Locale and Topography
This large segment of South St. Louis is bounded generally by Arsenal Street on the north, Bates Street on the south and Grand Boulevard on the west. Its eastern edge is the bank of the Mississippi River. The largest portion of the area, roughly north of Delor Street, was originally the southern end of the St. Louis Commons, whose western limit was Virginia Avenue as far as Meramec Street and thence northwardly along Grand Boulevard. The portion west of Virginia and south of Meramec was the northeastern quadrant of the Commonfields of Carondelet, while the extreme southeastern part was the north end of the City of Carondelet before its annexation to the City of St. Louis in 1870.
Topographically, the area is a rolling plateau with a gradual southward slope toward the River des Peres. The riverfront portion has a relatively low profile as far south as Potomac Street at which point a series of steep bluffs begin and continue southwardly to Dover Street at Bellerive Park. A prominent artificial feature was the Sugar Loaf Indian mound at the foot of Wyandotte Street.
Land Divisions and Parks
The sale of land in the St. Louis Commons was authorized by the City in 1836 with platting on a gridiron pattern. With a few exceptions, the streets running north and south were named after the states of the Union, while those in an east-west direction were named for various Indian tribes. By 1860, most of the platted areas of the Commons had been sold although the City retained reservations for some areas for parks and city subdivisions. Development of the area occurred in a gradual manner from the east and north. In 1875, housing was fairly dense east of Jefferson Avenue and north of Chippewa Street, while the sections to the west and south were rural in character, including farms, orchards and grape arbors.
A commercial nucleus had begun by this time at Grand and Gravois, with considerable construction along Gravois to the east. The area east of Grand northward from Cherokee Street was largely farmland; however, an increasing number of houses was evident toward Arsenal Street, which had a horse car line to Tower Grove Park. A prominent feature of this area was the old Picotte (Pickers) Cemetery at the present site of Roosevelt High School. The Marquette-Cherokee area had assumed its present built-up aspect by 1910.
Several neighborhood parks were created in 1854 from City reservations in the old Commons, these included Gravois, Laclede and Mount Pleasant parks. Marquette Park, at Osage and Minnesota, was acquired in 1915 from the Board of Children 's Guardians. Its swimming pool was opened in 1917. Bellerive (formerly Riverside) Park, overlooking the Mississippi River at the foot of Bates Street, was purchased by the City in 1908, while the Minnie Wood Memorial Playground at Broadway and Meramec was acquired as a gift in 1925.
The oldest Roman Catholic Church in the area is that of St. Anthony of Padua at Meramec Street and Michigan Avenue. This parish was founded in 1863 by the Franciscan Fathers in connection with their monastery. First services were held in a frame house belonging to John Withnell, who presented the order with the land upon which their buildings are now located. The stone Gothic church was completed in its final form in 1869 at a cost of $56,000, previously services were held in the sanctuary of the monastery since 1865. The parochial schools were opened in 1870 and two years later the monastery was enlarged into a theological seminary. The present brick Romanesque church was begun in 1910 after designs by Brother Anselm Wolff. The church has twin spires 175 feet in height flanking a central gable outlined with Bedford limestone, which is used as architectural trim on the building's exterior. The interior features an altar of onyx and gold, fine frescoes, paintings and stained glass windows.
The adjacent St. Anthony's High School was erected in 1922, followed by the present monastery in 1931 and the parochial school in 1962.
The parish of St. Thomas of Aquin was organized in 1832 by a group of English speaking members of St. Anthony's parish where the services were conducted in German. The congregation worshiped in the chapel of Alexian Brothers Hospital until their church was finished in 1883. The edifice, at Osage Street and Iowa Avenue, was built in the Gothic style at a cost of $12,000. Its steeple was demolished in the tornado of 1896 and was not replaced. St. Thomas parochial school was conducted on the ground floor of Maryville College until 1916 when a school building was erected on the convent grounds. The present school at 4021 Iowa Avenue was opened in 1932 and is conducted by the Sisters of St. Joseph. St. Cecilia's parish was organized by Rev. Bernard J. Renten in October, 1906, with a mixed German and Irish membership. A combination church and school structure was opened in January, 1908. Erection of the present Romanesque style church was started in 1926 and it was dedicated by Archbishop Glennon in February, 1927. Its facade is flanked by two towers of varying height on a structure of brick with stone trim. The interior is notable for its fine mosaic work done by the Emil Frei studio and its ornate Italian marble altars. The church was designed by Henry P. Hess at a cost of $300,000.
