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Olive: One Street, One Neighborhood, Two Wards

The Northern edge of the Central West End is a maze of street barricades. Nowhere is this more visible than the view where Washington & Olive come together just East of Euclid. This view is looking Eastbound along Washington (left) and Olive (right). Click here to view a map.

olive - 02.jpg

I wrote about this recently (see post) and since then I’ve had some calls & emails on the subject. As a result, I’ve done some additional research and want to discuss this further.

So here is the fun part. Olive, a once great road, is politically divided. One side of the street from Boyle Westward is in the 18th Ward (Terry Kennedy) and the other is in the 28th Ward (Lyda Krewson). Both sides of the street, however, are fully within the Central West End neighborhood. From an urban perspective the issues relating to the rebirth of this street do not fall into line with ward boundaries.

olive - 11.jpgWhat is the big deal?

Say you are visiting the Green Market located on Washington just East of Euclid and you see the new Bowood Farms just down Olive. You can certainly walk from one to the other but barriers tend to have the “wrong side of the tracks” connotation. Here, one wonders, which is the good side and which is the bad side?

In the past barriers were used to help stabilize an area but of late these barriers have become such an established fixture they are now, in my view, preventing revitalization from expanding into formerly neglected areas. The view at right is a close up of Olive at Walton. On the left of the picture you are in the 18th Ward and on the right you are in the 28th Ward. Same street, same intersection. If one alderman has their barriers removed you’ll just see folks driving around the remaining ones to go the direction they want.

Olive East of Walton has seen some hard times. Lots of buildings have been razed over the years but many hopeful signs exist. I think these barriers are preventing this area from reaching its potential. People who need to get from A to B will find a way to do it. Right now I think that puts additional traffic along McPherson between Euclid and N. Taylor.

olive - 14.jpgJust to the East of the above as we approach N. Taylor we see the remains of what was once a thriving neighborhood shopping district. A number of buildings have been renovated but they are still not fully connected to the neighborhood due to the barriers along Olive. Again, each side of the street is a different aldermanic ward.

olive - 18.jpgA former school, Field School, is being renovated into apartments. An old apartment building next door is being converted into condos. This is all just East of N. Taylor. With all these new residential units coming onto line soon it is a perfect opportunity to connect this area to Euclid via Olive.

olive - 21.jpgFurther East along Olive we get to Newstead. This is in the 28th Ward and Newstead is closed to Olive, sorta. The private parking lot on the left of this picture has access to both Newstead and Olive — cars & trucks are simply cutting through to avoid the street closure. This shows a couple of things, people will find ways to get around street closures and that a need exists to get people from place to place — enough of a demand that we need to look at reopening these various closures.

It would be nice to see Ald. Kennedy & Ald. Krewston work together with local residents, business owners and the city’s planning staff to come up with some sort of plan for the area rather than just leaving barriers in place simply because they’ve been there for decades. Both Ald. Kennedy & Ald. Krewson are up for re-election in March 2007.

Additional photos in this area can be seen on Flickr.

– Steve


Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jeff says:

    I love that commercial stretch of Olive. I often drive down it, envisioning what it must have looked like and what it may still look like in the future. I would love to open a bar/music venue in one of those old buildings.

  2. Jim Zavist says:

    As a newbie, I never quite understood all these street closures. They seem to be a poor way to reduce speeding (as are all our 4-way stops) and cut-thru traffic, but would seem to offer little in the way of reducing other crimes. Hopefully, we can see their gradual (or speedy) demise and to acknowledge is truly one city . . .

  3. According to Terry Kennedy, along with the purpose of “crime reduction,” the street barriers were constructed to keep african americans from migrating further south into the central west end. I supposed he is comparing the street barries to a gated community without the gates.

    Whatever their purpose, they must be removed. I want to move into this area, however I will not do so if I cannot drive on the street without turning around.

    Washington Blvd should be fully open all the way downtown, however with these barries, it is closed.

  4. Brian says:

    once again, thank god for scooters and small-to-mid sized motorcycles.

