2010

The Gravois Park Neighborhood

The Gravois Park Neighborhood

This is a south city neighborhood brimming with potential.  It's a diamond in the rough.  There are south city neighborhoods that never went down in quality in terms of property maintenance and residential/neighborhood pride.  Holly HillsBoulevard HeightsSouthamptonNorth HamptonLindenwood ParkSt. Louis HillsPrinceton Heights are all examples of neighborhoods that have largely remained clean, tidy, safe and well maintained.  Gravois Park has slipped from it's original graces and is rough around the edges.  BUT...it's lying in wait for continued positivity that is spreading through the neighborhood, with Cherokee Street as the impetus.

Gravois Park, not unlike Fox ParkMcKinley HeightsBenton Park WestMarine Villa and Dutchtown are absolutely beautiful neighborhoods waiting for more people who care to bring them back to life.  Gravois Park is no doubt on it's way up.  

The Lindenwood Park Neighborhood

The Lindenwood Park Neighborhood

This is another one of St. Louis' clean and tidy neighborhoods.  Manicured yards, uniform tree lined streets and a strong sense of neighborhood pride help showcase Lindenwood Park.  The extremely high occupancy rate proves it's a popular and desirable place.  The current residents are acting as great stewards of the homes along narrow, hilly city streets mostly built in the 1930's.  The streets on the west side of the neighborhood are wider than usual, with some of the largest front yards in the city.  Homes built in the 1940's and 1950's set back rather far from the street sit on the west side near I-44 and Wabash.

St. Louis Place Neighborhood

St. Louis Place Neighborhood

This neighborhood has seen better days, no doubt.  There are the problems that plague many city neighborhoods and especially north side neighborhoods.  Unused urban prairies, crumbling housing stock, abominations/failed attempts from the 1970's-1980's and contemporary construction both decent and not so much.  I'll show examples of both.  There is no walkable business/retail within the neighborhood that serves the area to provide the essentials of decent food (fast food joints appear to be the only option), clothing, or anything the normal household would need to exist.

The Hi-Pointe Neighborhood

The Hi-Pointe Neighborhood

Hi-Pointe is also home to one of THE coolest movie theaters I've ever seen.  This place not only shows great films, but the experience is like no other in town.  It is legit and soulful in every way.  It is not pretentious and it's a true relic of its time.  Even the bathrooms (at least the men's room) is cool and unique.  And it's much more affordable than other city and county options.  If you haven't been to the Hi-Pointe Theater, you're missing out on a St. Louis landmark.  It was built in 1922 on the highest point in the city of St. Louis.

The Franz Park Neighborhood

The Franz Park Neighborhood

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...

The Hill Neighborhood

The Hill Neighborhood

If you wanted to live here and you are a cooking/food enthusiast, not only could you walk to get your groceries and supplies, you could walk to one of SEVERAL independent, Mediterranean style groceries and bakeries with plenty of homemade meats, cheeses, pastas, breads, desserts, etc. Di Gregoio's and Volpi (if you haven't had their prosciutto, you're missing the boat) are my two favorites.

North Hampton Neighborhood

North Hampton Neighborhood

As you can see in the map, the neighborhood is mainly on the rectilinear grid south of Fyler.  The northwest section of the hood has some winding, bendy roads and the northeast section, north of Fyler that consists of a large series of well manicured lawns and seemingly well maintained apartments called Hampton Gardens...

The Lewis Place Neighborhood

The Lewis Place Neighborhood

I am inspired by the savvy fight of Robert Witherspoon.  American history is full of struggles, and this is evidence of the epic struggles for freedom right here in our own backyard.  Anyone that stands up and fights against social injustice is a hero in my book. Why Robert Witherspoon is not part of the local social studies or Black History Month curriculum is beyond me.  My kids should be on a bus going to visit the gates of Lewis Place that marked the boundaries of where a black person could and could not buy a home.  This is part of our history and we need to face it head on.  I'm proud of what Witherspoon was able to accomplish, and proud that these residential restriction covenants were struck down right in our backyard.

