Home of the Arch-Fiend: St. Louis Vincent Price Sites

October 10, 2014 — Vincent Price was almost a candy maker. For most people on the planet, that statement would have been one of tragedy. I mean, who wants to miss out on the sweet life? Of course, Vincent Price achieved one of the few things higher up the cool scale than candy maker. He became a horror movie icon.

Actually, more than a horror movie icon, he became a legend of the macabre. He played up his deft ability to be creepy, classy, and comic for all kinds of media, including commercials, TV spots, print ads, and music videos. Our beloved boogeyman seemed to rip into any roles with Tyrannosaurus glee, regardless of whether it was based on high literature like his Poe movies or copy-written by a 21-year-old advertising intern for a bathroom cleanser commercial. Of course, he was also a great actor, which is an important piece of that puzzle. Eh, probably its whole border.

I honestly can’t break down his appeal more than that without turning this into a fan site. I mean, there are a lot of horror movie icons, but few as adored as Vincent Price.

I’ve always wanted to see a site connected to Vincent Price. Since he died in October of 1993, that ideally would have been his grave but, as his ashes were scattered at sea from Point Dume in California (if findagrave.com is correct), I had to go in the other direction and see the place of his birth.

He was born in the shadow of the Gateway Arch of St. Louis, Missouri. Not literally (or even figuratively...see correction in the comments), but I assume everyone in St. Louis has a tan line across their bodies from that giant metal earth piercing. He was born in 1911 into a wealthy family. His grandfather invented a baking powder that did them well, and his father started the National Candy Company, a major player in the toothrot game until it was bought and dissolved in 1946 by the Chase Candy Company.

Price lived in more than one place in St. Louis, but when he was 12, his family built a house at 6320 Forsyth Boulevard where he lived until he went to Yale and which still stands today, across from the Washington University School of Architecture. It’s an nice piece of architecture, no doubt, made of candy in the figurative sense and not the Hansel and Gretel one.

Before taking off for college, though, his schooling took place at St Louis Country Day School. The school no longer exists, but its lineage is maintained. In 1958, decades after Price attended, the school moved to 101 N. Warson Road and the original campus was torn down. In the 1990s, it merged with an adjacent school to become the Mary Institute Country Day School. So technically, the place no longer has a connection to Price, except that in 1984 (the year of Thriller), Price returned as a VIP to accept an award, and then a few years later, the school named its theater him.

It’s not his only honorarium in the city, though. St. Louis has its own walk of fame, which features 140 famous native sons and daughters including Ulysses S. Grant, Chuck Berry, Maya Angelou, John Goodman, Harold Ramis, T.S. Eliot, and Vincent Price. Price’s brass star and plaque dub him the “King of Horror” and include the usual caveats about his art and cooking passions. You can find it on the sidewalk directly in front of an Art Gallery called Componere.

So his house, his school, his star. They’re no gravestone, but I’ve saved the best for last and it could possibly beat a final resting place—the candy factory that his family owned and which could have been his destiny had he not decided to go into acting.

Let me rephrase that, it’s the candy factory of the family of a horror movie icon. It could only get more interesting if it was abandoned.

Guess what?

Today, the 115-year-old, seven-floor, fortress-like candy factory on Gravois Avenue is a rotting monster. You could film a Vincent Price movie here without having to set-dress it. The brown-brick edifice towers over that part of town like the memory of something bad, its window broken and boarded, its masonry stained and crumbling, its facade draped with a large white sign pleading for someone to buy it.

The only real clue I could find on its exterior as to its past was a small, colorful, octagonal plaque above one of the doors. It was filled with candy imagery and somehow survived all the decay and vandalism.

This last site closed a circle for me. During the 2012 Halloween Season, I did a thing called Bag of the Red Death, where I bought 70-year-old candy bag off eBay that had been manufactured for the National Candy Company, filled it with red assorted gummies, and then watched Vincent Price in The Masque of the Red Death.

So I’ve got my mileage out of Vincent Price as a candy scion. Almost makes up for not have a gravestone where I could pay my respects. And make a joke about rrrrrroting inside a corpse's shell.

Cue Thriller laugh.