Home » Neighborhoods » Recent Articles:

St. Louis’ Original “Little Italy” Neighborhood: North Downtown/Columbus Square

June 3, 2019 Downtown, Featured, Neighborhoods, North City, Urban Renewal Comments Off on St. Louis’ Original “Little Italy” Neighborhood: North Downtown/Columbus Square
Bocce is one of many long-standing traditions on The Hill

When you think of an Italian neighborhood in St. Louis, The Hill naturally comes to mind.

The Hill’s roots are interspersed with the history of St. Louis, generating two of the region’s proudest exports – world-class athletes and Italian cuisine. Baseball’s Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up here, and today it maintains a traditional collection of authentic Italian bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants and mom-and-pop trattorias.

Everything is colorful here – even the fire hydrants are painted red, white and green. Twenty-first century additions include coffee houses, studios, retail and small businesses that create additional energy in the cozy enclave. Its epicenter is one intersection that sums it up perfectly, with St. Ambrose Catholic Church on one corner, an Italian bakery/restaurant on another, an import shop across the street, and a neighborhood tavern/bocce garden on the fourth corner. (Explore St. Louis)

In the late 19th & early 20th century immigrants from Sicily first settled in the ethnically diverse neighborhood on the North edge of the Central Business District and further North — the southern part of today’s Columbus Square neighborhood.

The Italians came to St. Louis in the late 1880s. They lived in what is now downtown St. Louis among the Germans, Greeks, and Irish and attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Church or Our Lady Help of Christians in an area referred to as Little Italy, along Cole Street.

In the early 1900s, the Italians started another community southwest of Little Italy called The Hill. By the mid-1900s, most Italians had left Little Italy and moved to The Hill. (St. Louis Genealogical Society)

By the time they arrived the shopfronts, flats, and tenements were already old. In addition to the races mentioned above, Jewish families also called the neighborhood home.

Before going further it’s important to note that today’s boundary lines didn’t exist. Highways didn’t cut through neighborhoods, wide streets like Cole were the same width as Carr.  Cole wasn’t even called Cole.

Here’s a look at East-West street names and what they were called in 1909, starting at Washington Ave and going North to Cass:

  • Washington Ave was Washington Ave
  • Lucas Ave was Lucas Ave
  • Convention Plaza was Delmar, called Morgan in 1909. (Could’ve been the Morgan divide?)
  • Dr. Martin Luther King was Franklin
  • Cole was Wash
  • Carr was Carr
  • Biddle was Biddle
  • O’Fallon was O’Fallon.
  • Cass was Cass

Again, Cole today is a very wide street that separates Downtown from Columbus Square. Like Franklin to the South, and Carr to the North, it was a normal neighborhood street — not a dividing line.

Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis

Major change came as the city decided to widen comfortable neighborhood streets like Franklin. Everything in the photo above has been part of the convention center since the mid-1970s. One neighborhood spaghetti joint became St. Louis’ top restaurant — Tony’s:

Before Tony’s, the Bommarito family had St. Louis’ first Italian bakery. It was at 7th and Carr Streets, plus they operated a spaghetti factory at 10th and Carr.  Tony’s was created by Anthony Bommarito in 1946, and, in its earliest life was a small café, soon to be called Tony’s Spaghetti House and by the early 1950s Tony’s Steak House. It was located just north of the heart of downtown at 826 N. Broadway between Delmar Boulevard (formerly Morgan St.) and Franklin Avenue in the old Produce Row district at the edge of the soon to disappear Little Italy neighborhood. Family names of those who lived nearby included: Polizzi, Impostato, Olivastro, Lapinta, Viviano, Difirore, Impielizzeri, Tocco, Arrigo, Marino and Capone. (Tony’s)

In the early 1990s Tony’s was forced to relocate because of the construction of the football stadium being built to get an NFL expansion team. Ton’y was on the East side of Broadway, part of today’s Baer Plaza. As indicated above, Broadway was also part of Produce Row, before moving to 2nd & North Market in the 1950s. [Produce Row history]

At least one Italian immigrant from the neighborhood likely worked at Produce Row: Frank Cammarata.

