Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Riverview Neighborhood

The Riverview Neighborhood is the northernmost St. Louis neighborhood that extends 1/3 mile north of I-270 and is bound by St. Charles Rock Road to the south (although Maline Creek and the big flood gates might be easier to recognize), city limits to the west (pretty much just a matter of yards west of Riverview Drive) and the Mississippi River to the east:

The 2000 census data counted 237 residents (down 28% from 1990's count) of whom 53% white, 43% were black, and 4% Asian. There were a mere 98 housing units counted, 92% occupied (79%/21% owner/renter split).

Riverview was one of the few neighborhoods to gain residents in the 2010 Census count.  There are now 304 people calling Riverview home!  69% black, 29% white and 2% Hispanic/Latino.

This is a unique place in St. Louis:  it's shape, its topography, etc. It's really just a narrow sliver of land wedged between the St. Louis County cities of Glasgow Village, Riverview (the Village) and Bellefontaine Neighbors and of course the mighty Mississippi River.  There's a lot going on in this little neighborhood of St. Louis.

One thing to point out would be the presence of the ~11 mile Mississippi River Greenway Trail, part of the Great Rivers Greenway network, that splits Riverview Drive and the river.  The trail markers and sites can be seen throughout Riverview:
Also, the neighborhood is a short walk from the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area and the Edward 'Ted' and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park.  For you ornithologists and nature lovers, I can vouch for this spot as a great bird watching destination, nice and close to the city.

I really think the entire state of Missouri is naturally beautiful. Rivers and bluffs and forests and mountains, streams and prairies, its a beautiful place. Riverview, more than any of the other 78 neighborhoods of St. Louis has a distinct connection to natural Missouri.  And that to me is what really sets Riverview apart.
Another curiosity of Riverview is Cementland that lies just west of Riverview Blvd.  This is an unfinished project of Bob Cassilly the amazingly creative and driven man behind the City Museum, Turtle Park and many other sculptures around this city, including the rear entrance to the Barr Library

Just months after I originally published this neighborhood profile in 2011, Mr. Cassilly died on September 26th, 2011 working on a bulldozer in cement land. Sadly, the passing of this creative force means that the public will not be able to realize his vision for this ~55-acre outdoor playground.

I didn't go in to explore, but you can view this video by Evan Mueller here to get an up close view.  And here's what the modern-day mound city looked like to me today near and around the perimeter:
The handful of homes in Riverview are built up high to prevent flooding from the river.  Some are built right into the bluffs and make for a quiet and private setting:
There is a huge Home Depot distribution facility just west of Riverview Blvd and a massive water treatment plant along the river, the biggest in St. Louis, and once the biggest water facility in the world (source):
The Chain of Rocks had been chosen as a site for St. Louis waterworks by James Kirkwood in 1865. However, Kirkwood's plan was initially rejected, and construction on the Chain of Rocks Plant did not begin until 1887. It opened in 1894. The designer of Chain of Rocks was Minard Holman, who functioned as the first chief engineer of the plant and later became the city's Water Commissioner. Chain of Rocks was originally built as a low service pumping facility in which water was taken from single channel intake in the Mississippi to low service steam pumps, and finally into a series of sedimentation basins. After the muddy sediment settled to the bottom of the basins, the water flowed by gravity through an aqueduct to the high service station at Bissells Point, seven and a half miles toward the center of the city. From this point the water was distributed throughout the piping system and to consumers throughout the city.

Since its initial construction, Chain of Rocks has gone through constant additions and modifications. The Chain of Rocks Plant was the first large water treatment facility to use lime softening and ferrous sulfate in the water purification process. The Chain of Rocks filter plant was built in 1915, and was realized to be the largest filter plant in the world at the time of its construction. It contains 40 filters and stretches 700 feet in length. High service pumping facilities were built in 1957 as a result of plans to close the Bissells Point Plant. This addition allowed Chain of Rocks to function as an independent facility, and was no longer dependent on another plant to distribute its water. In 1958, the self-contained steam power at Chain of Rocks was replaced by an electric system. A new Coagulant House, able to safely store all chemical additives, was built in 1960.
Just like nearly every St. Louis neighborhood, there is a park.  This one just feet from the river.  A bandstand and BBQ was being set up at the time of my visit:
As a 17 year St. Louisian, I need to go fishing in the Miss.  This is part of my personal rite of passage toward being a bona-fide citizen; pulling a big ugly catfish out of the Mississippi just seems cool and fun (how Mark Twain is that?).  There are MANY fishermen along the river in this part of the city.

