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Gun Show Billboards in North St. Louis

September 13, 2011 Crime, Featured, North City 23 Comments
ABOVE: Orange billboard on N. Florissant advertises a gun show in St. Charles

Billboards for a gun show in St. Charles appeared all over North St. Louis, but some objected:

“We have a lot of momentum going, so to see an advertisement for a gun show really struck a major nerve,” James Clark of Better Family Life said.

After all, Clark’s mission is to encourage teens to put down the pistol and settle beefs by talking instead of shooting.

“This urban core where citizens go to sleep hearing gunshots — we do not need to have that image in these neighborhoods,” Clark said. (KMOV)

Residents got CBS Advertising to removed the billboards in one neighborhood but they remained in many others.

ABOVE: Hard to miss these billboards with images of guns.

Should the community be able to set standards for such advertising or does that violate the free speech of the show’s organizers?

– Steve Patterson


Readers Split on Naming Commercial District

ABOVE: View looking east on Grand Ave toward the old white water tower

When last week’spoll (Name the future commercial district along Grand at the Old White Water Tower) started I thought the number of responses was going to be quite low, but it ended about typical (104).  But unlike most weeks, the results ended up being tied at four levels.

#1 (tie)

  • Grand Water Tower District 20 [19.23%]
  • Doesn’t matter, will never become a commercial district again 20 [19.23%]
  • College Hill 20 [19.23%]

I knew there would be many that would take the negative answer, just glad to see it didn’t get more votes than any other. I voted for College Hill, the name of the neighborhood,  but then I started thinking the commercial district and adjacent neighborhood should have their own identities.

ABOVE: The remaining intact buildings from the original commercial district.

#2 (tie)

  • Bissell Point 8 [7.69%]
  • The Column 8 [7.69%]
  • The Corinthian 8 [7.69%]
  • Other: 8 [7.69%]

I like Bissell Point as that was the name of the water plant that required both water towers in College Hill.

#3 (tie)

  • 20 Grand 5 [4.81%]
  • Grand College Hill 5 [4.81%]

#4 (tie)

  • Old White 1 [0.96%]
  • unsure/no opinion 1 [0.96%]

The eight other answers were:

  1. who cares?
  2. the pits
  3. The towers
  4. Do master plan first, then you will know what the name is.
  5. Grand Column
  6. tower point
  7. Ask local residents for their preferred name.
  8. The Intersection of Crack and Guns

For several of the above, may I direct you to STLtoday.com.

ABOVE: "Prayer Time Now" sign at community garden at Strodtman Pl & Bissell

I would have asked local residents but I don’t want their religion forced upon me just to talk, as I found out when I tried to set up a casual meeting. Hopefully I can find residents outside the official group that I can meet with in a place other than a church and without a prayer at the start and end of the meeting. More residents and businesses are needed, a closed religious group will not accomplish that goal.

The marketing of the neighborhood and district clearly needs significant help, the type of help not gained through prayer. You know things like consistent marketing of the name, website, Twitter & Facebook, etc. Neighborhood organizations should be inclusive and secular.

As I said above I think the neighborhood and commercial district need their own branding and campaigns. For the commercial district I’m partial to Bissell Point at College Hill. We would just call it Bissell Point for short, but the “at College Hill” would help market the neighborhood as well.

I suggest the following for the commercial district:

  • Set up a design charrette to plan where new buildings should be constructed, along with their massing & form. Adopt a form-based code based on the outcome.
  • Set up marketing for the neighborhood  & commercial district; a blog, Twitter account & a Facebook page for each.
  • Concentrate businesses on the circle and to the west, residential to the east of the circle.
  • Consider a Community Improvement District (CID) to help fund public improvements in the district.
  • Plan for restaurants around the circle with outdoor seating facing the water tower.
  • Work with Metro to promote arrival by MetroBus to minimize the need for large parking lots.

Many more things must be done, of course, but this is a start.

ABOVE: Looking east from Strodtman Pl

The potential is there, but will it be realized?

– Steve Patterson


A Quick Look at the Walnut Park East & Mark Twain Neighborhoods

August 13, 2011 North City 16 Comments

A reader from Brooklyn NY emailed me recently asking about the Walnut Park neighborhood.  She grew up in Walnut Park and was curious about the current condition. I knew the name but not the location of the neighborhood.