Small plaza on the SW corner of 11th & Carr was built in 1981 as part of the Columbus Square apartments, now known as CitySide.
A small plaque on the South wall reads: “THIS PLAQUE COMMEMORATES THE MEMORY OF FRANK A. CAMMARATA, SR., AND HIS WIFE, ANTONIA “LENA” CAMMARATA, ITALIAN IMMIGRANTS WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THE ORIGINAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

This little plaque is why I began looking into Italian immigrants into the neighborhood. Here’s what I’ve learned through a lot of digging:

Frank Cammarata’s middle name was William. He was born in Italy and came to the states on August 28 1913, via Canada.  A Joseph Cammarata was already in St. Louis, presumably his brother, with various addresses over the years: 614 Biddle, 616 Biddle, 618 Biddle,  1003 N 6th, and 1121 N 11th. In 1915 Frank Cammarata was living at 805A Carr.

Directories  & census listed Frank as a fruit pedlar, though he was no longer working by the 1940 census.  Lena Cammarata died in late August 1939, they were living at in  the Shaw Neighborhood at 4152 Castleman. Frank Cammarata died in 1950 at age 72, still living in Shaw on DeTonty.

The Cammarata’s were already living on Castleman in 1929. I contacted the apartment complex owner, the Mills Group, online to see if they knew anything. They never responded. I stopped by the apartment leasing office to ask. Due to many steps I couldn’t enter, so I called and two women came out to chat. They didn’t even know a plaque existed. They suggested I ask the city, though the plaque is on their private property.

One of the Cammarata’s sons was Frank A. Cammarata, Jr. (1912-1986). My assumption is the 1981 plaque got put up because of him, but the maker goofed and put the son’s middle initial “A” instead of the father’s “W”. I’ve been unable to find anything to substantiate how they contributed to the “original development of the neighborhood” — especially since the neighborhood was already old when they were born in Italy.

As one of the oldest neighborhoods, the building stock was old. Many of the 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance map pages indicate the neighborhood buildings are old, many are tenements.  In 1937 a private housing project, Neighborhood Gardens, was built on a single block. It had goal of providing affordable housing to low-income neighborhood residents. It failed, as the rents needed to be higher than anticipated to cover obligations.

When the federal government got into the low-income housing business the neighborhood was the site of one of the city’s first high-rise public housing projects: Cochran Gardens. It opened in 1953, a year before Pruitt-Igoe located, due west. This brings me to the story of two of the last old Italian-American businesses in the neighborhood.

From the Post-Dispatch November 9, 1936 page 33 of 36 [a daily special section)

For the last 31 years the  Rosciglione family has been, by popular appointment, official confectioners to the Italian-American population of St. Louis. For 31 years the Roscigliones, brothers and father, have been shaping almond paste fruits and flowers, molding hard sugar scenic pieces and baking rich cakes for a critical clientele. No wedding, birthday, feast day, church or State holiday has been properly observed in Italian-American homes without some sweet, traditionally symbolic of the day, from the Rosciglione kitchens at 1011 1/2 North Seventh Street. 

This would’ve been on the west side of 7th Street between Wash (now Cole) and Carr. Later in the same article:

When Frank Rosciglione came to this country in 1906 from Palermo, one brother, Tony, already in St. Louis and had a small confectionary shop on Eighth street. Business was good, so he sent for his brother, this time Frank. Shortly afterwards, the two moved their pastry tubes, baking pans and molds over to the Seventh street location. The next year business had increased again so they sent for another brother, Dominick. When they thought they were pretty well on their feet, in 1911, they sent for their mother and father who still kept the confectioners shop in the Old Country. Now all are gone except Dominick who carries on the family profession with one helper and his oldest son. 

More than 15 years after Cochran Gardens opened, the neighborhood had changed. The shiny new housing project was losing its luster. Rent strikes were happening at Cochran, Pruitt-Igoe, and other housing projects.

