Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Wydown/Skinker Neighborhood

Wydown/Skinker is a south St. Louis neighborhood bound by Forsyth to the north, Clayton to the south, the city limits to the west and Skinker to the east.  These city limit boundaries are somewhat elusive, I have heard that St. Louis extends ~600 feet west of Skinker Blvd.  And as I learned in my tour of Ellendale, the city/county streets are paved with different materials, so the actual border may be traced by keeping a close eye to the pavement.  I've estimated the approximate boundaries in the following map:
Wydown Skinker is St. Louis' smallest neighborhood in area.  The 2000 census data counted 1,056 residents (down 10% from 1990's count) of whom 3% were black, 90% white 6% Asian and 2% Hispanic/Latino. There were 727 housing units counted, 91% occupied (46%/54% owner/renter split).  The 2010 census data indicated a loss of only 2 people, with some slight racial shifts:  86% white, 7% Asian, 3% black and 3% Hispanic/Latino.

From the scant website:
The Wydown Skinker neighborhood is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city. Large homes, many built in the 1920's, grace tree lined private streets. Large houses on Skinker Boulevard are directly across the street from Forest Park and all of its amenities. Washington University is right next door, as is Clayton, Missouri, one of St. Louis' finest suburbs and the seat of the St. Louis County Government. Skinker also houses several high rise apartment and condominium buildings, and smaller apartment buildings are located on several side streets.

The neighborhood features many shops, restaurants, and other businesses, as well as schools, churches, and medical facilities.
Actually, I think all the shops, restaurants and other businesses are in Clayton.

Probably everyone in St. Louis and St. Louis County are familiar with Wydown Skinker as it is the westernmost part of St. Louis that borders the beautiful Forest Park along Skinker. 

It is also home to the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center (open to the public):
And certainly you've seen the giant Amoco sign on Clayton and Skinker right next to the Hi-Pointe theater (which isn't in Wydown Skinker, but the Hi-Pointe neighborhood):
Although Amoco is now called British Petroleum (BP), they kept the old Amoco sign.  Here's some more info from Wikipedia:
Although a few Amoco stations still use their former logo, most have since been converted to the BP livery. In St. Louis, Missouri, near the highest point of the city, the largest Amoco sign in the world, both before and after the company's demise, still stands. It stands at the intersection of Clayton Road, Skinker Boulevard, McCausland Avenue, and Interstate 64/U.S. Highway 40. It is visible up to 2 miles away on the interstate. Most surviving BP stations are kept so BP can continue holding the trademarks for Amoco and Standard.
Another landmark the Cheshire Inn, recently given new exposure in the Oscar nominated film Up In The Air, is partially in Wydown Skinker.  The Cheshire Inn restaurant and bar are in the city, the hotel is in swanky Clayton, MO an inner ring suburb of St. Louis.  I believe the movie was actually shot in the restaurant which is in St. Louis, not Clayton.
I'm not the guy that's gonna talk up the 91 cities in St. Louis County, I'll leave that to the next guy to talk up all the cool places in the St. Louis suburbs (and there are many).  But, man, I've gotta mention some choice snippets from the descriptions of the various "fantasy rooms" off of the Cheshire Inn website:

"the mirrored canopy over the king size bed and fringed lamp shades set this suite apart from your typical hotel room"

"canopy of trees"

"feeling of the high seas"

"heart shaped jacuzzi surrounded by red tinted mirrors"

"surrounded by vines and other greenery to put you in the center of a lush rain forest"

Honey, I hope I'm not showing my hand just too much, but I know exactly where we're going for our next anniversary :)

I am not being a smart aleck, I approve on all levels of the kitsch and otherwise.
^Must....obey....sign....

The neighborhood of Clayton, MO that borders Wydown Skinker is called Ellendale, and as I mentioned above the city/county dividing line is not as clear as other neighborhoods.

In some areas the pavement does tell you when you are in St. Louis or Clayton:
In other areas, Clayton distinctly marks its territory:
On other streets such as Aberdeen, Arundel and Northwood, it's not as clear.   I spoke to 4 different residents of WS to get their take on the city/county divide.  The first person told me the streets aren't as clear an indicator and that I should look for the city dumpsters/roll carts in the alleys.  Great advice.

The second person I spoke to gave me a priceless story to tell.  She was doing some yard work in her front yard and I stopped on my scooter to ask her take on the city/county dividing line.  I motioned with my hands to indicate I was talking about the streets and properties, and I posed my question: "excuse me ma'am, can you tell me the difference between St. Louis and Clayton?", without pause, she looked me in the eyes and said "attitude".  Hell yes!  I laughed a jolly laugh, and wanted to give her a hug for preaching to the choir!  I knew I didn't phrase my question properly, but her immediate, honest and unfiltered response was great.  I pointed to the "CITY" sticker on my scooter and said "I'm a city guy, so you just made my day, and I know exactly what you're talking about".  You can pretend all you want that we don't have real divides in this town, but racism and regionalism are our 2 biggest problems on both sides of the argument.  I mean, even among the privileged, there is still tension/snobbery and disagreement  between county and city dwellers.

