Sitting on Washington Ave between 6th and 7th Streets, the National Blues Museum resides in what was initially known as the Grand-Leader building, most known today as the Stix, Baer, and Fuller building. Stix, Baer, and Fuller was a department store chain that operated from 1892-1984. In 1906, their department store occupied an entire block of downtown St. Louis, where they found themselves amidst a growing city. At this time, St. Louis was the fourth largest city in the United States and two years earlier, had hosted the 1904 World’s Fair and Summer Olympics. For many years, this store was a primary influencer of high-class fashion in the metro St. Louis area.
Fashion isn’t the only thing that made this building famous. In May of 1944, the first organized lunch counter sit-in in St. Louis took place in the National Blues Museum’s infamous Legends Room. Five women sat at the Stix, Baer, and Fuller lunch counters with signs that read, “In Christ, there is no Black nor White” and “A Nazi’s bullet knows no prejudice.” These women were of various races and were members of the Citizens Civil Rights Committee (CCRC). They sat at the counters until closing time, but not a single one of them was served that day. For the next three months, the CCRC would continue to sit-in at the Stix, Baer, and Fuller Building and several other downtown department stores.
The success of the Stix, Baer, and Fuller Company slowly began to decline after being purchased by the Associated Dry Goods (ADG) in 1966. Unable to compete against other local stores, the ADG sold the storefront to Dillard’s, and they resided here until 2001. After ten years of renovations and expansions, the building reopened in 2011 as the Laurel Apartments and an Embassy Suites hotel. Not too long after, the National Blues Museum followed. At the National Blues Museum, we are proud to sit in a historical landmark that was used to advocate for equal rights. African American history was made on that day in 1944, and we plan to continue that legacy by producing Blues exhibits that tell about the struggles African Americans faced through music.