The Post-Dispatch on July 20, 1969 page 119 of 338 had a story about the last two Italian-American businesses leaving the neighborhood, not for The Hill, but St. Louis County.

“We cannot endanger our customers,” said tall, sandy-haired Peter Rosciglione, 47 years old. He was explaining why he was closing his 70-year-old bakery at 1011 North Seventh Street. He and his wife, Josephine, and their son, Peter, have packed up the bride-and-groom figures for the tops of wedding cakes, the ornate, old-fashioned candy jars, the molds for three-foot sugar dolls. All these things will be carefully placed in their new store in St. Louis County, at 9839 West Florissant Avenue, Dellwood.

Rosciglione related that in the last month, six customers were approached by innocent-looking small boys who asked for the time, snatched the exposed watches and ran. His shop and the Seventh Street Market, a meat market at 933 North Seventh Street, have been robbed “over and over again” after hours, though the shopkeepers have not been held up.

“I work with this on the counter,” he said, holding up a pistol. “We have to walk with our women customers to their cars to keep them from having their purses snatched. Recently  I heard that because we were spoiling the purse-snatching business for the juvenile gang, that they were out to get me.”

“This is just one mass jungle,” Rosciglione said. “The good families who live nearby in the Cochran housing project and in the neighborhood are as terrified of the gangs as our customers are. I can’t allow them to jeopardize themselves for our merchandise any more.

Rosciglione Bakery still exists today…in St. Charles, MO.

Vincenzo Rosciglione came to the United States in 1898 from Palermo, Sicily.  He opened the first Italian Bakery in downtown St. Louis at 1011 North 7th Street.  The bakery was well received by the large Italian community in the downtown area known as “Little Italy“.
Vincenzo’s son, Francesco, still in Sicily studying under a famous pastry and sugar artist, was sent for at the age of 16.  He and his wife, Cosimina, ran the well established bakery until his death in 1949.  After working under the tutelage of his father for many years, Peter and  his wife, Rose, took over the bakery.
The bakery left downtown St. Louis in 1969 and opened in Dellwood, Mo. where it remained until 1997.  Rosciglione Bakery then moved to it’s present location in St. Charles, Mo. where it continues to be family owned and operated by 4th generation, Francesco Peter Rosciglione.  (Rosciglione Bakery)
The Bommaritos and Roscigliones both lay claim to being the first Italian bakery, not sure which, if either, is correct. The Dellwood address where Rosciglione Bakery moved to in 1969 is the original Sweetie Pie’s location.
I still feel like I have so much to learn about the former residents of what’s now known as Columbus Square neighborhood. Hopefully some of you will know bits & pieces that’ll help with the puzzle.
 — Steve Patterson
 

9th & 10th Streets Need To Be Two-Way North of Cole Street

May 20, 2019 Featured, Neighborhoods, Planning & Design, Transportation, Walkability Comments Off on 9th & 10th Streets Need To Be Two-Way North of Cole Street

Five years ago I suggested 9th & 10th Streets through the Columbus Square neighborhood (Cole to Cass) be uncoupled so that both are two-way streets again. See Columbus Square: 9th & 10th Streets from May 19, 2014.

In short, 9th & 10th have been a one-way couplet (opposite directions) to facilitate vehicular travel between I-70 and downtown — passing through the Columbus Square neighborhood.  Due to the construction of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge 9th/10th hasn’t connected to I-70 in 8-9 years. Yet, these excessively wide one-way streets remain through the neighborhood.

What has changed in the last five years?

I moved to the neighborhood nearly 5 months ago and 9th Street immediately south of Cole Street will close if the convention center is expanded. Living here, frequently crossing 9th & 10th, I can tell you they’re substantially wider than necessary. Being wide and one-way their design encourages drivers to travel at much higher speeds than should be in a residential neighborhood.