On to my favorite point of interest in Riverview, the hulking Chain of Rocks Bridge, a site certainly worth visiting.  The bridge was privately built in 1929 as a toll bridge.  It became part of the Route 66 in 1936 and was used until 1968.  The ultimate demise of the bridge was the construction of the free I-270 bridge just north of the Chain of Rocks bridge in 1966.  The bridge was slated for demolition in 1975, but the low price of scrap metal at the time made it non-profitable.  Whew!  In 1998 the bridge was leased out to Trailnet and is now a pedestrian/cyclist bridge and monument to Route 66.  It was used in the filming of the 1981 film "Escape From New York".  The bridge is actually owned by the city of Madison, Illinois.  I did a full tribute to one of my favorite spans in 2015, read all about it HERE

Now bear with me while I reminisce of my childhood erector set dreams and the feats of man:
The two water intake towers built in 1894 (West) and 1915 (East) are amazing:
Here's a view of the intake towers with the water treatment facility in the background (there's a 7 foot pipe that channeled water to the facility):
What the?  Is that a...  Yes, the bridge has a 22 degree bend in the middle, which was the site of many car crashes: 
Today the steel is weathered and cool looking, the deck has some great/sad/hilarious grafitti.
I too am content Ms. Gay.

Here's my personal take on the beauty of aging and oxidation:
The toll building on the St. Louis side has been demolished.  Here's what it looked like back in the day:

Since the bridge was unused for 30 years in the hard rocking' days of the late 60's and 70's, I surmise that many shaggy, mullet-having real rockers would party on the bridge and listen to the then powerful and amazingly influential K-SHE 95.  I can hear Moxy songs in the back of my mind:
Here's some evidence of the real-rocker's presence:
Trailnet has taken to plaques and other momentos as fund raisers including these plaques that adorn the side rails of the bridge.  Many of them are quite touching and inspirational:
This bridge (along with the Eads bridge) provides amazing views of downtown about 11 miles south:
Riverview is all about the Mighty Miss.  It's power is stunning.  The swirling, massive current is a testament to the strength and determination of the City, the bridges, the water intakes and shorelines of the biggest river in North America.

5 comments:

The Hofers said...

What a wonderful endeavor, exploring city neighborhoods!

We are especially impressed with your observations of our little corner, the Chain of Rocks community, (Riverview). Like the rest of St Louis, our residients have fascinating stories of the area. The water treatment plant was a weekend destination with fabulously landscaped grounds overlooking the plant, a couple of speakeasys during prohibition, the revered Chain of Rocks Amusement Park, North Shore Country Club,and the St Louis Yacht Club. Many of the homes started as weekend or summer places. We are still a recreation area for walking, biking, fishing, canoeing.

We also have diverse examples of twentieth century architectual styles amoung our approximately 200homes. Everything from two room cottages to the mansions of Lookaway Drive.

The Chain of Rocks Community Organization (CORCA) meets on the 2nd Monday of odd months at 7 pm. Telephone 314.566.9104 for more information.

Thank you so much, Mark Groth for recognizing our neighborhood that commuters speed through without a thought to all the natural beauty they are missing.

The Hofers

Mark Groth said...

^It's a very nice place, thanks for the additional info.

Mary Hogan-Smith said...

I love your comentaries. Im offically putting you on my favorite bar. This is my old stomping grond. I have been on that bridge back when I wore a jean jacket with my KSHE patch. Next time your up that way you need to expore the winding streets that go up to Lookaway Dr. I think those sts were origanally constructed by the CCC in the early thirties. Keep up the good work!

Michael Kern said...

Mr. Groth, what a most impressive web site! My grandfather (Frank Kozlowski and Mayor Froley and Elmer Reig were some of the founding fore-fathers and creators of the Village of Riverview. Chain of Rocks Amusement park in its day was the site of many field day trips of local schools. It had a roller skating rink, swimming pool, snack bar all of the rides you could imagine and my personal favorite the 1 and 5 cent pin ball machines in the arcade!

Lady Rae said...

I wish you would come back to Riverview. There is so much more to see. SO much history here you are missing, also what is happening in this area is truly tragic, the school districts, COR is actually blocked off right now. And it is not a short walk to Columbia Bottoms, it is about two or three miles of no sidewalk. And cement land is halted, their are no trash cans in Riverfront trail park (although their are bathrooms). You cannot walk safely from the big Riverview Transfer bus center to the trail-- so no using public transport to ride the trail, etc.