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.

Gateway Greening

Gateway Greening is a local non-for-profit organization that uses community gardening in urban settings as a way to improve health and lifestyle while promoting community development.  They were critical partners in helping the Holly Hills Improvement Association get their garden up and running.

You will find their gardens all over the city and inner-ring suburbs.

The Today Show recently filmed Gateway Greening and they are in the running for a $100,000 grant from Pepsi that is being managed by the Today Show.

Please support this great city organization by clicking

here

and voting for the Gateway Greening video. 

Want to learn more?

Website

Blog

Facebook

Thanks!  Mark

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...

Shopping the city

I enjoy supporting local businesses, especially independently owned and operated stores.  To me, you can't beat the service and the experience.  And, it just feels like the right thing to do.  I'd much rather have my tax dollars support the city that I live in and love than some nameless/

placeless

suburb that fights St. Louis with

TIFs

and other incentives for the almighty sales tax revenue.

I am also an obsessive label/packaging reader when it comes to where things were made and what they are made of.  So when I buy something, the amount of energy it took to get to the shelf is on my mind.

I try to buy locally or domestically when I can.  I like products and goods that use recycled materials.  It just makes sense to me on all levels. 

I like American made stuff and the idea of America being a multi-faceted economy.  We should be inventing, making, distributing, servicing, insuring and investing in all the above.  I miss the days when things were made in U.S. factories in U.S. cities.  I know not everyone wants or can get an advanced education, and I think manufacturing jobs can help provide for those who don't want to go past high school.  I think these are proud jobs, and require just as much talent, training and care as many skilled professional jobs.

Anyhow, I'd like to talk up a couple local joints with American-made goods on the shelves.  First is the amazingly cool

Kleb's

Clothing at 8529 South Broadway in

the Patch neighborhood

This place is old school in every way.  They have a huge selection of Levi's jeans and

Carhart

and

Dickies

work clothes.  Unfortunately, these brands are no longer American made, but they are from North and Central America, so it's much less

petro

mileage than Chinese goods.  The place has a "general store" vibe from the late 19th century.  The owner is a former semi-pro wrestler who plied his trade at the South Broadway Athletic Club.  They are super helpful, and will order your size or style if they don't have it in stock.  This is a man's place and you will walk away with a totally different feel than going to a small town farm and f

leet

or a suburban

discount store

.

They do have some really cool 100% cotton denim, country cut work shirts that are made in the U.S.

If you like outdoors and work clothes that are classic, and not trendy, this is your place.

Secondly, I just discovered

Hampton Shoe

in the

St. Louis Hills neighborhood

, located on (you guessed it) 5101 Hampton Avenue.  They carry shoes made in the U.S.  They have the domestically produced line of New Balance athletic shoes as well as casual, outdoors and work shoes of several different brands...all made in the U.S. 

I bought a pair of Chippewa boots made in Carthage, MO a mere 4.5 hour drive from St. Louis.  There is a video of the factory and the manufacturing process

here

.  Yes, they are more expensive than Chinese boots, but they will last as long as you can take care of them.  They can be re-soled up to 3 times.  Hampton Shoe does full repairs and is owned by an extremely helpful and knowledgeable local guy who's been in the city for many, many years.

If you like things that are built to last, and designed to buck the ebb and flow of popular trends, and are made/sold nearest your home check these places out. 

I guarantee you'll have a better experience or story to tell than a trip to the national chain outlet or the suburban mall.  And, you'll be supporting the great city of St. Louis.

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.

Painted advertisements: good or bad?

On Gravois right around Bates you will find some relatively new business adornments on some fine looking old buildings. 

I am fascinated with ghost signs all over St. Louis.  And it's good to see newer ones.  I think they add character, but I have friends that can't stand painted bricks of any kind.

Here are 3 that are within a 1/4 mile of each other:

I'd like to hear from you on what you think of painted advertisements on brick buildings.  

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. 

Ignorance is no longer bliss or halfway to the promised land

Alright, time for a quick process check.  I'm at the halfway point toward my goal of visiting/photographing/yakking on each of St. Louis' 79 neighborhoods.  I've learned a lot to date, more than I ever expected.  I've seen a cross section of the good, the bad and the ugly that this city has to offer.  I've stepped outside my comfort zone of the cozy south side, and the adventures have been nothing short of inspiring.