The Covenant Blu/Grand Center Neighborhood

The Covenant Blu/Grand Center Neighborhood

With all the housing issues that CBGC has, this is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in the entire city.  Everyone knows Covenant Blu/Grand Center because of the Fabulous Fox Theatre,  Powell Symphony HallThe Black Repertory Theatre, etc.  This is probably the arts center of the entire region, or at least it's billed that way.  There is a lot of good info on upcoming events, etc at the Grand Center website.

CBGC is one my favorite parts of town because it's a convergence of the burgeoning Midtown Alley, SLU's main campus and a gateway to the Central West End to the west and Downtown West to the east.  And it's one of the most photogenic spots in town.  My favorite approach is heading south on Grand between Delmar and Lindell...

Near North Riverfront Neighborhood

Near North Riverfront Neighborhood

There is a lot of open space for future industrial expansions.  There is quite a lot of activity here with truckers everywhere and smoke rising out of factories.  Workers are scurrying about....always a good thing.    Several of the restaurants and bars seems well patronized.   I get the sense that this neighborhood employs many, many people.  I actually pine for the days where America made stuff.  I mean not everyone wants or can go to college or trade school. We need factory and manufacturing jobs.  I like the days when my Levi's, Dickie's and Chuck Taylor's were US made. 

The Soulard Neighborhood

The Soulard Neighborhood

Without a doubt, Soulard is one of St. Louis' greatest neighborhoods.  It's a prime example of quality structures weathering the storms of both mother nature and changing human behavior patterns.  The neighborhood was severely battered by a cyclone in 1896...

We almost lost it to suburban flight too, as it was a straight up slum in the 1970's.  It's just a prime example of what the power of successful rehabbing of original structures can do for the city and makes a desirable/historic place for people of all ages to enjoy for generations to come.

The Clayton/Tamm Neighborhood

The Clayton/Tamm Neighborhood

And you thought this was Dogtown, didn't you?  So did I.  Well, actually it is as the name "Dogtown" refers to the informal combination of three adjoining neighborhoods: Clayton/Tamm, Franz Park, and Hi-Pointe; contained within the area of Oakland, Hampton, Manchester, and the city limits.


There is an excellent summary of history and interesting facts on Dogtown here.  Among the tidbits, Route 66 used to go through Dogtown and there is some valuable info & maps on the 19th century founding and consolidation of the Dogtown area.

The Academy Neighborhood

The Academy Neighborhood

So what is Academy like?  In my 2 hour tour, I'll say that this is one of the most in-tact neighborhoods in north city.  By intact, I mean, most of the original housing stock is standing, and largely livable.  This is not to say there aren't falling structures, fallow lots or seriously decaying properties, but the contemporary suburbanite builders have not yet tarnished or cheapened the landscape (with the exception of the fast food/junk food restaurants on Kingshighway.  

The Carr Square Neighborhood

The Carr Square Neighborhood

This is one of those parts of town that has seen such massive disinvestment and lack of care and respect from it's inhabitants and leaders, that it is basically a wasteland.  There are huge swaths of unused land, mainly the north west corner where Pruit-Igoe used to be, that are just jungles of weeds.

There are so few reminders of St. Louis' history here, it's disturbing.  It's been leveled.  It's been filled in with some good intentions, but unsustainable rental/subsidized housing that attracts very little growth potential, nor historic meaning or urban context.  

The West End Neighborhood

The West End Neighborhood

This is another St. Louis neighborhood that borders Delmar Boulevard, the widely accepted dividing line between north and south St. Louis.  It's true, almost without fail, you drive north of Delmar and the neighborhoods showing the most decline are apparent.  It doesn't take an astute eye to make this observation.  It's quite an unfortunate, but obvious dividing line for our city. 

That doesn't mean this isn't one of the cool neighborhoods in town though, because in my humble opinion, it certainly is. 

The Holly Hills Neighborhood

The Holly Hills Neighborhood

In full disclosure, I lived in this neighborhood for nine years.  I have many ties here and in many ways it'll always be somewhat home and definitely part of me.  In fact, the challenge in summarizing this neighborhood will be to keep the personal stories to a minimum, as I've walked these streets for many years and met many good people here.  I do feel obliged to say that my wife and I started our adult life here.  We rented our first apartment together on Fillmore, we walked across the alleys to meet friends and neighbors.  We bought our first home on Arendes.  We brought our first baby home to Holly Hills.  We conceived our second child there.  We love this neighborhood today and always will.