Old North St. Louis

Ethnic Background

This large area was settled by waves of immigrants, first German, then Irish and later Italian, Polish and Jewish. The German Catholics settled in the vicinity of Eleventh and Biddle Streets and German Protestants in the Carr Square area. The first Irish immigrants colonized the area which later became St. Patrick's parish around Sixth and Biddle. About 1842 an Irish group from County Kerry settled in what later became Kerry Patch in the vicinity of 18th and O'Fallon Streets near Cass Avenue. Other Germans settled north of Cass Avenue in an area called "Little Paderhorn" and later spread northwestwardly. After 1870 large numbers of Poles settled in the Kerry Patch area supplanting the Irish. The German Protestants around Carr Square began an outward migration in the 1880's and were succeeded by Orthodox Jews. An Italian community began to emerge near Seventh and Carr Streets after the turn of the century. By 1920 the area north and west of downtown assumed a polygot character of mixed nationalities including immigrants from Russia and the Balkan countries.

Prohibition encouraged bootlegging among these diverse elements leading to gang wars, first among Irish and later among Italian gangsters. These groups carried picturesque names such as Egan's Rats, the Green Ones and the Hogan Gang. Tough police enforcement and the end of prohibition brought a decline in gang warfare in the area.

European immigration was halted by restrictive legislation and eventually the Irish, Italians and others moved away from the Near North Side.

The depression and World War II brought blacks into the area in large numbers. They moved into decrepit buildings. These were structures which were erected in the days before indoor plumbing and central heating and were "remodelled" by their landlords into even smaller crowded living units. Large portions of these slums were replaced by public housing projects, beginning with Carr Square Village in 1942. Some of these complexes acquired slum-like status by the mid 1960's, leading to the ultimate demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe Apartments. The eventual re-use of these sites is presently undetermined. Urban renewal in the DeSoto-Carr area and construction of the new Convention Center are expected to lead to a rejuvenation of the portion of the area south of Cass Avenue.