In 1959, the adjacent St. Cecilia's parochial school was completed.
The parish of St. Pius the Fifth was founded in 1905 by Rev. John Lyons. The present church at 3304 South Grand Boulevard at Utah Street, was dedicated in 1917. The church is built of white Carthage stone in the 16th century Renaissance style. It is notable for its graceful campanile and its sculptured entrance and pediment. The accompanying school and rectory have facades in the same style as the church, whose white walls contrast with its red Spanish tile roof. The nave is spanned by a barrel vault ceiling with the side aisles separated by arched colonnades. Art glass windows pierce the clerestory and the semi-circular apse is surmounted by a half-dome. The relief sculptures on the facade are the work of sculptor Victor Holm. Architect for the church group was J. Sidney Lee.
St. Hedwig's church at 3202 Pulaski Street was the third Polish parish that was created in St. Louis. It was founded in 1904 by Rev. Victor Stepka at Compton Avenue and Hiawatha (Pulaski) Street. A combination structure, used as a church, school and parsonage was dedicated on March 26, 1905. At that time the parish contained 150 Polish families with a school enrollment of 154 students. The church was enlarged in 1906 by Rev. Simon J. Zielinski. The present church at the northwest corner of Compton Avenue and Itaska Street was completed in 1957. The convent is located at 3219 Itaska.
One of the earliest Protestant churches in this area is Holy Cross Lutheran, which was organized in 1858. Services were held in the Concordia College building on South Jefferson Avenue until 1867, when the church was completed on Miami Street between Texas and Ohio Avenues. Its site had been the old Holy Cross graveyard, which was relocated near Gravois Road. The church had a capacity of 500 persons and was designed in the Gothic style with a steeple 175 feet in height. This steeple was destroyed by the tornado of 1896 and was replaced by the present spire. English services were introduced there in 1909 and by 1933 the membership had increased to 1,825. The parochial day school was founded in 1850 and its present building was completed in 1914. In the following year the Holy Cross Hall on Texas Avenue was opened.
The Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer was formed in 1892 to provide an English speaking congregation for south St. Louis. The new mission held its services in Holy Cross Hall until 1893 when it removed to Anchor Hall at Jefferson and Park Avenues. In 1894 the congregation was organized as a church and occupied a chapel at California and Juniata in 1897. This was sold to St. Andrew's Evangelical Church in 1901, when Our Redeemer Church erected a chapel on its present site at Utah Street and Oregon Avenue. This vicinity was sparsely settled then but an influx of population created a need for larger quarters. Erection of the present church began in 1908 under architect August Foell. The $45,000 structure was dedicated in January, 1909. Three years later an adjoining parsonage and church hall was completed. A parochial school was started in 1897 but was later discontinued because of a lack of teachers. The children were then sent to nearby Holv Cross school.
St. Matthew's United Church of Christ at 3457 South Jefferson Avenue was organized in 1875 in private school rooms on South Broadway near Anna Street. In 1876 this Evangelical congregation occupied a church at 3331 South Seventh Street. The present church at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Potomac Street was built in 1888 and is adjoined by a parochial school building. Curby Memorial Presbyterian Church at 2621 Utah Street was organized as the Westminster Church in 1873 in rooms at 3500 South Broadway. In 1876, the church occupied a frame structure at Pestalozzi and James (now 18th) Streets. The present church was built in 1898 at a cost of $17,000, largely due to a $10,000 bequest by Colonel John Curby in memory of his daughter. At that time the church received its present name.
