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‘Spanish Lake’ Documentary Overly Simplifies North St. Louis County In/Out Migration

Last week I finally saw the documentary ‘Spanish Lake’. Director Phillip Andrew Morton grew up in Spanish Lake, an unincorporated area of northeast St. Louis County. I suggest you see the film, showing at the Tivoli through July 3rd, but do so with a few grain of salt.

First, what the film got right:

  • St. Louis County leadership guided federal low-income housing to the area
  • St. Louis County has many municipalities
  • Nearby Blackjack was incorporated in an attempt to keep out low-income public housing
  • Real estate interests actively engaged in “blockbusting” and “steering”

If you take the film at face value you’ll walk away falsely thinking:

  • All residents from Pruitt-Igoe moved to brand new apartments in Spanish Lake
  • Spanish Lake would be perfect today if not for poor blacks moving in and quickly ruining things

The Spanish Lake area has a very long history, famed explorers Lewis & Clark camped here at the start and end of their trip (1804-1806), residents have lived in the area since. This was a rural farming community for many years, but in the 1920s new housing subdivisions were platted. Northdale, the subdivision where filmmaker Morton first lived, was among the first tract housing planned for Spanish Lake, it was platted in March 1929. The depression and World War II meant the subdivision were nothing more than a drawing on file with St. Louis County. . Northdale was platted for a parcel on the east side of a freight railroad line, Northdale 2 was platted just two weeks later, in March 1929, for the west side of the railroad line.

Before farmers began platting home sites on their property, in the City of St. Louis property owners were busy placing deed restrictions to keep non-whites from buying. One example from 1911 went all the way to the Supreme Court in the 1940s:

On February 16, 1911, thirty out of a total of thirty-nine owners of property fronting both sides of Labadie Avenue between Taylor Avenue and Cora Avenue in the city of St. Louis, signed an agreement, which was subsequently recorded, providing in part:
“. . . the said property is hereby restricted to the use and occupancy for the term of Fifty (50) years from this date, so that it shall be a condition all the time and whether recited and referred to as [sic] not in subsequent conveyances and shall attach to the land as a condition precedent to the sale of the same, that hereafter no part of said property or any
Page 334 U. S. 5
portion thereof shall be, for said term of Fifty-years, occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race, it being intended hereby to restrict the use of said property for said period of time against the occupancy as owners or tenants of any portion of said property for resident or other purpose by people of the Negro or Mongolian Race.”
The entire district described in the agreement included fifty-seven parcels of land. The thirty owners who signed the agreement held title to forty-seven parcels, including the particular parcel involved in this case. At the time the agreement was signed, five of the parcels in the district were owned by Negroes. One of those had been occupied by Negro families since 1882, nearly thirty years before the restrictive agreement was executed. The trial court found that owners of seven out of nine homes on the south side of Labadie Avenue, within the restricted district and “in the immediate vicinity” of the premises in question, had failed to sign the restrictive agreement in 1911. At the time this action was brought, four of the premises were occupied by Negroes, and had been so occupied for periods ranging from twenty-three to sixty-three years. A fifth parcel had been occupied by Negroes until a year before this suit was instituted. (Shelly v. Kraemer, 1948)

The 1948 decision meant the government courts couldn’t be used to enforce private restrictive covenants.  Real estate interests pounced on neighborhoods, playing up fears of whites that they’d better sell while they could. Go back up and reread the quote — black families had lived on that block for years. The big fear was going over a “tipping point” where all white neighborhoods would gain just enough non-whites to make the remaining whites leave; roughly 10%.  This has been the case for more than a century now.

1951
This is the house ‘Spanish Lake’ filmmaker Philip Andrew Morton lived in during the 80s, it was built in 1951

Presumably because of the Great Depression and WWII, the homes in Northdale weren’t built until 1951; each virtually identical 864 square foot slab on grade boxes (no basement). A decade later Northdale 2 homes were built on the lots platted the other side of the tracks. These homes were built in brick, with a full basement, and 3 bedrooms instead of just 2. Those early Northdale homes were the very cheapest new housing available, and with government loans cheaper than renting in the then-overcrowded city.

