Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dutchtown Neighborhood

Dutchtown is a south St. Louis neighborhood located south of Chippewa Street, east of the Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks, north east of Walsh Street and west of Broadway and Compton via Meremec Street:
These are the official boundaries from the City website, but that's not what the signs marking the neighborhood say:
They have the northern boundary as Utah Street, the eastern boundary of the Mississippi River and the southern boundary of Eichelberger.  Oh well.  I used the official map on the city website, as I did for all other neighborhoods, so I'm shooting for precision as opposed to accuracy.

So who lives in this part of our fair city?  The 2000 census counted 17,222 residents, making Dutchtown the most populous neighborhood in the city at the time.  (3% increase from 1990's count). 50% white, 40% black, 5% Asian and 4% Hispanic/Latino.  But, the momentum was not sustained from 2000-2010, where an 8% loss was observed and racial shifts continued as well:  51% black, 35% white, 8% Hispanic/Latino and 6% Asian. 

8,445 housing units were counted of which 81% were occupied, 41% by owners, 59% by renters.

Dutchtown was the first neighborhood I moved to when coming to St. Louis in 1994.  I think my rent was around $225/month.  Not bad for a recent college grad with no money.  I fell in love with the City with Dutchtown as my home base.  At that time I rode my bike everywhere and Dutchtown was VERY walkable and easy to get around with many intra-neighborhood businesses, etc.  It was a nice place to call home then and now.

Dutchtown takes its name from from Deutsch, i.e., "German", as it was the southern center of German settlement in St. Louis in the early 19th Century.  The neighborhood was designed with pride and craftsmanship; it was built to last.

Dutchtown is huge in area and is almost like it's own small town.  It has a hospital (Alexian Brothers), a private Catholic high school (St. Mary's), a Ford dealership (McMahon), a pharmacy (CVS), light industry, many churches, locally made treats (Companion Bakery, Merb's Candy, Dad's Cookies) and many many positive places that have popped up over the last 10-15 years (Grbic, Urban Eats, Maude's Market, Feasting Fox, Banh Mi So, etc).  It's got 4 potential commercial corridors (the insanely abandoned but super cool Meremec, Chippewa, Grand and Broadway) and tons of great St. Louis-classic houses and apartments of all shapes and sizes.  Dutchtown is a perfect example of the gritty cool vibe that St. Louis has.  And then there's the oldest remaining St. Louis location of the wildly popular local treat:  Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.  The Dutchtown location is on Grand and Kingsland Ct.  The first Ted Drewes location was in Florida, the second on Natural Bridge in North St. Louis, the third is the Grand location opened in 1931 (source).
Then
Now
Here are some of the other familiar institutions that are near and dear to many:
^I know the chocolate covered strawberries and atomic apples are the choice of the hoi polloi, but it's the milk chocolate caramels that keep me coming back for more.  Some other fine choices within Dutchtown:
^Maude's Market

