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New Coffeehouse Opening Soon on Page Blvd Just East of Grand Ave

July 7, 2012 Featured, Local Business, North City, Retail Comments Off on New Coffeehouse Opening Soon on Page Blvd Just East of Grand Ave

The other day I was delighted to see “coming soon” signs in the first floor retail space at in the St. Louis Housing Authority’s headquarters built in 2009. PNC Bank is in the west end of the building.

ABOVE: Chronicle Coffee will open soon on Page Ave in the building with the St. Louis Housing Authority and PNC Bank

Chronicle Coffee bills itself on Twitter (@ChronicleCoffee ) as “A St. Louis-based coffee company dedicated to helping the community control their narrative one cup at a time…

Believe it or not, people that live and work in north St. Louis also drink coffee. I know this may come as a shock to some of you but it’s true. I’ll certainly patronize them once they open.

— Steve Patterson


North St. Louis Founded 196 Years Ago Today

June 29, 2012 Featured, History/Preservation, North City Comments Off on North St. Louis Founded 196 Years Ago Today

Today when we think of north St. Louis we think of the north half of the city whose boundaries were established in 1876. Sixty years earlier North St. Louis was founded as a separate municipality from St. Louis:

June 29, 1816:

A town was incorporated which rivaled its southern neighbor, St. Louis, for many years. The new town, founded by Maj. William Christy, was named simply “North St. Louis.” Its southern boundary line was Madison Street, then a considerable distance from the northern boundary of the city which Christy and his associates referred to as “St. Louis under the hill.”

Christy had come to St. Louis from Pennsylvania with advanced ideas about city planning. With two partners, he proposed a scheme for developing a city which would appeal to the settlers flocking in from the East. Street names reflected the founders’ interest in politics — Madison and Monroe; Benton for the young lawyer who would become one of Missouri’s first senators; and Warren, for a hero at Bunker Hill.  A boatyard was established, and inducements offered steamboats to land at North St. Louis instead of farther downstream. A ferry made regular runs between North St. Louis and Alton.  In 1841, just a quarter century after its founding, the city was absorbed into St. Louis. (Source: St. Louis Day by Day by Frances Hurd Stadler, page 122) 

Hence most of the area is known today as the Old North St. Louis neighborhood today.

ABOVE: Industrial area between I-70 and the Mississippi River was part of North St. Louis in 1816. The street on the left is North Market Street. Click image to view aerial in Google Maps

Keep in mind St. Louis was founded in 1764 and incorporated in 1822. If my sources are correct, North St. Louis was incorporated six years before St. Louis was! St. Louis’ population was small but growing quickly:

  • 1810: 1,600
  • 1820: not available
  • 1830: 4,977
  • 1840: 16,469
  • 1850: 77,860
  • Source: Wikipedia

My original intent of this post was just to note the anniversary but the part about North St. Louis offering inducements to steam ships has me thinking about the many municipalities in our region still doing the same thing nearly two hundred years later.

I was a resident of Old North St. Louis from 1991-94 and I try to get to Crown Candy Kitchen 2-3 times per year.

— Steve Patterson



Carr Street Now Features Hot Steam Pipes

Cambridge Heights is the neighborhood just north of America’s Center and the Edward Jones Dome. For many years it contained the Cochran Gardens high rise public housing project. Today it’s a nice mixed income neighborhood. The school where I vote is located here.

ABOVE: Cambridge Heights is a nice new area immediately north of downtown
ABOVE: On June 5th I was curious by what I saw on Carr Street between 8th-9th

But earlier this month, after voting, I was making my way back downtown and spotted something I found rather odd, a section of the road closed off. I decided to get a closer look.

ABOVE: Up close these appear to be steam releases for the underground steam pipe network

Hot steam was coming from two pipes, with very little protection. Could this be related to the incident blocks away on April 5, 2012?

A broken pipe sent up a giant white plume of steam in downtown St. Louis this morning.

The 20-inch steam line under North 11th Street just south of Convention Plaza ruptured sometime before 7 a.m. (stltoday.com)

Maybe it’s an unrelated problem?

