Centered within a labyrinth of aged factories, the Cotton Belt is a gritty, but beautiful monument to St. Louis’ industrial history.
The Cotton Belt Freight Depot was a key link in a cotton trade route that ran through Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri. Built in 1911, the depot served the then-booming cotton industry for decades, but eventually, the site was shuttered and abandoned. The design of the structure incorporates sculpted terra cotta elements and grand portal designs making it seem a bit grander than a warehouse depot might normally be.
The now-abandoned building stands five-stories high, but its most striking feature is its length and thinness. At around 750 feet long, the building is more of a wall than a building. Much of its vacant exterior is scrawled with graffiti, but the Eastern side of the exterior is covered with a bright “Migrate” mural that was painted as part of a revitalization project centered on the site.
Once adjacent to a tent city, the empty site is now in the crosshairs of a proposed stadium, but it does receive limited protection as a part of the National Register of Historic Places. Even in retirement, the Cotton Belt has survived all seasons.