Dutchtown is within a short walk from the Carpenter and Carondelet branches of the St. Louis Public Libary, the Grand/South Grand retail, restaurant and entertainment area.  It is flanked by the strong neighborhoods of Holly Hills, Tower Grove South and Bevo Mill.
There are three parks; the largest:  Marquette Park which is bisected by Compton Avenue and bound by Minnesota, Louisiana, Osage and Gasconade.  It is home to the Dunn-Marquette Rec Center which has a rich history in serving the neighborhood and has a very nicely maintained outdoor swimming pool:
Built in 1917, Marquette Center is located in Marquette Park. The park features two softball fields, a soccer field, playground and three tennis courts.  Originally, the center was a locker and shower facility for the swimming pool. After the city renovated the building into a community center, the Thomas Dunn Foundation donated funds to build an air-conditioned gymnasium at the site.  The Marquette Center has a crafts room and a multi-purpose room.  Children can enjoy soccer, gymnastics, fuzzball, wiffle ball, tumbling and game room activities.  Co-educational sports include basketball, softball and volleyball.  The park is named in honor of Pierre Marquette. The original swimming pool was constructed approximately 1904 with a sand and gravel bottom. Approximately 1930 the bottom was covered with asphalt. This land was originally acquired from the Board of Children's Guardians. (source)
The second park is Laclede Park which is visible from Meremec and Broadway.  This tract of land was set aside for park use dating back to 1812 and was again reserved for park purposes in a subdivision laid out in 1853. It's got a playground, ball fields and a cool pavilion:
The third is the mid-century Amberg Park (1963) near Gustine and Keokuk which has 2 nice ball fields and a playground.
The southern half of the park site was purchased by the city in January of 1962 at a cost of $55,250 from the St. Louis Board of Education, who sold the city the northern half of the contiguous site for $55,250 in August, 1963, following a fire which destroyed the Dunnica School building. Funds for the purchase of the site came from the 1944 and 1955 bond issues.  Amberg Park was designed by Landscape Architect, Robert E. Goetz and Associates in 1966 and construction began during January, 1967.  The park was named in honor of Richard H. Amberg (1912-1967) for his personal distinction and his contributions to the parks and playgrounds of the city. He also served as publisher of the Globe Democrat. (source) 
Other points of interest if you are to explore Dutchtown include the architectural masterpiece Cleveland High School built by William B. Ittner in 1915, closed since 2006 (FAIL!).  Read up and gaze upon its beauty here and here.  And here are some of my shots:
Right next to Cleveland is the smallest roundabout I've seen in the entire city.  Check this out:
There are other public schools in Dutchtown including the Mel Carnahan School of the Future, Scruggs and Meremec; and the former Catholic school St. Thomas Aquinis:
Other curiosities of Dutchtown include the Stork Inn at Virginia and Taft (now an architect studio) and Busch's Inn at Grand and Meremec (now The Feasting Fox pub) which make up two of the three South Side Anheuser-Busch tied houses (The Bevo Mill is in, you guessed it, The Bevo neighborhood):
One of my favorites in Dutchtown is this former cinema built in 1910 at Virginia and Vermont.  It is currently owned by the city's land re-utilization authority:
Above all, Dutchtown is a residential neighborhood.  And you can't deny the fact that it has a mix of nearly all styles of brick homes that St. Louis has to offer.  Here's what I mean:

There's a lot to like in Dutchtown, and reason to believe that some of the more negative signs of population loss, random violent crime and dubious properties are going to get better.  I mean every neighborhood has a silver lining right:
Dutchtown has a good alderman in Shane Cohn and there is visual progress being made, especially in the formerly rough/trashy multi-unit apartment complexes near the Holly Hills border on the south east edge of the neighborhood.  
And there appears to be more development on the way:
St. Mary's High School recently acquired some of this property to expand it's ball fields; and they maintain a handsome campus:
The twin steeples of St. Anthony Padua Catholic church on Meremec in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood loom over Dutchtown and can be seen from many great vantage points:
The neighborhood was designed with such grace and dignity and functional and elegant design, everything seems to fit just so.  Even the firehouses are works of art:
My favorite Dutchtown church is the mid-century mod Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic church at Meremec and Hydraulic:
There are other examples of MCM to appreciate:

The untapped potential of Dutchtown's commercial corridors is huge.  Meremec looks really good and is soundly intact, with a nice mix of residential and business. Some stretches, especially between Grand and Compton have a plethora of charming, yet largely empty, storefronts set to make this an even bigger attraction:
Chippewa as a whole is largely abandoned; but again, has huge potential. There are still a handful of businesses holding on.  In many ways, Chippewa is an indicator of how far the neighborhood has slipped in the last 20-30 years.  Here's a mix of what you'll see along Chippewa today:






And finally, the remaining 2 commercial corridors of Grand and Virginia sit in wait for more development and tenants to once again make this a vibrant and active neighborhood.  Unfortunately Grand took a beating in Dutchtown, the vacant fast food joints and the former National Supermarket have left holes in the original fabric of the neighborhood.  The cost of these demos to make way for these businesses is steep.  Original structures are destroyed to make way for the newest and greatest drive thru junk food restaurant or supermarket.  But as we know far too well, these businesses are temporary in their existence yet the holes they leave are forever.  You can't rebuild today what America once was capable of building.  On the other hand, Virginia Avenue is far better off with quite a bit of remaining business and original storefronts.

