Housing and Architecture
Residentially, the Kingsbury area is a mixture ranging from single family dwellings to high-rise apartments. The largest houses are to be found in Parkview and Hillcrest and on Kingsbury east of Skinker. Medium size houses of two or two and a half stories are located in the 5700, 5800 and 5900 blocks of Waterman and Pershing and along the length of DeGiverville Avenue. West of Des Peres Avenue most of the housing is in multi-family buildings either flats or apartments generally of two or three stories. Three and six family apartment buildings, three stories in height, are prevalent along Nina Place, McPherson and Kingsbury east of
Des Peres Avenue. These structures once predominated in the area east of Hamilton and north of McPherson east to DeBaliviere, with only a few multi-story buildings on DeBaliviere or Skinker in the Washington Heights section. Another area of multifamily buildings is on Laurel Street near Pershing and in the 5700 block of the latter street. In the Washington Heights area housing construction began about 1908 in the western sector near Skinker, with an apparent eastward progression through 1914. By that time the majority of the single family dwellings had been built as had most of the apartments except for those in the Second Addition which were erected after 1915. About ten years later there were very few vacant lots remaining wi*hin this centrally located area near the park and shopping facilities. West of Skinker, the earliest single family homes were constructed in Parkview about 1908 with total development occurring by 1920. The first homes in Hillcrest were built before World War I, followed by post war construction in Hi-Pointe and Ellenwood. Most of the three story apartments in DeMun Park were built in the twenties followed by the first high rise buildings on Skinker about 1929. The most recent of the latter type date from the early 1960's.
Strip commercial development on streets carrying transit lines developed early on the perimeter of Washington Heights on Delmar from DeBaliviere into University City and along DeBaliviere and Skinker. Internal commercial uses were located on Kingsbury and Pershing at the River des Peres. Among the better known commercial uses were two restaurants both of which dated back before 1920. These were Joe Garavelli's at DeBaliviere and DeGiverville and Cafferata's at Delmar and Hamilton. The former was a favorite west end fixture presided over by its geni'al host who had a national reputation for fine food and service. Cafferata's has long since disappeared as did its neighbor the old Park, later Pershing Theater, at 5915 Delmar. This theater began as a legitimate playhouse at the time of the World's Fair and in later years became a movie house with an adjoining outdoor summer theater. The movie theater which served the area for the longest time was the Pageant on Delmar at Laurel beginning back in the silent era before the first World War and surviving until the fifties. Another early movie house was the Delmonte on Delmar east of DeBaliviere. Opened about 1920, it did not survive the transition to sound pictures and was converted into a bowling alley. The Pageant also had a "skydome" open air theater at the southeast corner of Delmar and Laurel during the silent picture period. The Dorr and Zeller Catering Company, which did a citywide business, built an elaborate building at the northwest corner of Waterman and DeBaliviere in the early 1920's. However, the firm moved from that location after World War II. A prominent commercial landmark for many years was Moll's grocery store on Delmar at the end of DeBaliviere. This quality store with its famous sidewalk clock standard was a forerunner of the present day supermarket type of retailer. Two other well known West End groceries in the early days were Miller's on Kingsbury and the River des Peres and Conrad's on DeBaliviere near Waterman. DeBaliviere Avenue between 1920 and 1950 was a street of considerable commercial importance with major chain drug and food stores, the Apollo Theater, a Parkmoor and Steve the Watermelon man's place at Pershing Avenue, which was a popular rendezvous for streetcar men. After World War II, DeBaliviere began to go the way of Gaslight Square, becoming a street of cheap bars and night clubs, which exerted a negative influence over the surrounding neighborhood. Delmar has also undergone changes from its earlier days although not as drastic as on DeBaliviere. The closing of the Wabash Railroad's Delmar Station caused a drop in activity on the sector west of DeBaliviere. There has been a minimal amount of commercial activity on Skinker, at Pershing and near Delmar.
St. Roch's Roman Catholic Church at 6058 Waterman Boulevard was founded as a second generation parish from St. Ann's in Normandy. As the area to its south grew in population, St. Ann's was instrumental in the establishment of two churches in that area, St. Rose of Lima in 1884 and All Saints in University City in 1902. With the development of the Kingsbury area after the World's Fair, it was decided that a church was needed in that vicinity. The parish of St. Roch's was formed in 1911 through the efforts of Rev. Long, pastor of All Saints Church. It took territory from both All Saints and St. Rose's parishes. After approval by Archbishop Glennon, the present site was purchased for $55.00 a front foot in June, 1911. An indication of property values in the area is shown by the fact that soon after the purchase, a real estate firm offered $65.00 per foot for the lot as a site for an apartment house. This was turned down and the Rev. George P. Kuhlman, the church's first pastor, began building on the site during the summer of 1911. Services were temporarily held in a store building at 6008 Kingsbury.
