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Kinloch Park; The Rapid Transit Suburb

Ads for new home building lots in May 1893 for the St. Louis suburb of Kinloch Park touted its transit connections — calling itself “the rapid transit suburb.”  Kinloch Park was served by the St. Louis & Suburban Electric Railway and the Wabash Railroad.  Building lots started at $40.

At first Kinloch Park was meant for whites only.  An online guide to African-American Heritage in St. Louis County tells the story of Kinloch:

People often wonder how the all-black community in northwest St. Louis County came to have the name, Kinloch. The name is Scottish in origin and means “at the head of the lake.” Some sources indicate that Major Henry Smith Turner named the area after his ancestral family name. Other sources state that the Scots settler, Major Richard Graham, who arrived in the area in 1807, named part of his land “Kinloch” after his holdings in Virginia. The area remained sparsely settled up to the end of the 19th century. A small number of blacks had land in the locality.

Kinloch Park was developed in the 1890s as a commuter suburb. The establishment of the Wabash Railroad from downtown St. Louis through the Kinloch area sparked development by whites. A small area of land was reserved for purchase by blacks, many of whom where house servants for Kinloch’s new homeowners. When a white land-owner sold to a black family a small parcel in an area of Kinloch restricted to whites, many whites sold their lots and moved, thus further opening the market to blacks.

The majority of blacks arrived in Kinloch during the 1920s. Many of them were black soldiers returning from service in World War I. Restrictive housing practices in St. Louis City made moving outside the city and away from the pressures of racial prejudice appealing to many blacks. The East St. Louis race riots in 1917 brought many Illinois residents to the area. Additional black settlement was abetted by the northern migration of blacks from the South.

The initial black church in Kinloch was the First Missionary Baptist Church, now at 5844 Monroe Avenue, dating from 1901. Other churches followed: First United Methodist Church in 1904; Second Missionary Baptist Church at 5508 Lyons in 1914; Kinloch Church of God in Christ, now Tabernacle of Faith and Deliverance, in 1914; and Our Lady of the Angels (originally Holy Angels) in the early 1920s.

Although the one-room frame Vernon School opened for black children in 1885, it closed a few months later. Black children in the Kinloch area traveled to Normandy to attend the school opened at Lucas and Hunt [electronic editor’s note: “Lucas and Hunt” is the name of a single street.] in 1886. The Vernon School, which moved to a number of locations in the area, served black children until the formation of the Kinloch School District in 1902, and its building remained in use as an all-black school in the Ferguson District until it was closed in 1967. When whites in the area split to form a separate school district in 1902, the Scudder Avenue School became Kinloch’s elementary school. A second elementary school, Dunbar, was opened in 1914. High school students attended Sumner in St. Louis City until Kinloch High School opened in 1937. In the mid-1970s, to further integrate education, both the Kinloch and the white Berkeley school districts were annexed into the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Kinloch students were also served by Holy Angels (now Our Lady of the Angels) Elementary School which opened in 1931.

In 1948 Kinloch was incorporated as Missouri’s first fourth-class, all-black city.

Much of Kinloch was destroyed by highway construction and sound mitigation for Lambert Airport to the immediate West.  If you look at the map you’ll see streets but few remaining buildings.

St. Louis had many transit suburbs (or streetcar suburbs) other than Kinloch.   Ferguson, Kirkwood and Webster Groves come to mind.  In regions like Chicago original transit suburbs like Evanston IL have remained as transit suburbs.  It is unfortunate that our region, over the last 100+ years, didn’t make the necessary  steps to retain a rail connection to these suburban municipalities.


Nostalgia, Cities, Streetcars and the Daily Newspaper

Nostalgia is neither good or bad.  Often someone is labeled “nostalgic” as a means of dismissing their desire to return to a way or technology of the past.

1. a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.(from Dictionary.com)

It has been said that the attraction of streetcars, for example, is more about nostalgia than good mass transit.  Perhaps.  I believe streetcars in a region’s core is a good part of a healthy mass transit system that also includes buses, light rail and heavy rail.  I was in my 30s before I rode a streetcar so how can this be nostalgia for me?

Old photos do transport me to well before my time when most U.S. towns & cities had streetcar systems.  I grew up not in a suburb but most certainly in suburbia. Oklahoma City, like most cities had at least one streetcar system.  It also had an “interurban” system connecting small towns outside the city to the downtown.  My part of Oklahoma City was a new 1960s subdivision of curving cul-de-sac streets lined not with sidewalks and trees but driveways and garage doors.  The streetcars & interurban system was long gone although the compact and walkable neighborhoods once served by these transit systems remained.  They remain today.

