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East St. Louis & Tulsa’s Greenwood Neighborhood Rebuilt After White Mobs Rioted In 1917 & 1921, Respectively

July 1, 2020 Featured, History/Preservation, Metro East Comments Off on East St. Louis & Tulsa’s Greenwood Neighborhood Rebuilt After White Mobs Rioted In 1917 & 1921, Respectively

There are many similarities between race riots in East St. Louis IL and four years later, Tulsa OK (1917 & 1921, respectively).  Both involved angry white mobs killing blacks and destroying their homes & businesses.

A burned out building at Missouri & Division, East St. Louis, May 2011

Both were also rebuilt.

In 1910, 90 percent of African Americans lived in the South, the vast majority were sharecropping in rural areas. But hostilities in Europe had almost stopped the flow of white workers to northern factories, while increasing the demand for product from munitions and weapons manufactures. This gave unions more negotiating power, and wages were inching up. So employers started recruiting black workers from the south as strike breakers and replacement workers. About a half-million black workers moved to Chicago, Detroit, Ohio, Philadelphia and St. Louis between 1910 and 1920.

The worst recorded incident of labor-related racial violence occurred in St. Louis in 1917. When the Aluminum Ore Company brought in African American workers to break a strike, 3,000 white union members marched in protest. The marchers morphed into a mob, attacking random black residents on the street. The following day, shots were exchanged between whites and black in the black part of town; two plainclothes police officers were killed. When the news got out, roving white mobs rampaged through black East St. Louis, burning homes and businesses, and assaulting men, women and children. Between 100 and 200 black working people died and 6,000 were left homeless. It foreshadowed things to come.

A year later, four million soldiers returned from World War I. With no plan for absorbing them into the economy, unemployment rose rapidly. Both white and black veterans felt betrayed. In the “Red Summer” of 1919, 38 separate race riots occurred, all of them white mobs attacking blacks. The worst riot occurred in Chicago. After a black youth was stoned for swimming into the “white” part of the lake, Irish and black gangs battled each other for 13 days. When it was over, 23 blacks and 15 whites were dead, 537 were injured and 1,000 black families were homeless. Across the country, more than 100 people died that summer, while scores of black homes and businesses were destroyed. (AFLCIO)

St. Louis meanwhile, in 1914, agreed to allow the Daughters of the Confederacy install a pro-confederacy monument in Forest Park (removed in 2017). Two years later, in 1916, St. Louis voters overwhelmingly approved a pro-segregation zoning ordinance. A riot across the river in 1917 unfortunately was another in a series of whites being…racists.

In the summer of 1916, 2,500 white employees of the meatpacking industry near East St. Louis went on strike for higher wages, and the companies imported black workers to replace them. Ultimately the workers won a wage increase but the companies retained nearly 800 blacks, firing as many whites after the strike, according to the former president of the Central Trades and Labor Union of East St. Louis. This result only exacerbated the growing racial tension.

In the spring of 1917, the mostly white workers of the Aluminum Ore Company in East St. Louis voted to strike. The company recruited hundreds of black workers to replace them. Tensions between the groups escalated. At a labor meeting held in City Hall on May 28 and made up mostly of white workers, rumors circulated of black men fraternizing with white women. (Wikipedia)

On July 1, 1917 the worst of the East St. Louis rioting of 1917 took place — 103 years ago today.

Missouri between 12th & 13th, East St. Louis. August 2012

Today parts of East St. Louis are ruins.

Tulsa, like many cities and towns throughout the US, was hostilely segregated, with African Americans settling into the northern region of the city.  As we often saw before integration, Blacks in the area created entrepreneurial opportunities for themselves, which housed an impressive business center that included banks, hotels, cafes, clothiers, movie theaters, and contemporary homes.  Greenwood residents enjoyed many luxuries that their White neighbors did not, including indoor plumbing and a remarkable school system that superiorly educated Black children. (Ebony)

If there was a silver lining to segregation it was that it forced black money to be spent at black-owned businesses.

The massacre began over Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building. He was taken into custody. After the arrest, rumors spread through the city that Dick Rowland was to be lynched. Upon hearing reports that a mob of hundreds of white men had gathered around the jail where Dick Rowland was being kept, a group of 75 black men, some of whom were armed, arrived at the jail with the intention of helping to ensure Dick Rowland would not be lynched. The sheriff persuaded the group of black men to leave the jail, assuring them that he had the situation under control. As the group of black men was leaving the premises, complying with the sheriff’s request, a member of the mob of white men attempted to disarm one of the black men. A shot was fired, and then according to the reports of the sheriff, “all hell broke loose”. At the end of the firefight, 12 people were killed: 10 white and 2 black. As news of these deaths spread throughout the city, mob violence exploded. White rioters rampaged through the black neighborhood that night and morning killing men and burning and looting stores and homes, and only around noon the next day did Oklahoma National Guard troops manage to get control of the situation by declaring martial law. About 10,000 black people were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property (equivalent to $32.25 million in 2019). Their property was never recovered nor were they compensated for it. (Wikipedia)

Molotov cocktails were dropped from small planes onto roofs of buildings, a first on US soil.