Then I asked a homeowner on another street and he pointed me to the concrete marker in the grass which he thought was the city/county marker:
But then he pointed me to his neighbor right down the road who is the president for the Ellendale neighborhood of Clayton, MO.  He was a total gentlemen and said, "follow me, I've got a map."  He went to his home and brought out a laminated copy of an original map from April 11, 1923 from the designer of the neighborhood.  He pointed out to me that it's not a clear or even straight dividing line.  One thing is for sure, you can't discern by the styles of the homes whether you are in Clayton or St. Louis when in the Wydown Skinker neighborhood.

So I've done my best to show you only the properties and places within Wydown Skinker and not Clayton, MO.  I'll leave documenting the 91 suburban cities of St. Louis County to the next guy, my task is to talk up St. Louis.

And talking up Wydown Skinker is easy.  It's got some of the finest apartment buildings in the city.  Not just the multi-families, but the high rises as well.  The high rise apartment buildings along Skinker may be the most handsome in all the city, at least rivaling the Central West End and Downtown.

Here are some of the low rise apartments:
 Not too bad, eh?  But my favorite draw to Wydown Skinker are the high rises that overlook the park:
There are many other interesting sites and institutions within W/S including the Vedanta Society:
 The Forsyth School:
The churches:
The homes of Wydown Skinker are certainly exclusive and beautiful.
Although the photo quality is poor, check out the pitch on this roof toward the right:
 
Man, the 1920's were good to St. Louis.

Make no mistake, this is an exclusive neighborhood.  But, the cool thing about St. Louis is that these large homes built with such pride and craftsmanship are attainable by the hoi polloi.  You don't have to be a bazillionaire to own a home like these.  There are plenty of homes very similar in style, stature and size in Visitation Park, Academy, West End, etc. that are rehab ready to become showplaces and swanky neighborhoods just like Wydown Skinker.

19 comments:

Herbie said...

The 6200 Block is in the city; the 6300 block, the county. Captain Elementary on Northwood makes the city/county border perfectly clear.

STLgasm said...

Though it is technically the Skinker-Wydown neighborhood, I think most people identify it as DeMun. And though relatively tiny in size, it certainly packs a punch.

Mark Groth said...

^The city calls is Wydown Skinker, and I'm going with the city names and boundaries from this site:

http://stlouis.missouri.org/neighborhoods/alphaindex.html

FWIW, I've heard it called Skinker/Wydown too. The DeMun moniker is one I've always associated with Clayton.

Matt M. said...

Wydown Skinker sounds like a disease.

I call this nabe "City DeMun".

Great shots!

Michael Lewyn said...

All of this brings back fond memories- before I moved to St. Louis in 1990, I visited to look for an apt and used the hotel as one of my "command posts" for making phone calls, relaxing between apartment visits, etc. (It was a one-year job; I lived in the Park Plaza, then moved away in 1991).

InsomniaCafe said...

I have to think that, for most people, the important dividing line in Wydown-Skinker is the city/Clayton school line, whereever that might be. I'd be curious to know if there's an immediate drop off in price between properties on either side of that school line.

makati condo said...

It's a suitable location when looking for residential properties. Compare the prices to get the right deal.

manila condo said...

The neighborhood looks ideal enough. Choose the one that suits your preference.

thailand real estate said...

They should acknowledge this stretch of homes in masonry.

houses for rent in cincinnati ohio said...

Those are great properties indeed. I would love to stay on that condominium but the houses also look great. If you like to see a better view, then you may choose a condominium unit located above 15th floor. However, prices on this location might be higher compared to the units located lower than the said floor.

pimalai resort koh lanta said...

That place looks neat. It would surely be a pleasurable experience to walk around St. Louis City and see these pretty buildings.

Sharon said...

These are great properties. I would love to stay in a condominium as well. Living in a condominium gives luxury. However, I found these houses to be compelling as well. Anyway, people who have invested their money on these properties really made the right choice.

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Alice said...

I lived on Rosebury for a year, never ever heard the neighborhood referred to as Skinker/Wydown. Everyone called it DeMun. Prettiest apartment of the 3 I've had in St. Louis, but also the most expensive and the least interaction I've had with my neighbors.

Mark Groth said...

^Alice, thanks for reading. Based on the neighbors I talked to in Skinker/Wydown, DeMun is a neighborhood/area of Clayton, MO, the well-heeled suburban municipality immediately to the west of St. Louis.

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Anonymous said...

Your estimated western boundary of the Wydown/Skinker Neighborhood is about 3 times too far west. 6963 is the last house in the City of St. Louis on Clayton Road (Ave). That is the third house west of the alley, immediately west of the closed entrance to Alamo Avenue. I guess that is about 600 ft west of Skinker.

My grandmother lived there from 1948 till her death in 1962. Medart's was the restaurant across the street that Steve Apted bought and re-named the Cheshire.

The present Amoco sign is in the original location though not the original sign. That would be the enormous Standard Oil sign that was externally illuminated with bulbs on the steel structure. It was replaced by the internally illuminated sign.