San Francisco Multiplex Assembly in Walnut Park East

The city has two Walnut Park neighborhoods – an east and a west. These are between I-70 and West Florissant from Union to the city limits.  Riverview is the line between the east & west Walnut Park neighborhoods.  The park known as Walnut Park is in Walnut Park East. With the  exception of the large San Francisco Assembly, Walnut Park East didn’t stand out in my mind.  The streets are lined with tidy brick bungalows like you’d see in much of south St. Louis.

ABOVE: Two tidy homes in Walnut Park East

Two did stand out by being more tidy than the rest. Cross Kingshighway into the Mark Twain neighborhood, however, and the felling is different.

ABOVE: The beauty of this frame home had me stop the car immediately.

The houses are smaller, originally less expensive than those in Walnut Park. Some are well maintained but others are vacant.

ABOVE: burned shell in Mark Twain neighborhood

Unlike Walnut Park East, Mark Twain has many vacant lots and more than enough burned out shells.

Like the rest of the city, things can change quickly in just a matter of blocks. North St. Louis is not uniform. There are good blocks, great blocks and yes, bad blocks.

– Steve Patterson


Post Offices Named After Two Prominent St. Louis African Americans on Closure List

Financial trouble at the Postal Service will soon hit the St. Louis area:

A number of St. Louis-area post offices have landed on a list of 3,700 retail offices the U.S. Postal Service is studying for possible closure to help cut its budget deficit.

The Postal Service, which has 32,000 retail offices nationwide, lost $8.5 billion last year and has already cut its payroll and closed retail locations. (Source)

Two of the St. Louis area post offices are located in depressed neighborhoods in north St. Louis. I had seen one before, but not the other.  I decided to see both up close.

ABOVE: Jordan W. Chambers, 63106 post office

My first question was, who are the people these locations are named after? I had seen the Jordan W. Chambers Post Office (above) in the last few years, although I didn’t know the name at the time.  Here is the answer for this one:

Chambers, Jordan W. — of St. Louis, Mo. Democrat. Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Missouri, 1944, 1952 (alternate), 1956, 1960. Presumed deceased. Burial location unknown. (Political Graveyard)

I checked Find-A-Grave and found more information, Jordan W. Chambers (1896-1962) is buried at Saint Peters Cemetary in Normandy:

Chambers was active in politics for many years. He worked in Ward 19 to organize precinct captains to ensure that all in his ward got out to vote. He organized the Young Democratic Club. Chambers owned the Peoples Undertaking Company in St. Louis–his political headquarters were next door. He was elected Constable and Democratic Committeeman of the 19th Ward in 1963, making the first Black Committeeman in St. Louis. He worked to get the Black vote for Harry S. Truman. Chambers worked tirelessly for better jobs for Blacks & was instrumental in the integration of the Circuit Court & the St. Louis Housing Authority. He owned Club Riviera–a meeting place for many big name stars and prominent politicians. He never retired from politics or civil rights work and when he died, Governor John Dalton gave the eulogy. President Kennedy and Vice-President Johnson sent telegrams of condolence.

Impressive! The 4,000sf post office bearing his name, at 901 N. Garrison Ave, was built in 1959, three years before his death. Was it named for him while still living?  This post office is located in the 19th ward where he was politically active. Chambers Park is located to the west.

ABOVE: The Gwen B. Giles (63112) post office is on the closure list

One of the first things I noticed when I visited the Gwen B. Giles post office located at 1409 Hamilton Ave was the nameplate attached to the building, likely covering the original name. City records online do not indicate the year the building was built, I’d guess sometime in the late 1930s based upon the detailing.

