Locale and Topography
Embracing a broad portion of the northwestern sector of St. Louis is the Arlington Area, bounded on the east by Kingshighway and on the west by the City limits, it reaches northward from Martin Luther King Drive to the Mark Twain Expressway. The land rises gradually to the west across most of the area except for an east-west valley that was formerly drained by a branch of Gingras Creek. This crosses the area slightly to the south of Natural Bridge Avenue.
Earliest travel through this area was on the road from St. Louis to St. Charles, now known as the St. Charles Rock Road. It was the first road to traverse St. Louis County, connecting the two oldest settlements in eastern Missouri. This road furnished access to the Santa Fe and Oregon trails for the many west bound wagon trains that were outfitted at St. Louis. A ferry, established in 1805, afforded a river crossing at St. Charles. In 1819, St. Charles Road was established as a post and stage road and in 1825 the County Court appointed overseers to realign its course. An act of 1837 incorporated the road as the St. Louis and St. Charles Turnpike with an eighty foot wide right-of-way and a 24 foot wide roadway.
After passage of the Missouri Plank Road Law in 1851, the road was constructed of 2-1/2 inch thick oak planks laid on three sills lengthwise in the roadway. Tolls were established and gates were set up. By 1862, some parts of St. Charles Road were macadamized and three years later it had been built of rock for its length, leading to the "Rock Road" title it still bears. It became the first concrete highway in the county in 1921 when its twelve mile length from Wellston to St. Charles was paved at a cost of $600,000. Within St. Louis, the road was later named in honor of Rufus Easton, the City's first postmaster and recently it was renamed in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Another major east-west route through the Arlington Area is Natural Bridge Road, so-named because its original right-of-way passed over a natural stone arch above Rocky Branch Creek, near the present Salisbury Street. Natural Bridge Road was originally laid out about 1845 from West Mound Street in St. Louis to Normandy, where it separated into branches to Bridgeton and to Florissant. A plank road company was formed in 1851 to construct such a road on Natural Bridge, the cost being shared jointly by the company and the county. This road was a financial failure in 1857 and in 1863 it was presented to the county. Toll gates were located at Marcus Avenue and at Normandy. By 1870, the road had been macadamized. Several north-south thoroughfares were opened across the area by 1875, at least as far as Bircher Road. These included Kingshighway, Goodfellow and Union, then called Barton Avenue.
This area takes its name from John W. Burd's Arlington Grove subdivision of 1868, which was bounded by the present Belt, Maffitt, and Clara Avenues and M. L. King Drive. Another early residential subdivision was Goodfellow Place, platted in 1870 to adjoin Arlington Grove on the east. Housing buildup in the Arlington area followed a rather irregular pattern both in time and location.
Beginning about 1885, new subdivisions were opened with most activity occurring between 1890 and 1910. Largest of these was Mount Auburn, which covered the section west of Goodfellow and north of Easton to Kennerly Avenue. It was platted in 1891 and built up after electrification of the car line on Easton Avenue, with a consequent commercial development in Wellston.
By the mid-1920's, the last of the residential subdivisions were opened, principally along Natural Bridge Avenue, where multiple dwellings were built in Motor Heights (1920), Mars Place (1923), and Hedgleigh Park (1924), as well as Homesties Subdivision, northwest of Natural Bridge and Goodfellow. The latter was primarily single family in character. Last subdivision in the area was Norwood Square, at St. Louis and Norwood Avenues, in 1960.
An early settlement on St. Charles Road was Rinkelville, which grew up around a tavern and road house operated by George Rinkel, Jr. Rinkel resided in an estate located to the southwest of the present intersection of Goodfellow Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive. Compton and Dry's 1875 pictorial atlas shows a large house there with a "shooting park" situated behind it. Across St. Charles Road was Rinkel's Six Mile House, later the terminus of the Citizen's Railway horse car line.
To the west of Rinkelville, Erastus Wells, a St. Louis transit magnate, purchased a 66-acre tract from the Kienlen family in 1868. Here, he developed a fine country estate on the north side of St. Charles Road. In a move to provide access to the area and consequently aid in its development, Wells and others constructed and opened the West End Narrow Gauge Railway in 1878. This steam line began near Grand and Olive in St. Louis, and following what later became the right-of-way of the Hodiamont streetcar line, crossed St. Charles Road near Well's estate.
A station established there bore the name of Wellston and was the nucleus for the Wellston loop and shopping district. After Well's death in 1893, his country house burned and the estate was turned into a subdivision. In the 1875 pictorial atlas the land comprising the present Arlington area is shown as a section of sparsely built farms and country estates.