Following the events known as the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, the area was rebuilt and thrived (with more than 100 MORE African-American businesses in place than there were before the riot itself) until the 1960s when desegregation allowed blacks to shop in areas from which they were previously restricted. (Greenwood Cultural Center)

East St. Louis, like Tulsa, quickly rebuilt. Today we see ruins, disinvestment, etc and fail to discuss the fact these communities did rebuild. Both East St. Louis and the Greenwood area were negatively impacted by demolition for highways, bank redlining, etc.

Riots didn’t destroy these communities, but systematic racist planning did. Of course, we new freedom to live, shop outside previously segregated areas it’s very possible these areas would’ve declined anyway.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Praxair Explosion Was 15 Years Years Ago Today

June 24, 2020 Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on The Praxair Explosion Was 15 Years Years Ago Today

Fifteen years ago today the outside temperature was a lot hotter than today, nearly 100°.  A safety valve on a propane tank at Praxair, on Chouteau east of Jefferson Ave, opened to release pressure. Liquid droplets self ignited, setting off a chain reaction involving other tanks on the asphalt outside yard.

The burnt-out building in 2010, five years after the explosion.

I wasn’t in the city that day, I was with a client in Richmond Heights. This was pre-iPhone days so I’m not sure how we heard about it. But the fire was still going by the time I got home.

In the 15 years since there have been numerous proposals & announcements about developing the site. The latest may have actually started, though it hadn’t the last time I checked.

What’s good is nobody was killed that day, no longer having such an industrial use right across the street from homes. Yes, the site was probably industrial/commercial long before residents bought their homes — but those homes are older than the Praxair company and probably older than the business of propane & propane accessories.

Airgas’s yard (left)  abuts the East side of the Grand bridge, near the elevator & stairs transit passengers use transferring between bus & light rail. September 2012 photo.

Hopefully the city keeps a close eye on the Airgas yard, I’d hate to see a repeat of 2005.

— Steve Patterson

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POLL: Agree or Disagree: Juneteenth Agree or disagree: Juneteenth Should Become a Federal Holiday.

June 21, 2020 Featured, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll Comments Off on POLL: Agree or Disagree: Juneteenth Agree or disagree: Juneteenth Should Become a Federal Holiday.
Please vote below

This year St. Louis County made Juneteenth an official holiday. If you’re not familiar, this will help:

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. (Juneteenth.com)

Nearly two and a half more years of slavery for the humans held in Texas.  Juneteenth is a holiday here and there.

Although Juneteenth has been informally celebrated primarily by African American communities since that day in 1865, currently 47 of 50 US states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday or observance. Texas became the first in 1980.

Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota and are the only three states that don’t formally recognize Juneteenth.

Nationally, a US president typically offers a proclamation acknowledging the day’s significance and gives well wishes to African Americans who observe. Barack Obama did so every year of his presidency and Trump marked the day last year.

However, no president has supported declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. Last year, the US Senate passed a resolution recognizing “Juneteenth Independence Day” as a national holiday, but it has not yet been approved in the House. (The Guardian)

Today’s non-scientific reader poll is about making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, Home of the Gateway Geyser, Dedicated 15 Years Ago Today

June 18, 2020 Featured, Metro East, Parks Comments Off on Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, Home of the Gateway Geyser, Dedicated 15 Years Ago Today

It was 15 years ago today that the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park was formally dedicated.

The park overlook on December 10, 2010. Click image to see live webcam view.

The park is dedicated to the man who pushed for the creation of the Gateway Geyser more than 25 years ago:

The tallest water fountain in the United States and third tallest in the world, capable of rising to 630 feet, the Gateway Geyser began operating on May 27, 1995, helping to fulfill Malcolm W. Martin’s vision of creating a landmark along the Illinois riverfront that would complement the Gateway Arch. The Gateway Geyser was established with the help of the Gateway Center of Metropolitan St. Louis, a non-profit group founded by Malcolm, whose members raised $4 million in private donations to construct the geyser. (The park with a view)

Source: Metro East Park and Recreation District
June 2015

It used to operate multiple times per day, but now only at noon — weather permitting, of course. The equipment is aging.