ABOVE: Gwen B. Giles from Missouri State Archives

Gwen B. Giles was born in Georgia in 1932, so the post office was named for at least one person before her:

Gwen B. Giles was the first African American woman to serve in the Missouri Senate. She lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and was elected senator in 1977. Giles was also the first woman and the first African American to be appointed St. Louis city assessor, a position she held from 1981 until her death. Gwen Giles devoted her life to public service. She worked steadfastly to secure civil rights and improve living conditions for the citizens of St. Louis. (Source)

Giles died in 1986:

During her distinguished career in politics served as Missouri’s first African American female senator, representing the Fourth District, where she chaired the Interstate Cooperation Committee and was a member of several other legislative committees. She was also the first woman and the first African American to be appointed St. Louis city assessor, a position she held from 1981 until her death. She devoted her life to public service working steadfastly to secure civil rights and improve living conditions for the citizens of St. Louis. She came to St. Louis in 1935, later graduated from Saint Louis University. Beginning in the 1960s, she promoted involvement of St. Louis religious leaders in the civil rights movement. She was a member of the Archdiocesan Commission on Human Rights. In 1973, St. Louis Mayor John Poelker appointed her commissioner of human relations. In this position, she updated a city ordinance to protect women, the elderly and people with disabilities, and promoted passage of the 1976 Comprehensive Civil Rights Ordinance. Among her accomplishments was the appointment by President Jimmy Carter to a task force to assist in selecting talented women for positions in the federal government. She died in her St. Louis home in 1986 from lung cancer. A park and a U.S. Post office have been named after her to honor her achievements and involvement in the community. She will continue to be a pioneer as well as a role model for women in generations to come. (Find-A-Grave)

Also very impressive! Senator Giles was part of the fight to keep the Homer G. Phillips Hospital open:

On August 17, in a massive display of force, city officials sent 120 policemen in riot gear to Phillips Hospital to deal with approximately one hundred protesters during the final transfer of the remaining forty-seven Phillips acute-care patients to City Hospital. Police arrested seventeen pro- testers under charges of failure to obey a police officer when at least fifty people sat down in the main hospital driveway to prevent transfer vans from leaving. Pearlie Evans, aide to U.S. Repre- sentative William Clay, was present at the protest; her sentiments, quoted in the Post-Dispatch, captured the feeling of that day: “the squad was brought in to overpower poor, helpless people whose only concern was that they have some place to go near their homes when they get sick.” Missouri State Senator Gwen B. Giles, also quoted in the Post-Dispatch, took note: “Conway declared war on black St. Louis today.” (Source: ‘‘To Serve the Community Best”: Reconsidering Black Politics in the Struggle to Save Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, 1976-1984)

“[Virvus] Jones was appointed assessor in April 1986, after the death of Gwen B. Giles” per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch November 23, 1988.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Name the future commercial district along Grand at the Old White Water Tower

My post last Monday was about the commercial district along Grand Ave around the Old White Water Tower (Grand Ave Water Tower Commercial Area Had Such Potential, Still Does). Although all the original buildings on the circle have been razed, I still see potential for the area.

ABOVE: The Old White Water Tower, looking south on 20th Street

Every good commercial district needs an identity (See The Loop, Grand South Grand, Cherokee, etc) so I figured why not see what we could collectively come up with for the stretch of East Grand Ave centered at the Old White Water Tower at North 20th Street.

ABOVE: Commercial buildings around North Grand Water Tower, winter 1990

The area is entirely in the College Hill neighborhood:

The name College Hill was given to this area because it was the location of the St. Louis University College Farm. This area, bounded generally by Warne (O’Fallon Park, I-70, Grand Blvd. and West Florrisant was acquired by the University for garden and recreation purposes in 1836, it was subdivided in the early 1870’s. The Bissell Mansion, the Old Water Tower at 20th Street and East Grand Avenue, and the Red Water Tower at Bissell Street and Blair Avenue are mainstays in this old Northside neighborhood and are testimony of a rich historical heritage. The housing of this neighborhood dates back between 1880 and 1920. Town and four family flats predominate the neighborhood, with a mixture of single family brick dwellings. The houses have large yards and are ideal for landscaping. The homes located near the crest of the hillside bluff enjoy a view of the river and its valleys. Nearly half of the housing dwellings are owner-occupied. Historically the area’s commercial center has been concentrated along East Grand around the Old Water Tower with a strip along West Florissant.

The neighborhood map looks like this:

The poll this week asks you to name the commercial district. I’ve provided the following answers:

  • 20 Grand
  • Bissell Point
  • College Hill
  • Grand College Hill
  • Grand Water Tower District
  • Old White
  • The Column
  • The Corinthian
  • unsure/no opinion
  • Doesn’t matter, will never become a commercial district again

You can also provide your own answer if you don’t like any of those provided.

– Steve Patterson