Posted On: 11/01/2006
The western edge of Soulard’s Allen Avenue is mostly Dan and Mia Jameson’s, but you, as a guest in their Lucas School House, are undoubtedly welcome. Sometimes, Mia Jameson even greets you at the door. Be it a live music performance, business event or free-food/free-drink open house, Soulard – make that, St. Louis – has something novel and interesting in the Lucas School House.
In the fall of 2004, the Jamesons went to work at the intersection of Gravois, 13th and Allen. By mid-2005, their additions to the neighborhood’s charm were obvious. Unlike many rehabbers, the Jamesons didn’t dally. One day, a little brick work. The next day, formerly hidden windows are exposed. The next day, it’s open to the public. Almost. According to Dan Jameson, his wife, as the general contractor and designer, made the Lucas School House rehab happen in less than 100 days, starting around Mardi Gras 2006.
After nearly a century as a bottom-floor, one-room classroom and top-floor gym for many different churches, Lucas School House is now a bottom-floor lounge and top-floor music venue. “We bought the church and schoolhouse with the intention of living and working in them,” Dan Jameson said. “But, before we got into the rehab, we realized it was better as an assembly space, as it had been for 100 years. So, rather than break it into multiple residential units, we kept it
The first floor lounge: single room; refinished wood floors; high ceilings; two huge mirrors; leather chairs, couches and ottomans broken into groupings ideal for conversation; a loft for two-to-three piece bands; a small corner bar; and beautiful original windows with glass so old it refracts light. The second floor music hall: single room; refinished wood floors; lower ceilings; wall-side tables and church pews (seating options vary by music act); a full-size stage; and a small, front-side bar.
Oftentimes, the music act on the second floor is projected onto the wall of the first, allowing comfortable lounging, conversation and music watching/listening. Ultimately, for such a nondescript facade – even after rehab – the Lucas School interior is striking. This isn’t Big Daddy’s. This isn’t how I know Soulard.
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Lucas hosts a wide array of live music, from all-acoustic cover bands to Javier Mendoza to folk and bluegrass. The bigger the musical act, the bigger the crowd. In fact, while the crowds usually lean 27-plus and professional, the band pretty much dictates the crowd in age, dress and attitude. Expect DJs sometime soon. I had my best time on a sleepy Thursday night, slumped in a comfortable chair facing the music loft, drinking a Stella (or five), taking in Emily and Ali’s all-acoustic Alice in Chains and Radiohead covers.
The drink selection: more than 25 bottled beers, most usual domestics; nine wines available by the glass or bottle; the standard liquors and sprits; no shots specials – remember, this isn’t Johnny’s. (A note to the Jamesons: Add more Belgian beer. I always want Belgian beer.) The food selection is modest yet superb because of some delicious meats – beef tenderloin sandwiches and mortadella antipasto. Last but not least, no smoking inside.
The straight 411 …
For a matchless music venue and lounge space, unlike anything in Soulard – let alone St. Louis – head to the Lucas School House. Compliment the Jamesons on the space and welcome them to the neighborhood.
The first thing that popped into my head when I opened up the historic double doors and walked into the former religious school was, “Wow, this is not what I expected.” I don’t know what it was about the name and idea of Lucas School House that conjured up images of a dank and musty basementlike club. Boy, was I wrong.
When you walk through the enormous doorway, you get the feeling of greatness. The vaulted ceilings and sparse décor give the space an ethereal feel. The large, open main room is filled with sleek black leather seating and not much else. The room is truly simplicity at its best. The upstairs is similarly understated, though the original floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows provide an elegant extravagance. The upstairs also boasts a modest stage for musical acts, but the stage does not overpower the room.
The crowd at Lucas tends to vary with the musical acts. Jazz and blues tend to draw an older and wiser crowd, while some alternative acts filter in the young and rowdy. Smaller acoustic acts are hosted in the main room; larger acts grace the stage upstairs. You would be pretty hard-pressed to snub your nose at every act that hits Lucas. If you can’t find a band that fits your mood here, you just plain don’t dig music.
But Lucas isn’t just about music. If that isn’t really your scene, you can still kick back on the large, heated patio (tented as of Nov. 1) and enjoy a few pleasantly priced cocktails, including occasional specials like $2 domestics and $3 well drinks.
A small menu of smartly decorated food manages to offer something for almost everybody. From the School House Platter of goat cheese, hummus, tabbouli, roasted red peppers and pita to beef tenderloin sandwiches served on jalapeño cheese rolls with spicy sauce, Lucas provides something for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.
The venue’s owners have just as much personality as the space they created. Dan Jameson, a former tax consultant, and his wife, Mia, a former jewelry designer, ooze with excitement over the property. They currently reside in the church next door, another space they are renovating to make into an even larger music venue. Soon, the Jamesons will have their own little entertainment monopoly with three separate clubs all in the same area. But with the time and detail they put into the spaces, I don’t think St. Louis music-lovers will mind.
Overall, Lucas is awesome. It is a space that will draw people in for not only music, but also for night after night of cocktails mixed with greatness. It is a bar I know I will return to time and time again for a good time, good music and cheap drinks.
The straight 411 …
One of the best music venues to hit St. Louis in a long time. Also, one of the best places to just kick back and let the aura of the space envelop you.
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