North of Easton and west of Clara was a densely wooded tract near the large estates of George M. Rea and Norton Newcomb. North of this section were estates of James C. Essex, John W. Burd and the well-known lawyer, Alonzo W. Slayback. Along Natural Bridge Road at about the present Darby Avenue intersection was another "Six Mile House" and to the south of the road were estates of W. H. Scudder and C. J. Aubin. Near the present site of the General Motors plant was a heavily wooded area with some orchards. West of this was the Goodfellow farm with the family home on a lane which was to become heavily traveled Goodfellow Boulevard. Dr. Rudolph Bircher's estate occupied most of the present site of the Small Arms plant and to its west was "Minoma", the Victorian mansion of Jefferson K. Clark, son of the explorer. North of Natural Bridge, at this time, Kingshighway was known as Schroeder Avenue.
Arlington area's public park space is located on its perimeter rather than in the center, which is primarily residential. First park acquired adjacent to the area was Penrose at Kingshighway and Penrose Avenue. It was purchased by the City in 1910 and covers an area of nearly fifty acres. It is bisected by the Terminal Railroad tracks and did not become developed until the late twenties when the Kingshighway viaduct was completed across the railroad. Penrose Park was a key part of the Kingshighway Boulevard project linking various sections of North St. Louis. An unusual feature is a bicycle track in its western portion.
Sherman Park's site was originally within the Cote Brilliante Suburb, platted in 1853. Later, it was the campus of Christian Brothers College, until that school was destroyed by fire in 1916. During the next year, it was acquired by the City for park purposes at a cost of nearly $200,000. Remaining portions of the school structure were later converted into a community center and library. In 1959, the new David P. Wohl Community and Recreation Center was completed within the park at 1515 North Kingshighway. It is located on a sloping site and was built at a cost of about $900,000 from plans by Russell, Mullgardt, Schwarz and Van Hoefen. In the western portion of the Arlington area is the Barrett Brothers Park at Goodfellow and St. Louis Avenue. It has an area of 13.16 acres and was acquired by the City in 1947.
The Roman Catholic parish of St. Edward the King was founded by Rev. Edward J. Wynne in May, 1893. At first the church basement was erected on the church site at 2701 Clara Avenue. Until the church was completed later, the basement was used for both church and school purposes. At the time of the parish's founding, it numbered 250 families. St. Edward's parochial school has been demolished and its site is now a playground.
Territory from the Visitation and Holy Rosary parishes was taken to create Blessed Sacrament parish. It was formed by Rev. Patrick H. Bradley on June 27, 1907. The church building was dedicated by Archbishop Glennon on March 21, 1915. It features a marble altar of novel design with a reredos formed by a sculpture group of the twelve apostles. Located at the northwest corner of Kingshighway and Maffitt Avenue, the church is adjoined by its parochial school, built in 1932. Nearby is Bradley Hall, the church's community building, which was opened in 1951.
Our Savior Lutheran Church at Abner Place and St. Louis Avenue began as a mission in September, 1916. Its first services were held in a small store at 5577 St. Louis Avenue. In the following spring, a move was made to a larger store at 5404 St. Louis Avenue, which was fitted with equipment donated by Lutheran churches. Formal organization of the church took place in June, 1917, with 25 communicants. The present church site was purchased in 1921, but only the basement was completed in December, 1923. The church soon outgrew its limited quarters and plans for the superstructure were prepared by architect Theodore Steinmeyer. Finally dedicated in May, 1933, the English Gothic brick and stone edifice has an interior with a heavy timbered beam ceiling.
Third United Presbyterian Church worshipped at several locations before occupying its present building at 2426 Union Boulevard. Founded as a Sunday school in 1891, it first met in Kisker's Hall at North Market and Newstead and later in a hall at Easton and Marcus. The church was organized in May 1893 in its new building at the southwest corner of Wagoner Place and North Market Street. The present site was purchased in 1912 and four years later the church was completed. It is built of brick trimmed with terra cotta and later an educational unit was added to the structure.
On the corner of Hodiamont and Wabada Avenues is a church building whose original occupant dates back to 1846 in the Wellston area. Presently occupied by Trinity Methodist Church, the building was formerly the home of the Mount Auburn M. B. Church, South. Mount Auburn traces its origin back to fifteen years before the Civil War, when it met in a rural school on St. Charles Road a mile west of present-day Wellston. In 1854, it moved to the frame Eden Chapel, on St. Charles Road, about seven miles beyond the St. Louis of that day. The church which had been served by circuit riding transient ministers since its founding, continued to be so served until 1871 when it became an independent unit. In 1887, it was decided to move to a more populous location, which was found in 1891 when the Hodiamont and Wabada site was donated by a real estate company. After completion of the church in 1892, the name was changed to Mount Auburn, after the subdivision in which it was situated. The church was extensively remodeled in 1932 and continued to be occupied by the Mount Auburn congregation until it moved to its present location on Lucas Hunt Road.