The alarming trend of population loss in Dutchtown could make this area a canary in the coal mine of sorts for South St. Louis in general.  Dutchtown could be a decent case study in the future of South City.  Will it continue to thrive and attract new generations of residents willing to maintain and improve the area ala Tower Grove South, or will it go the opposite direction attracting cheaper and cheaper rents, with fewer and fewer owner-occupied folks and landlords living in the neighborhood.  The bones of a great neighborhood are there.  This could be the ultimate city neighborhood.  Will it get better or worse?  Only time will tell.  One thing I know for sure, the next 10 years will be critical for Dutchtown in turning the recent tides of negativity to a more positive, welcoming place for all.  Keep your eyes on Dutchtown, it's ripe for improvement and it's up and coming.  We need a strong Dutchtown for a strong south side and a strong city in general.

25 comments:

tobyweiss.com said...

Great post! It's a large neighborhood and unfortunately Shane Cohn is not the alderman for the entire area.

Case in point is the 3-story pink mansion you show. It's in Ortmann's ward, and he has been continuously disagreeable (to be kind) to the owner of that home, who is a long-time friend of mine.

How many aldermanic wards does Dutchtown cover, in all?

Anonymous said...

Hear great things about shane cohn, hope he is kicking ass and taking names. As for Merrimac, while it is underutilized and largely abandoned, there are places making a go of it, as your pictures indicated, just not your words.

Adam said...

i can't even begin to express how much i love this city...

amanda said...

Wow I can't begin to tell you how much I love this site. I grew up in Saint Louis and moved away when I was eighteen. I used to live at 3139 Chippewa and we went to the old Melvin for about seventy five cents a show! This really brings back memories. You are really doing a wonderful job showing how beautiful the city can be.

MaynardG said...

Yes, there is a broad variety of unique architecture to be found in Dutchtown. Echoing the author's remarks, I wonder if more young, potential homeowners will take an interest in this town, as we did. We moved here from Seattle, where brick houses are rare, and only inhabited by the wealthy. We desired a house with character, and boy, did we find one! We dig our brick! It's our own, private coffee house.

Anonymous said...

I love your guides. they give a great opportunity to pause and gawk at things we usually drive right by. Dutchtown and Bevo both have a lot of small homes, great for first time homeowners. Those are the people the area needs to attract in order to re-gain its population and thus support new business.

Anonymous said...

Mark just wanted to say I love all of your neighborhood posts!

FYI-About the boundaries that are picture on the sign, I think those are the ones that the South Dutchtown Community Corporation (http://www.dutchtownsouth.org/) identify as being their boundaries which include other neighborhoods as well, not the ones that St Louis City recognize.

Nancy said...

I lived on the North side of Chippewa St. and Virginia Ave. during the 50's. Is this part of the neighborhood, or do I belong to another section? If so, what is it called?

Anonymous said...

I am looking for old pictures about 1920 of 2916/18 Chippewa St. My grandfather had a butcher shop at this location in 1916- 1922 ish timeframe. Would love to find a picture or ad. The buildings are no longer in existence.

Thanks!
Holly

Anonymous said...

I lived on the 4200 block of Louisiana Street (right next to Cleveland High) as a little girl in the late 70's and early 80's and attended St. Anthony of Padua school. Every summer we would walk to Ted Drewes a few times a week, swim at Marquette pool and run to the IGA store on Meramec for my mom. My grandparents lived in the Resurrection parish, where my parents got married. I went to the final parish picnic there in 2006. i was so sad to see them close the parish. Dutchtown is a great neighborhood and this brings back so many memories of my childhood. Thank you for the wonderful pictures and words

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this well written, well documented description of an under appreciated St. Louis neighborhood! The excellent photography proves each statement. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see St. Anthony Church mentioned or pictured. Isn't it in Dutchtown?

Mark Groth said...

^anonymous, St. Anthony of Padua is technically in the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood. You can see photos in that post. Thanks for reading.

Jen said...

This is a great article about Dutchtown. My husband and I reside near Cleveland/St. Mary's with our young children. While we hope to continue seeing improvements, we feel the area is better than it was when we purchased our home 8 years ago. Meramec near Virginia is inhabiting more businesses and is a prime spot to continue growth. Our hope is to see more people willing to take a chance on Dutchtown.

Susie S. said...

I'm a life-long STL resident - grew up, lived, and worked in South City nearly my entire 28 years. I'm currently (temporarily) living in Chicago. Mark, I agree with you so much that the next 10 years or so are really going to be the deciding factor for South City. I genuinely think that most of the south side, including Dutchtown, are on the verge of a boom. There is so much opportunity and so much infrastructure in place. Once word gets out about what a great place it really is, St. Louis, namely South City, will really explode. Living in Chicago, I see how much of an advantage STL has over it, yet STL still struggles to attract and maintain quality residents.