The Winnebago Presbyterian Church was founded as a mission of the First German (later Peters Memorial) Church in 1897. A small chapel was dedicated in January, 1898, at Winnebago Street and Tennessee Avenue. The church was formally organized in 1902 with 52 charter members. In 1905 the manse was built on an adjoining lot. The surrounding neighborhood developed rapidly after the World's Fair providing an incentive for the church to plan for the future. In 1910 the first unit of the present church was built and continued growth made additional space necessary. To achieve the space for continued expansion, the manse was moved to a lot on the northwest corner of Tennessee and Winnebago in 1921. Then the basement of the present church was completed on the southwest corner of the intersection. This was used for services until October, 1931, when the auditorium was dedicated. The building is built in a modified Gothic style and represents an investment of $120,000. The Jewel Baptist Church, which has been located at 4657 South Grand Boulevard since 1936, was first located at 4720 Virginia Avenue from 1918 until 1923. It moved to 3223 Osceola Street in 1924 and remained there until 1935, when it occupied its present building.
Among other Protestant churches in the Marquette-Cherokee area are the Southeide Baptist Church at 3514 Oregon at Potomac, whose church was built in 1965, the Wurdack Memorial Presbyterian, built in 1962 at 4919 Minnesota, and the Fifth Church of Christ Scientist built in 1920 at 3448 Potomac Street.
The earliest educational institution to be located in the area was the Concordia Lutheran College and Seminary. Its first college building was dedicated in July, 1850, after the school moved here from Altenburg, Missouri. The three story building was located on the west side of Jefferson Avenue at Winnebago Street. The old college building was demolished in 1882 and was replaced by a large Gothic structure with a central steeple 136 feet high. The well-equipped building contained class rooms, library, dormitory rooms and a gymnasium in the basement. It could accommodate 200 students. This structure served the college until its removal in 1926 to the present campus on DeMun Avenue in Clayton.
An institution which had its home in this area for more than ninety years was the Catholic Maryville College of the Sacred Heart, located on a 21 acre tract bounded by Meramec Street, Minnesota Avenue, Osceola Street and Nebraska Avenue. This site was purchased in 1864 for $40,000 and the main building was started in 1867 and completed in 1872. It had a frontage of 250 feet and three rear wings, the central one contained the college chapel. It was conducted as an academy for boarding pupils and a parish school for girls in 1882. Maryville removed to a new location in St. Louis County in 1961, at which time the old building was opened as the Augustinian Academy for Boys. This institution was closed in 1972, after which the old building was vacant until it was partially destroyed by fire and demolished in 1973. The site is now occupied by the Maryville Gardens apartment project, with a portion of it used for a new post office branch.
There are two public high schools within the area, Cleveland and Roosevelt, as well as seven elementary schools. Cleveland High School at 4352 Louisiana Avenue was opened in 1915 and was designed by William B. Ittner at a cost of $737,048. A large athletic field located in front of the school reaches west to Grand Boulevard. Roosevelt High School was opened in 1924 at 3230 Hartford Street, occupying the former site of Picker Cemetery. It was designed by R. M. Milligan in English Gothic style.
Shepard School on the west side of Marine Avenue, south of Miami Street was the first elementary school in the area when it was opened in 1859. It was named for an early St. Louis educator, Elihu H. Shepard. The present Shepard School at 3450 Wisconsin Avenue was built in 1905 after designs by William B. Ittner.
The first Garfield School was opened in 1883 at 2612 Wyoming Street at Jefferson Avenue. It was replaced in 1937 by the present school which was designed by Board of Education architects.
The Grant School at 3009 Pennsylvania Avenue was built in 1893 and enlarged in 1902. It replaced the earlier Gravois School at Gravois Avenue and Wyoming Street which dated from 1867.
Another school in the Marquette-Cherokee area which replaced an earlier one was the Meramec School at 2745 Meramec Street. It was opened in 1910 on the site of a previous school of the same name which had been built in 1870.
Other elementary schools in the area include Mount Pleasant at 4528 Nebraska Avenue (1900-1923), Froebel at 3709 Nebraska (1895 with additions in 1900, 1902, 1911) and Monroe at 3641 Missouri Avenue (1899). These schools were all designed by architect William B. Ittner.