Among other Protestant churches in the Arlington area was the Arlington United Methodist, which was located at Union and Maffitt for many years, before moving to St. Louis County. Its former home is now occupied by the Clayton M. B. Church. At 2821 North Kingshighway is the All Saints Episcopal Church, which was formerly located at 2931 Locust Street. Its present building was at one time the home of the United Lutheran Church.
A memorable disaster in the history of the Arlington area occurred in October, 1916, when the Christian Brothers College building was destroyed by fire. This was a large four story structure in the 19th century classical style with a curved mansard roof. Its campus was the present Sherman Park at Kingshighway and Easton. The fire, one of the worst in the City's history, took ten lives. C.B.C. began in 1849 and later occupied a building on South Eighth Street. After the Civil War it moved to the, then, rural setting on Easton Avenue, where it flourished until the fire. Finally recovering, the school moved into its present building at 6501 Clayton Road in 1922, where it operated as a high school. The school's present military program was inaugurated in 1933. A later Catholic secondary school in the area was the William C. McBride High School at 1909 North Kingshighway which opened in 1924. Its building is presently occupied by the public M. L. King High School.
Public school education in the area started with the Arlington School, in a small frame building on St. Charles Road a half mile east of Rinkelville in 1880. It later relocated on its present site at 1617 Burd Avenue, where the existing school was erected in 1925. At 2847 North Kingshighway is the Benton School, whose building was completed in 1894 with additions in 1903. It is named for Senator Thomas Hart Benton and was designed by architect A. H. Kirchner. Pierre Laclede School at 5821 Kennerly Avenue, honors the City's founder. It was finished in 1914 from designs by William B. Ittner.
In 1931, the John H. Gundlach school at 2931 Arlington Avenue was opened. It bears the name of a prominent St. Louis businessman and was designed by George W. Sanger. During the 1960's, three new schools were built in the Arlington area. These are the Lexington at 5030 Lexington Avenue, the Langston at 5511 Wabada and the Stowe School at 5750 Lotus Avenue. The latter two were designed by the architectural firm of William B. Ittner, Inc.
A public school facility which operated in the area for many years was the Public Schools Stadium on Kingshighway north of St. Louis Avenue. It fulfilled a long felt need for a centralized location for high school athletics and was dedicated in 1928. After falling into disuse in later years, it was finally razed in the late 1960's. Its site is proposed as the new home of the Mathews-Dickey Boys Club.
De Paul Hospital, which was formerly located at 2415 North Kingshighway, is the oldest existing Catholic hospital in the country, as well as being the first institution of its kind west of the Mississippi. It was founded in November 1828, by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul on a site donated by John Mullanphy, on Spruce Street between Third and Fourth. Originally occupying small buildings on the lot, in 1832 a large three story building at the same location was completed. For many years it was known as the Sisters' Hospital and was operated on a semi-charitable basis.
Business encroachments made the old site ill-adapted for hospital use, so that in 1874 a larger building was completed for the hospital at Montgomery and Coleman Streets. While at that location it was known as the St. Louis Mullanphy Hospital, and its School of Nursing was founded there in 1894. This building was severely damaged by the tornado of September 29, 1927, necessitating another move. The building on North Kingshighway was occupied in 1929 and has been considerably expanded since, notably by a new nursing school building at 5050 Highland Avenue in 1951. In 1977 De Paul Hospital relocated in a new complex at 12303 De Paul Drive in St. Louis County. Later, an unsuccessful attempt was made to open another hospital in the building on Kingshighway, which is being transformed into a Senior Citizens Center.
Residential, Commercial, and Industrial
In its eastern portion between Kingshighway and Union, the residential aspect of the Arlington area is a mixture of single family dwellings and two family flats. Concentrations of four family flats are located on Palm and Lexington, west of Norwood Avenue and near Norwood from Ashland to Terry. Between Union and Goodfellow, northward from King Drive to St. Louis Avenue, housing is primarily single family with a general mixture of two family flats. Four family flats and multiple dwellings are evident closer to Union and along Clara Avenue. North of St. Louis Avenue a large concentration of flats and apartments is located west of Belt between Ashland and Natural Bridge, also along St. Louis and Labadie Avenues from Clara to Goodfellow.
