Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Baden Neighborhood

Baden is a north St. Louis neighborhood located east and south of the city limits (Riverview Boulevard), north of Calvary Cemetery and west of Hall Street:
Check out the roundabout at the convergence of Goodfellow, Halls Ferry, Riverview, and Lewis and Clark Blvd; it reminds me of the Tempest screen. There just aren't that many roundabouts in St. Louis, but this one is very cool. The St. Louis County cities of Bellefontaine Neighbors and Jennings abut Baden to the north and west.

Baden became part of St. Louis in 1876, but was never incorporated as a city prior to that date.  It has the distinction of being a north side residential neighborhood that had a GAIN in population at 3% in the 2000 Census count.  However, that momentum was not sustained from 2000-2010 when Baden lost 14% of its residents.  The 2010 Census data showed the racial demographics of 92% black and 6% white.  St. Louis continues to take a beating in loss of residents.  People are voting with their feet and Baden, like nearly all neighborhoods, felt that sentiment.
The welcome mat to Baden, visible from Broadway

I had the privilege of a guided tour of Baden by one of St. Louis' finest firemen.  He was able to show me around and point out some of the more unique areas of Baden.  I'll get to those in a minute.

To me Baden is mostly known for it's almost completely intact business district along a cool stretch of Broadway from Switzer Avenue to Halls Ferry Road. This northern stretch of Broadway along with the  southernmost stretch that goes through the Patch and Carondelet are simply brimming with potential and possibilities for a 21st Century rebirth.
 This sign warrants contemplation..."I'll take the gold genie looking one on the second shelf and the 4'x6' velvet Elvis"
 If anyone has a photo of this sign in it's original state, please email me!
The bones are obviously there and lie (hopefully) temporarily mummified in a thin layer of patina waiting for those who want to stay here or more importantly, move to St. Louis and work hard and invest their time and money in the rebirth of the city.  This part of town could easily add to St. Louis' resume as the premier brick city in the U.S.A.

Broadway ain't all charm and good design though.  The 1980's descended on Baden and took a big dump and then packed it up and left this:
When will we learn that strip malls don't generally work in urban areas and this crap belongs in the burbs?  We destroy tasteful architecture, history and workmanship for this?  What will happen to this property now?

The largest city park serving Baden residents is David Hickey Park named in honor of the first St. Louis member of the Expeditionary Forces killed in the World War (source).

Baden has the feel of another neighborhood on the verge of stability vs. decline.  It will be a good harbinger of thing to come for St. Louis as a whole.  Are we headed toward better days, or still getting closer and closer to rock bottom? We'll have to use the census data in 2020 to judge whether the downward spiral of people packing it up continues.  For now, Baden has the feel of a stable neighborhood, but not without challenges. 

Outside of the Broadway business district, Baden is largely home to many mid-century modern buildings and homes.  I guess I was expecting older, turn of the 20th Century homes.  But that's not really the case.  And if you are a fan of mid-century apartment complexes, you better get there and check them out, because many are coming down:
Some of the typical home styles in Baden:
There are scads more of the above examples, built in the 1940's to 1960's.  Some others:
 
Check out the front yards in the next 2 shots...hey we are the Mound City, right?

Now let me get to some of the more unique sites in Baden.  I probably never would have discovered some of these had it not been for my well informed tour guide with an eye for Baden-nuance.

Let's start with the houses on the train tracks.  There are homes with front yards that contain railroad tracks just feet from the front doors. 
Check out the makeshift elevated bumps between the tracks for easier crossing:
Then there are these homes built at a curious 45 degree angle from the street:
How about the pastoral Gast Place:
Gast Place suddenly transforms into one of the weirdest multi-unit complexes in the entire city:
Check out this sign marking an "unimproved street":
As it was explained to me, the house numbering system on the city grid typically increases in # as the streets run east/west from the Mississippi River and north/south with Market Street as somewhat of a centering point.  Due to the strange topography of Baden:  somewhat hilly, somewhat askew from the typical grid, there are some curious anomalies in the house numbering conventions.  See what I mean in the next 2 homes which sit side by side yet are not ordered as such:
Looks pretty routine right, but the street numbers suggest the nuance, 1219 sitting right next to 8312:
Baden doesn't seem to share nearly as much in common with the other St. Louis residential neighborhoods that were built out longer ago.  It reminds me more of an annex of Bellefontaine Neighbors.  There are some churches, etc that do harken back to the classic St. Louis styles:
Baden is one of St. Louis' finest neighborhoods.  The commercial district, proximity to the River and the Riverfront Trail make it a highly desirable place. 

