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History bulldozed on this day in 1963

ABOVE: MLK & Leffingwell, Franklin no longer goes through, July 2010

One of my favorite books is St. Louis Day by Day by Frances Hurd Stadler (1989). The entry for July 24th takes us back to 1963, forty-seven years ago today:

Bulldozers moved in to demolish the large cast-iron watering trough at the triangle formed by the intersection of Franklin, Easton and Leffingwell avenues. Made of fourteen sections bolted together, the trough had long served as a refreshment spot for some of the city’s busiest draft horses. Franklin and Easton, now Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, had formed part of the first road to St. Charles. As the nation expanded west, this link became vital, joining with roads beyond St. Charles up the Missouri River, and eventually branching off onto the Santa Fe Trail.

Within the city, Easton was an important business thoroughfare, and the Y formed by the three streets was the logical place for trade wagons to halt and for horses to drink. The only remaining St. Louis example of this once-common feature of equine architecture can be found at Alabama, Virginia, and Ivory avenues, where neighborhood residents have built a small park and planted the old watering through with flowers.

Today the triangle of Franklin, Easton & Leffingwell isn’t a triangle. The Franklin side was removed when Dr. Martin Luther King Drive received new curbs and sidewalks, around 2004.

Since the book was published the flowers have been replaced by a fountain at the Ivory Triangle:

ABOVE: Horse trough used as a fountain in the Ivory Triangle

I wonder if the trough that was removed in 1963 would be an interesting community spot had it remain?

– Steve Patterson


The skate park under the Kingshighway bridge

The Kingshighway bridge over the railroad track (South of I-44) is falling apart.  But directly underneath the crumbling bridge something interesting is evolving.

ABOVE: skate park under the Kingshighway bridge

A skate park is being developed in the space under the South section.  I love the idea of putting this space to use but this is no substitute for a well designed skate park where there are lights, restrooms, water and seating.

– Steve Patterson


New Wendy’s on Gravois includes ADA accessible route and bike parking

A newly built Wendy’s has opened on Gravois next to the non-walkable Gravois Plaza shopping center (Dec 2004: Gravois Plaza Less Pedestrian-Friendly than previous center).  The Wendy’s replaces a former Shoney’s restaurant most recently used as a daycare facility (map)

gravoisplazawendysNaturally the Wendy’s is your typical cheap suburban (auto centric) design — far from the street, surrounded by too much parking, etc.  Something you’d expect off a freeway exit ramp but not what I’d want in an urban context.  Although as we keep building more of this crap our once walkable urban neighborhoods will look just like the ugly ring around the outside of our region and most regions in America.

I watched the build the location and I fully expected them to not include an accessible route from the public sidewalk on Gravois. I got a pleasant surprise when they did do the minimum required by the ADA.  I’ve seen too many fast food joints pop up that completely ignore the requirement.

A bonus is a bike rack that can hold three bikes.  Although the rack design is not my favorite because it is hard to secure a bike in two places, it was installed right out front where it is easily seen and used.

– Steve Patterson


Stimulus funds helped with renovation of building in Marine Villa neighborhood

Yesterday afternoon the ribbon was cut on a newly renovated property in south St. Louis. The handsome 4,932sf building at 3500 Illinois Ave was renovated with the help of federal stimulus funds.

ABOVE: Corner of Illinois Ave and Potomac St

I couldn’t check out the 2nd & 3rd floors but the first floor was nice.  The building was in very poor condition when the project started.  This was the 8th renovation project on this block where the city helped out to get the project done.

ABOVE: Rep Russ Carnahan and Ald Ken Ortmann
ABOVE: Rep Russ Carnahan (left) and Ald Ken Ortmann spoke briefly

I saw a number of the contractors and suppliers who were present.  The stimulus was about jobs and getting money flowing.  Using the money to continue to target a once run down block is a good strategy.  The house has already sold — it closed last week. This is a key difference from what we might see in other areas.  Alderman Ortmann (D-9th Ward) and Alderman Craig Schmid  of the adjacent 20th Ward both focus on owner-occupied single-family homes. So what had contained 2-3 units is now a massive single family property.

Their bias against multiple units and rentals means buildings wait for renovation until a pile of money is available to make a project work as a single house.  I question the wisdom of creating such massive single-family homes.  How will such homes do when resold? Wouldn’t more units help support local businesses?

I did like that the rear entry to the home was level — no steps at all from the new sidewalk to inside.  The bathroom on the first floor featured a small shower without a step — another good touch for the accessibility. The many residents from the Marine Villa neighborhood were pleased to see the building finally renovated.

– Steve Patterson


Holly Hills neighborhood the subject of new book, author signing event today

June 5, 2010 Books, South City 7 Comments

ABOVE: Cover of Holly Hills by NiNi Harris
ABOVE: Cover of Holly Hills by NiNi Harris

Among St. Louis neighborhoods, Holly Hills is among the newer ones — dating to the 1920s.  Holly Hills is the subject of a new book by my good friend historian NiNi Harris.  The publisher’s description of the book:

“Holly Hills is a brief history of the Hollywood-inspired neighborhood that borders St. Louis’s treasured Carondelet Park. Author and longtime St. Louis historian NiNi Harris follows the history of the area, from the faint traces of early French settlers, through its purchase by railroad magnate Jay Gould, and finally to the dynamic developers who envisioned a California-styled neighborhood. Harris highlights the lasting institutions, civic leaders, and colorful characters that have shaped the neighborood. Also featured are Holly Hills’ extraordinary architecture and lush landscape setting. Engaging text and rich images depict the development of the adjacent Bellerive area, which boasts a rich collection of early twentieth-century Arts and Crafts architecture, luxuriant Carondelet Park, spectacular Bellerive Park, and the boulevards that tie the parks and residential areas together.”

This Sat. June 5, 2010, local historian and author NiNi Harris will be signing copies of her new book “Holly Hills” at from 2-4 p.m. The Bungalow is home of the oldest beer garden in St. Louis!

Although I’ve had a review copy for a few weeks now I’ll admit I haven’t read the book cover to cover — yet.  What I have done is go through the entire book looking at a great collection of images and reading about each.  Harris enjoys highlighting small facets of community — the people, where they lived, where they worked and so on.   The history of Holly Hills, like much of our region, actually goes back to the 19th century.

Other posts I’ve done about books by NiNi Harris:

– Steve Patterson