ABOVE: More steam on the same block, now at 9th Street
ABOVE: Another hot metal pipe in the block west of 9th

Hopefully the local media will look into this and how it may be affecting local residents. I passed by the area on a MetroBus recently and the “hot” yellow pipes remained at that time.

— Steve Patterson


Preparing Bellefontaine Cemetery For The Next 100 Years

Who doesn’t love Bellefontaine Cemetery? Bellefontaine’s narrative, a fascinating read, begins:

The story of Bellefontaine Cemetery begins in the early 19th Century when an international movement began to transform burial practice in America. Up until that time, the dead had been buried in churchyards, on family property, or in small vacant lots. As cities flourished, however, the land set aside for the dead grew increasingly valuable. When developers claimed these urban graveyards for the growth of cities, those interred there had to be moved elsewhere.

“The first interment at Bellefontaine took place on April 27, 1850” and the new cemetery was dedicated on May 16, 1850. In those days the main entrance was on the east side, facing an unpaved Broadway.

ABOVE: Entry to Bellefontaine Cemetery off W. Florissant Ave
ABOVE: Bellefontaine's original Broadway entrance, although these gates came later

In my 21+ years in St. Louis I’ve been to Bellefontaine many times, often taking out of town guests on a drive through the winding roads to see some of the notable structures. You’ve probably done the same thing.

ABOVE: Bellefontaine contains many beautiful mausoleum, such as the Wainwright Tomb, click image for more info on this structure

At the Compton Heights Home Tour this year I happened to meet Bellefontaine’s new landscape architect, Earen L. Hummel.

ABOVE: Bellefontaine Cemetery's Director of Landscape Design Earen L. Hummel reviews the master plan

Before I get into Hummel’s role I’d like to review what Bellefontaine is, and isn’t. The quotes below are from Bellefontaine’s FAQ page:

Bellefontaine does not have an owner – it is a non-profit, non-denominational cemetery. Our mission is to provide high quality service to people of all faiths; to preserve and protect the history and stories of our families; to protect and enhance the beauty of our landscape; and to ensure that the cemetery is well-cared for, far into the future.

The cemetery’s large endowment is professionally managed to ensure future financial needs are met:

Bellefontaine is very fortunate to have a large endowment that helps pay for the not insignificant costs of maintaining a 314 acre property that has many buildings and 14 miles of roads. 

While Bellefontaine contains important historical figures such as author William S. Burroughs, architect Theodore Link and brewing magnate Adolphus Busch, most of those interred are just regular folks like you and me.

Bellefontaine buries people of all faiths and walks of life – the cemetery was founded to serve all the citizens of St. Louis. In the mid-1800s, many cemeteries in St. Louis were faith based and buried only members of their congregation or others of the same faith. As the population grew exponentially, cemeteries were filled up. Others were sold to developers, eager for land in the expanding city. City leaders at the time conceived of Bellefontaine as a cemetery for everyone, large enough that it would have land available for the citizens of the city far into the future, and far enough away from the downtown that there would be no demand from developers for its land.

Note that it said “buries” in present tense — Bellefontaine is far from being full:

Bellefontaine still has over 100 acres of open land, which means that the cemetery will be available for interment for generations to come. In fact, we have so much land that we are planting some of it in prairie and woodland, which is beautiful to look at, and provides habitat for many birds and animals.

Who knew? Personal story, I knew and in the days before my stroke I called Bellefontaine to get plot information after discussing the with a friend about being buried in such a beautiful cemetery. The information came while I was comatose in intensive care.

Hummel gave me a personal tour of the cemetery, including the open spaces.

ABOVE: Some of the space available for burial today

Hummel was part of a consultant team that worked for a year on the master plan for the next 100 years.  After the team finished their work Bellefontaine’s board created a new position and hired Hummel to oversee the implementation of the new plan. It’s an exciting plan too!

More green options will be offered, though they’ve always permitted a simple green burial:

those who wish to minimize their environmental impact (and often reduce their costs too), unlike many cemeteries we do not require outer burial containers, often called vaults, which surround the casket. And if you wish burial in a simple pine coffin or even a shroud, that is fine with us too. We call this “traditional” green burial: it is what our forbearers did for hundreds of years.