I can say my view of the city is constantly evolving with each neighborhood I visit. My perspective as a person, citizen and urban thinker is broadening.  Not to get just too dramatic, but my personal views of race, segregation, choice, class, suburbanization, etc are all evolving.  Suffice it to say that my sensibilities have been righteously challenged.  I am pining to move to a more urban setting/street/neighborhood.  I am invigorated and looking to invest more time and labor into making St. Louis a better place. 

But, simply put, I'm having a straight up blast.  I am confident I'll be able to complete this personal goal because it's just too much damn fun to quit.  Yes, I have had much help and encouragement along the way.  My very understanding family (read wife) that supports me by giving me the camera lenses and lessons, time and space to do this.  I'm a bit obsessive with things, and they've allowed me to dive into this thing and get lost in it for many hours.  Thanks.  My hope is that one or all of my kids will take the torch when I'm ready to lay it down and keep the documentation of this amazing city going.

I am aware of how ignorant about the city I was just a few years ago; I am now actively learning about my city....the entire city.  When I hear Hodiamont, I know exactly where that is.  When I hear someone say Dutchtown is a scary place, I try not to dismiss them, rather assume they mustn't have been to pockets of the Ville, Fountain Park or O'Fallon. 

But I'd be lying if I didn't say that there aren't bad and scary places to be found or stumbled upon in St. Louis.  There are, and if you're looking for trouble you can find it.  Some of these places have helped mold my perspective on the definition of "bad neighborhood" or "bad street".  The good thing is, bad doesn't scare me as much as it used to.  Before I started this project, "bad neighborhoods" were to be avoided.  Not true...ignorance is certainly not bliss in this case.  These areas need to be explored, talked about and brought to light.  Hell, Soulard or Lafayette Park were once considered scary slums, right?

Some of the so called "bad neighborhoods" are amongst our best looking with the greatest potential.  Personally, I think all rehabbing hands on deck need to report to Fountain Park or Academy or Jeff Vanderlou for a collective joining of forces to transform these aging beauties into the next Benton Park's, Soulard's and Tower Grove South's....STAT!

Maybe Carr Square with it's acres of fallow ground where Pruitt-Igoe used to be is the true "bad neighborhood".  Or maybe the suburbanized pockets of the Gate District or Penrose are the bad areas.  Maybe they need most of our attention to turn back the tides from big ass garage in the front of the big ass lawn to a more sustainable, future looking mod take on St. Louis' future.  How symbolic would it be of the rising phoenix to see Carr Square rebuilt as the new "green neighborhood" or self-feeding, self-sustaining community garden cooperative neighborhood, or the new/connected live, work and play neighborhood?  The new, mod place for young professionals and the like that pine to live near the central hub of the entire region.  A place that draws all classes and types and backgrounds, you know diverse places like the Central West End or Downtown or ONSL or Shaw.

I am nothing short of energized to continue my trek through the city of St. Louis.  I wake up on the days of my tours and I am giddy.  I hope to find the perfect aging metal and neon sign from the glory days, or the new little restaurant or bar to try.  I hope to find remnants of the street car lines.  I hope to strike up conversations with good people or get insulted in new/funny ways by not so good/crazy people.  Can't you do better than white boy or cracker?  Really?  BORING!  I hope to connect with history and the better days gone by.  And also, to take in all the amazing improvements that are happening all over the city.

Half-way-done.  Man, the first half has been a blast.  I'm no longer an ignorant south sider.  I'm hitting the pavement and walking the streets that were once unfamiliar.  I'm discovering treasures that are off the beaten path.

I've discovered that McKinley Heights, Fox Park, Compton Heights, Midtown, Academy, North Point and Old North St. Louis are among my favorite places to visit.  I am anticipating driving the streets of Hyde Park or Covenant Blu.  I can't wait to see the industrial North Riverfront and Mark Twain/I-70.

Overall, I'm amazed at the beauty and potential of this town.  I am more convinced that we are one of America's greatest untold stories, or at least under-appreciated cities.  There's something here for just about anyone.

And I'm only talking about 50% of it...

Thanks to all those who've read my posts and checked in to comment, it's nice to see people are following along and will hopefully pick up the pen, keyboard, camera or pocket book and start their own investment in St. Louis' bright, bright future.

Get off the couch, turn off the 10:00 news, let your subscriptions to the staid/negative media sources expire, throw a dart at a map of St. Louis and go ride the bus to that part of town and hang out.  You may find you have a story to tell that's way more interesting and true than the story being told by the so called experts.