The now-dated Belle Parke Plaza strip mall was built in 1963 to serve the new residents
The now-dated Belle Parke Plaza strip mall was built in 1963 to serve the new residents
The 336-unit Spanish Gardens Apts/Colonial Meadows condos on Parker Rd were built in 1964, a decade before Morton says the blacks were moved from Pruitt-Igoe.
The 336-unit Spanish Gardens Apts/Colonial Meadows condos on Parker Rd were built in 1964, a decade before Morton says the blacks were moved from Pruitt-Igoe.
The 40-unit Kathleen Apts, shown in the film, were built in 1966
The 40-unit Kathleen Apts, shown in the film, were built in 1966

At the same time as the strip mall and initial apartment buildings were going up so were nicer homes, such as those in the Hidden Lake Subdivision behind the Spanish Gardens Apts and the Belle Parke Plaza strip mall. These houses face a private lake, are 1,500-2,000 sq ft  with 2-car garages.

Meanwhile…

The county had adopted a master plan in 1965 which embraced the 1,700 acres which were later to become the City of Black Jack. That plan designated sixty-seven acres for multiple-family construction. In 1970, 15.2 of those acres were occupied by 321 apartments, 483.1 acres were occupied by single-family dwellings, and the rest of the land was undeveloped. (source)

Apartments were planned before Congress changed the Urban Renewal program into Model Cities (1966).   Many many factors play into people’s decisions about where to live, when to move, etc… Yes, race may be a part of the decision; humans like to self-select to be with like individuals. Economics is another. For years General Motors had a factory in north city (Natural Bridge & Union), the Corvette was assembled there until 1981 when “production shifted from St. Louis, Missouri to Bowling Green, Kentucky” (Wikipedia). The entire plant was closed in 1987, but in 1983 a new plant opened in the St. Charles County town of Wentzville. The movement of blue collar jobs meant blue collar workers would follow.

Why keep living in a 30+ year old 2-bedroom 1-bath house without a basement or garage when you can get a newer & nicer home closer to work?   I’ll have more on the Spanish Lake area in the coming weeks, but I do suggest you get to the Tivoli to see it.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Same-Sex Marriage To Be Recognized In All 50 States In The Year…; I’m Now Legally Married

June 17, 2014 Featured, Metro East, Politics/Policy, Popular Culture, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Readers: Same-Sex Marriage To Be Recognized In All 50 States In The Year…; I’m Now Legally Married

Over the last 10+ years public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted from majority opposed to majority support. It’s no longer if, but when. Last week’s unscientific poll looked at the timing:

Q: When do you think Same-Sex Marriage will be recognized in all 50 states?

  1. 2019-2024: 30 [26.55%]
  2. 2016: 18 [15.93%]
  3. 2025 or later: 17 [15.04%]
  4. Never: 17 [15.04%]
  5. 2017: 12 [10.62%]
  6. 2015: 10 [8.85%]
  7. 2018: 7 [6.19%]
  8. 2014: 2 [1.77%]

There’s no right or wrong here, we’re all just placing bets. However, the 15% who picked “never” will be in for a shock when the SCOTUS issues a ruling, making same-sex marriages legal in all 50 states.

The Supreme Court’s term runs from October to June. With the high likelihood that at least one circuit will decide against state limits by summer or fall, observers say, the Supreme Court should have ample time to hear a case for a decision by June 2015, though unexpected delays could push it to 2016 at the latest. (NY Times)

On June 12, 1967 the SCOTUS ruled on Loving v. Virginia, “ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.” The same will happen for same-sex marriage, though not unanimous as was Loving v. Virginia. My prediction is the SCOTUS will decide the issue in June 2016.

And on a personal note…

The morning I posted this poll, Sunday June 8, 2014, was my own same-sex marriage in East St. Louis, at the beautiful Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park.

David and I exchanging our vows on Sunday June 8th, officiated by our friend Chris Reimer.
David and I exchanging rings on Sunday June 8th, officiated by our Chris Reimer. Photo by Chris Andoe.
After Chris (center) announced we had no official photographer so we wanted everyone to take pics I got out my iPhone to take a quick selfie of us.
After Chris (center) announced we had no official photographer so we wanted everyone to take pics I got out my iPhone to take a quick selfie of us.
Dionna Raedeke singing "The Very Thought of You" during our ceremony. Photo by Chris Reimer
Dionna Raedeke singing “The Very Thought of You” during our ceremony. Photo by Chris Reimer
Our reception was brunch at Bevo Mill, Lydia S. drove us in her Tesla.
Our reception was brunch at Bevo Mill, Lydia S. drove us there in her Tesla. Photo by Alan Brunettin

We couldn’t get married in Missouri, but we did borrow the St. Louis skyline as a backdrop. We plan to honeymoon in Denver later this year (fund).

Thanks to so many people, including Bryan Werner of the Metro East Park & Recreation District.

