Medart's

The eating place on the wedge-shaped corner at Skinker and Clayton has had various names, decors and management over the years, but to old-timers it's still Medart's.

William S. Medart was the son of a sporting goods equipment manufacturer and a leading amateur golfer. He married silent film actress Blossom Breneman in Oct 1928, and the newlyweds settled down briefly in Hollywood so the new Mrs. Medart could finish her title role in the "The Bride of the Colorado," a Cecil B. De Mille production. It was while in Beverly Hills that the Medarts noted the social rise of the lowly hamburger, exalted by a restaurateur who had made a million dollars in five years.
 

Blossom Breneman William S. Medart

The Medarts returned to St. Louis and took a five year lease on the lot on the south side of Clayton, just west of Skinker, and set about the business of glorifying the American hamburger.
 

Blossom and Bill outside Medart's
in November 1930.
Bill and Blossom Medart make a hamburger
at their restaurant in November 1930.

The Medarts opened their restaurant at 7036 Clayton on October 9, 1930 in a former A & W Root Beer stand. Bill ran the grill, Blossom made coconut pies their burger joint was an instant hit. The depression was in full downward swing, and the hamburger had become fashionable. The Medart offering, which went for 15 cents, was served on a bun with an onion, if preferred, and always with a special mayonnaise-based green relish, which made it distinctive. It provided the proper ending to a night at the opera, a visit to the movies or Sunday supper.
 

Original 1930s Bill Medart's Menu
(click image to enlarge)

But Bill Medart learned more from his Beverly Hills mentor than how to grill burgers. In 1932, the Medarts opened a second restaurant at 3427 South Kingshighway. The old stand at Clayton and Skinker was demolished and a new building constructed with an Old English look. A much larger addition, a brick restaurant & tavern called the Olde Cheshire, was built in 1939. In 1942, property immediately west of the restaurant was purchased, and another elaborate addition was constructed. In 1949, the Rose and Crown opened "a dining room of ineffable charm where lovers of good living [were] regaled with world-famous dishes and rare wines, amid the elegant surroundings of an all-but-vanished past."

1940s Bill Medart's Menu
(click image to enlarge)
 
1946 Medart's South Kingshighway Menu
(click image to enlarge)
 
1946 Drawing by Architect Erwin Carl Schmidt
(click image to enlarge)
 

But Medart's had its growing pains. Frustrated by long hours and low pay, Medart's waitresses went on strike in July 1941. They demanded their pay be increased from $7 to $15 for a six-day week and that Medart's provide their uniforms and hire assistants to bus tables. Bill Medart said the demands would break him, but he eventually settled and gave the waitresses most of what they wanted.
 

Waitresses go on strike at Medart's restaurant on July 19, 1941.
 

Striking Medart's waitresses on the picket line on July 21, 1941, day three of their strike.

In January 1951, tragedy struck the Medarts. The family had gone to Europe for a year's stay; their 17-year-old daughter Mimi was studying for a stage career and their 21-year-old son Edward was attending the Sorbonne. There was a quarrel over the family remaining in Paris; Bill Medart wanted to return home immediately. On the night of January 12, with his wife and children present, he rushed to the French window of their fifth floor suite at the Hotel Continental and plunged to his death on the pavement below. The French police listed his death as a suicide. Bill Medart was 46 years old.

Blossom Medart became full owner of the restaurant property, valued at $1,000,000. In 1960, she sold the business to a corporation headed by Stephen J. Apted, vice president of Hulling's Cafeterias. The restaurant was closed for remodeling and reopened under the name Cheshire Inn.


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