Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Franz Park Neighborhood

Franz Park is a south St. Louis neighborhood roughly bound by Dale to the north and east, Manchester to the south and the city limits to the west:
The 2000 census data counted 2,621 residents (down 10% from 1990's count) of whom 11% were black, 85% white, 1% Asian and 2% Hispanic/Latino. There were 1,318 housing units counted, 92% occupied (67%/33% owner/renter split).  I like the high occupancy rate.

This is one of 3 neighborhoods collectively referred to as Dogtown, including Hi-Point and Clayton-Tamm.

Like Clayton-Tamm and Ellendale, Franz Park judiciously marks its territory with street light flags:
Here's a little background (source):
Franz Park grew with the other "Dogtown" neighborhoods in the mid-1800s, when clay mining moved into the area. The railroads further increased the speed at which residents began to move into the area. Many immigrants from places such as Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Poland came to work in the mines. St. Louis fire brick was a growing industry that was employing most of the residents, who built homes around the industrial locations.
By the end of World War II, the mines had closed, and subdivisions had been built upon the old sites. As a result of the erratic way in which the houses in the neighborhood were built, a variety of architectural styles exist within the area. Despite the fact that the jobs created by fire brick were gone, the strong working class communities remained. In fact, with the World’s Fair in 1904, even more people had been enticed to move into the neighborhood, as did the Sulphur Springs Spa, for a few years. 
 And the neighborhood takes it's name to the gentleman that donated the park to the city:
Originally given to the city by E. D. Franz in 1915, it continues to host local sports activities. It has baseball diamonds and lighted tennis courts. It also hosts summer programs run by the Parks Department. The park is close to Roe Elementary School, home to a preschool through grade five program. Along with strong language arts programs, it also serves ESL (English as a Second Language) students. The preschool has two sessions, morning and afternoon. 
So what does Franz Park look like?  The three neighborhoods of Dogtown are surprisingly hilly.  The streets are packed with cars on both sides, evidence of the high residential occupancy rate.  Overall, this neighborhood really doesn't remind me of any other St. Louis neighborhood I've seen so far...maybe a well cared for Walnut Park East would be the best comparison.  It's a real mixed bag; and as per the entry above "...the erratic way in which the houses in the neighborhood were built, a variety of architectural styles exist within the area..." That description couldn't be more accurate.  If there is a prevailing type or style of home, I'd say it was the small frame homes from post WWII:
 There are many typical brick homes that can be seen in other parts of the city:
And there are some harder to categorize, unique places that remind me a lot of the inner ring suburb town of Maplewood:
But the real surprise was the amount of new construction.  I have to say....against all odds....I really like a lot of the contemporary infill in Franz Park, more so than any other neighborhood I've visited thus far:
There is a large public school directly west of Franz Park (the park) on Prather called Roe Elementary School.  It was designed by architect R. M. Milligan and was named for a well-known St. Louis steamboat captain and was finished in 1922, with an addition in 1927. 
 I didn't notice any intra-neighborhood businesses in Franz Park.  The businesses are concentrated along Manchester and McCausland.  There are several bars and restaurants as well as larger employers and many used car lots:
 I mentioned the former Scullin Steel Co. in my Ellendale post:
I've never patronized any of these places in Franz Park, so I can't speak to the quality of these joints.  However, I have both purchased and repaired vacuums at Discount Vac on McCausland just south of Olympia Taverna who recently tore down some homes for MORE surface parking.  But back to Discount Vac...this place is a St. Louis treasure.  You have to check it out and talk to the guy that owns/runs the place.  He's a total gentlemen and a true original.  You won't be disappointed.
Alright, I've covered Franz Park and Clayton-Tamm...on to Hi-Pointe to complete the Dogtown trifecta!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Mark Twain/I-70 Industrial Neighborhood

Mark Twain/I-70 Industrial is a north St. Louis neighborhood bound by I-70 to the north, Natural Bridge to the south, the city limits to the west and Kingshighway to the east:
The 2000 census data counted 1,361 residents (down 14% from 1990's count) of whom 74% were black, 24% white and 1% Asian. There were 393 housing units counted, 92% occupied (87%/13% owner/renter split). 

Mark Twain Industrial is the second most racially diverse north city neighborhood (ONSL counted 27% white people in 2000).  But, this is definitely not a largely residential neighborhood, so the north side still stands as a largely uni-culture, uni-racial part of our city.  Much of south St. Louis is very diverse in every way, north St. Louis is decidedly not. That's just a fact in our city.  One that hopefully will change and evolve to a place that people of all backgrounds and races choose to live.

A quick look at the map indicates there are huge parcels of land with very little road access.  Most of the property is dedicated to business parks and factories/processing facilities, so getting photos is really tough.  Obviously, I didn't take any pictures of the several U.S. miltary properties, and many of the business parks are private with guard stations disallowing blokes like me with cameras access.

Here's a brief snippet from the city website:
This highly industrialized area is home to the Army Mobility Equipment Center which houses defense divisions of government, including the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Other companies are ATCOM, Harward Interiors Manufacturing Co., Central States Diversified Inc., ABB Power T&D Company, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Unidynamics Corporation, and Lowy Group Inc.. This industrial area provides employment for many residents of the Northside. The now closed General Motors Plant offers great development potential. 
Other businesses I encountered were Smurfit-Stone Recycling and Pepsi.   It's good to see jobs and businesses in the city; but, many, if not most, of the former factories in Mark Twain Industrial are now abandoned; but many are very cool looking nonetheless:
Some factories have been converted to warehousing and distribution facilities:
The ghost sign on this next one reads "Wrought Iron Range Company established 1864"
The homes that do exist here are quite nice.  The streets are clean and the properties are tidy, this would be a great place to live if you worked at one of the many employers in this neighborhood.  The only detail that stuck out as unique were the frequency of under ground garages and entry ways that existed on many of the properties:
There are a few non-chain businesses, but not many and an impressive fire house:
There are some other suburban style campus settings including Mathews Dickey Boys and Girls Club, The City Academy, etc. 
There are a couple of sights that I noticed that aren't technically in the Mark Twain/I-70 Industrial neighborhood, but rather in the suburban city of Pine Lawn and the gasometer in the Wells/Goodfellow neighborhood of St. Louis, which used to be a common sight along I-44 in St. Louis County and along I-64 in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood of St. Louis:
But, just like most neighborhoods in St. Louis, there are some subtle details that will catch your eye and may capture your curiosity: