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Forest Park Dedicated June 24, 1876, 140 Years Ago Today (6 Historic Photos)

Forest Park opened 140 years ago today — nearly three decades before the 1904 World’s Fair:

Forest Park, officially opened to the public on June 24, 1876, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. At 1,293 acres, it is approximately 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York.

In 1904, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, The St. Louis World’s Fair, drew more than 20 million visitors from around the world to Forest Park. (St. Louis)

When Forest Park was created by the Board of Aldermen residents to the North & South also wanted large parks in their part of the city, so O’Fallon & Carondelet parks were created before Forest Park opened. At that time the parks were largely rural, a way to preserve land in a rapidly growing city.

When Forest Park officially opened to the public on Saturday afternoon, June 24, 1876, it was located in St. Louis County, almost two miles west of the St. Louis City limits and a 40 minute carriage ride from downtown. 

The Globe-Democrat reported that the opening day ceremony attracted 50,000 people — at a time when the population of the city was only 350,000.

It was on a railroad line, which had opened only a week before the park was dedicated. The train ride from downtown took 20 minutes. 

At the same time as the dedication, the Democratic Party was holding its national convention in Downtown St. Louis. (The 1870 census called St. Louis the fourth largest city in the country behind New York, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.) (St. Louis)

Yes, Forest Park was in unincorporated St. Louis County when initially dedicated. This was a good excuse for me to scan & post vintage/undated images from the archives of Louis (1907-1999) & Georgia (1918-2009) Buckowitz:

Cabanne Spring, Buckowitz Archives
Cabanne Spring, Buckowitz Archives
Hooved Animal Enclosure, Buckowitz Archives
Hooved Animal Enclosure, Buckowitz Archives
Old Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Old Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Old Wabash Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Old Wabash Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Superintendents House, Buckowitz Archives. "Constructed in 1875 from plans drawn by St. Louis architect James H. McNamara, the Second Empire style house was conceived as part of the original Master Plan for Forest Park. The Cabanne House was completed in June 1876, in time for the formal dedication of Forest Park/" Click image for quote source
Superintendents House, Buckowitz Archives. “Constructed in 1875 from plans drawn by St. Louis architect James H. McNamara, the Second Empire style house was conceived as part of the original Master Plan for Forest Park. The Cabanne House was completed in June 1876, in time for the formal dedication of Forest Park/” Click image for quote source
Pagoda Bandstand, Buckowitz Archives
Pagoda Bandstand, Buckowitz Archives

Information on the pagoda bandstand is too much for the caption:

The original Forest Park bandstand, or music pagoda, was a wooden structure that stood on an island in Pagoda Lake. It was built about the time the park was dedicated in 1876. Mary J. Rankin donated statues representing the four seasons in 1886.

The bandstand was renovated and was landscaped for the 1904 World’s Fair. It was the site of concerts before and after the fair.

However, the bandstand fell into disrepair and was declared unsafe in 1911. 

Before it could be renovated, it blew down in a storm and was damaged beyond repair. 

In July 1924, St. Louis lawyer Nathan Frank donated funds to build a new bandstand. It was designed by Heffensteller, Hirsh and Watson.

The new bandstand cost about $50,000 and is of classic Renaissance design. It is made of white marble with bronze railings and ornaments.

It was renovated in 1981 with $13,000 from the Central West End Charitable Trust, raised by the Central West End Association. 

It was renovated and landscaped by the Flora Conservancy of Forest Park under the Forest Park Master Plan. (St. Louis)

Now you know why “Pagoda Drive” is named as such. A decade until the 150th. For information on events celebrating the 140th click here.

— Steve Patterson



St. Louis Hosted Numerous Presidential Nominating Conventions

One hundred years ago today the 1916 Democratic National Convention was happening at St. Louis’ new Coliseum, at Washington & Jefferson. Woodrow Wilson & Thomas R, Marshall were nominated for 2nd terms as President & Vice-President, respectively. As recently noted, the Jefferson [Arms] Hotel was the official host hotel, it opened in 1904.

Postcard for the "New Coliseum" on the SW corner of Jefferson & Market. It was replaced by the Jefferson National Bank. Click image for 2012 post
Postcard for the “New Coliseum” on the SW corner of Jefferson & Market. It was replaced by the Jefferson National Bank. Click image for 2012 post

The old coliseum, better known as St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall, had been located between 13th-14th on Olive — after just 24 years it was razed in 1907 to build our Central Library, which opened in 1912.

