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Work on Dick Gregory Place Apartments well underway

The other day I was driving in and around the Ville neighborhood and I spotted work on the Dick Gregory Place Apartments:

ABOVE: New construction at the corner of Aldine Ave & Marcus Ave

This project was one of a handful of projects that got the go ahead with help from federal stimulus funds used by Missouri to provide gap funding:

“$7,875,000 for the Dick Gregory Place Apartments, located in the 1500 to 1900 blocks of Dick Gregory Place, the 4600 block of Aldine, and the 4600 block of Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis. The project is being developed by two community organizations – Northside Community Housing Inc. and the Greater Ville Neighborhood Preservation Commission. The development will have a mix of 40 newly constructed and renovated units.”  (Source: Stimulus boosts eight projects for $18 million – St. Louis Business Journal)

The project includes both new construction and renovations of existing structures.  I’m thrilled to see two buildings included:

ABOVE: Building at corner of MLK and Marcus Ave, May 2010

The above building on the NE corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Dr and Marcus Ave. is among my favorites in the city. The buff brick, overall massing, the arched openings onto Marcus & MLK and the 2nd floor bay window are features that make it a winner.  I’ve been following it for a while.

ABOVE: MLK & Marcus, January 2009
April 2006
ABOVE: MLK & Marcus in April 2006

In the far right of the above picture you can see the other building I’m fond of.

ABOVE: May 2010
January 2009
ABOVE: January 2009
April 2006
ABOVE: April 2006

Both of these structures have come very close to being razed, especially in the last few years.  The impact of this project will be outstanding for the area — both in utilizing vacant structures and filling in holes where other structures had been razed.

– Steve Patterson


Annie Malone helped shape St. Louis

There was a small fire in the Ville neighborhood on this day in 1941.  The fire was intentionally set, but it was not arson.  Before we get to 1941 we must start more than 20 years before.

In 1919 Annie Malone (at age 50) donated the first $10,000 to build a new building for the St. Louis Colored Orphans’ Home.  In 1922 the cornerstone was set in place.  Annie Malone’s Poro College opened in 1917, selling beauty products to black women, had made her wealthy by any standard at the time.

ABOVE: Site of Poro College occupied now occupied by a vacant housing building for the elderly
ABOVE: Site of Poro College occupied now occupied by a vacant housing building for the elderly

Poro College was a major cultural and employment center in the Ville neighborhood.

“In 1930, the first full year of the Depression, as Annie Malone entered her sixties and moved her headquarters to Chicago, she was financially devastated by a divorce (her second) and, soon thereafter, by two civil lawsuits. The lawsuits (for liability to an employee and a St. Louis newspaper) partially crippled her ability to conduct business, which, a few years later, in 1943, during the middle of World War II, was further ravaged by a lien to the Internal Revenue Service. After fighting the lawsuits for eight years, she lost Poro to the government and other creditors who took control of her business.”

The above gets ahead a bit.  When the mortgage on the orphans’ home was was paid in 1941 a ceremony was held to celebrate the occasion.   Annie Malone, in her early 70s and having the issues described above, came back to St. Louis from Chicago to light the paid note.

ABOVE: The Annie Malone Home built in 1922 as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home)
ABOVE: The Annie Malone Home built in 1922 as the St. Louis Colored Orphans' Home

Malone was the president of the board of the home for decades.  Five years after the note was paid the board renamed the home after her.

“This home began as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home in 1888 at 1427 North Twelfth Street. Its site had been purchased for a home for black soldiers after the Civil War. In 1905 it relocated on Natural Bridge Avenue until moving to the present location. An important annual event in the black community is the Annie Malone May Day Parade, a fund raising activity for the Home.” (source)

Here is a short KETC (PBS) video on Annie Malone:


Additional reading on Annie Minerva Turnbo Pope Malone (1869-1957):

I’m very impressed with her accomplishments.  Few women born in 1869 became millionaires or lived so long.  Her business was an important element in the segregated city, providing jobs to the neighborhood.  I can’t help but wonder why she moved Poro College to Chicago in 1930.  She had been in St. Louis for 28 years at this point and with a public divorce and fight for control of the business she might have been embarrassed to stay.  But I wonder if the business had outgrown it’s impressive building in the Ville neighborhood?  By 1930 much of the city and the Ville neighborhoods where blacks could live were fully built out.  Finding land to construct a larger building may have been impossible for her.  The description of her Chicago campus and the photo of the administration building (see list above) lead me to believe that although she had strong ties to St. Louis, she realized greater personal opportunities in Chicago.