Don't listen to the naysayers in this town, no matter how loud their voices become.  Don't let them bully you into thinking St. Louis is inferior in any way.  You should know better!  Don't let people who consider St. Louis City "downtown" get your goat.  Don't let suburbanites put you down without a fight or at least an indignant rebuttal.  We have the upper hand remember.  Don't let ignorance be part of your time in St. Louis.  Don't shoot your mouth off about the public schools, the north side or entire groups of people until you have first hand experience with them.  Learn about and experience the various streets and neighborhoods and they will become YOURS to cherish and protect for generations to come.

Viva la city!

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 Silver Ballroom

I am a huge fan of pinball.  I spent some of my formative years in the Bel-Air bowling alley in

Belleville

, Illinois and Aladdin's Castle in the St. Clair Square mall in

Fairview

Heights, Illinois pumping many quarters into pinball machines.  My favorites were Elvira, Whirlwind,

Funhouse

and Bride of

Pinbot

.

 But where can you go to play pinball in St. Louis?  Our vintage bowling alleys have been destroyed to make way for

Walgreens

(Red Bird Lanes and Carriage Bowl).  There aren't any arcades that I'm aware of in the city (please correct me if I'm wrong).  And, there are just a few places that have pinball (Cecil Whittaker's on Grand comes to mind).

Well all that has recently changed thanks to the

Silver Ballroom

at 4801 Morgan Ford, right at

Itaska

in the heart of the

Bevo

neighborhood.

I was lucky enough to have some time sans kids and my wife is cool, so you know she enjoys playing pinball and drinking a few beers and listening to some music. 

All our needs were met at this righteous joint.  First of all, the owner is really cool and friendly.  The bar is covered in various punk band

flyers

from shows in St. Louis.  Sonic Youth, Minutemen, the Replacements, Husker Du, etc.

The place is divided into two rooms, the first with the bar, some small tables and a kick ass jukebox with the Clash, X,

Supersuckers

, Pixies, Black Flag, MC5 and Lou Reed among others.  I dropped in a buck to spin Gigantic by the Pixies, Delta 88 by X and Six Pack by Black Flag.  That got the juices pumping.

The next room is the money room.  This is where the pinball action occurs.  There is a small stage set up for bands, several tables, a change dispenser and 9 pinball machines.

I was pleased to see the Machine Bride of

Pinbot

as one, Elvis (by Stern), No Good Golfers (by Williams), Dr. Dude (by Bally), Apollo 13 (by Sega), The Champion Pub (by Bally) and 3 old time classics that were being restored and repaired for play:  Toledo (by Williams), Lucky Lady (by Williams) and Zip-A-

Doo

(by Bally).

The drinks were great and the beer selection is good, I called a

Czechvar

.  The lights that hang from the ceiling are crafted from Jack Daniels bottles.

There is a small menu that includes several items all under $5.50:

  • The Beefeater (1/4 lb chopped beef with sharp cheddar and horseradish cream)
  • The All American (1/4 lb all-beef frank onions, relish, mustard)
  • The Bavarian (1/4 lb knackwurst, mashed potatoes, kraut)
  • The Sicilian (1/4 lb salsiccia braised with peppers and onions)
  • and Billy Goat Chips made fresh in Princeton Heights.

Some of the sausages come from the dynamite G and W Bavarian sausage at Parker and

Kingshighway

.

I highly recommend this south city bar.  Pinball, punk rock, non-pretentious, good food, beer and booze.

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. 

The Benton Park Neighborhood

The Benton Park Neighborhood

In many ways, this is St. Louis' other Soulard or LaSalle; but it's much more diverse in housing styles and dining options.  First of all, the neighborhood is quite different north and south of Arsenal.  The south side is bordered by Cherokee, so there are lots of shops and smaller homes along antique row.  This area has plenty of rehab opportunities, but for the most part it is still in tact (original homes existing on most of the streets); whereas, north of Arsenal has some more cozy streets, more expensive homes, more diverse architecture and businesses, but there are a lot of empty lots.  There are many, many opportunities for good infill within Benton Park.

LouFest Music Festival-Forest Park August 28 and 29

I wanted to help spread the word for this event.  Here's the lineup:

                                              SATURDAY                          SUNDAY

And ticket info:

2 Day Pass              = $64.00

Saturday Only         = $38.00

Sunday Only            = $38.00

No service fees!  Re-entry only on 2-day passes; no in/out privileges for single day tickets.

You can purchase tickets

here

.