Three national nominating conventions were held in three separate buildings in or near the complex between 1888 and 1904 including the 1888 Democratic National Convention, 1896 Republican National Convention, and 1904 Democratic National Convention. In addition to the 1904 Democratic convention, it was used as a large venue for other conventions and congresses during the 1904 World’s Fair.

The 1896 Republican National Convention, held in St. Louis, began 120 years ago tomorrow.  My loft is just blocks from where all this took place, but mansions lined Locust St back then, known as Lucas Place at that time.

Back to the present day and the nominations for the conventions that start in July, not June as they used to.

There is a growing feeling among many of us that 1) the way the two major parties pick their nominee is flawed and 2) having a two-party system has failed the country. From a recent poll:

Some of the poll’s key findings are:

  • Just 10 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the country’s overall political system while 51 percent have only some confidence and 38 percent have hardly any confidence.
  • Similarly, only 13 percent say the two-party system for presidential elections works, while 38 percent consider it seriously broken. About half (49 percent) say that although the two-party system has real problems, it could still work well with some improvements.
  • Most Americans report feeling discouraged about this year’s presidential election. Seventy percent say they experience frustration and 55 percent report they feel helpless.
  • Few Americans are feeling pride or excitement about the 2016 presidential campaign, but it is grabbing the public’s attention. Two-thirds (65 percent) of the public say they are interested in the election for president this year; only 31 percent say they are bored.
  • The public has little confidence in the three branches of government. A quarter (24 percent) say they have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court and only 15 percent of Americans say the same of the executive branch. Merely 4 percent of Americans have much faith in Congress. However, more than half (56 percent) of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the military.
  • Only 29 percent of Democrats and just 16 percent of Republicans have a great deal of confidence in their respective parties. Similarly, 31 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Republicans have a lot of faith in the fairness of their party’s nominating process.
  • Neither party is seen as particularly receptive to fresh ideas. Only 17 percent of the public say the Democratic Party is open to new ideas about dealing with the country’s problems; 10 percent say that about the Republican Party.
  • The views of ordinary voters are not considered by either party, according to most Americans. Fourteen percent say the Democratic Party is responsive to the views of the rank-and-file; 8 percent say that about the Republican Party.
  • Most Republicans (57 percent) say Trump’s candidacy has been good for the Republican Party, although only 15 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of independents agree.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Democrats say Sanders’ bid for the nomination has been good for the Democratic Party, along with 43 percent of Republicans and 22 percent of independents (54 percent of independents report it is neither good nor bad).

What options exist?

In multi-candidate races, the winner is often the person with the most dedicated base, not the most widespread support. In many cases, the majority of voters backed another candidate, leaving much of the electorate dissatisfied with the outcome and the winner with a dubious mandate to govern.

Both Republicans and Democrats have attempted to address that in presidential primaries with complicated delegate allocation formulas. But some voters in Maine who have wrestled with a similar problem think they’ve hit on a simpler solution: let voters rank their favorite candidates.

In November, Maine voters will decide whether they want to become the first state in the U.S. to implement ranked-choice voting. If a ballot initiative is approved, future Maine voters in primaries and general elections will be allowed to rank their choices for governor, Congress and statehouse races instead of voting for just one. If no one gets a majority in a race, the candidate who came in last is eliminated and the second choices of their voters are redistributed, in much the same way that a runoff election works. That process continues through multiple rounds until a single candidate reaches a majority. (Time)

See a 1:11 minute video illustrating ranked-choice voting here. Though we haven’t hosted a nominating convention in decades, we do still play a roll in the election process. Once again, a general election debate will be held at Washington University in St. Louis. Back in September the non-profit Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) selected Washington University in St. Louis to host a debate on October 9, 2016.

Washington University has earned the distinction of hosting more debates than any other institution in history. This is the sixth time the university has been selected by the CPD to host a debate since 1992, and it will be the fifth debate to be held at the university. The presidential debate scheduled at the university in 1996 was canceled just two weeks prior. (Washington University)

Don’t expect to see Libertarian or Green candidates in these debates, the CPD reinforces the 2-party system. Which brings me to the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: the presidential nominating process in both major parties should be revised

  • Strongly agree 13 [40.63%]
  • Agree 9 [28.13%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [9.38%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [9.38%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 1 [3.13%]
  • Strongly disagree 2 [6.25%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [3.13%]

Count me among the the 3/4 who think we need major changes to how we elect presidents to local officials.

— Steve Patterson


We Must Ask Different Questions Before Expanding Our Convention Center

St. Louis is again considering keeping up with the Joneses:

The city’s convention center complex should expand to more than 900,000 square feet, half again its current size, according to a report given Thursday to the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.