– Steve Patterson


Bellefontaine Cemetery dedicated 160 years ago today

On May 15, 1850 the city’s newest cemetery was dedicated (per St. Louis Day By Day by Frances Hurd Stadler):

The story of Bellefontaine Cemetery, a non-sectarian, perpetual care cemetery, begins with the year 1849, when many prominent citizens of St. Louis, who had the welfare of the City at heart, recognized that the old cemeteries located along Jefferson Avenue would soon have to be abandoned, since they were directly in the path of the City’s westward growth. (source)

This cemetery is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the city.  If you haven’t been I suggest you plan to do so, it is located at 4947 West Florissant Ave.

Notable Bellefontaine burials from Wikipedia:

  • Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858), U.S. Senator
  • Kate Chopin (1850-1904)Famous American Author
  • Henry Taylor Blow (1817-1875), politician, statesman
  • Susan Blow (1843-1916), educator
  • Francis E. Brownell (1840-1894), soldier during the American Civil War, Medal of Honor recipient
  • Don Carlos Buell (1818-1898), American Civil War general (Union)
  • William Seward Burroughs (1857-1898), inventor
  • William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), author
  • Adolphus Busch (1838-1913), brewing magnate
  • Robert Campbell (1804-1879), frontiersman, banker, real estate mogul, steamboat owner
  • William Chauvenet (1820-1870), scholar, educator
  • Martin L. Clardy (1844-1914), U.S. Representative
  • William Clark (1770-1838), explorer
  • Charles B. Clarke (1836-1899), prominent architect, designer of the Fagin Building (1888)
  • Nathan Cole (1825-1904), U.S. Representative and Mayor of St. Louis
  • Alban Jasper Conant (1821-1915), artist, author, educator
  • Phoebe Wilson Couzins (1842-1913), pioneer suffragette
  • Ned Cuthbert (1845-1905), baseball player
  • James Eads (1820-1887), engineer and inventor
  • Aaron W. Fagin (1812-1896), milling magnate, millionaire, and builder of the Fagin Building (1888)
  • Gustavus A. Finkelnburg (1837-1908), U.S. Representative and Federal Judge
  • Della May Fox (1870-1913), actress, singer
  • David R. Francis (1850-1927), statesman, United States Secretary of the Interior
  • Frederick D. Gardner (1869-1933), governor of Missouri and St. Louis funeral director and coffin manufacturer
  • Jessie L. Gaynor (1863-1921), composer of children’s music
  • Henry S. Geyer (1790-1859), U.S. Senator, lawyer
  • James Eads How (1874-1930), son of wealthy St. Louis family, known as the “Millionaire Hobo”
  • Benjamin Howard (1760-1814), first governor of Missouri Territory
  • Anthony F. Ittner (1837-1931), Missouri politician, brick manufacturer
  • Caroline Janis (1864-1952), painter and sculptor, member of “The Potters”
  • Albert Bond Lambert (1875-1946), aviator
  • John Edmund Liggett (1826-1897), owner of Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company, South St. Louis
  • Theodore Link (1850-1923), architect of St. Louis Union Station
  • Naphtali Luccock (1853-1916), a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church
  • James Smith McDonnell (1899-1980), founder of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation
  • John McNeil, Civil War general (Union)
  • Charles Nagel (1849-1940), last United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor, lawyer
  • Trusten Polk (1811-1876), elected both governor and U.S. senator in 1856
  • Sterling Price (1809-1867), American Civil War general (Confederate)
  • Mary Marshall Rexford (1915-1996), Red Cross worker and the first woman to land on Utah Beach on D-Day
  • James McIlvaine Riley (1849-1911), Co-founder of Sigma Nu International Fraternity
  • Irma S. Rombauer (1877-1962), author of The Joy of Cooking
  • James Semple (1798-1866), Illinois state senator
  • Henry Miller Shreve (1785-1851), inventor
  • Luther Ely Smith (1873-1951), founder of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
  • Theodore Spiering (1871-1925), violinist, conductor, and teacher
  • Edwin O. Stanard (1832-1914), Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and U.S. Representative
  • George Strother (1783-1840), Virginia congressman and lawyer, collector of public money in St. Louis (reinterment)
  • Sara Teasdale (1884-1933), Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
  • Charlotte Dickson Wainwright, within architect Louis Sullivan’s 1892 Wainwright Tomb
  • Erastus Wells (1823-1893), U.S. Representative and businessman