The old Marine Hospital located at Marine Avenue and Winnebago Street was one of several hospitals, for the treatment of sick and disabled rivermen, authorized by an act of Congress in 1837. After various delays, the hospital was reauthorized by Congress in 1846, and the site was acquired for about $30,000. The three story building was finally completed in 1855. It was used as a military hospital during the Civil War at which time temporary ward buildings were built adjacent to the main building. An administration building was completed there in 1882. The hospital moved to Kirkwood during World War II and the old buildings were razed. The present Federal Records Center was built on the site in 1959.
The St. Louis branch of the Alexian Brothers, an order devoted to care of the sick and insane, was founded in 1869 by two brothers sent here from Chicago. After a fund raising campaign aided by James H. Lucas, the present site, at 3933 South Broadway, was purchased for $25,000. Alexian Brothers Hospital's first building was opened in 1870 with 20 beds. The institution has enjoyed continuing growth, with substantial additions completed in 1874 and 1890. The dispensary was added in 1925, at which time the 250 bed facility consisted of the hospital, mental sanitarium and clinic. The most recent addition was completed in 1959. The greatest change to take place at the hospital was the admission of its first women patients in 1962. A new building program is presently underway at Alexian Brothers Hospital.
St. Anthony's Hospital had its inception with a small hospital in Carondelet, staffed by Franciscan Sisters in 1873. Its building was destroyed by fire in 1877 and, with no funds for rebuilding, it was abandoned. The Sisters removed to St. Louis and opened St. Pius Hospital at 14th and O'Fallon Streets in 1879. This neighborhood became undesirable in later years and the institution relocated at St. Anthony's Hospital at 3520 Chippewa Street in 1900. A new convent was completed in 1924 and three years later a large five story addition to the hospital was finished on the Arkansas Avenue side of the grounds. Since 1962 there had been discussions about closing the old Victorian Italianate style hospital and removal to a site owned by the Sisters on Highway 21 and Kennerly Road in St. Louis County. The new St. Anthony's Medical Center on the County site was opened early in 1975 and soon thereafter the old building was demolished to provide a 5.6 acre site for a new supermarket.
Lutheran Hospital started in 1858 in two rooms of a house at Carondelet Avenue and Emmet Street. Need for more space required the removal in 1864 to two adjoining houses at Seventh and Sidney Streets, furnishing room for about 40 patients. In 1883 space requirements made another move necessary. The former Christian Lange Mansion on the present site, at Ohio Avenue and Potomac Street, was purchased. Continued growth required additions in 1889 and 1890, the latter being a fireproof wing costing $30,000. The school of nursing was founded in 1898 and in 1916 a nurses' residence was acquired, with a $93,000 annex added in 1944. In 1955 a whole new hospital complex was opened at a cost of $3,900,000, but more expansion was needed so that additional property in the area was purchased. This allowed for a $4,000,000 expansion program beginning in 1965, including a new diagnostic and treatment center and enlargement of several departments. Multi-story structures for a mental health center and a medical office building were constructed. Lutheran Hospital now has 500 beds and nearly 300 nursing students and has become a major medical center for South St. Louis.
The Home for the Friendless, a private home for elderly, impoverished women was founded as the result of a fundraising campaign by Mrs. Joseph Charless in 1853. After securing subscriptions for $13,000 and $20,000 in county bonds, the present site on South Broadway and Osceola Street was acquired. The building had been built for a defunct Swiss Protestant College, to which the home built a 20 room addition in 1880. Several other additions have been made principally during the 1930s.
Several other institutions are to be found in the Marquette-Cherokee area, such as the Booth Memorial (Salvation Army) Hospital on Marine Avenue (built in 1929), the rest home of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at 3439 Gasconade Street (originally built in 1858, with additions in 1908, 1939 and 1962), and the Little Sisters of the Poor home for the aged at Grand Boulevard and Cherokee Street, which was established in 1900.
The older section of this area, north of Meramec Street, contains a high percentage of two and four family flats with some pockets of single family dwellings. Generally, these structures are of brick construction and show an obvious Germanic influence in their architecture. The earliest ones date from the 1870's, while the majority were erected in the period between 1890 and 1910. The riverfront section of the area has a pocket of residential buildings at its north end, east of Broadway from Highway 55 to Chippewa Street. These are primarily multiple dwellings and flats of brick construction, built between 1885 and 1920.