Five years ago the main obstacle to correcting this problem was the cost to alter/replace 3 traffic signals. The possible convention center expansion project includes significant changes to Cole Street — including new signals at 9th & 10th. That leaves only the relatively new signal at 9th & Cass to modify — minor work since 3 out of 4 approaches is currently two-way.  Some additional stop signs will be necessary at intersections between Cole & Cass.

Looking North on 9th Street toward Cass. It’s 44 feet from curb to curb.

We measured the width of 9th & 10th in various places five years ago, 9th @ Manhattan Place (south of Cass) was a very wide 44 feet. For comparison, Locust at 16th is a much busier street and is 42 feet wide. You need 8 feet for each parking lane, plus a max of 12 feet for each travel lane — a total of 40 feet. I’d prefer 10 or 11 foot travel lanes. There’s no money to physically narrow the streets, but a wide center “median” could be painted with stripes.

This pair of streets should’ve been returned to two-way during the 2010-2013 bridge project, but they weren’t. With the convention center project closing 9th and altering Cole, we’ve got another opportunity to correct the problem of one-way highway access streets through the center of a neighborhood — with an elementary school in between.

— Steve Patterson

b

 

 

Neighborhood Streetlights Still On Because Electrical Station Is Blocked

May 13, 2019 Environment, Featured, Neighborhoods Comments Off on Neighborhood Streetlights Still On Because Electrical Station Is Blocked

A month ago I posted about how My Neighborhood’s Street Lights Are Always On. To get this resolved I sent the link to the blog post to the folks at the St. Louis Citizens Service Bureau (CSB). As always, the promptly responded.

Here’s one of the many images of street lights on during the day included on my April 12th post.

These lights are supposed to be pedestrian-scaled are also used frequently throughout the neighborhood. Many have the globe canted like this one. Carr at 8th 

The CSB said lighting department was to respond by April 17th. On May 3rd the lights were still on so I replied asking what’s going on.

Click above to view the thread on Twitter

Yes, the lights have been on in my entire neighborhood for months (years?) because a concrete barrier is blocking access. I went searching to see if I could figure out the location of the blocked access to the electrical station.

Manhole cover at 6th & Carr Streets. This might be the blocked electrical station

I”m not sure the above is the blocked location in question. In September 2014 it’s partially covered, and more so in August 2017.  Another nearby cover remains accessible.

Again, I don’t know if this is the correct location for the neighborhood electrical station workers need to access to get the street lights to come on only at night. All I know is the street lights, except the ones that are burnt out, remain on 24/7 a month after I notified the city.

We must have extra money to burn.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Opposed To Missouri National Guard Patroling St. Louis’ Worst Neighborhoods

April 17, 2019 Crime, Featured, Neighborhoods, North City, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Readers Opposed To Missouri National Guard Patroling St. Louis’ Worst Neighborhoods
Unfinished house on 22nd Street in the Hyde Park neighborhood, August 2016

Following a recent daytime shooting Ald. Brandon Bosley started a long-overdue conversation about taking back neighborhoods from criminal elements.

The boldness of the crime, on a sunny spring day as sports fans flocked downtown, just three miles south, led the neighborhood’s alderman to call for deployment of the Missouri National Guard before the summer hits and crime spikes.

“I’m done waiting,” said Alderman Brandon Bosley of the 3rd Ward. “Before it gets too bad, we need to do something measurable. Extra hands. Extra guns. Guns bigger than the ones on the street.”

Bosley said he and the city Board of Aldermen’s black caucus had been talking for weeks about petitioning Gov. Mike Parson. He said he hoped to persuade the board to pass a resolution calling on Parson to send troops to the worst city neighborhoods. (Post-Dispatch)

The conversation took place on Twitter after Post-Dispatch writer David Hunn sent out the following tweet about the story:

I read through some of the replies, many good points made. In general I don’t like the idea of military forces being brought in. On the other hand, though I do live in North St. Louis, I’m not in a neighborhood that’s experiencing the violence that a few areas are. I get it, Bosley and residents want something done. Now!