The Gateway Geyser is typically accompanied by four smaller fountains around the perimeter of the pond. These fountains are not expected to come back online until the 2020 season. Why? The pump is being rebuilt. This repair does not affect the operation of the Gateway Geyser. Sorry for any inconvenience.

This park is one of my favorite spaces in the the region, a reason why my husband and I got married here just over 6 years ago this month.

I’m the shorter one on the left, photo taken while our friend Dionna Raedeke sang ‘The Very Thought of You’

Another reason we picked this park, located in East St. Louis Illinois, for our wedding is we still couldn’t legally get married in Missouri — but Missouri is in all our photos anyway!

Now that wheelchair access to the west end of the Eads Bridge has been fixed, I can visit this park more often.

— Steve Patterson

 

Ugly Addition Being Transformed Into New Entrance To Former Post-Dispatch Building, Square’s New St. Louis Offices

June 17, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Ugly Addition Being Transformed Into New Entrance To Former Post-Dispatch Building, Square’s New St. Louis Offices

The work to modernize the former Post-Dispatch office building at 900 Tucker is well underway. Major alterations to a later addition at Tucker and Cole Street will be the biggest exterior change, as you’ll see below.

900 N Tucker, January 2019 photo
This January 2016 photo shows the Tucker side later windowless addition on the north end of the building.
This June 2012 photo shows the blank side along Cole Street.

More than five years ago the St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced it wanted to sell its building, to downsize.

Lee Enterprises, owner of the Post-Dispatch since 2005, announced Tuesday it is selling its building on 900 North Tucker Boulevard and searching for a new location.

The six-story building, completed in 1931, has been the newspaper’s headquarters since 1959, the year that the Post-Dispatch bought the property and printing equipment from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, a now-defunct morning newspaper. (Post-Dispatch)

In August 2018 Jim McKelvey, via StarLake Holdings, was to buy the building, the Post-Dispatch was to remain as a tenant on the top two floors. The purchase closed in September 2018.

The Post-Dispatch decided to renovate and move to a vacant 1980s building a block to the east. StarLake Holdings became Starwood Group.  In July 2019 payment company Square announced it would relocate its St. Louis offices from the CORTEX area to 900 Tucker. Not really a surprise since McKelvey is a co-founder of Square, along with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.

The Post-Dispatch’s 7th home, 901 N. 10th Street.

Once the Post-Dispatch moved into their newly renovated building a block away, work began on the old building.  Inside at first, but then to the addition.

On May 16th I was driving home and noticed the buff veneer brick was being removed from the concrete block addition.
By May 30th the veneer brick had been removed from the entire west facade and window openings were being created in the block structure.
And window openings also on the north side, also on May 30th
By June 3rd ground floor window openings had been created on both the Tucker & Cole facades. This view shows windows once existed on the Cole side, later bricked up.

I was very happy to see this windowless addition being opened up, but how would it be utilized? On June 7th I got my answer, turns out the main entry will move from Tucker at MLK to Cole Street.

The new lobby will not open to Tucker Boulevard on the west, but to Cole Street on the north. That is philosophical. McKelvey wanted the lobby to face Cole to recognize the untapped potential of the largely African American population on the north side. (Post-Dispatch)

That last line sounds like BS to me, a marketing explanation for what physically made sense with the structure — they wanted to keep the old lobby intact but not as a lobby, so they needed a new lobby. The north addition was their only option.

The morning of June 16th the work on the Cole facade continued. This time the block is being removed entirely. This suggests a different treatment for this section, all glass with the entrance at the sidewalk level is my guess
The view shows the east & north sides.

Given the historic nature of the 1931 original there was no room for anything creative on the exterior. This addition, however, is the perfect place to be creative.  I’m enjoying seeing it evolve.

In December 2011 I posted about how Tucker will become  Downtown’s New Entrance once the new bridge opened, this is the case for many. This new entrance will pop once completed, getting lots of eyes from drivers on Tucker.

In August 2012 I posted about filling in three blocks along Tucker — building new infill to enhance the urban feel of Tucker. Here’s a crude graphic I made at the time.

Aerial of a few blocks of north Tucker showing locations where infill buildings can easily be constructed (blue) and additional spots where they should be considered (red)

Hopefully we’ll see some infill on some of the parking lots, at least on the 3 other corners of Tucker & Cole. In a future post I want to talk about their proposed “innovation district” concept.

— Steve Patterson

 

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