Such improvements would bring a “minimum” 37 percent increase in additional business and would position the downtown neighborhood “to re-energize and redevelop,” the report concluded. (Post-Dispatch)

So many red flags in this quote. I’m always suspicious about reports promising increased business — especially that conventions will energize downtown. That’s what they said of the Old Post Office parking garage that replaced the historic Century Building over a decade ago! We should have the promised 24/7 downtown by now.

Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D'Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.
Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

In the mid-1960s Mayor Cervantes (1965-1973) had backed an existing plan to build a convention center West of Union Station, serving less than 75 trains per day by then. Other business leaders wanted to raze the Old Post Office and they wanted a barrier to the North to hide the 1952 Cochran Gardens public housing — which was built to clear “slums”. They pushed their own plan — in conflict with the new mayor. They didn’t get to raze the Old Post Office, but they did get to create a physical barrier between public housing and the central business district. However, a 1968 study showed the near north location would perform poorly compared to the Union Station site and another location being considered:

The bulky study that ERA delivered to the city in May 1968 concluded, “the addition of a modern convention center is both appropriate and eco- nomical,” attracting annual attendance of 518,000 (including 386,000 at conventions and tradeshows) and generating 192,000 new hotel room nights in the city every year.

Yet where the ERA assessment was quite positive about the promise of a new convention center, it also argued that the site of the proposed facility would be critical to its achieving its potential. The ERA analysis was quite direct (and prescient) in arguing that, while “a convention center can play an important role in stimulating nearby commercial development . . . construc- tion of a single building regardless of its ancillary economic benefits, seldom stimulates downtown revitalization to any great extent.”

The study examined three possible sites. A civic center location, with proximity to hotels, ample parking, and an excellent environment would yield a net annual income of $71,000. A Union Station location, at a greater distance from the center of the core, would generate a net income of $20,000. The third site, the north side, was far and away the most problematic. While the location was convenient to existing hotels, the ERA conclusion was that a center built there “would operate at a serious disadvantage.” The problem was that the location was a “marginal environment,” filled with “one-, two-, and three-story retail stores in a generally deteriorated condition.” With greater likelihood of traffic congestion, the “North Side location would seriously curtail convention center use by local residents and by conventions.” A center there would attract half the annual convention and local events of an alterna- tive site, generating far less attendance and an annual loss. (Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities by Heywood T. Sanders)

The success of a convention center didn’t matter — they wanted it to form a physical barrier:

For Sverdrup and for Civic Progress, the new Busch Stadium and the proposed convention center served purposes far beyond baseball games or association meetings. Both major public projects were viewed as changing the physical environment of the core area’s fringe, and as spurs to new private investment.

As a wall, the bulk of a massive convention center could literally shut off the business district and the big department stores from the public housing projects and “cancerous” slums to the immediate north. The entrance to the new center would face south, focused on the downtown core, bringing convention attendees from nearby hotels and restaurants. To the north would be blank walls and loading docks facing the land cleared with federal urban renewal funds. (same)

They worked/fudged the numbers and finally got the public to pay for it:

The formal assessment by Disney’s “numbers man,” Buzz Price, that one downtown official termed “very optimistic,” amply sustained the notion that millions of visitors and attendees would flock to downtown. Price’s imprimatur on the Riverfront Square project thus neatly validated the judgment of Sverdrup and the Civic Progress leadership—St. Louis was on the verge of becoming a major visitor destination. When Mayor Cervantes’s Spanish Pavilion plan was hatched, it neatly followed both the model of Riverfront Square and its location. And the premise of the 1966 ERA study of the pavil- ion was that “Millions of local residents and tourists will be attracted” to the Arch, and that the new stadium would draw “Hundreds of thousands of persons . . . many of them from 100 to 200 miles away.”

Buzz Price’s positive assessment of the Spanish Pavilion was reinforced by the Disney connection. In turn, the forecast numbers from Price and Economics Research Associates for the Pavilion’s attendance and revenues bulwarked the sense among the Civic Progress members that the downtown would see a flood of new people and economic activity. When the possibility of de- veloping a major new convention facility surfaced in 1966, the experience of Chicago, Boston, and San Diego appeared to validate the potential of a center. And once again, the assessment by ERA provided a seemingly expert and reliable forecast of the likely performance and attendance of a new convention center.