9 comments:

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural said...

What an interesting post. Love the railroad track front yard houses and those 45-degree angle houses are just bizarre.

Chip said...

Hey Mark,

I found your blog from Mike Meuth, a fellow parishoner of mine at Our Lady of Providence in Crestwood.

I really like what you are doing. I am in the infancy of doing something similar with my blog, too.

I would love to share ideas sometime.

Anonymous said...

My understanding of the 45 degree angle houses was that it gave you two additional views to the outside - the window on the front right side of the houses in the picture here, and also, I assume, a window in the back left of the houses. So you have your usual front and back windows giving you a view, plus these two additional windows (a view other than your neighbor's house, that is). I guess additional privacy is attained as well - instead of looking directly into your neighbors windows (and they into yours) the windows are off-set between the houses because of the angle.

large printing said...

I love the Old school feel of the area. It's been a long time since i have seen houses near the track. I love the old ads in the area. I'll visit there soon.

bristol printing said...

Baden became a part of the City of St. Louis in 1876 by the State legislature. Baden population was made up of 400 people. The neighborhood was located on the Kansas City and Northwestern Railroad. There were eleven stores in the neighborhood, 3 wagon shops, 4 churches, 4 schools, one public, two Catholic, and one Lutheran School.

selysse14 said...

Nice pictorial on Baden. My folks moved in during the late seventies; mom still lives there. You have pictures of her house on Gast Place. Been reading a bit on Baden, and it has been sad to witness its slow decline. However, there are yuppies moving into the nearby Old North neighborhood and pouring money into refurb and new businesses. Can we hope for the same in Baden? Just read that one of the last hold-out businesses in Baden, a bar named Kulage's, located on N. Broadway, has closed after a long, successful run. It follows a few other bars including Magee's, as well as some of the nicer restaurants like Cristo's and Romine's, that have all closed up shop in the last 10 (?) years or so.

Anonymous said...

I lived in baden and went to baden school and our lady of mt carmel which is no longer there now
It makes me very sad to see the places I called home turning into dope and crack houses,I used to live on gimblin a beautiful street,the house I used to live in has been rebuilt 3 times ,what is wrong with
people today, a beautiful area blighted and messed up when i know how it used to be it really is very heartbreaking ,i hope baden does get rebuilt it deserves to be nice again and have childrn laughing and playing,and maybe this time it will stay nice like it used to be ,if people wake up and bann together to take care of their neighborhoods a die hard badenite

Susan said...

OMG. My grandparents lived on Church Rd & Gimblin. I think that my grandparents (German culture) lived there starting about 1937 or 1940. We (my mother & 2 sisters) lived with my grandparents in 1960 while my Dad was going to radar school in Olathe KS with the Navy. I was in the 4th grade and went to Baden School. We also went to the Baden public library often. My Mom
& Dad were married in a Lutheran church on Halls Ferry Rd near Church Rd (I think) in 1949. The last time I was there was in 1978 to visit my ailing grandmother. It is sad to see so much of the old neighborhood changed from your pics. I will be on a road trip in the Fall in which we go thru St.Louis so I am going to try to see if we can locate Baden and take a slight detour thru the old neighborhood.

laurac001@yahoo.com said...

My German Grandpa lived in Baden all his life, until the early 80's. He lived on Bittner St. I have fond memories of walking to the Catholic Church around the corner from his house, and going to the B&J Restaurant/Bar on Broadway where my Grandma (Irish American) worked. My Grandpa used to go to Deppies Bar. (spelling? I would love to see the beauty restored to this incredible neighborhood!