Impressive!  Interestingly a few hours before I had a massive stroke on 2/1/2008 I called Bellefontaine for information on plots.  The information arrived in my mail just days later while I was sedated in ICU.  I’ve since decided on cremation.

– Steve Patterson


Sportsman’s Park closed 44 years ago today

ABOVE: Sportsmans Park in St. Louis
ABOVE: Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. Image: Wikipedia

Sportsman’s Park closed on May 8th, 1966.

From 1920-1953, Sportsman’s Park was the home field of both the St. Louis Browns of the American League, and the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League, after which the Browns departed to become the modern-day Baltimore Orioles. The physical street address was 2911 North Grand Boulevard. St. Louis is the smallest market ever to support two major-league teams in the same sport at the same time and the second smallest city next to Boston to do so.

This ballpark (by then known as Busch Stadium, but still commonly called Sportsman’s Park) was also the home of the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League from 1960 until 1965, after the team’s relocation from Chicago and before Busch Memorial Stadium opened its doors. In 1923, the stadium hosted St. Louis’s first NFL team, the St. Louis All Stars.

In 1966 Busch Stadium II opened downtown in what had been our China Town area.  That stadium was replaced with Busch Stadium III in 2006.  Sportsman’s Park, opened in 1902, is now the site of the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club.  I can’t help what wonder what the neighborhood at Grand & Dodier would look like today had the Cardinals remained at that corner. Similarly, I wonder what that portion of downtown would be like had many blocks not been razed the vast urban renewal scheme.

– Steve Patterson


Unexpected green on St. Patrick’s Day

On St. Patrick’s Day I had the opportunity to witness something remarkable in a most unlikely place:

St. Louis’ MSI houses over 750 inmates who stay roughly 80 days.  Built originally for men only, it also has a female section (apprx 10-15% of the total). So what was so remarkable?  Let’s go out back and see.

I couldn’t walk the distance from the front door to the back so they drove me through the gates and series of fences to our destination.

At left is Jerome Fields, the Correctional Program Manager for the City of St. Louis.  The three women in orange are inmates at MSI.  They were all working to take this pile of soil and get it into new garden plots, from the press release:

MSI received a neighborhood greening grant from Gateway Greening for the project.  The grant provides lumber and soil for five 4’ x 20’ x 10” raised beds, one wheelbarrow and one sprinkler.   The garden will be maintained by five to 10 female residents who volunteered for the project, some guards at the facility, along with assistance from Gateway Greening staff and volunteers from Lincoln University and UMSL. The food grown will be donated to two local food pantries:  St. Vincent DePaul and Church of God at Baden.

The facility attempted a garden last year but did so by trying to plant just in the existing ground.

Charles Bryson, Director of Public Safety helped out in the morning.

Cardboard was placed over the grass to kill the grass underneath. The facility tried gardening last year but it failed because they tried planting in the existing ground.

The base of one guard tower will serve as the tool shed for the gardening equipment.  Click here to see the Fox 2 story.

– Steve Patterson