The Joy of Living in a Historic Neighborhood

Painting a local bookstore and cafe.

Just two blocks away from our home, sitting right on the edge of Benton Park with a tranquil view of the lake from the outdoor patio, is Spine Bookstore and Café.

The latest painting in my Benton Park neighborhood series, Spine Bookstore & Cafe


I has provided a nice walkable respite for me when I need a break – and a good coffee.  One can often find the owner, Mark Pannebecker, behind the bar and he is always good for a yarn and a laugh.

In the evenings, Spine offers open mic, live music, book readings and poetry and you can grab a beer, wine or one of their cocktail specials. In fact, Spine was voted Best Indy Bookstore and Café 2022 by local paper, Riverfront Times.

In addition to the ambiance and sense of community the bookstore and café imbues, I have always loved the 1889 building that houses Spine. It truly represents the historic essence of the Benton Park neighborhood which is one of the oldest areas of St. Louis.

Naturally I decided to do what I do best and capture it as an art form so others can  enjoy it as well. The First Anniversary of Spine last weekend, provided the perfect time to unveil the painting and present a framed print to Mark, the owner.  To celebrate his anniversary, Mark held The Caffeinated Art Fair.  It was well attended for a somewhat chilly late November day and there was a wonderful array of local arts and crafts on display.

Presenting my painting to Make Pannebecker, the owner of Spine Bookstore & Cafe

History of the building that houses Spine

Of course, I had to find out a little history about the building that houses Spine.  Like many relics of the built past, what I found was very interesting.

It was built in 1889 by Christian Shollmeyer and is located in the Benton Park Historic District which is listed on the National Historic Register.

The building remained under family ownership for at least a decade following Christian’s death in 1925. It held commercial spaces and housed laborers in its apartments. From a 1930 city directory, the storefronts were occupied by a shoe repair, a beauty shop, and an upholsterer, with a grocery at the corner, while one resident was chief engineer for a photographic supply manufacturer.

Back in prohibition days it was a speakeasy, i.e. an illicit liquor store. By the 1940’s and 50’s “white flight” had set in and many historic neighborhoods and their Victorian homes began to fall into deeper and deeper disrepair.  The building eventually became a drinking hole with a brothel upstairs and then it was abandoned for vagrants and vandalism to take hold.


This photo of the building below depicts the story of Benton Park and St. Louis in general when so much of the city and its historic buildings were boarded up and left for whatever fate might come their way.  A far cry from the Benton Park we know and love today.

The abandoned building, all boarded up. Photo credit – Esley Hamilton – May 1984


The building finally experienced a new lease of life in the 1980s when it was fully rehabbed.

A look inside Spine Bookstore & Cafe

Here’s a few pics of an evening gathering and the bookstore.



If you live locally, check out Spine Bookstore & Café. My Indy coffee table book can be found in the bookstore along with an array of interesting reads. I also have some prints of the original painting of Spine available for purchase, with half the proceeds going to Spine.  And if you happen to see me hanging out there, be sure to say hello!

Ciao for now,