Saturday, April 16, 2011

The O'Fallon Neighborhood

O'Fallon is a north St. Louis neighborhood bound by West Florissant Avenue, East Harris Avenue, Algernon Street and Adelaide Avenue to the north, Pope Avenue to the northwest, Kossuth and Natural Bridge Avenues via Fair to the south, Warne to the east and Newstead Avenue to the west:
O'Fallon is wedged between O'Fallon Park and Fairgrounds Park.  The street grid is really unique where Carter Avenue bisects the neighborhood, with streets angled toward the north east seemingly following the borderlines and trajectory of O'Fallon Park, whereas the streets south of Carter Ave. remain parallel with the lines of Fairgrounds Park.  Not sure if that was by design, but is works for me.  Of the two parks, O'Fallon has much more activity and much more going for it; Fairgrounds Park the neighborhood and park are way more neglected and in much worse shape than O'Fallon.

There are many new trees planted in the park and it is home to the second new $23 million city funded recreation complex.  From the city website:
The O'Fallon Park Recreation Complex is a sister facility to the $21 million southside Recreation Complex located in Carondelet Park in South St. Louis City. These are the first recreation centers built in the City since 1971.
The new complex will feature an aquatic center including an indoor splash pool with a triple loop slide, a motion pool, children's pools, sauna, steam room and spa, plus an outdoor lap pool. Other amenities of the recreation complex include a gymnasium, indoor track and fitness center, locker rooms, a community center, multipurpose rooms and a lobby.
It will be interesting to see if the membership rates are the same at both locations, or if they stick it to the south siders.  It will also be interesting to see if they have the YMCA run the facility.  I hope they do, because they run a tight ship.  The proximity of this new recreation complex along with the fact that the neighborhood has a bright, dedicated young alderman, Antonio French, who I am confident can lead the area in the right direction.  And to add to the positive trajectory of the area, all the buildings in the O'Fallon neighborhood will be in a historic district as of 2012.  It will be nominated as a National Register of Historic Places.  See the full story at the Preservation Research Office.

This is great news, as there are some AMAZING homes just south of O'Fallon Park.  They are among the best looking mansions in the city rivaling Holly Hills Boulevard, Lindell, DeBaliviere and other great areas, but O'Fallon has not fared as well as far as retaining people with the means and dedication to maintain the architectural heritage.  
It's still an area that is bleeding residents.  Although, I found the neighborhood to be quite densely populated and it's not nearly as depressing/dangerous feeling as Fairgrounds Park.  But the numbers don't lie, people are packing it up and continue to vote with their feet. 

The 2000 census counted 7,151 residents (19% decline from 1990) of whom 98% were black, 1% white. There were 3,269 housing units that were 82% occupied, split 52%/48% owner/renter.  Black people are vacating North St. Louis in staggering numbers.  The 2000-2010 numbers are even worse with another 23% loss.  O' Fallon is down to 5,791 people.  Yikes, people are leaving in droves.

Here's a description from the neighborhood website:
The O'Fallon neighborhood is anchored by two major public parks, O'Fallon Park and Fairground Park. The area is primarily a residential neighborhood with streets lined with brick and frame single-family homes, two-family homes, and a few multi-family buildings. Many of the housing units are owner-occupied. These pleasant brick homes and well-tended lawns add to the quality of life in the O'Fallon neighborhood. Its proximity to good quality education makes the area appealing to families with children. Scattered throughout the neighborhood are several commercial areas where residents enjoy a variety of goods and services. The neighborhood has remained relatively stable thanks to many long-term residents and a high percentage of owner-occupied homes.
Okay, maybe so.  There are some well-tended lawns and homes, but there are many run down and abandoned ones too.  You don't loose a 1/4 of your population in 10 years without leaving behind a tremendous glut of empty housing stock.  There are some businesses, but not many.  Junk food snack shops found in nearly every north city neighborhood are there, but there are also some tasty looking bbq joints.  Natural Bridge is strangely peppered with numerous Chop Suey joints, you know, another staple of north city.
But the original vision of this neighborhood was a grand one, and it's laid out beautifully.  Here's what O'Fallon looked like today on a cloudy grey, St. Louis Spring morning:
This building obviously had a bowling alley at one point:
And this former studio still has it's great sign:

This row of buildings must have once been quite impressive, I wonder what the original use of the blond brick one was:
Other faded signs that caught my eye:
There are many former storefronts some still occupied and kicking:
I'm not sure how many schools still serve the neighborhood other than the mod Yeatman-Liddell Middle School on Althone Avenue:
But there are several shuttered ones including the Harrison School built in 1899 on the National Register of Historic Places.  Check out this link and scroll down to page 25 for some great photos, including the creepy interior shots. This important building is for sale.
 Another shuttered school is the former International Studies Middle School:

But this is a largely residential neighborhood, so back to the houses:
Not a hopeless place, but a place that has lost a tremendous amount of people in the last 20 years.  More positivity and history of the O'Fallon neighborhood can be found at the Historic O'Fallon website, including a fascinating collaboration between Washington University's Brown School of Social Work and the City of St. Louis Neighborhood Stabilization Team who have crafted a plan to move the neighborhood forward into the next era for this potentially great pocket of St. Louis.  Here's to a more stable, attractive O'Fallon that will be able to retain its current residents and bring in some fresh blood who will take advantage of the historic tax credits that will help to bring this neighborhood back to its original luster.

4 comments:

sonia a. mascaro said...

You live in a beautiful and nice place!
I am glad I found your blog.

TJ Handsome said...

Was looking to see what the neighborhood I grew up in look like today. A lot of changes since 1962. Graduated from Harrison and it is shame to the condition it is in today. If you had named some of the streets I might be able to remember what the building was use for. At Warne and Carter there was a Daisy Churn factory where a lot of the neighborhood people worked. That was a bowling alley. I think I was the Warne Bowling Alley owned by the Hefner (my spelli0ng may be wrong.)family. The Budweiser team bowled there on a regular schedule. The building next to it on the right as you face it was a cobblers/shoemaker shop. Don't its name. It was a German gentleman. On the corner of Alice Ave and Carter Ave was Gutzler's Bakery. We lived in a 2 family flat at 4545 Alice Ave. Its getting late so will close. I am glad I found you blog.

TruthTalker said...

We lived at 4419 Clarence Ave in 1963 before our family moved to the Florissant area. Nice neighborhood at the time but trash and thugs were moving in and destroying the area. The area will not change unless the people there change.

Anonymous said...

I also grew up on Clarence Ave....before the deteriorization took place. Many happy days playing ball in O'Fallon Park and fishing in the warmer weather. My childhood was idylic and I moved away after graduating from Beaumont High and elementary school at Ashland.

So sad to see what the area has become.

Used to be well kept homes on tree lined streets. Now the trees are gone and the buildings are all run down. So very sad! You truly cannot go back.