St. Roch's Church is one of the few in the city dedicated to a sainted layman. The name was chosen by bidding in a contest devised by Father Kuhlman and held in the old Park Theater. By 1912, services were held in a chapel in the completed school and three years later the rectory was occupied. Cornerstone ceremonies for the present church occurred on September 18, 1921, and the finished structure was dedicated on November 22, 1922. St. Roch's parish experienced a remarkable growth in population, beginning with only 18 families and soon exceeding 800. The church was designed in the Tudor Gothic style with a tall slender tower. It is rich in profusion of ornamentation and was built at a cost of $225,000. A new parochial school annex and gymnasium was erected in 1964 at 6030 Waterman Boulevard.
Grace Methodist Church at 6199 Waterman at the corner of Skinker, was organized in 1888 as the South Vandeventer branch of the Union Methodist Church. Union Methodist, then located on "Piety Hill" at Garrison and Lucas Avenues, felt the need for a colony that would be convenient for members who were moving further west. The church trustees apparently foreseeing the future importance of Lindell Boulevard, purchased a site at the southwest corner of Lindell and Newstead Avenue. A chapel was occupied there in 1892, by the newly named Lindell Avenue M.E. Church with about 100 members. In 1897, the church structure was completed at the Lindell site after designs by architect Theodore Carl Link. This building served the congregation until 1913, when it was decided that another westward move by the church was necessary. The present site was donated by former Lieutenant Governor Edwin O. Stanard, a church member, who gave it with the requirement that the church be relocated there and be free of debt. Therefore, all financial arrangements were made before the work began. The old church building was dismantled and after precise planning was re-erected at the new location. Demolition began in March, 1913, and the rebuilt edifice was dedicated on October 11, 1914. The church is notable for its fine stained glass windows and for the delicate bas-reliefs on the proscenium arch above the sanctuary. As a result of the move. the new name of Grace M.E. Church was chosen and was known thereby until the Episconal title was dropped with the unification of the three branches of Methodisim. The building has undergone renovations in 1930 and 1953, a new chapel was added in 1955 and air-conditioning was installed in 1959. During the 1960's, consideration was given to another westward move, but the church decided to remain at its present location.
On March 29, 1877, thirty-nine members, most of whom came from the Third Baptist Church organized the Garrison Avenue Baptist Church. This church was the forerunner of the Delmar Baptist, now located at Skinker and Washington. Its first building was erected on Garrison Avenue between Lucas and Morgan and was dedicated on April 8, 1877. Two years later it became necessary to vacate the chapel's leased site, so the building was removed to Compton Avenue and Morgan Street. It required two weeks to make the move of two blocks, during which time services were held in the building while it was on the street. This caused it to be called "The Church on Wheels." An interesting comparison with present day costs can be realized, since the entire building moving operation then cost only $500.
Another move was made in 1884, when the church occupied a new home at Delmar Boulevard and Spring at which time the present name was adopted. In 1886, a move was made to disband the Delmar Church because of its proximity to the recently located Third Baptist at Grand and Washington. However, rather than disband, the church moved again. This time to Delmar and Pendleton, where services began in 1892. The church's present site was purchased in 1916, when the Pendleton Avenue building was sold to the First Christian Church. Because of delays occasioned by World War I, the new building was not completed until June, 1919. During the interim, services were held at various places including a gymnasium and a dancing school auditorium. Joint services also were held with Immanuel Baptist at 5850 Cates Avenue.
United Hebrew Temple at 225 South Skinker Boulevard is the oldest Jewish congregation west of the Mississippi, dating back to 1837. After meeting at various downtown locations, the congregation occupied a temple at 21st and Olive Streets in 1880. They remained there until 1903, when they purchased the former Mount Cabanne Christian Church at Kingshighway and Enright. This building was converted into a temple and a community hall was added. The congregation grew rapidly under the leadership of Rabbi Samuel Thurman and larger quarters became necessary by the mid 1920's. The present temple, dedicated in 1927, was the work of architects Leo F. Abrams and Maritz and Young. Professor Gabriel Ferrand of Washington University was associate architect. Designed in the Graeco-Byzantine style, the temple is distinguished by its dome and monumental facade. The richly decorated auditorium, seating 2200 persons, makes the temple one of the largest in the nation. The Samuel Thurman Educational Hall was added in 1957.
