The Crest House

The St. Louis National Stock Yards Company opened for business in 1873 on the edge of East St. Louis, Illinois.

The transformation of the nation’s transportation system by the railroads had a strong impact on the livestock industry. It eliminated the need for long cattle drives by connecting the producers of livestock in the West with the major meat processing companies in the East. Markets built near important railroad centers came to dominate the livestock and meatpacking industry, and over the first half of the twentieth century, National Stock Yards became a major player.

St. Louis National Stock Yards Company

However, with the advent of the truck and later the interstate highway system the meatpacking industry began to decentralize and relocate away from centralized markets such as National Stock Yards. More and more farmers were delivering cattle, hogs and sheep to small regional packing houses.

As the 1960s began, National Stock Yards' business was on the decline. Their president, Gilbert Novotny, began looking for ways to diversify, and he liked the restaurant business as one possibility.

The idea was not new. The Stock Yard Inn in Chicago was a landmark and the Golden Ox restaurants in Kansas City, Denver and Washington, D. C. were all operations of the Kansas City Stock Yards Company.

On March 12, 1965, the St. Louis National Stock Yards Company opened The Crest House at Broadway and Chestnut in downtown St. Louis. The restaurant was situated on the ground floor of the new Civic Center Stadium garage, built for the new Busch Memorial Stadium, which was still under construction.

The Crest House and Stadium North Parking Garage at Broadway and Chestnut, 1967
(click image to enlarge)

The Crest House's large main dining room, with its Country French décor, seated three hundred diners. The room was dimly lit, with dark natural woods and brick facing on the walls. A large brick open broiler kitchen to the right of the entryway was in full view, with flames licking at steaks from a huge mound of red-hot charcoal. Suits or sport coats were recommended for men, and similar appropriate evening dress for women.

The Crest House Dining Room, 1967
(click image to enlarge)
The Crest House Dining Room

There was a men’s bar, separate from the main dining room. Two banquet rooms, seating 100 and 80 persons, were available for private parties.

The Crest House Men's Bar

The Crest House menu was limited, with an emphasis on steaks and prime rib. The monstrous cut of prime rib was close to two inches thick, a mass of meat that dwarfed the plate.

The Crest House Lunch Menu, 1965
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The Crest House Dinner Menu, 1973
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The Crest House got a boost when the new downtown stadium opened in 1966, serving 250 more dinners each evening. When the Cardinals played night games at Busch Stadium, dinner was served until midnight. A special late supper menu was developed to cater to the post game crowd.

In 1967, The Crest House received another infusion of diners when the Stadium Cinema opened immediately west of the restaurant. The 452-seat movie theatre was the first new deluxe theatre in downtown St. Louis since 1926.

Busch Memorial Stadium, 1966 The Stadium Cinema, 1967

The Crest House sales of nearly $1,750,000 in 1966 provided 15 to 20 percent of the National Stock Yards' net profit. Shortly after opening The Crest House, Novotny and the Stock Yards embarked on a second venture in "meat retailing" by opening a restaurant called The Inn in the Stock Yards. The venture was not as successful as The Crest House but nonetheless added to the total profit picture of the company. Novotny talked about expanding The Crest House concept to other cities, including San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Memphis.

But there was no further expansion, and the fortunes of the National Stock Yards Company continued to decline. The Crest House was shuttered at the end of 1984, in part because Gilbert Novotny was retiring as president the following April. At he end of 1997, the National Stock Yards closed its livestock division.

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