    I wonder if a SmartCar would fit between the barriers?

  5. SMSPlanstu says:

    Once again, the Midtown Plan of 2001 or so has not been consulted. This plan outlines a systematic process of redevelopment for the W.O.W. or Walton Olive Washington area, Kennedy Park, the Franklin school area and the older business/commercial stretch around Taylor. This plan answers your questions about the barriers since they would be removed, but Walton would be closed between Olive and Washington to be reverted into an eastern part of Kennedy park with the building currently standing becoming a child care facility.

    [REPLY – I had no idea such a plan even existed! I just downloaded it and will be reviewing it. St. Louis does an excellent job of having plans and then burying them once done. This is from early 2003 and I cannot tell if it was ever adopted by the Planning Commission.
    http://stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/planning/midtown/home.html – SLP]

  6. Jeff says:

    …soooo I’m assuming this plan has funding in place for my bar, right?

  7. Landmarks Association of St. Louis is working on an expansion of the boundaries of the Central West End Historic District that would encompass this area, with the new eastern boundary being Pendleton and the new northern boundary being the alley south of Delmar. This area would have been within the original boundaries in 1979 except that it fell in a ward where the alderman did not support the Historic District.

  8. Mike says:


    You beat me to it. I speak from experience in saying that a scooter will fit through those barriers.

  9. LisaS says:

    I’m right with y’all on removing the barriers: if they ever had a positive purpose, that reason is now gone.

    FYI–Kennedy Park, the triangle of land where Olive & Washington come together, is being redeveloped as a new playground for neighborhood residents.



  10. Taylor Haywood says:

    In case anyone would like to know, there was, in fact, a very specific reason for the barriers in this particular location. (And, no, it was not “to keep the black people out,” though such an explanation might apply to many of the gates in St. Louis.) My information comes from a book called We Stayed to Fight for City Living: How St. Louis Women Sparked a City Renaissance, by Delphine McClellan (year and publisher unknown – out of print). All page citations refer to this text. It’s an excellent book for anyone interested in the recent history of the city’s long descent and the beginnings of its recovery–in the Central West End in particular.

    Several blocks of Washington, primarily east of Taylor but also between Taylor and Walton, were known as “The Stroll” because they were infested with prostitution. The problem climaxed in 1979, when police found the bodies of (at least) 17 murder victims in the area. This was apparently the tipping point at which many citizens began demanding action. In the late 70s and early 80s, a group called Women For City Living, along with embattled residents of the Stroll, were among the driving forces behind behind a movement to save the area from becoming a nationally infamous red-light district. Rampant (alleged) police corruption, combined with suspicious conduct by various city and court officials, made progress difficult. In 1980, in the midst of the crackdown, a policeman was murdered at Whittier and Westminster (p 70). This triggered a significant increase in efforts to suppress the area’s crime. By 1983 the Stroll was said to have been “just another neighborhood” (p. 71).

    According to McClellan, the barricades and cul-de-sacs were demanded by a member of the Woman’s Crusade beginning in 1977, specifically to restrict traffic in the 4400 block of Washington and thwart the ladies of the night. When the barriers appeared, several years later, it was considered a victory. However, McClellan reports, they had a downside even then, “as illustrated by one young, out-of-town man who got lost and took a wrong turn east on Washington Avenue. He was halted abruptly by the cul-de-sac. As he slowed to turn around, eight aggressive women descended upon him, climbing all over his car — to his utter amazement and dismay” (pp. 69-70).

    I hope this brings some perspective. I too was perplexed by those very barricades a few years ago, as a newcomer to the city. I knew they must have been part of an effort to control crime, but I never imagined having been quite so bad. I would be very interested to know what the 4400 block of Olive looked like during all of this–I would imagine that the business of “the Stroll” might have contributed significantly to the failure of the businesses on the next block.

  11. chee-chee says:

    We Stayed to Fight for City Living: How St. Louis Sparked a City Renaissance, by Delphine McClellan (St. Louis: City Living Press, 1987)

    Available in the Missouri Historical Society Library

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