Single family dwellings predominate east of Belt and north of St. Louis Avenue. An apartment subdivision is situated on Goodfellow north of the Terminal Railroad belt line. An older single family area is to be found along Greer and Elmbank Avenues near Hamilton. North of Natural Bridge and west of Goodfellow is an area of single family dwellings developed in the 1920's and 1930's.
Commercial uses are principally located along King Drive and Union Boulevard, with a mixture of light industry on King Drive west of Union. Some commercial properties are along the south side of Natural Bridge westwardly from Kingshighway to the City limits, mixed intermittently with industrial and multiple dwellings. Some commercial is to be found on St. Louis Avenue and Goodfellow Boulevard. Principal commercial district is along the former Easton Avenue in the City portion of the Wellston shopping area. Some of this also is found for a few blocks northward on Hodiamont.
In the late 19th century, an important industry in the vicinity was the large plant of the Hydraulic Press Brick Company at the southwest corner of Natural Bridge Road and Kingshighway. Industrial activity in the northwestern industrial district owes its development to the construction of the Terminal Railroad belt line about 1900. The convenience of rail access combined with plenty of adjacent vacant land resulted in the establishment of many industrial plants in the area. Among these were the Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants of General Motors, the Pullman Company, Rexall Drug Company, Maloney Electric and many others.
Railroads and Transit
The Terminal Railroad began to acquire right-of-way for its northwestern belt line in 1892, with the laying of track completed at about the turn of the century. In addition to the above mentioned industries, this railroad line has been responsible for industrial development along its entire route from the Hall Street area to the western City limits.
Wellstons' shopping district and, to a lesser extent the entire Arlington Area, owe their development to public transit. Earliest transit service on St. Charles Road was a horse car line operated by the Citizen's Railway Company in the late 1870's. It was an extension of the line which ran on Franklin Avenue from the downtown district to Grand and Easton. A prime attraction for riders on the St. Charles Road line were two picnic grounds, Rinkels' and Offenstein's Groves. The former was located near Goodfellow Avenue and the latter one at Hamilton. During the 1880's, the horse car line's eastern terminus was at Kingshighway, where it met a new extension of the cable car line.
About the mid-nineties the line was electrified and was known as the "White Line" branch of the Citizen's Railway, because its cars and trolley line posts were painted white. This line, along with most of the others in St. Louis, was consolidated into a City wide system in 1899, known as the United Railways Company. As mentioned previously, the Hodiamont car line began as the West End Narrow Gauge Railway. This line was sold in 1884 to an Indianapolis syndicate and a few years later was reorganized as the St. Louis and Suburban Railroad. In 1891 it was electrified, standard gauge track was installed and a new amusement park was opened on the company's line. Known as Suburban Garden, it was located on the Hodiamont line at Lotus Avenue, north of Wellston.
It was a common transit business practice to operate summer gardens as a traffic generator for the car lines, as was also done at Creve Coeur Lake and Meramec Highlands. In addition to picnic grounds and amusement thrill rides, Suburban Garden also presented dancing and light opera performances. Although the Suburban Railroad Company was absorbed by the United Railways in 1907, the garden continued to operate until the early twenties, when it fell victim to competition from the automobile, radio, and the Municipal Opera. Also running through Wellston were the Suburban's Kirkwood Ferguson line, the United Railways's Wellston and City Limits lines and the Missouri Electric line to St. Charles. Another line started by the Suburban Company to serve the Arlington area was the Union Avenue car line, which ran south to Forest Park. Streetcar service to the area was also provided by lines on Spalding and Natural Bridge Avenues and by the Cass line on St. Louis Avenue.
Most of these lines were motorized with buses in the 1950's, although bus service was begun on Kingshighway by the People's Motorbus Company in 1923.
Ethnically, the Arlington area has undergone a considerable change since the 1950's. Predominantly white at the time, the area began to attract blacks increasingly after 1960. At the present time, the area's population is almost one hundred percent black. This has resulted in a consequent change in the life-style of the area's people and relocation of commercial and social activities within it.
Compton, Richard J. and Dry, Camille N. - "Pictorial St. Louis" - 1875
Scharf, J. Thomas - "History of St. Louis City and County" - 1883
Stevens, Walter B. - "St. Louis, The Fourth City" - 1909
St. Louis Board of Aldermen - "Rapid Transit for St. Louis" - 1926
City Plan Commission - "St. Louis Development Program" - 1973
Hereford, Robert A. - "Know Your County - Wellston" - St. Louis Star - Times - February 26, 1946
Gill, McCune - "Wellston" - Pamphlet - 1952
Peters, John Brod - "Soldiers of Christ" - Christian Bros. College, St. Louis Globe-Democrat - April 30, 1969