Anonymous said...

St. Anthony's is on Meramec at Michigan, this is Dutchtown, not Mt. Pleasant.

Mark Groth said...

Anonymous. Per the city website, St. Anthony is in Mt. Pleasant. See the following link:

https://stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/planning/documents/upload/17-MountPleasant_9-23-2011.pdf

Anonymous said...

I saw this post on a friend of mine's FB page. So very interesting. I grew up on Idaho between Delor and Walsh, so I lived right in the heart of the area. Thanks for posting this information.

Tempest ina Pot of Tea said...

I loved your post, and I dislike being the nitpicky, but I need to correct something from your post. Laclede Park is at Gasconade and Iowa/East Iowa. It a small, walking, park with no distinct features other than some of the oldest Ginko trees in St Louis. Minnie Wood Memorial Square is the park at the corner of Broadway and Meramec. Minnie Wood has three sports fields, a wonderful children's park, and an early restroom building. These are 2 separate parks. Again sorry to be so picky, but my backyard is Laclede Park. Most people know where Minnie Wood is but not Laclede.

Thomas Cochran said...

I just made an offer a lovely home in Dutchtown, the home is on a really nice street, but some of the surrounding areas are a bit unsettling, but after reading this post it gives me hope that this under appreciated portion of the city could blossom. I love South Hampton, Tower Grove South, and Cherokee Street and would love to see Dutchtown gain a sense of prosperity.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

Thank you for your site. It is really great.

My name is Alice Nelson and I live in San Diego. I have recently been researching my ancestry and discovered that my mom's ancestors immigrated to Waterloo, Illinois and then settled in St Louis in the mid 1800's. They were Prussian. They lived on various St Louis streets, according to census records, including Montgomery Ave., Kingsbury Ave., Flora Blvd., Magnolia Ave., and Dodier Ave. Are these streets part of Dutchtown? I am trying to compile information about that section of St Louis and then hopefully take a trip out there to see it. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Alice,

Kingsbury Avenue is in the central corridor of the city in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood, which is very nice. I've lived in that neighborhood for a year.

Magnolia is north of Dutchtown too, running through a number of south city neighborhoods. It is a main thoroughfare.

Good luck on your research!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say thanks for writing these great descriptions of the city neighborhoods. I am a "county kid" from Fenton, and, as such, I have had an in-born aversion to the City my entire life. Much of it had to do with my grandmother living in Dutchtown. She was mugged in the winter of 1995-96 waiting for the bus early in the morning on Grand by a teenage male and died a week later as a result of her injuries. They never caught the mugger. That said, many of my friends have now moved into south city, and I'm considering living there too, thanks to high housing costs in the county and a desire to live in a walkable neighborhood. I don't think I could ever live in Dutchtown, but I really appreciated your positive spin on a place that I only regarded negatively.
And I am really enjoying learning about the other neighborhoods, too! Please keep up the excellent work.

Anonymous said...

I lived in an apartment on Virginia between Itaska and Delor Streets. When I lived there - there used to be a bar across the street call Rena's Den - they had pole dancers (happy that is gone). Also there was a Velvet Freeze on the corner of Itaska and Virginia - cute place - gone now. Further north - there was bike shop - that fixed and tri-cycle for me for $5.00 - putting new tire on it. At the corner of Meremac and Virginia was the the neighbor assoc. At Christmas one year - they had a Christmas thing (can't think of what it was called) but it was for children. There was kids that were elves - and you could bring you child in with 50 cents and the elves would take the child around to buy gifts for family members and they would help them wrap them. They also help them do a craft. It was so much fun for the children. My son had a wonderful time - shopping for Christmas presents. Wish there were places like that now.

Crusoes said...

I love that this article shows so much history in Dutchtown. It is such a historical area with so many amazing people and buildings living in it. Unfortunately this is not always shown so it was nice to see this article. My dad has owned The Original Crusoe's on Compton and Osceola for 39 years, so it is fair to say I grew up in the area! I hope to keep it here for another 39 and see the amazing changes they are making and continue to see the landmarks adored for what they truly are. Thank you!