Home » Steve Patterson »STL Region » Currently Reading:

Twenty Years in Saint Louis

August 9, 2010 Steve Patterson, STL Region 9 Comments

It was 20 years ago, August 1990, that I first arrived in St. Louis from Oklahoma City.  I was just out of college, 23 and optimistic about St. Louis’ future.  I drove up I-44 with a friend, she and I were going to be roommates in Washington D.C. Her mom lived in a renovated townhouse on Lemp in Benton Park, a block from Venice Cafe. We arrived on a Saturday and the next day her mom gave us a tour of the city.

ABOVE: Former fountain on Maryland Plaza, August 1990
ABOVE: Former fountain on Maryland Plaza, August 1990

I was immediately sold on St. Louis for my new place of residence, it felt right. Of course, earlier that year the Census had counted over 396,000 residents.  I put my stuff I had in her car and put it in her mom’s basement.  After my first visit to D.C., I took the train & bus back to Oklahoma City to get my car and more stuff.  I stayed with her mom for a week or so until I got a job and an apartment.

My first place was in The President on Lindell, next to Boatman’s Bank (now U.S. Bank).  It was an 8th floor studio with a view of the building to the east. The annual gay pride parade was on Euclid in those years so for me it was the place to be.  But in late 1990 I attended a seminar for developers at the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC).  At the time their offices were in the building bounded by Olive, 15th, Locust and 14th. At this seminar I met a woman living & rehabbing in Murphy-Blair; now known as Old North St. Louis.

At age 24 I moved to Old North from Lindell & Euclid.  My rent went from $425/month for the studio to $75/month.

ABOVE: My 3-room flat in Old North at 1422 Sullivan
ABOVE: My 3-room flat in Old North at 1422 Sullivan

In my first decade I saw the population drop over 48,000 people, my initial optimism was fading.  During the 1990s there were several times I considered moving. Seattle? Portland? East Coast? Sure, all were considered but ruled out for various reasons.  I’ve long stopped considering leaving, I like how St. Louis is shaping up.  Plus, I enjoy playing a role in the future of this city.

I’m sure I’ll see as much change in the coming 20 years as I did in the last 20 years. I’ll let you know in August 2030.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Chris says:

    I've always been curious to know who the people who left the City in the 1990's are. Where did they go? Why did they leave? They didn't just vanish.

    • studs lonigan says:

      At least some of the population change is related to reduction of density through redevelopment. In areas like Soulard, for example, a four-family flat once packed with four individual households could be rehabbed as two luxury townhomes subsequently occupied by two unrelated professional couples. In this development, the building's “population” goes from 16 to four and the property from lower income to “upscale”. This exact scenario happened in many neighborhoods and continues now. Certainly some of the overall population loss was also flight, largely from the north side, but loss of density is not necessarily indicative of decay; in fact, quite the opposite in many cases.

      • JZ71 says:

        A related change is that the “good Catholic” family no longer has 8-10-12 kids, but more like 2-3-4. Add in the choice between SLPS, paying the increasing tuition for a city parochial school or moving to the 'burbs once the kids reach school age, plus the erosion of residency requirements for city employees, and many families with kids choose to move out of the city once the kids reach school age, leaving more singles, young families and empty nesters than you saw 20 or 40 years ago.

  2. Jeff says:

    So glad you stayed, Steve. St. Louis is a better place because of you!

  3. JZ71 says:

    And besides staying, that you're really working to play “a role in the future of this city”. We all have opinions – making change happen takes real work and commitment!

  4. Sonny Saggar says:

    Steve, I love that story. I'd like to know more about your story over the past 20 years. You really are an integral part of how this city is shaping up. Who knew, when you took that photo of the fountain, that it would be in something called a 'blog' on something called 'the internet'?
    Sonny Saggar, Downtown Urgent Care.


Comment on this Article: