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Reflections on the Great Flood of 1993

Twenty years ago today we saw record flooding in the St. Louis region:

The Mississippi River at St. Louis crested at 49.6 feet on August 1, nearly 20 feet above flood stage and had a peak flow rate of 1.08 Million cubic feet per second. At this rate, a bowl the size of Busch Stadium would be filled to the brim in 69 seconds. (source

Flooding like this in May 2010 is typical for St. Louis, the 1993 flood was substantially worse, over this track.
Flooding like this in May 2010 is typical for St. Louis, the 1993 flood was substantially worse, over this track.

Here’s a more detailed look at flooding that year leading up to August 1st:

At St. Louis, the first spring flooding on the Mississippi River was recorded April 8, cresting at .2 feet above flood stage and lasting only that day. The Mississippi rose above flood stage again on April 11 and stayed above flood stage until May 24. The city got a respite as the Mississippi stayed below flood stage May 24 to June 26. On June 27, the Mississippi again went above flood stage and didn’t drop below flood stage for the year until October 7—a total of 146 days above flood stage. The Mississippi River was above the old record flood stage for more than three weeks at St. Louis from mid July to mid August. Prior to 1993, the historic flood of record on the Mississippi River at St. Louis had been 43.2 feet, recorded April 28, 1973. That record was broken July 21, 1993, with a level of 46.9 feet and broken again 11 days later with a record stage of 49.58 feet on Aug. 1. St. Louis is located near the confluence of the Missouri, Illinois and Mississippi rivers, all of which were in flood at the same time. (source

In the  two decades since, Chesterfield’s Monarch Levee was rebuilt and substantial commercial development has happened within the Chesterfield  valley. For example. THF’s Chesterfield Commons:

THF's Chesterfield Commons has over 2 million square feet, this site was flooded 20 years ago.
THF’s Chesterfield Commons has over 2 million square feet, this site was flooded 20 years ago.

And now we have two competing outlet malls opening very close to each other on land flooded 20 years ago. In the market for a new Bentley, Maserati, or Aston Martin? Head to STL Motorcars showroom in the floodplain, at 1 Arnage Blvd.  Not even close to St. Louis, but it sounds better than Gumbo Flats Motors on Floodplain Ave.

— Steve Patterson 


Lack of Land-Use Controls Among Reasons Why So Little Transit-Oriented Development At MetroLink Stations After Two Decades

Today is the 20th anniversary of the opening of our original MetroLink light rail line. Since then we’ve added a line in Illinois and one in St. Louis County.

MetroLink train leaving the North Hanley station
MetroLink train leaving the North Hanley station

One thing we haven’t really seen much of is transit-oriernted development (TOD). We’ve had a few projects that are, at best, transit-adjacent development (TAD).

TAD is TOD gone bad, development that is adjacent to transit but breaks all the rules that make TOD work, like making public spaces the focus of building orientation and neighborhood activity; creating pedestrian-friendly street networks that directly connect local destinations; and providing a mix of housing types, densities and costs. (TOD’s Evil Twin: Transit-Adjacent Development)

In the poll last week I asked about the lack of TOD in the last two decades:

Q: Why do you think our MetroLink light rail stations haven’t seen much transit-oriented development in the last 20 years? (Pick up to 3)

  1. Lack of proper land-use controls, like form-based zoning 42 [13.21%]
  2. Nobody pushed for TOD 37 [11.64%]
  3. Regional fragmentation of leadership 37 [11.64%]
  4. Regional job & population growth have been stagnant 37 [11.64%]
  5. The station designs aren’t conducive for infill development 31 [9.75%]
  6. Located in bad locations. 29 [9.12%]
  7. The alignment isn’t convenient to many 27 [8.49%]
  8. No demand for transit-oriented development 23 [7.23%]
  9. We naively thought if we built it they’d come 17 [5.35%]
  10. Used mainly for games, events, to reach Lambert airport 15 [4.72%]
  11. Another reason not listed 10 [3.14%]
  12. Our laissez-faire love of the free market 8 [2.52%]
  13. Naysayers muted initial enthusiasm, halting TOD potential 4 [1.26%]
  14. Park & ride lots are the best use of the land at the stations 1 [0.31%]
  15. Unsure/no answer 0 [0%]

All of the above (except #14) are valid reasons, I think they ended up in about the right order too. A form-based code at the Wellston station would’ve required St. Louis County Economic Council building to acknowledge the presence of light rail.