In 1926, the former Washington-Compton Presbyterian Church moved into its new building at 201 South Skinker Boulevard. At that time the present name of Memorial Presbyterian Church was adopted. First services were held in its chapel unit on June 13, 1926. The $570,000 church building was designed in Early English Gothic style by the late Albert B. Groves and was completed by Aegerter and Bailey. Dedicated on December 6, 1931, the church has outer walls of native limestone and its auditorium has woodwork of fumed oak. There are 40 rooms for educational use in addition to the chapel. This church's local endeavors have included the Markham Memorial Church, Mizpah Mission and Berea Presbyterian Church, as well as the Brookes Bible Institute. i
The Protestant Episcopal church for this area is that of St. Michael and St. George at 6345 Wydown Boulevard. It was formed through a merger of the original church at this location St. Michael and All Angels, and St. George's Church in 1928. St. Michael's Church was conceived by Bishop Daniel Tuttle, who foresaw the need for a new parish in the area west of Forest Park. It met for the first time in 1912 at Graham Chapel of Washington University, loaned as a temporary place of worship. Cornerstone of the new church was laid in the spring of 1913 and by the following Christmas, the church, which comprises the eastern portion of the present edifice, was debt free and consecrated. Original architect was James P. Jamieson, while subsequent additions were the work of Klipstein and Rathmann. These were made following the merger and were made necessary by growth of the original parish as well as to accommodate the new congregation. The red granite buildings are all done in the English Tudor style. Uniting the church and parish buildings is a bell tower at the entrance, while a smaller tower stands over the crossing of the transepts with the nave. It occupies an attractive location on a triangular site. An interesting feature of the church is its Commons Room, which is modeled after the House of Commons in England. A nearby neighbor is the Eighth Church of Christ Scientist at 6200 Wydown Boulevard, which was built during the late 1920~;
Robert Somers Brookings, who made his fortune in the woodenware business in St. Louis with the Cupples Company, was responsible for the acquisition of the present campus of Washington University and for the initial group of buildings built thereon. This institution was close to failure in the early 1890s when Brookings, president of its board of trustees, undertook the job of financially rebuilding the school. Already wealthy, he decided to devote his philanthropy to the welfare of Washington University. The present hill top campus was purchased in 1894 and by 1899 construction had begun on the first buildings. In 1902 the buildings on the school's old site on 17th and Washington were sold and at about the same time it was decided to lease the new and unused buildings on the new site to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition for offices and various other uses. The school was in a quandary as to where it could locate for the duration of the World's Fair, but fortunately it was able to use the recently vacated old home of Mary Institute at Beaumont Avenue and Locust Street. The school realized $700,000 from the leasing of eleven buildings and its 109 acre campus by the Fair and finally occupied its new facilities in January, 1905. The history of the University since that time has been one of continual expansion both physically and in enrollment. The earliest buildings including the Brookings quadrangle, Cupples Hall No. 2, physics and engineering buildings, two dormitories and Francis gymnasium were designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm of Cope and Stewardson in the Tudor Gothic style. Their design was the winner in an arcpitectural competition conducted by the University in 1899. Graham Memorial Chapel, also by Cope and Stewardson, was built in 1908 with its design inspired by the King's Chapel at Cambridge, England. After that, new campus construction proceeded slowly and the concept of quadrangles and linked buildings, as was originally planned, was not followed. In 1925, Bixby Hall of Fine Arts was opened replacing the old art school housed in the former British building of the World's Fair. Bixby, designed by Jamieson and Spearl, was the forerunner of the white limestone group housing the school of architecture and Steinberg Hall. The broad lawns in front of Brookings Hall have given way to acres of parking lots and the campus has become crowded with buildings. One of the most prominent of the newer structures is the John M. Olin Library completed in 1962 from plans by Murphy and Mackey. It is built of pink granite to harmonize with its Gothic neighbors on the campus. The University and its medical school have won international recognition and have produced four winners of Nobel Prizes. Among the latter is its former chancellor, the late Dr. Arthur H. Compton, who had a leading role in development of the atomic bomb.
Very soon after the build up of the Washington Heights area began it became apparent that a public school was a vital need. In 1914, the Board of Education opened nine portable school units at Hamilton and Washington Avenues, named after Alexander Hamilton. By 1916, two more portables were added as the enrollment exceeded 500 pupils. When the permanent brick school was completed early in 1918, the enrollment had doubled to more than 1000. This 24 room building was designed by R.M. Milligan and erected at a cost of $245,000. Increasing population in the area made additional school facilities necessary by the early 1960's. Consequently, two portable units were added at Hamilton School in 1961 and two years later, the first of two branch schools was opened on Clemens Avenue, north of Delmar. Hamilton Branch School No. 3 was erected in 1968 at 450 Des Peres Avenue from plans by Kramer and Harms. The area's educational scope was enlarged in 1963 when the Des Peres Branch Library was opened at 6003 Kingsbury Avenue. It is now located at 5960 Kingsbury, where it maintains a collection exceeding 20,000 volumes and conducts various programs for both children and adults.
Roads and Streets
An interesting sidelight on the development of various sections of the city can be found in the derivation of the names of its streets. Principal thoroughfares in the Kingsbury area were named for prominent early land holders in the vicinity. These include Thomas K. Skinker, Robert Forsyth, Peter Lindell, Ralph Clayton, Jules DeMun and James W. Kingsbury. Kingsbury's two daughters, who married the Count de Giverville and Alfred Waterman are thereby commemorated as is the name of the head of the convent school they attended in Paris, Madame DeBaliviere. Delmar, which was originally the Olive Street Plank Road, was named by two holders of property on either side of the road who originally came from Delaware and Maryland. The coined name Delmar is made up of the first three letters of each state's name. Belt and McPherson were two early day real estate men, while Clara was named for the daughter of another land holder, John W. Burd. Pershing Avenue, was originally Berlin until World War I when it was changed for patriotic reasons. Washington and Westminster were westward extensions of streets bearing those names. Hamilton Avenue is named for former Missouri Governor Hamilton Rowan Gamble, while the school is a namesake of Alexander Hamilton, the early American statesman..
Two railroads are closely connected with the history of the Kingsbury area, the Wabash and the Rock Island. The Wabash was originally constructed after the Civil War as the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railroad, which was acquired by the Wabash system in 1879. Its tracks were depressed through the area at about the time the River des Peres was put underground. Lowering of the railroad eliminated previously dangerous grade crossings at Union, DeBaliviere, Laurel, Hamilton and Delmar. That long time convenient facility for West End travelers, the Delmar Station, was built at that time. This railroad is now a part of the Norfolk and Western. The St. Louis line of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, popularly called the Rock Island, originally ran out of Union Station over Wabash tracks to Forsyth junction, just west of DeBaliviere Avenue, where a small station was located. It then ran due west on what is now the right-of-way of the Forest Park Expressway, north of Catlin tract, and out through Clayton and west to Union, Missouri. At the time of the World's Fair, it was called the St. Louis, Kansas City and Colorado Railway. Its tracks west of DeBaliviere were abandoned at the time of the Wabash grade separations and were originally constructed in 1887.
The first street railway to operate in this area was that of the Lindell Railway Company in 1892. It ran out Delmar from Taylor to DeBaliviere and thence south to its terminus at what is now the Field House in Forest Park. The old streetcar barn and power house at Delmar and DeBaliviere was originally a Lindell installation. This line later ran further west on Delmar as the Olive-Delmar car line. The Union Avenue car line was originally a division of the St. Louis and Suburban Railway, whose main tracks were later used by the Hodiamont line. After the transit line consolidation in 1899, all lines, except the Suburban, became part of the city-wide United Railways Company system. The Suburban was absorbed in 1907. The principal reason for streetcar development in the West End was the World's Fair of 1904. All lines were extended to reach various entrances to the grounds. After the Fair, the University car line was built west from DeBaliviere parallel to the Rock Island railway to a terminus at what was then called Pennsylvania Avenue, now Big Bend. A unique feature of the University line was a large wood and steel trestle which carried its double tracks over the Wabash Railroad, which then ran at grade. The ascent for this trestle began at DeBaliviere Avenue and resumed its grade level at Laurel Street, west of which the line operated on a private right-ofway. After the depression of the Wabash Railroad the streetcar operated over a much lower bridge. Among other lines in the vicinity was the Hamilton or City Limits line which ran from Wellston over Hamilton to Delmar and west to Skinker where it terminated near Lindell at a junction with the old Clayton line which ran out Wydown. After World War I, the City Limits line was extended south to Maplewood. On the south side of Forest Park was the car line of that name, originally called the Market Street line, which ran on a private right-of-way along Oakland Avenue. It served the amusement parks at Forest Park Highlands and West End Heights. In the days before automobiles a treat for city dwellers was a ride on a trolley car for a day of fun at outlying amusement parks such as those mentioned or at Delmar or Suburban Gardens, Meramec Highlands and Creve Coeur Lake. First bus service from the West End to downtown was an unsuccessful one bus operation in 1914. Another failing attempt was the Missouri Motorbus Co. in 1921. Successful bus service was finally established by the Peoples Motorbus Company in 1923.