Maybe the Missouri National Guard is the answer, maybe not. I’ve said before a lot of our problems are long-term, requiring long-term solutions. Correcting inequalities would help, but that will take many years once started. Understandably, Bosley wants action before it gets hot out.

I wish I had the answer.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Should Gov. Parsons send the Missouri National Guard to help patrol the worst neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis?

  • Definitely not!: 11 [33.33%]\
  • No: 7 [21.21%]
  • Hmm, don’t think so: 3 [9.09%]
  • Neither yes or no: 1 [3.03%]
  • Hmm, I suppose: 4 [12.12%]
  • Yes: 5 [15.15%]
  • Definitely yes!: 2 [6.06%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

A clear majority oppose the idea of the National Guard.

A Doug Unplugged segment on the subject, not online at this time, missed the point entirely. KMOV’s DougVaughn liked the idea, saying the National Guard should be outside Cardinals games, etc. Bosley isn’t arguing for military to make suburbanites who venture downtown for a game to feel safe, he’s trying to help the people in his ward feel safe in their neighborhoods

— Steve Patterson

 

Four Historic Properties in Columbus Square Neighborhood

April 8, 2019 Featured, History/Preservation, Neighborhoods Comments Off on Four Historic Properties in Columbus Square Neighborhood

As previously posted, we moved to the Columbus Square neighborhood at the end of December. Since I’ve been looking into the history of the neighborhood, a challenge since much of the pre-WWII structures have been razed and replaced.

Today’s post is an introduction to the four properties within the neighborhood boundaries that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These are listed below in the order they were added to the register, the date is shown at the end. The text for each is from their nomination to the register, click heading for each to view PDF (files are very large).

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, 1220 N 11th St. (5/19/78)

St. Joseph’s last month, the antique car was out front due to a wedding taking place inside

The Shrine of St. Joseph is important to St. Louis as a building of great aesthetic value and as a monument to the Jesuits and their powerful role in the history of the Archdiocese· and the City of St. Louis.

Of the churches built in Baroque revival style, St. Joseph’s is one of two remaining in St. Louis. Neo-Baroque, popular with the Jesuits throughout the nation during the nineteenth century, had origins in the Tridentine Catholicism of the Counter Reformation.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the Church introduced a series of reforms that stressed the parish, regular Sunday attendance at Mass, an increased number of devotional activities, the creation of lay confraternities, and so on. Revived in the mid-1800’s this style of worship sunk deep roots in the urban neighborhoods of German and Irish Immigrants. It was the religion of three generations of American Catholics.

The parish of St. Joseph’s, established in 1845 for the German-speaking Catholics of the near north side, grew out of a small immigrant community who settled near St. Louis University and worshipped at St. Aloysius Chapel, the College Hall of the Jesuit University. These newcomers were among the first arrivals of massive waves of European immigrants who would transform a steamboat town of around 16,000 in 1840 into a cosmopolitan commercial center with a population of 160,000 by the outbreak of the Civil War.

The cornerstone of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph’s was set by Bishop Kenrick of St. Louis on April 14, 1844 on land donated by Anne Mullanphy Biddle, daughter of John Mullanphy and widow of Major Thomas Biddle. “…a great concourse of people, including the Hibernians, came for the cornerstone laying…” The church was completed by a volunteer labor force made up of parishioners. On the fourth of August of 1846, Father James van de Velde, S.J., later Bishop of Chicago, dedicated the building.

Immediately, the parish became the center of the community. Schools and an orphanage were established for the young and the Jesuits turned their attention to intense missionary work. In 1846 the Bureau for German Immigration was organized by Father Hafbauer, S.J. in order to attract immigrating Germans to Missouri’s Jesuit settlements. Father Seisel, S.J. served as editor of ”Herald des Glaubens”, St. Louis’ first German Catholic paper. Three parishioners organized the parent organization of the nationally important German Roman Catholic Central Society (Katholische Central Verein) in 18540 Another school, the first St. Louis installation of the Sisters of Notre Dame, was sponsored that same year.