— Steve Patterson

 

May 26, 1954: South Broadway Drive-In Theater Opened

The Wednesday before the Memorial Day weekend in 1954 was the grand opening of a new drive-in movie theater in St. Louis, at 4300 South Broadway. As you can see below, it was billed as “the only drive-in theater in the city limits of St. Louis.”

Click image to view source
The 1954 ad announcing the grand opening, click image to view source
Eight years later, in 1962, the theater building, screen, and lot were razed for the construction of a new interstate highway. The blue lines mark the approximate outline of the theater site. Click image to view 1958 aerial
Eight years later, in 1962, the theater building, screen, and lot were razed for the construction of a new interstate highway, I-55. The blue lines mark the approximate outline of the theater site. Click image to view 1958 aerial

I began to wonder what was on this site before the 1954 theater. Sanborn Maps from October 1908 show H.H. Schweer Brick Company located east of Broadway and south of Chariton (See here & here), Brick by Chance and Fortune filmmaker Bill Streeter hadn’t heard of this company. The first linked Sanborn Map shows the St. Louis Workhouse across Chariton St from the theater. In 1908 a bowling/dance hall was north of Meramec (view map).  In 1908 & 1958 Chariton & Meramec streets continued east of Broadway, these were likely closed after the highway was started in 1962. Interstate 55 had a big impact on this area.

When I lived a few blocks away the building at 4330 South Broadway was a Big Lots store, Universal Foods opened in March this year after being vacant for several years
i When I lived a few blocks away the building at 4330 South Broadway was a Big Lots store, Universal Foods opened in March this year after being vacant for several years. I was glad to see the yellow paint indicating a pedestrian route. Anyone know what grocery store built this building in 1968?
O'Reilly Auto Parts  lists the address as 4266 S, Broadway, but city records indicate the parcel address is 4300 S, Broadway
O’Reilly Auto Parts lists the address as 4266 S, Broadway, but city records indicate the parcel address is 4300 S. Broadway. This was built in 2008.

In the coming weeks I’ll take a look at the commercial development along this stretch of Broadway and share my concept for an urban redevelopment.  Have a great Memorial Day!

— Steve Patterson

 

I’m Now a St. Louis Rams Fan

May 13, 2014 Featured, Popular Culture, STL Region Comments Off on I’m Now a St. Louis Rams Fan
The Rams proposed expanding the EJD across Broadway and Baer Plaza
The Rams proposed expanding the EJD across Broadway and Baer Plaza

I’ve never had an interest in football, despite my mom and a brother being huge fans. Back in the 80s, the architecture department at the University of Oklahoma was in the building under the bleachers of the football stadium, a huge distraction when trying to complete a project for a Monday presentation. In the 20 years since the Rams moved here from Los Angeles I had zero interest in seeing a game, we even sold the two tickets to a game we got last year. To my surprise, I’m suddenly a Rams fan.

The St. Louis Rams drafted Michael Sam, football player, in the NFL draft on Saturday. They drafted Sam in the seventh round, not because they thought the league or the world owed him a job because he announced he was gay on his way out of the University of Missouri. They drafted him because they thought he might be one of those low-round picks who might pay off and help them be a better team someday.

As good as Sam was in college, the SEC defensive player of the year as a senior, there were always going to be concerns about where he fit in the NFL, because of his height (6-foot-2), because he is smaller than most defensive linemen, because nobody was sure if he could make the switch to linebacker in the pros. (New York Daily News)

We still don’t know what the Rams will do about the Edward Jones Dome, they will be free to leave St. Louis after the upcoming season ends, a decade earlier because we’ve not upgraded the dome to be in the top quarter of NFL facilities. I still don’t like NFL downtown, but I’d like the Rams to remain the St. Louis Rams, staying in the region.

When Sam came out in February there were many who compared him to Tim Tebow, a distraction that couldn’t cut it in the NFL:

While some compare this to the distractions Tim Tebow brought to the team, the two couldn’t be more different. Sam won’t be tweeting about his sexual orientation and slipping his sexuality into every statement the way Tebow did with Jesus and the Bible. Tebow infused his religion into everything he did, praising god to the press, leading a very public team prayer after every game, kneeling before God after success on the field. For Sam, his sexual orientation is just part of him. He doesn’t feel the need to proselytize for the “gay cause.”

Unlike Tebow’s religion, Sam will not make his sexual orientation the story. Tebow invited the media attention; Sam is already doing what it takes to minimize its impact on his future team. (Time)

Until Sam takes the field we don’t know how good of a player he’ll be, but I’ll be rooting for him and the St. Louis Rams.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Believe in Evolution

Some questioned the poll topic last week, religion on an urban blog? Well, yes. The two are not mutually exclusive, at least not for some like Eric Jacobson:

Eric Jacobsen the author of Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith (Brazos Press, 2003) as well as numerous articles on New Urbanism (see related articles). He is a member of the Congress For the New Urbanism and a participant in the Colloquim on Theology and the Built Environment sponsored by St. Andrews University and the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship at Calvin College. He is a full-time student at Fuller Theological Seminary where he is pursuing a PhD in Theology and Culture. He is currently living in Passadena with his wife (Liz) and three children (Katherine – 7, Peter – 4, and Emma – 3). Formerly, he was the Associate Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Missoula, MT.

With just 16.1% of the general population indicating no religious affiliation (Pew) the results ended up far different than I originally thought they would:

Q: Which of the following comes closest to your view on the origin and development of human beings?

  1. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process 70 [63.64%]
  2. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process 29 [26.36%]
  3. God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time in the last 10,000 years or so 11 [10%]

This is interesting since the results are the opposite of the Gallop Poll this was based on:

Gallup has asked Americans to choose among these three explanations for the origin and development of human beings 11 times since 1982. Although the percentages choosing each view have varied from survey to survey, the 46% who today choose the creationist explanation is virtually the same as the 45% average over that period — and very similar to the 44% who chose that explanation in 1982. The 32% who choose the “theistic evolution” view that humans evolved under God’s guidance is slightly below the 30-year average of 37%, while the 15% choosing the secular evolution view is slightly higher (12%).

Pew has found similar results:

White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view, as do half of black Protestants (50%). By comparison, only 15% of white mainline Protestants share this opinion.

They offer much more detail here.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is agnostic  
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey

Even the term “creationist” has nuances:

Do “creationists” necessarily oppose an evolutionary understanding of the history of nature and the origins of species and humanity?

No. In principle all members of the three western monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are “creationists” in that they believe the order of nature exists because a reality beyond nature, commonly called “God”, is the ultimate cause of all existence. In this sense of the word, many creationists accept an evolutionary understanding of natural history. However, at least four types of creationism can be identified, and each has a distinctive view of the evolutionary sciences and human origins.

“Young-Earth” creationists hold that the sacred text provides an inerrant account of how the universe, all life and humankind came into existence; namely, in six 24-hour days, some 6-10,000 years ago. Human beings were created through a direct act of divine intervention in the order of nature.

“Old-Earth” creationists hold that the sacred text is an infallible account of why the universe, all life and humankind came into existence, but accepts that the “days” of creation are metaphorical and could represent very long periods of time. While many aspects of nature may be the consequence of direct acts of divine creation, at very least they hold that the very beginning of the universe, the origin of life and the origin of humankind are the consequence of distinct acts of divine intervention in the order of nature.

Theistic evolutionists also hold that the sacred text provides an infallible account of why the universe, all life and humankind came into existence. However, they also hold that for the most part, the diversity of nature from stars to planets to living organisms, including the human body, is a consequence of the divine using processes of evolution to create indirectly. Still, for many who hold this position, the very beginning of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of what is distinctive about humankind are the consequence of direct acts of divine intervention in the order of nature.

Evolutionary theists hold that the sacred text, while giving witness to the ultimate divine source of all of nature, in no way specifies the means of creation. Further, they hold that the witness of creation itself is that the divine creates only indirectly through evolutionary processes without any intervention in the order of nature. (The Smithsonian’s Science, Religion, Evolution and Creationism: Primer)

As an Anti-Theist (atheist), I believe what many of us have learned through scientific research. Each sunday night for the last couple of months I’ve been tuning in to see COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey.  In terms of St. Louis, these results tell me over 35% will continue to believe something regardless of facts to the contrary. With such numbers it is hard to change perceptions about place in our region. This show has religious folks upset, resulting in an Oklahoma Fox channel “accidentally: cutting out a mention of evolution and weekly stories like this:

Conservative Christians are really mad about the reboot of the legendary science series Cosmos, starring Neil deGrasse Tyson. The complaint? That an ancient myth about creation invented by Hebrews thousands of years ago is not being included in a show that is there to teach science. Christian conservatives have been taking to the airwaves complaining about the non-inclusion of ancient myths in a science program, with Danny Faulkner of Answers in Genesis whining, “Creationists aren’t even on the radar screen for them,” and Elizabeth Mitchell of the same organization decrying the show for having “blind faith in evolution.” (“Cosmic” meltdown! Neil deGrasse Tyson under siege from Christian right)

I’m just thankful for the separation of church and state!

— Steve Patterson

 

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