In St. Louis the intersection of Grand & Gravois was considered suburban when new.  That is, it was less urban than the older parts if the city.  But it was well served by transit and walkable.

Grand & Gravois, late 1950s.  Note the strretcar on the left.
Grand & Gravois, late 1950s. Note the streetcar on the left.

Is this nostalgia on my part or a recognition of elements for an earlier time that would work well today?  There are lots of things from earlier times I don’t care to return to:  water from a cistern and outhouses just to name a couple.

I live for the future.  But that doesn’t mean we have to toss aside lessons from the past.  I like gardening for your food, buying from a merchant where the clerk behind the counter is the owner, hanging clothes to dry, etc.  I don’t consider myself nostalgic.

Nor do I label those who see the future demise of the daily newspaper as nostalgic.  Or do I?  For decades my parents got the paper 7 days per week.  Both read it end to end. I remember looking through the classifieds for a car when I was 16.  That was BCL — before Craigslist.  Yeah, don’t miss it at all.  But for many I believe them when they say they don’t like reading on their computer, much less on their phone.  Some are indifferent.  I never liked the paper — it was too big.  I had to fold it to manage it.Got ink on my fingers.  I do have fond memories of using Silly Putty on comics.

The daily newspaper, like the local streetcar, is going away.  But the streetcar is staging a comeback:

Portland, OR March 2009
Portland, OR March 2009

Yes, the streetcar is back.  It looks different than it used to.  They not longer are built by private developers seeking buyers for housing lots on the edge of a metropolis. Today the streetcar makes circles through areas— connecting them in the process.  How people use streetcars have changed as well.  In the past passengers would board from the roadway — most of the lines in Toronto are still this way.  New systems allow passengers to remain safely on the sidewalk.  Wheelchair users have easy access without special ramps or lifts.  So after a long absence streetcars have returned.  They have keep the good parts and tossed away the bad.

Will the same be true of the daily newspaper?  Will we see it go away only to return bigger & better half a century later? Just maybe.  If it does don’t dismiss those that want a paper as just being nostalgic or luddites.


Mass Transit in St. Louis Needs a Bailout

As of Monday, the St. Louis region has a smaller mass transit system:

MetroBus and MetroLink light rail service has been drastically scaled back due to budget limitations at transit agency, Metro.

The issue, like many, is very complex.  The short take is Metro has too little money to provide the limited services we used to have.  Rather than more frequent service, to make transit more attractive, we are getting less.

How did this come to be?  Metro’s expensive legal battle (& loss) over the most recent MetroLink expansion is an easy scapegoat.  But the fact remains that public subsidy of the private car has been ever increasing while transit agencies must fight for crumbs.

The Bi-State Developmemt Agency, known as Metro since February 1, 2003, has been underfunded since its formation sixty years ago in 1949.  Forty-six years ago today, April 1st 1963, Bi-State took over transit routes from the St. Louis Public Service Company and “14 other local bus operators” as part of a $26 million dollar bond issue (Source: Streets & Streetcars of St. Louis: A Sentimental Journey by Andrew D. Young).

Capital funds are easier to find than operating revenue.  Public mass transit is an important part of every strong region.  We need to fix our system and soon.


Poll; How Long Is Your Commute to Work?

For nearly five years now I’ve worked from home.  My commute is as long as it takes me to walk from bed to my computer, 20 feet away.

Granted, I do have to stop by the real estate brokkerage on South Kingshighway as well as meet buyers at properties and planning clients at their offices.  But for the most part my daily commute is measured in seconds, not minutes or hours.

I’m the exception, not the rule.  Most of travel further than your bedside computer.  Take the poll on the upper right corner of the main page to share your commute time & mode.Use the comments below to share your thoughts on commuting.


Spring Break By Multiple Modes

March 17, 2009 Public Transit, Travel 4 Comments

Last night I returned from a 9-day Spring Break to the Pacific northwest. Specifically, Seattle & Portland.

At home I can drive thanks to a couple of minor modifications (steering wheel knob & turn signal lever) that permit me to drive with only my right hand.  Last August I drove to Oklahoma to visit family for a brief weekend visit.

But in flying to Seattle I knew driving would not be an option for me.  While many trips during my visit did involve private vehicles, I still managed a few other modes.  I took a bus to downtown Seattle, rode Seattle’s new streetcar loop in the South Lake Union area, rode two ferries, and rode Portland’s streetcar loop. I typically take transit or walk when traveling. Before my stroke I’d walk considerable distances in strange cities as well.

I saw a lot in both cities and future posts will share my observations and photos.  Stay tuned.