Want to be greener yet?

As mentioned above, at Bellefontaine you do not need to be embalmed, have an outer burial container, or even a traditional coffin. Old-fashioned pine, wicker or other bio-degradable materials are perfectly acceptable. This is better for the earth, and can also significantly reduce your costs. We will also soon be offering even “greener” options in our woodland or prairie areas, such as in-ground scattering of cremated remains or burials with simple, natural monumentation.

Within a couple of years they hope to have areas that will be free of pesticides.

ABOVE: The ruins from an old service building will become a walled garden
One of several new prairie areas being created
ABOVE: Open land along Florissant Rd

I planned to include one image from the master plan but I couldn’t pick just one:

ABOVE: Artist rendering of future visitor's center off new entrance at Florissant & Shreve Ave
ABOVE: Planned trail network, click image to view larger version
ABOVE: Artist rendering of a stream side path
ABOVE: Artist rendering of a hillside trail

It’ll take all of 20 years to implement the master plan. I look forward to watching it happen.

– Steve Patterson


Excellent Urban Infill: North Sarah Apartments By McCormack Baron Salazar

It was by chance that I discovered the North Sarah Apartments under construction on May 11, 2012.   Photographing the Hodiamont ROW for a post last month (link) I saw new construction a block north and had to check it out.

ABOVE: Storefronts face Sarah at the new North Sarah Apartments development, click image for aerial in Google Maps

Developer McCormack Baron Salazar describes the project:

North Sarah, a multi-family, mixed-use development, consists of 120 mixed-income rental units in garden apartments, townhouses, three mixed-use buildings (approx. 7,000 SF of commercial/retail space) and a fourth mixed-use building that includes management/community space (approx. 4,900 SF). This development represents a critical component of the North Central Redevelopment Plan that was developed over several years and completed in 2000 by the City of St. Louis, community stakeholders and residents.

Located in the North Central area of North St. Louis City, North Sarah is anchored by key St. Louis neighborhood assets on its edges, including Grand Center to the east, the Central West End to the west, and nearby Saint Louis University to the south and east. In the community’s core, a number of new civic, educational, commercial and residential developments have created nodes of reinvestment. However, despite this progress and potential, a number of blocks in the North Central district, including those targeted for the North Sarah development, remain heavily disinvested, preventing the neighborhood fabric from being “knit” back together as desired under the North Central Plan. The North Sarah development is a key connector in bridging current gaps in revitalization and catalyzing further reinvestment in the area.

The architecture of North Sarah celebrates the historic character of the community while featuring modern amenities and sustainable (“green” technology) to improve both the marketability and energy efficiency of the units. Specifically, the development is designed in accordance with Enterprise Green Communities criteria.

North Sarah also benefits from a creatively structured and capitalized Human Capital Planning and Implementation Program lead by Urban Strategies in collaboration with key community stake holders. The development will staff a community liaison that will assist with the coordination of supportive services and implementation of resident activities. (McCormack Baron Salazar)

Here are some of the pictures I took that day:

ABOVE: Streets have been narrowed at intersections, ramps are directly in the path of travel
ABOVE: Storefront spaces facing North Sarah, hopefully entrepreneurs can open shops and serve the needs of local residents
ABOVE: The buildings along North Sarah vary, you don’t see block after block of the same thing
ABOVE: The side streets (W. Belle Ave, C D Banks Ave, Finney Ave) have a nice feel to them
ABOVE: The buildings, facades and materials help give the appearance of private buildings rather than being part of the same apartment development
ABOVE: The spacing between buildings is good relative to the width of the buildings

The development isn’t perfect, someone thought it’d be a good idea to use the impervious concrete on some of the sidewalks on North Sarah even though it’s a rough surface. Time will tell how the project does but from a design perspective this is one of the best infill projects I’ve seen in the city. The inclusion of storefronts along North Sarah sets this apart from so many others that force residents to leave their neighborhood for goods & services.

Kudos to McCormack Baron Salazar and everyone involved for making this a reality!

– Steve Patterson