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Learn Plastering at Upcoming Seminar

January 19, 2006 Events/Meetings, North City Comments Off on Learn Plastering at Upcoming Seminar

All of us with old urban houses seem to have the need to know how to plaster (I’ve always been better at hiring than doing). If you want to learn the skill of plastering check out a new class offered by The Urban Studio in the increasingly dynamic Old North St. Louis neighborhood.

The two-day class will be held January 28th & 29th. Click here for more information.

– Steve


A Critical Look at St. Louis’ Martin Luther King Drive

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. day and I’ve spent a good bit of time this weekend looking at the St. Louis street bearing his name. Sunday I took a nice ride on my scooter the full length of MLK in both directions. Yesterday, I went back in the car to get a few more pictures. I learned something new — last year I kept saying “Boulevard” but turns out to be a “Drive” instead. Either way it is about six miles of depressing ruins with the occasion signs of hope.

From the St. Louis Library Street Index:

MARTIN LUTHER KING DRIVE (E-W). (Official designation is DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING DRIVE.) Following the route of the early trail from St. Louis to St. Charles, this street was officially named St. Charles Rock Road in 1865 and renamed Easton Avenue in 1881 to honor Rufus Easton, an early St. Louis postmaster [1805]. It received its present name following the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968. King won a Nobel Prize in 1964 for his work to gain full civil rights for black Americans.

Easton Avenue, and part of Franklin Avenue, were renamed in 1972. At the time this once busy major shopping street would have been mostly intact although showing signs of neglect and decline:

“Between 1950 and 1970 the Ville’s population declined by nearly 40%. With such a drop due to “Black Flight”, the Ville businesses struggled.” [source]

It is important to note the city was heavily overcrowded at its peak. This should not be confused with density. Overcrowding had to do with the number of people per unit while density is the population per square mile. We had great density to support mass transit and local stores but an insufficient number of units per square mile. Taller buildings, such as the multi-story walk ups common in New York would have given us enough units to avoid being overcrowded.
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Roberts Brothers To Transform Former North St. Louis School


I often spend considerable time writing about projects gone bad. The last week was consumed with the possible destruction of a historic church. It is the holidays and I needed relief from the negative. I needed something positive to write about.

The Roberts Brothers delivered, big time.

They will soon embark on a major task — turning this long vacant public school building into apartments. Why not condos you ask? To utilize federal historic tax credits the project must be investment property, not owner occupied. I can imagine these going condo after the minimum requirement has been met.

The Enright school is located on Enright just West of Union (google map). For years people have told newcomers to St. Louis not to live North of Delmar. Until recently this ‘advice’ was also included in a guide to students at Saint Louis University Medical School (click here). This was and is about race and class.

But if we wish to grow our city we must get over this old way of thinking. North St. Louis neighborhoods must become increasingly racially and economically diverse. This project by the Roberts Brothers will do wonders to that end.

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Old North St. Louis Is Evolving Into A Youthful Neighbor to Downtown

Old North St. Louis, just a short walk North of downtown St. Louis, is emerging as a happening neighborhood for the younger set.

My first visit to Old North St. Louis was with a co-worker driving me to Crown Candy Kitchen in the Fall of 1990. It was dark and I had only been in St. Louis for a couple of months. I had heard the rumors of North St. Louis being a place to avoid. Still, I was curious about this wonderful place for some great ice cream. At night the neighborhood looked eerie. Not long after that visit to the Crown Candy I would meet a woman that lived in the neighborhood. In January 1991 I attended their annual pot-luck dinner. By March 1991 I moved from the CWE to a small 3-room shotgun for the unheard of price of $75/month. I had just turned 24.

I lived in the neighborhood from March 1991 through August 1994, when I bought a two-family in Dutchtown. I had considered staying in ONSTL but the buildings available for rehab were in poor repair. I looked at many buildings and drew many concepts for renovation. Ultimately, rehab costs were far beyond my modest means. Plus, at 24 I just wasn’t ready to take on a major rehab project. In retrospect, I could have purchased something that was “livable” at the time although getting loans in the area was a challenge.

Things have changed. Back then we were trying to get people to recognize the name Old North St. Louis as many maps still called the area Murphy-Blair, after a nearby housing project. The neighborhood has a great new website whereas I was the first to computerize the neighborhood newsletter (on my Mac Classic). Homes have been sold and bought through the regular real estate MLS system. More buildings have been renovated and many new homes are under construction. A new wave of 20-somethings are moving in and bringing new life to the neighborhood.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a party at the recently rehabbed home of one such 20-something couple. They lived in an apartment next door until they were able to move into the house earlier this year. By coincidence, I lived in the same apartment a decade earlier. This apartment was my second in the neighborhood, a block North of the first one. It was still a 3-room shotgun but it was larger than the first and had a bigger bathroom. The daughter of a neighbor a few doors down the street, just a young girl when I lived there, now lives in the same apartment.

Back to the party.

The crowd was young.

Not everyone, but most. How awesome! I talked with a number of my former neighbors but mostly ended up talking to new people that now live in ONSTL.

The old homes are getting rehabbed, new homes are being built and other improvements are in the works. The neighborhood is a short walk or bike ride from downtown. I enjoyed living there from 1991-94 and I must say the idea of living there once again is appealing.

– Steve


St. Stanislaus Kostka to Welcome Father Mark on Christmas Eve

December 5, 2005 North City, Religion 15 Comments

I’m not Catholic, nor am I Polish. But I’ve been following the saga of the St. Louis Archdiocese trying to take St. Stanislaus Kostka (building, land and endowment) away from the people that have worked hard to secure its future in St. Louis.

A priest is coming from Springfield to fill the void after “harshbishop” Burke pulled St. Stans’ priest a couple of years ago. KSDK reports:

In August 2004, Archbishop Raymond Burke removed the last priest after years of conflict over who controls the church and its finances.

According to the board members at St. Stanislaus, Father Mark originally wanted to come here temporarily to help the church until the issue with the Archdiocese of St.Louis was resolved. But when he was not given permission, he left his post in Springfield to come permanently.

That move got Father Mark suspended before he even arrived. In a released statement, the Archdiocese said, “Father Bozek has no authority to function as a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.” Krasnicki [St. Stans legal advisor] said that’s the Archbishop’s interpretation of man-made cannon law. Krasnicki said Father Mark is still an ordained priest. Krasnicki said, “What they’re saying is his mass will be illicit and that means illegal under their rules. It doesn’t take away from the validity of the mass or the sacrament that he may impose on somebody or share with somebody or witness for someone.”

Like many city churches the parishioners have moved to the suburbs, returning each week for services. But what is unique about St. Stanislaus is they maintained their building and membership while surrounded by housing projects, including the infamous Pruitt-Igoe. So many churches in better circumstances have been unable to maintain their membership roster and building. This is an urban church that deserves to be saved. Despite claims to the contrary, if the Archdiocese gets their greedy hands on the property it is bound to be closed. The only way to keep it open is to keep it independent.

I’m not Catholic, nor am I Polish. But, the directors and parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka have my full support.

– Steve