The St. Louis County Economic Council building abuts the station but doesn’t even have a sidewalk to the front door, located as far away from transit riders as physically possible.

When the county government doesn’t do set a good example, how can we expect others to do better on their own?

In the last couple of years there has been a TOD push. Better late than never or too little, too late?

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Why So Little Transit-Oriented Development In The Last 20 Years?

The 20th anniversary of the opening of our light rail sys system, MetroLink, is next week.For the last 12-18 months there has been a big push by Citizens for Modern Transit and East West Gateway Council of Governments to kickstart development around the stations.

ABOVE: Looking west toward the Union Station MetroLink Station from 16th & Clark
Looking west toward the Union Station MetroLink Station from 16th & Clark. The offices on the left aren’t oriented to transit, just adjacent.
ABOVE: The only thing at the station currently is 1,583 parking spaces (926 surface, 657 in garage)
The only thing at the North Hanley station  is 1,583 parking spaces (926 surface, 657 in garage)
ABOVE: After the shortcut through the park the residents still have to walk through a parking lot. Pedestrians shouldn't have to walk through a parking lot, they're among the least appealing places to walk.
Not much exists around the Wellston Station, the jobs center in the background is hard to reach on foot, easy by car though

The poll this week lists many possible reasons why development hasn’t happened around the stations, you can pick up to 3. The choices are presented in random order.

On July 31st, MetroLink’s 20th anniversary, I’ll share my thoughts on why development hasn’t happened  and what we need to do so the next 20 years are more productive.

— Steve Patterson


New Books From Reedy Press: Black Missourians, Eckert Summer Cookbook, Do Before You Die, St. Lou-isms

I’ve received a number of books recently, this post is about four from St. Louis-based publisher Reedy Press.


Covers of the four books
Covers of the four books

The first fills in a gap in my knowledge about some names I’ve heard in my nearly 23 years as a resident of St. Louis.

Extraordinary Black Missourians: Pioneers, Leaders, Performers, Athletes, and Other Notables Who’ve Made History by John A. Wright Sr. and Sylvia A. Wright, $19.95.  ISBN: 9781935806479

African Americans have been a part of Missouri from its territorial days to the present, and Extraordinary Black Missourians describes more than 100 pioneers, educators, civil rights activists, scientists, entertainers, athletes, journalists, authors, soldiers, and attorneys who have lived in the state for part or all of their lives. Josephine Baker, Lloyd Gaines, Langston Hughes, Annie Malone, Dred Scott, Roy Wilkins, and others featured in the book are representative of individuals who have contributed to the African American legacy of Missouri. They set records, made discoveries, received international acclaim and awards, as well as led in the civil rights movement by breaking down racial barriers. These accomplishments, and others, have played a major role in shaping the history and culture of the state and nation. Extraordinary Black Missourians attempts to put a face on these individuals and tells of their joys, failures, hardships, and triumphs over sometimes insurmountable odds.

With a look at blacks from all over the state, there are names in the contents I’ve never heard before. Glad to have this indexed book for future reference.


