Although preceeded by such havens for abodes of the affluent as Lucas and Grand Prairie Places, the St. Louis private street concept reached its initial grandeur in Vandeventer Place, designed by Julius Pitzman in 1870. It was named for Peter L. Vandeventer, who owned the tract bounded by Grand, Bell, Enright and Vandeventer Avenues, where it was developed. Vandeventer Place was conceived by Charles H. Peck, Napoleon Mulliken and John McCune. It was to be a most fashionable private street with stringent restrictions relating to its occupants and exclusiveness in prohibiting any kind of noxious intrusion. It was administered by an association of all of its property owners, ever alert to maintain the Place's air of genteel elegance.
The first houses to be erected were those of the street's founders in 1871. They were all situated near the Grand Avenue entrance, which was guarded by a huge iron gate. This gate was later replaced by a monumental limestone entrance structure, with a circular pool and a fountain in the nearby central parkway. The eastern one of these entrance porticoes, which were at both ends of the Place, is now located near the Jewel Box in Forest Park.
Vandeventer Place reached the pinnacle of its glory in the 1890's, when it contained the luxurious mansions of the City's wealthiest citizens. Among these were David R. Franci former mayor, governor, and later president of the World's Fair and H. Clay Pierce, an oil magnate whose home was-said to have cost $800,000 in the days of low construction costs.
Architecturally notable was the John R. Lionberger house at 27 Vandeventer Place, designed by the famed Boston architect, Henry H. Richarason, in 1886. The J.G. Chapman residence at Number 46 was the work of the St. Louis firm of Eames and Young in 1892. Its last occupant was John L. Mauran, the well-known St. Louis architect.
By 1910, the noise, smoke and dirt of the City had surrounded Vandeventer Place, which began a valiant ef fort to maintain its high standards . However, it proved to be a losing battle, culminating in surrender in 1947 when the Veterans' Administration acquired the eastern half of the Place as the site for its new hospital. The final blow came when the City acquired the western portion about ten years later as the site for a childrens detention home.
Another private street in the Grande Prairie area is Lewis Place, running west from Taylor Avenue to Walton Avenue. It was laid out by the Pitzman Company in 1890 for the Lewis Real Estate and Investment Company, headed by Turner T. Lewis and Benjamin W. Lewis. Original plans for a street of spacious, upper middle class homes faltered; one of the more ambitious houses from the first phase of Lewis Place development is #8 which was designed and built in 1891 for livestock dealer, J. J. Holt. One of the investors, Benjamin W. Lewis, moved to #26 in 1896 but the second wave of building in the first decade of the twentieth century saw realtors building and selling groups of smaller homes. Lewis Place holds a special place in the history of the black community of St. Louis as one of the first areas of distinctive middle class housing to be integrated in the mid1940's. The brick triumphal arch ( c . 1897 ), designed by the notable St. Louis firm of Barnett, Haynes and Barnett, at the entrance on Taylor is both a landmark and symbol of the street.
Image - View of the east entrance to Vandeventer Place in the early 1900's
Image - Triumphal arch at the entrance to Lewis Place at Taylor and Finney Avenues