In comparison with city areas to its east and north, the Kingsbury area is a relative newcomer. All of its development has taken place in the twentieth century. An example of its remoteness a few years before the World's Fair is provided by the fire which completely destroyed the 19 room mansion of Thomas K. Skinker on December 16, 1900. Located on his estate, just west of Forest Park, it was so far from the nearest firehouse that it was in ruins before the firemen arrived. Beginning with the subdivision of the area after the Fair, the build up was quite rapid and by 1930 very few vacant lots could be found. Conditions remained rather stable until World War II when the housing shortage created a stress on the area's housing stock. During the 1950's a westward migration of residents from the demolished Mill Creek Valley project site created a considerable increase in population density in Kingsbury and produced an integrated neighborhood. Overuse of the-housing, particularly in apartment buildings, caused deterioration in housing quality leading to vandalism and demolition of some units. In an effort to counteract this trend, neighborhood organizations were formed as early as 1958. Unity of action by these groups led to the defeat of rooming house legislation in the Board of Aldermen and continued vigilance eliminated housing code violations. These improvement associations also pushed for progress in traffic circulation, lighting, recreation facilities and general physical betterment of the area. In order to further this progressive trend, it was decided that an areawide group was needed. Thus the Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council was formed in 1965. It is composed of the neighborhood associations, the area's three churches and Washington University and maintains an office in the community. The Council has sponsored various events such as art fairs and house tours and has established a service to aid prospective residents to locate homes within the area. In order to insure a promising future for the community, the Council is developing a program of housing rehabilitation for the Kingsbury area.
Urban renewal work on a broad scale is being done in an irregularly shaped area, which is bounded generally by Delmar Boulevard and the Forest Park Parkway between Belt and Hamilton Avenues. This vast project was begun early in 1977 by the Pantheon Corporation. Originally conceived as a primarily rental property development, the developer experienced so much interest in their first condominium building, that they are now placing increased emphasis upon the conversion of older apartments into condominium units. Most of this renewal is along Waterman and Pershing Avenues, although a townhouse area was projected west of DeBaliviere Avenue.
Within the overall development, which is known as "DeBaliviere Place," the townhouse section named "Kingsbury Square" was opened in June, 1979. It features turn-of the century style in new houses along Kingsbury and Westminster Places west of DeBaliviere Avenue.
In September, 1978, the Skinker-DeBaliviere, Parkview, Catlin Tract Area was approved as a City Historic District.
"Forest Park and Its Story" - Visit St. Louis Committee of St. Louis Chamber of Commerce and City of St. Louis - 1943
"The Washington University Story" by David Brown, St. Louis Globe-Democrat magazine, May 6, 1956
"From Horsepower to Atomic Energy" by William F. Woo, St. Louis Post-Dispatch - February 17, 1963
"The Neighborhood - A History of Skinker-DeBaliviere" by Kathleen M. Harleman, Georgiana B. Stuart, Susan K. Tepas, 1973
"The Universal Exposition of 1904" by David R. Francis, Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company, St. Louis, 1913
"When St. Louis Moves" - United Railways Co., St. Louis, 1926
"St. Louis - the Fourth City" by Walter B. Stevens, 1909
"History of St. Louis City and County" by J. Thomas Scharf, 1883
"Our Houses of Worship" by John Brod Peters, St. Louis GlobeDemocrat series - 1967
"St. Louis Development Program", St. Louis City Plan Commission - 1973
"River des Peres Plan" - St. Louis City Plan Commission, 1916