Everyone that has lived in St. Louis knows the name Eckert. Last year I posted about The Eckert Family Fall Cookbook and now they’re out with a summer volume:

The Eckert Family Summer Cookbook: Peach, Tomato, Blackberry Recipes and More compiled by Jill Eckert-Tantillo and Angie Eckert, $12.00. ISBN: 9781935806462

The second installment of the Eckert Family Cookbook Series features delectable, time-tested recipes from their famous summer harvest. From roasted tomato gratin to peach cobbler, The Eckert Family Summer Cookbook covers every category from soups and salads through desserts. Recipes emphasize ingredients pulled straight from the fields during summer months, when tender fruits flourish alongside root vegetables, sturdy greens, and woody herbs. Highlights include corn saute, peach tomato mozzarella salad, pork tenderloin with balsamic peaches, and fresh blackberry tart, among other delights. Tips and techniques for preparation and storage also fill The Eckert Family Summer Cookbook-the latest example that eating locally grown foods is a family tradition for the Eckerts! Jill Eckert-Tantillo is vice president of Marketing and Food Services for Eckert’s. Angie Eckert is vice president of Retail Operations for both the Country Store and the Garden Center for Eckert’s. Both Jill and Angie love to prepare meals for family and friends using the freshest ingredients of the season. They believe the best family memories are made around the dinner table.


Bored? Here’s a book with 100 suggestions on things to do here in St. Louis. Scanning the list I’d say I’ve only done about 20-25 of them, so I’d better get busy.

100 Things to Do in St. Louis Before You Die by Amanda E. Doyle, $15.00. ISBN: 9781935806509

Let’s face it: St. Louis is a big city, and life is short. Whether it’s moving some musts to the “done” column of your bucket list or finding fresh ways to spend your summer in the city, this handy compendium will make the most of your minutes. Bike the Riverfront Trail to the Chain of Rocks Bridge, sip a chocolate malt at Crown Candy Kitchen, hold your breath during the high-wire act at Circus Flora, or admire the architectural and design splendor of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ebsworth Park home: you just gotta do it! One hundred ways to connect with your town await. Special features include insider tips on getting the most from your stops and themed itineraries for the truly adventurous. As the associate editor of Where Magazine for the past 13 years, and as mom to a curious preschooler, Amanda E. Doyle enjoys seeking out the city’s singular charms, including those documented in her two previous books, Finally! A Locally Produced Guidebook to St. Louis, By and For St. Louisans, Neighborhood by Neighborhood and To the Top! A Gateway Arch Story.


Every region has lingo that is unfamiliar to newcomers, St. Louis is no exception.

St. Lou-isms: Lingo, Lore, and the Lighter Side of Life in the Gateway City by John L. Oldani, PhD, $19.95. ISBN: 9781935806448

Do you warsh your dishes and rinsh them in the zink? Do you eat mustgo for dinner? Heard about zombies in Wildwood or St. Louis Hills? Ghostly hitchhikers in Florissant? What or who is a St. Louis Hoosier? In St. Lou-isms, John “Dr. Jack” Oldani documents wholly new St. Louis folklore related to senior citizens, baby boomers, lawyers, nurses, new St. Louis vocabulary, Irish and Bosnian folklore, and even urban belief tales. Dogtown, St. Louis Hills, Valley Park, Wildwood, Ellisville, and other communities are connected through jokes, beliefs, tales, speech, lingo, graffiti, games, and other lore. St. Lou-isms decodes the lingo and traces the stories, shared by all St. Louisans. This book will keep you from being St. Louis “stupid,” or a few clowns short of a circus! You can live, laugh, and learn to leave a legacy! For more than 30 years, Dr. John L. Oldani, a St. Louis native, has been a professor of American Studies and folklore at American and international universities. From his fieldwork, he has collected more than 150,000 folklore texts from the St. Louis area. He is the author of four other books on American folklore, one highlighting the American quilter.

Look for these at local bookstores like Left Bank, AIA, Missouri Botanical Garden, etc., or click the title link to order direct from the publisher.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: What are your top three (3) brew pubs in the St. Louis region?

In a previous poll I asked about favorite brewery, but excluded brew pubs.  This week I want to find out the brew pubs favored by readers. This time I think I have all listed, but if not you can add an answer when taking the poll.

The poll is in the right sidebar until May 26th, results presented May 29th.

— Steve Patterson