Further south on the east side of Broadway from Mt. Pleasant Street to Bates Street was a fashionable area of large homes overlooking the river from the bluff tops. These dated from ante-bellum times to the turn of the century. Many have been demolished or converted into homes for the aged. Among these are the Gietner, Good Samaritan, Altenheim and Edgewater Homes. The latter was at one time the old Century Boat Club. There is now an apparent trend toward building high rise apartments at the northern end of this row of bluff top buildings. Between Meramec and Bates Streets, east of Grand, the housing stock consists principally of single family houses with a scattering of flats and apartments. Mostly of brick, these were built between 1900 and 1930. A common type of single dwelling seen in this section is a one story, flat roofed, railroad style house with a decorative facade and porch, built from 1900 to 1920.
Commercial and Industrial Development
Strip commercial developed early on principal streets carrying streetcar lines such as Cherokee, Chippewa, Meramec, Gravois, Grand and Jefferson. There are scattered instances of corner commercial at lesser intersections. South Broadway from Arsenal to Meramec has poorly maintained stretches of strip commercial, largely vacant. There is a new shopping center developed on Broadway at Chariton Street, replacing the old work house and a drive-in theater.
Virginia Avenue was the main commercial street in the area south of Meramec, it was an early route through the area, when it was called Stringtown Road. Prominent along here are an old car barn converted into a factory and the old Virginia Theater which is now a church.
Condition of commercial property is spotty on Meramec east of Grand, while that along Grand is fairly well maintained, especially between Gravois and Chippewa where the Sears Roebuck store acts as an economic anchor. The new National supermarket, on the site of old St. Anthony's Hospital, should give its area a well deserved boost. Cherokee Street shopping area maintains its importance, augmented by recent parking lot areas at the rear of stores on the street's north side.
There is very little industrial activity in this area, some small manufacturing enterprises, storage and wholesale firms along South Broadway and other main streets or else home type businesses at the rear of dwellings. Along the river from Arsenal to Mt. Pleasant Street are oil tank farms and other river supported types of industry, such as cement and gravel yards. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the principal industrial section in this area was along the river, front due to the presence of steamboat landings and the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad which ran along the river's edge. These engendered lumber yards at Gasconade Street and a quarry at Winnebago Street. Herolds' Cherokee Brewery and summer garden were located at Cherokee Street and Ohio Avenue. The large Concordia Lutheran Publishing House was on the corner of Miami and Indiana Avenue.
A horse car line operating on Carondelet Avenue (South Broadway) was the earliest means of public transit to penetrate into this south side area. Originally the line terminated at Keokuk Street, but later it was extended southward to Carondelet. By 1875, horse car lines were also running on Jefferson Avenue, Gravois Avenue and out Sidney and Arsenal Streets to Grand Boulevard. The network of such lines was extended during the 1880s on other streets in the area and about 1885 the line on South Broadway became a cable car line. The real impetus to development of this area was provided by the electric trolley lines which rapidly spread out through the area on the main streets during the 1890s. Electric car lines were built on South Grand, Cherokee and South Broadway, as well as the original lines of such as the Bellefontaine, Tower Grove, Southhampton, Cherokee, Compton and other car lines. Originally run by separate companies, these lines were unified into the citywide network of the St. Louis Transit Company by 1900. This was a forerunner of the United Railways and later the St. Louis Public Service Company. The car lines were later supplanted by buses.
Traffic flow through this area, as well as other parts of the city was expedited by the program of street widenings and connections made possible by the 1923 bond issue. The widening of Gravois and its connection to South Twelfth Street for through access from the south side to downtown was one of these accomplishments. More recently, the construction of Interstate Highway 55 has greatly accelerated an increasing traffic flow to the South side.
City of St. Louis, City Plan Commission - "Development Program" - 1973
City of St. Louis, Division of Parks and Recreation - "Annual Report - 1936-37"
Compton, Richard J. and Dry, Camille N. - "Pictorial History of St. Louis" - St. Louis, 1875
Scharf, J. Thomas - "History of St. Louis City and County" - St. Louis, 1883
Stevens, Walter B. - "St. Louis, the Fourth City" - St. Louis, 1909