One of the first on the scene along Oak’s 600 block was a small two story brick veneered building with the dubious name of St. Jerman etched into its pediment – an unfortunate misspelling. The building’s actual name is the St. Germain block, which is a French name of some nobility. St. Germain was the bishop of Paris during medieval times, and helped establish both the Abby and surrounding Parisian neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-pres. I’m not sure if the building was named after the bishop himself or just a local businessmen with the same name. There were a few St. Germain’s listed in the Polk directory at the time, so it’s very possible that the building was simply named after one of them.
The St. Germain block – at least according to that erroneous nameplate – was built in 1891. This would make the building the oldest on the 600 block. The building consists of two storefronts, one facing Oak at its rear and a second facing adjacent 7th street. The building was originally built to house a saloon (owned and operated by a St. Germain I would presume) in its 7th street retail space. A grocer operated the Oak Street space. By 1916 the building’s original saloon had been replaced by Sterk Anton’s Men’s Furnishings, a clothing store. A new saloon moved into the Oak Street space, and promptly built an addition to the building to house liquor supplies.
The St. Germain block (at left in the photo above) was perhaps most famous as the home to a weekly Italian language newspaper known as “La Sentinella”, or “The Sentinel” in English. The political periodical covered local and Italian issues from a socialist perspective, and was quite popular in the local Italian American community. Interestingly the paper’s publisher was none other then John Lisa, the man who built the neighboring Lisa Block. The paper ran from around 1896 to 1903.
Today the old building is once again home to a saloon, now part of Carmelitas restaurant. The current owners have cleaned up the old building rather nicely, at least along the first floor facade. Both storefronts are now part of the restaurant, with that old liquor store addition being utilized for the kitchen.
Though no longer used today, St. Germain’s main retail space on 7th street once featured a rather grand corner entrance embellished with an ornate column and decorative molding along its top. The grand opening has since been paneled in and closed off, but remnants of its more opulent past still shine through.
One of those remnants is the highly ornate molding seen over the entrance and along the top of the building’s first floor. I can’t be sure if these are tin or are actually hand carved wood. My guess is that they’re a combination of both. The recent paint job is amazing, and does a great job of showing off the building’s grace.
Above those ornate moldings we find a second floor that has seen better days. But once again, hints of the building’s former self can still be noted along the facade, including the large pediments placed over each window.
Here’s a closer look at one of tho window treatments.
St. Germain’s most interesting architectural detail can be seen over atop the old Oak street retail space, in the form of these small oriel windows. Originally this upper floor was home to apartments. This particular unit would have had a great view from these windows.
Up top the building’s old cornice is remarkable still intact, though it’s seen better days. These look to be made of tin, and share the same pattern as seen down below atop the first floor.