concludes my tour, but the story doesn't stop there. As I said, there are odes to the building's past life as the International Shoe Company Building in everything from the room ceilings and even to the name. Besides those, Fe Equus took key pieces of the building's exterior design and incorporated them into the hotel's logo and name.
Odes to the Past
- The Last Hotel naming logo utilizes the same font face as seen in the "International Shoe Company" signage over the hotel guest elevator entrance.
- The hotel logo is of a male shoe maker utilizing a "Last" to make his shoe as seen in the interior shot of the vent or over the doors into the guest elevator entrance.
- The lobby will have a "showcase" that shows the public how shoes were made.
- The St. Louis Fashion Fund is having a series of designers design hotel employee clothing that is appropriate to the timeframe of the building (1910s and 1920s).
With that completes this "hard hat tour". Let me know what you think about The Last Hotel in the comments below. Also below are interior renderings and links to social media pages and the Last's website.
Links and Social Media