ERA’s estimates of the performance of a new center were indeed viewed as so reliable by the St. Louis business leadership that Sverdrup and his firm’s staff simply appropriated them—verbatim—for their own analyses and for the formal presentation of the Convention Plaza redevelopment plan. It was the seeming credibility of ERA, Buzz Price, and project manager Fred Cochrane, as well as the firm’s connections and reputation within the theme park industry, that sustained Mayor Cervantes’s extended commitment to the Union Station site.

St. Louis’s downtown revitalization plans were thus based on the expert judgments of the “best and the brightest” in the planning and economic analysis world. Yet the city’s business leaders were not entirely devoted to following the consultants’ recommendations. When Fred Cochrane of ERA repeatedly warned against building a convention center on a north side site, the interests and goals of a unified business leadership simply overrode his conclusion. For the members of Civic Progress and their colleagues, the interests and concerns of “Cubby” Baer, Donald Lasater, Leif Sverdrup, and the Edison brothers fully trumped outside expert advice. The new convention center was far more about “protection from erosion” than potential as a meeting venue. (same)

The Spanish Pavilion was a huge flop — less than a quarter of projected traffic. It closed within a year. Basically, we built a convention center at the location we were told would perform poorly because influential business leaders selfishly wanted it there to protect their nearby interests.

The new Cervantes Convention Center occupied four city blocks — closing 8th St & Dr. King Dr. Ninth & 7th streets were open but faced with harsh blank concrete walls for two blocks. The back of the convention center faced North sending the a message “You’re not welcome downtown.” In the early 90s the center was expanded South to Washington Ave and the dome was added to the East — closing 6th & 7th.

We need to be focusing on reconnecting neighborhoods to downtown — not continuing more than a half century of separation.

The Broadway (5th) & Cole entry to the dome
The Broadway (5th) & Cole entry to the dome
Heading West along Cole
Heading West along Cole
6th St terminates into the North (Cole) facade of the dome
6th St terminates into the North (Cole) facade of the dome
Rotating West we can see where the dome was attacked to the existing center at 7th St
Rotating West we can see where the dome was attacked to the existing center at 7th St
Similar view looking South at what was 7th St
Similar view looking South at what was 7th St
Looking South, view little connects the two on the North
Looking South, view little connects the two on the North
Looking back North at the area deliberately cut off decades ago
Looking back North at the area deliberately cut off decades ago
Looking North
Looking North at 7th St
Here we see the North facade of the original 1977 Cervantes Center
Here we see the North facade of the original 1977 Cervantes Center
Looking West we get the feeling people aren't expected...or welcomed
Looking West we get the feeling people aren’t expected…or welcomed
Other convention centers have hidden underground docks, but not here
Other convention centers have hidden underground docks, but not here
Ok, past the semi we're almost to the corner
Ok, past the semi we’re almost to the corner
One last obstacle
One last obstacle
Now heading South on 9th next to the now 3 block long blank West wall
Now heading South on 9th next to the now 3 block long blank West wall

A 2014 review of Heywood Sanders’ book gives a good overview of the convention center fallacy:

The idea behind convention centers is to bolster the local economy by attracting visitors who would otherwise spend their money elsewhere. The best measure of success is the number of hotel room-nights they generate.

Sanders’ numbers tell the real story. Washington, D.C.’s new convention center was supposed to deliver nearly 730,000 room-nights by 2010; the actual number for that year was less than 275,000. Austin, Texas’ expanded center was supposed to bring 314,000 room-nights by 2005 but produced just 149,000. The 2003 expansion of Portland, Ore.’s convention center was expected to yield between 280,000 and 290,000 room-nights, but the actual number was 127,000 — far less than before the center’s expansion. Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle are among other cities that have had similar experiences. The challenge is to find an exception to the rule.

That’s not all. When projects fail and debt service mounts, consultants routinely conclude that the center needs a “headquarters hotel,” which at the very least requires a large public subsidy. Sometimes the lack of developer interest results in the hotel being publicly owned. It’s a classic example of finding yourself in a hole and continuing to dig. (Governing)

The topic of expansion/updates was the subject of the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Our region’s convention center, aka America’s Center, should be expanded to accommodate larger conventions

  • Strongly agree 13 [32.5%]
  • Agree 3 [7.5%]
  • Somewhat agree 4 [10%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [5%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [2.5%]
  • Disagree 6 [15%]
  • Strongly disagree 9 [22.5%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [5%]

Half agree on expansion, but the other half are split. As you’ve likely guessed, if you’re still reading, I’m very skeptical about promises made by convention center consultants.  I don’t have an answer for what we should do, only advice to begin asking the right questions.