Neighborhood Gardens Apartments, 1205 N 7th St. (all of CB 558) (1/31/86)

The south side of Neighborhood Gardens earlier this month

The Neighborhood Gardens Apartments located on City Block 558 (bounded by O’Fallon, North 7th, Biddle and North 8th Streets) near downtown St. Louis qualifies for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria A and C and is eligible under the following areas of significance: ARCHITECTURE: Completed in 1935 from plans drawn by the St. Louis firm of Hoener, Baum & Froese, Neighborhood Gardens is an excellent example of Modernistic domestic architecture. Although knowledgeable in the latest developments of International Style European housing projects, the designers and client chose materials associated with the fine local brick vernacular traditions. It is the imaginative handling of this brickwork combined with a thoughtful site plan and skillful layout of the apartments which give the project a durable distinction even more evident today than when it was constructed. COMMUNITY PLANNING: Neighborhood Gardens is a testimony to the dedica tion of a Settlement House’s efforts to demonstrate that low-rent housing could be well- designed and financially sound. The Association’s commitment to excellence is reflected in the Board’s support for a study of exemplars in Europe as well as financial contributions to assure that the project would be built. Dedicated to the premise that physical environment influences behavior, the Association was a pioneer in the attempts to rebuild American inner cities.

Sligo Iron Store Co. Buildings, 1301 N. Sixth St. (4/21/10)

Lately known as McGuire Moving & Storage

The  Sligo Iron Store Co. complex is located just north of downtown St. Louis, Missouri on a triangular shaped parcel of land bordered on the south by O’Fallon Street, on the west by N. 7th Street, and on the north and east by Interstate 70 (formerly N 6th Street). Constructed primarily between 1902 to c. 1940, the Sligo Iron Store Co. complex is comprised of five buildings, four of which are contributing. The contributing buildings include all buildings historically associated with Sligo: five-story Main Office and Warehouse (1906), two-story Garage (1903 with 1923 alterations) and its one-story addition (c. 1940), two-story Machine Shop (1902 with c. 1917 alterations), and the five-story 7th Street Warehouse (1911). While constructed over a 40-year period, the contributing buildings share a common vocabulary of building materials and represent the prototypical construction techniques common in the early 20′ century. In 1959, a 2-story functionally unrelated Sporting Goods Factory was constructed to the north and that building was subsequently incorporated into the Sligo parcel. The Sporting Goods Factory is non-contributing due to its date and its construction for a functionally unrelated use.

Cass Bank and Trust Co., 1450 N. 13th St. (2/14/11)

July 2012

Constructed in 1927, the Cass Bank and Trust Building at 1450 N. 13th Street, St. Louis (Independent City), is a two-story Neo-Classical Revival style building sheathed in smooth limestone with a granite veneer base. On the primary (west) façade, monumentality is clearly emphasized by a dominating colonnade of eight squared Tuscan columns supporting a minimally embellished entablature. Recessed between the columns are large metal nine-light windows. Centered in the colonnade is a slightly projecting entrance topped by a cornice and elaborate crown featuring stylized stone eagles. The entablature consists of a plain architrave, frieze with bas relief medallions and a cornice lined with cylindrical guttae. The colonnade is flanked by two slightly projecting end blocks with tripartite division. The base contains three centrally grouped metal windows with a large twelve-light metal window in the shaft. The entablature is similar to that in the colonnade but with a more decorative frieze. In 1964, the bank constructed a raised concrete and brick addition for offices and drive-thru lanes. The upper two stories have inset bands of tall, narrow windows set in limestone surrounds. Though the addition is a modern design, the building’s two primary decorative elevations and the interior banking hall with its elaborately chamfered ceiling, classical plaster relief work and its colossal Corinthian columns are essentially unaltered since its date of construction.

Future posts will expand on each of these four.

— Steve Patterson

 

Advertisement



FACEBOOK POSTS

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe