Sunday, February 22, 2015

Family History Writing Challenge Day 22

Isaiah Williamson, owner of Murdoch Farm from 1878 until he sold it to James Farrar in 1888, died in Philadelphia on March 7, 1889 at the age of 86. He left an estate valued at over $10 million, which was primarily distributed to charities, though he did bequeath some cash to his siblings, nieces and nephews as he had no wife or children of his own. Part of the estate taken into consideration was the loan he had issued to Charles T. Farrar for the purchase of Murdoch Farm from James Farrar.

Charles T. Farrar
Charles Farrar was still involved in real estate, now owning the firm of Farrar & Tate with Frank R. Tate. Charles Farrar established the Shrewsbury Park Land and Improvement Company for the purpose of developing the land once belonging to John Murdoch. Farrar served as President, Frank R. Tate as Secretary, and Seddon & Blair as attorneys. Later Tate was named Vice President, and Joseph E. Gorman joined the firm as Secretary.

Murdoch Farm was renamed Shrewsbury Park by the company, which quickly expended $25,000 in grading the streets, putting in sidewalks, and planting trees and shrubs. The May 29, 1888 St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the "location is well elevated on the 'Frisco, between Harlem Heights and Old Orchard, at an altitude that affords an extended view of the surrounding country."

On May 22, 1889 Charles Farrar and his wife, Nancy Gorman Farrar, sold the land they had purchased from James Farrar in 1888 to the Shrewsbury Park Land and Improvement Company for $79,800. The first subdivision of Shrewsbury Park was platted on June 17, 1889 and subdivided into lots measuring 50' x 150', with the second, third and fourth subdivisions quickly following. Farrar and Tate were busy urging St. Louis residents who could pay $10 down and $10 a month to avoid "all the discomforts of the city, viz.: excessive taxation, noise, smoke, soot, heat in the summer, crowds, bad odors and infectious diseases" by moving to "the country", and specifically to the Shrewsbury Park subdivision laid out on the Murdoch Farm. The cost of each lot was $100. When the fourth subdivision was ready to be sold, the pricing was set at $5 down and $5 per month for the lots were that were located within the St. Louis City limits because they were subject to "excessive city taxes." Additionally,  Shrewsbury Park Land and Improvement Company paid the taxes for two years on the city lots.

Shrewsbury Train Depot
The real estate developers, Farrar and Tate, placed ads in the newspaper to entice city dwellers to come and visit Shrewsbury Park. The two men even commissioned Carroll F. Mulkey to compose music to charm the visitors. The result was the Shrewsbury Waltz. People from the city read the news releases supplied by Farrar & Tate, and they road the commuter trains for a first hand look at the property. There were fifty-six commuter trains each day, with a fare of six cents. The development company made the trip convenient by having a station built right in Shrewsbury Park. The Shrewsbury Train Depot was on the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company line.

St. Louis Exposition & Music Hall
Farrar and Tate were looking for ways to promote Shrewsbury Park, and they found an opportunity in the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall Association which held an annual exposition showcasing the achievements of the St. Louis area. Taking place in a building constructed in 1884 at a cost of $750,000, the autumn fair was very popular with locals and tourists alike. For their display in 1889, they created an exact reproduction miniature of Shrewsbury Park.

Shrewsbury Park miniature

Perhaps the exhibition paid off for them. On September 22, 1889 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported the sale of lots in Shrewsbury Park. Many transactions had taken place during the month, with sales totaling nearly $12,000.

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