— Steve Patterson


St. Louis’ Last Streetcar Line Ended 50 Years Ago Tomorrow

May 20, 2016 Featured, History/Preservation, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on St. Louis’ Last Streetcar Line Ended 50 Years Ago Tomorrow

The last streetcar in St. Louis made its final run fifty years ago tomorrow.

Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Heinz stepped aboard clad in the same tuxedo and beaded dress they had worn to a New Year’s Eve party 36 years before. Railroad enthusiasts took pictures at every stop. A young man brought a case of beer.

Such was the clientele on Car No. 1628 on May 21, 1966, the last day of streetcar service in St. Louis. It ended an unbroken run of 107 years of public transportation on rails, sundered by family sedans and cul-de-sacs.

In the 1920s, about 1,650 streetcars rumbled along 485 miles of tracks in and near the city. Other lines ran to Florissant, Creve Coeur, Alton and Belleville. They ran across the Eads and McKinley bridges and down most every major street. Whole neighborhoods were built to be near them, and large apartment buildings sprouted at junctions and loops (turnarounds).

Then came buses and, fatally, automobiles. St. Louis Public Service Co., forerunner of the Bi-State Transit Authority (now Metro), bought a last fleet of streamlined streetcars shortly after World War II. But ridership continued to plunge while complaints rose from motorists about streetcars. Only three lines were left in April 1964, when the new Bi-State agency winnowed the system to the Hodiamont line, which ran from downtown to the Wellston Loop. Along the way through north St. Louis, the Hodiamont had its own right-of-way, like a railroad. (Post-Dispatch — with great images)

The Hodiamont line ran in exclusive right-of-way between Vandeventer to near the Western city limits, otherwise it ran on rail imbedded in the streets.

Looking East on the last eastern section of the Hodiamont Right-of-Way, 2012
Looking East on the last eastern section of the Hodiamont Right-of-Way, 2012
1966 photo of the Hodiamont streetcar at the Wellston Loop. Source: Ancestry.com -- click image to view
1966 photo of the Hodiamont streetcar at the Wellston Loop. Source: Ancestry.com — click image to view

Other cities ended their streetcar lines prior to St. Louis.  For example, Kansas City replaced their last streetcar lime(s) with buses in 1957 (Source). Two week ago today a new modern streetcar line opened in Kansas City — an absence of 59 years. We’ll be in Kansas City for Memorial weekend to ride their new line.

Many incorrectly think streetcars are just about nostalgia. Not true.

Streetcars bring people right to their destination, in a way out light rail in old freight right-of-way can’t. A half century ago the bus was quieter & smoother to the dated streetcar. Today, however, the modern 100% low-floor streetcar is the quieter & smoother choice. Streets with streetcars, trams across the pond, look & function differently. For me it is about how well the public right-of-way functions for all users.

— Steve Patterson


Replacing Our Chinatown With A Baseball Stadium Was One Of Many Mistakes

In the 1960s Urban Renewal was in full swing — remaking/destroying cities on a large scale.  The majority of people approved — few protested. The powers that be had dismissed Jane Jacobs’ 1961 critique: The Death & Life of Great American Cities.

Forty city blocks of our original city had been vacant for a quarter century when Time magazine wrote the following on July 17, 1964:

In all, some $2 billion worth of major construction is under way or planned in the metropolitan area. A 454-acre midtown tract of slums called Mill Creek Valley, filled with slum housing that cried out for rebuilding in 1954, is now one of the largest urban-renewal areas in the U.S. A substantial section of it will be set aside for an expressway to link downtown with the major expressways leading out of the city. The long neglected riverfront has been cleared for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park; scheduled for completion there next year is a soaring stainless-steel arch 630 ft. high, designed by the late Eero Saarinen as a monument to St. Louis as Gateway to the West. A seven-block pedestrian mall shaded by trees and flanked by lawns is abuilding. Ground has been broken for a 1,100-car parking garage, first step in construction of a downtown sports stadium, designed by Edward Stone, that will seat 50,000, cost $89 million.

The program has its critics. The Mill Creek slums were bulldozed in 1960, but redevelopment has been so slow that the area is locally dubbed “Hiroshima Flats.” The New York Times’s Ada Louise Huxtable charged that the rebuilders had razed “the heart and history” of the city by clearing the riverfront. Defenders point out that the storied waterfront had long deteriorated into a grimy morass of dilapidated warehouses, buildings and residences. Developers have been scrupulous in preserving the architectural monuments of the area—the old courthouse and the cathedral—and have stored the best examples of cast-iron storefronts to be put on display in the new Museum of Westward Expansion. (Time)

“But these areas were bad, they had to be razed,” you might say. That was the propaganda constantly sold the public. Another such bad area that needed to be razed? The Soulard neighborhood (see 1947 reconstruction plan).  Basically if they wanted to remove something a campaign was waged to build public support. Often, there were racial motivations.

The neighborhood razed for Pruitt-Igoe was Irish. Mill Creek Valley was African-American. And what became Busch Memorial Stadium (1966-2006) had been our Chinatown since the 19th century:

The first recorded Chinese immigrant was a tea merchant named Alla Lee, who is reported to have arrived in 1857 from San Francisco. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Chinese community in St. Louis had grown to about three hundred. This community was physically centered in “Hop Alley,” a seemingly mysterious place that inspired tall tales to the contemporaries and is little known to the present St. Louisans. Along Seventh, Eighth, Market, and Walnut Streets, Chinese hand laundries, merchandise stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and tea shops were lined up to serve Chinese residents and the ethnically diverse larger community of St. Louis, the fourth largest city in the United States at the time.  

Downtown businesses wanted the gleaming new modern downtown and Chinese-Americans doing laundry didn’t fit that image. They must go! But how? At this same time those who pushed wholesale razing of large areas knew cultural institutions were a good excuse to raze existing areas — forcing the inhabitants to be relocated. Working with Cardinals owner Anheuser-Busch, the process began to push Chinatown out of downtown. This would also put the team closer to the brewery.

Hop Alley looking north on Eighth Street between Walnut and Market Streets. Photograph by unknown, 1910 Missouri History Museum Archives. Swekosky-MHS Collection n34629
Hop Alley looking north on Eighth Street between Walnut and Market Streets. Photograph by unknown, 1910 Missouri History Museum Archives. Swekosky-MHS Collection n34629
Busch Memorial Stadium under construction in 1965. Source: Wikipedia
Busch Memorial Stadium under construction in 1965. Source: Wikipedia

In February 1968 New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable wrote the following about downtown St. Louis:

Except for the arch and the old courthouse, which form some genuinely provocative urban views, downtown St. Louis is a monument to chamber of commerce planning and design. It is a businessman’s dream of redevelopment come true.

There are all the faceless, characterless, scaleless symbols of economic regeneration — luxury apartments, hotels, a 50,000 seat stadium and multiple parking garages for 7,400 cars. Sleek, new, prosperous, stolid and dull, well served by superhighways, the buildings are a collection of familiar profit formulas, uninspired in concept, unvarying in scale, unrelated by any standards, principals or subtleties of planning or urban design. They just stand there. They come round, rectangular, singly and in pairs. Pick your standard commercial cliche.

The new St. Louis is a success economically and a failure urbanistically. It has the impersonal gloss of a promotional brochure. A prime example of the modern landscape of urban alienation, it has gained a lot of real estate and lost a historic city. (“Hop Alley”: Myth and Reality of the St. Louis Chinatown, 1860s-1930s)

Much of downtown remains faceless, characterless, and scaleless. The area where baseball had been played since the 19th century suffered from the loss of jobs & activity. One institution resisted the trend to locate in a modern downtown building, the symphony instead restored an old movie palace. Ada Louise Huxtable again:

The success of Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis is probably going to lead a lot of people to a lot of wrong conclusions. In a kind of architectural Gresham’s law, the right thing wrongly interpreted usually has more bad than good results.

The first wrong conclusion is that Powell Hall represents the triumph of traditional over modern architecture. False. The correct conclusion here is that a good old building is better than a bad new one. Powell Hall represents the triumph simply of suitable preservation. And, one might add, of rare good sense.

Very rare in St. Louis. We can’t change the past, so why keep harping on it? Because we’ve not learned from our past mistakes! We keep repeating, at least attempt, to repeat them.


Readers were split in the non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q; Agree or disagree: Building the new baseball stadium downtown in 1966, instead of in a neighborhood, was a bad decision

  • Strongly agree 5 [11.63%]
  • Agree 6 [13.95%]
  • Somewhat agree 9 [20.93%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [6.98%]
  • Somewhat disagree 4 [9.3%]
  • Disagree 9 [20.93%]
  • Strongly disagree 6 [13.95%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.33%]

Those who agreed totaled 46.51%, while those who disagreed totaled 44.18%.

We can’t undo the past mistakes, but the disastrous Urban Renewal mindset is still alive in 2016 St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson