Oak Hill


In what might be called the center of South St. Louis, is the Oak Hill area, which is bounded on the north by Arsenal Street, on the west by Kingshighway, on the south by Gravois Avenue and Bates Street, and on the east by Grand Boulevard. Its topography is gently rolling in character, reaching fairly high elevations along ridge lines on Grand and also along Morganford Road.

As originally surveyed, the Oak Hill area included the southern portion of the Prairie des Noyers from Arsenal Street south to Chippewa. To the south of this, reaching beyond Bates Street and west as far as Morganford, was a part of the commonfield of Carondelet. The southwestern corner of the area, west of Morganford and out Gravois to Kingshighway, included Survey 279 and the eastern portion of Survey 3217. One of the earliest American land owners was William Russell, who purchased a 432-acre tract about four miles southwest of St. Louis in 1805. This tract, which Russell named Oak Hill, has as its boundaries such present day streets as Gustine, Arsenal, Kingshighway and Chippewa.

William Russell's brother, James, acquired the tract a few years later and soon discovered a coal deposit near the present intersection of Tholozan and Morganford. Beginning about 1820, and continuing until the deposits were exhausted in 1887, the Russell family sold the coal in St. Louis, transporting it in wagons drawn by oxen. Valuable clay deposits were also found on the property, with clay mining operations beginning in 1855. These activities led to the formation of the Parker-Russell Mining and Manufacturing Company, following the marriage of Russell's daughter Russella and George Ward Parker in 1854. A grandson of James Russell was Charles Marion Russell, known as the "cowboy artist."

"Charlie" Russell was born in Oak Hill in 1864, and migrated to Montana in the early 1880's. He was a contemporary of Frederic Remington, and left a valuable artistic record of the changing old West. The Russell mining operations in Oak Hill were popularly referred to as the Gravois "coal-digging" and provided work for many who lived nearby. For many years, Parker-Russell operated a fire brick plant at Parker Avenue and Morganford Road. Two other neighborhood landmarks were the old Parker home at 3405 Oak Hill Avenue and the Russell mansion, formerly near Bent Avenue, which was destroyed by fire in 1888.

Between the Russell tract and Grand Avenue, south of Arsenal Street, were tracts of land owned by the McDonald family and by Robert W. Hunt. South of these were tracts owned by Adele Tholozan, James Dunnica and John Bingham. Southwest of the Russell tract was an equally large area owned by William T. Christy, containing many ponds and acres of grazing lands. It extended from Chippewa and Morganford south and west to beyond Kingshighway and Eichelberger Street. Christy acquired the tract in the early 1850's and established a clay products plant in 1857. An extensive underground clay mine was constructed, so that by 1900 it had about five miles of subterranean passageways. The Christy mansion, now part of a nursing home at Taft and Alfred Avenues, was built in 1864. Christy's son, Calvin, organized the Christy Fire Clay Company in 1881 and in 1907 it became a unit of the Laclede-Christy Clay Products firm.

While the recreational needs of the Oak Hill area are well served by Tower Grove Park to the north or Carondelet Park to the south, there are several smaller parks and playgrounds within the area. At the area's southwestern edge is Christy Park, which flanks a boulevard of the same name. This park, which covers 32.37 acres, was purchased by the City in 1910 for $98,504 as part of the Kingshighway parkway plan. The McDonald Playground at Utah Street and Bent Avenue, with an area of three acres, was acquired by the City in 1928, for $12,650. Richard H. Amberg Park, named for the late publisher of the Globe-Democrat, was opened in 1963. It has an area of 2.76 acres and occupies the former school grounds of the Dunnica Avenue School.

Oak hill in 1875

A broad area west of Grand Avenue and south from Arsenal had a distinctly rural aspect in 1875. With the exception of a summer resort known as Bamberger's Grove, on the site which was later occupied by the House of the Good Shepherd at Gravois and Gustine, it was all fenced meadow land, with some corn fields and orchards. A large densely wooded area was located to the northwest of Bamberger's Grove, beyond this an area of orchards and pastures reached west to Oak Hill On the west side of that street, between the present McDonald and Tholozan Avenues, were several large dwellings of the Russell and Parker families. Further north, on Russell Place, was the estate of Edward Mead.

A few houses clustered around the Grand-Gravois intersection and along the west side of Grand northward for a few blocks. Morganford Road, then called Russell Avenue in this area, was the main access road to the Oak Hill Fire Brick and Tile Works near the present day Utah Street. Northward along Morganford were cottages occupied by workers at the plant and at Russell's coal mines near Arsenal Street. Westward from Morganford to Kingshighway and southward to Gravois, the land was entirely rural in character, with scattered farm homes and a few large estates. Another large clay mining operation was conducted on the extensive Christy estate, at what is now Kingshighway and Delor Street.


While some of the larger tracts were subdivided as early as the late 1850's, residential subdivision in this area actually covered a span of fifty years, between 1880 and 1930. One of the first of these was Tower Grove Heights, bounded by Arsenal, Louisiana, McDonald and Gustine Avenues. Originally platted in 1881, it experienced most of its building activity in the late 90's and the first decade of the twentieth century. Subdivision of the Russell tract began in 1889, with the Oak Hill Improvement Company's addition, followed in the next year by Russell Place. In the western part of the tract, the partition of James W. Russell's estate took place in 1894 and the southern portion was platted as Lucy B. Russell's subdivision in 1912.

Breakup of the Tholozan tract, which extended from Grand to Kingshighway, between Tholozan and Chippewa, started in 1871 with Fred Beck's subdivision. Some later developments in this tract were Oak Hill Heights in 1888, Brandon Place in 1889, and South End Park in 1913.

Residential subdivision activity along Gravois, southwest of Chippewa began about 1905 with the opening of Newport Heights. In the Christy tract, subdividing began with Beethoven Heights in 1906, followed by Newport Place in 1908, Ellenwood Park in 1909, and Christy Park in 1910. During that same period numerous subdivisions were opened south of Delor Street and west of Gravois, including Chester Heights, Humboldt Heights and Rosa Park.

East of Morganford, and north of Bates Street, platting started about 1906 and continued well into the 1920's. After the closing of Hashagen's Park at Grand and Meramec, Grand Boulevard Park and Grand-Meramec Park subdivisions were developed in that area. Hashagen's began as a picnic grounds in the nineties and later became an amusement park with an auto race track, at which time it was known as Priester's Park. It was also the scene of balloon ascensions in the early 1900's. There was very little subdivision activity in the area after 1930, one of the last being Pomona Court in 1942. A large area of apartments was developed in the vicinity of Spring Avenue and Delor Street during the 1960's.


Gravois Avenue began as a road to a salt spring and ferry, near present day Fenton, about 1804. It was declared to be the public "road to Fenton" by order of the County Court in 1832. In 1839, an act of the State legislature made Gravois a state road and during the 1840's it was paved with a macadam surface. In 1914, Gravois Road became the first concrete highway in Missouri, when six miles were laid from the City limits to Grant's Farm.

Kingshighway was derived from the French Route de Roi, a designation given to boundary streets of commonfields, in this case, the Prairie des Noyers.

Grand Avenue was so named by Hiram W. Leffingwell in 1850, when he visualized it as a future wide parkway; however it was confined to its present 80 foot width by the County Court. Morganford Road, as its name implies, was the route to a ford of the River des Peres, owned by a man named Morgan It also marked the western limit of the Carondelet commonfield.

Many streets received their names from subdivision developers and land owners. Several streets in Tower Grove Heights derived their names from an insurance company, which was involved in its development. Hartford and Connecticut for the company's home city and state, and Humphrey, named for its president, Humphrey Green. Among the names of land owners perpetuated by street names are those of Adele Tholozan, Fred Beck, Philip Bamberger, Henry Liermann, James Dunnica, John Bingham and George Parker, as well as McDonald, Russell, Phillips and Giles.

Street names directly attributable to the names of their subdivisions are Newport, Beethoven, Ellenwood, Rosa and Goethe.

Several streets are the namesakes of rivers such as Meramec, Potomac, Miami, Juniata and Neosho. Indian names are represented by Winnebago, Itaska, Keokuk, Chippewa and Osceola.

Walsh Street was named for John B. Walsh, the first mayor of Carondelet and Eiler Street is named for an early surveyor of that area. Some streets in the Oak Hill area formerly bore other names, for example, Gustine Avenue was named Endora until 1893, Potomac was Scudder, Spring was Morrow and Bates Street was formerly Pennsylvania Avenue.


Holy Family parish in the Oak Hill district was organized by Rev. J. F. Reuther in 1898. A house on Wyoming Street was rented and its first floor fitted up as a chapel. The first mass was celebrated there on November 10, 1898, and the parish school began its work in the chapel rooms in January, 1899. The church site on the northwest corner of Humphrey Street and Oak Hill Avenue was purchased and construction began on the 125 by 350 foot lot in 1899. The church was dedicated on November 28, 1899, with final completion and erection of a sister's home accomplished in 1907. Parish growth made necessary the building of a four-room school addition and auditorium in 1912.

Cornerstone laying ceremonies for the present church occurred on November 22, 1926, and the new building was dedicated by Archbishop Glennon on June 19, 1927. It was designed in the Romanesque style by Ludwig and Dreisoerner and is constructed of variegated granite with a massive appearance. The brick arch spanning the sanctuary is among the widest of its kind. The present school at 4132 Wyoming was completed in 1941, followed by the convent at 4161 Humphrey in 1956, and a parish center building at 4141 Humphrey in 1963.

The Roman Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist was an offshoot from the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows and was funded by Rev. John Peters. First services were held in a vacant store on Gravois Avenue near Itaska Street in February, 1914. A temporary brick church was completed in July, 1914, and the present church edifice, in the Italian style of architecture was dedicated in 1925. It is located at 4178 Delor Street and the parochial school is adjacent to it at 4172 Delor. The school was opened in September, 1914, with 234 pupils. An additional school building at 4158 Delor was opened in 1963. To the west of the Church, at 5015 Adkins Avenue, is the St. John the Baptist parochial high school, which was established during the 1930's. Its present buildings were erected in 1942 and 1968.

By 1930, the growth of St. Anthony's parish convinced Cardinal Glennon that a new church was needed to serve the western portion of that parish. Father George Dreher was appointed as the first pastor of the new parish of the Resurrection of Our Lord. A site at Meramec Street and Hydraulic Avenue was acquired and a multi-purpose building was erected, as was done by other newly created parishes during the depression. After some twenty years, additional parish growth made construction of a new building imperative. The present church, in the contemporary style, was designed by architects Joseph D. Murphy and Eugene Mackey. It has a parabolic floor plan and was dedicated in 1954.

Its construction incorporated work of modern liturgical artists in similar fashion to that of guild artisans used in the erection of medieval cathedrals. Stained glass windows are the work of Robert Frei, the altar mural was done by Robert Harmon, sculpture by Hillis Arnold and the Stations of the Cross were designed by William Schickel of Loveland, Ohio. Landscaping was the work of Emmett Layton. A bapistry of lattice-like limestone is at the center of the church's facade and a tall tower at the apex of the parabola marks the location of the altar and houses four bells from Holland.

The oldest Protestant Episcopal Church in St. Louis is St. John's, now located at 3664 Arsenal Street. It was organized in 1841, and after occupying several downtown locations, it moved into a building at Hickory and Dolman Streets in 1872. This structure was badly damaged by the tornado of May, 1896, but was rebuilt and continued to serve the congregation until 1908. In that year, the present Tudor Gothic stone structure, which almost duplicates the design of its predecessor, was occupied. After its debt was lifted, the church was consecrated by Bishop Frederick F. Johnson on December 27, 1925. Rev. Arthur Brittain, who was the rector of St. John's in 1914, opened a home for older boys at 1900 Louisiana Avenue, in that year. At first called Griswold Hall, it was renamed in honor of its founder after his death in 1918, and was later taken over by the Episcopal home for children. In 1958, an addition was completed adjacent to St. John's Church.

Holy Innocents Episcopal Church occupied a frame church building at the northwest corner of Morganford Road and Tholozan Avenue in 1871. This building had been erected in 1856 and served as a union church for Methodists, Presbyterians and other denominations for fifteen years. Holy Innocents merged with two other parishes in 1939 to become St. Mark's Episcopal Church at 4712 Clifton Avenue. The old church was later occupied by the Morganford Church of Christ, which razed it in 1954 to erect their present building on its site.

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, now at Morganford Road and Chippewa Street, was organized by its first pastor, Rev. August Craemer, in 1865. It worshipped in an Episcopal church until 1868, when it occupied a frame church, seating 150, at its present location. In 1884, a red brick church was dedicated on the 31/2 acre site, at which time the congregation consisted of about 60 families. A separate parochial school building, facing Chippewa Street, was erected in 1905, with an addition in 1927. The present church, designed by Froese, Maack and Becker, was opened in 1949. A new school building, from plans by the same architects, was completed in 1966 at 3716 Morganford Road.

At present, the church has about 1,000 members. Another Evangelical Lutheran church in the area, is Advent, now located at Chippewa Street and Giles Avenue. In 1926, its church was situated at 3721 South Grand Boulevard. St. Paul's German Evangelical Church was organized in 1848 and occupied its first church building, at Ninth Street and Lafayette Avenue in February, 1850. After suffering adversity during the Civil War, the church's prospects improved in 1865, when a new parsonage was built and ground was acquired for a parochial school. A larger church, on the same site, was dedicated in 1874, but was wrecked by the tornado of 1896. After reconstruction of the church and school, the latter was discontinued in 1906. Under the leadership of Rev. Paul Press in 1910, a mission school was opened in a store at 3352 South Grand.

With its success assured, the school occupied a small chapel on the present site of the church at Giles Avenue and Potomac Street. The Church's present educational building was erected in 1923 and the old church was sold to a Slovak Catholic congregation. A new parsonage was completed in 1925, and until dedication of the present church in 1932, services were held in the auditorium of the educational building. All of the buildings in the present church group are built of brick and limestone trim in early English Gothic style. The church's interior has soft-toned walls, a heavily beamed ceiling and features a large carving of the Last Supper by Alois Lang. Another unit of the United Church of Christ in the Oak Hill area is Nazareth Church at Morganford and Tholozan. It was formed in 1903 by a group meeting in a rented cottage at Morganford and Miami Street. It met there until the present church was completed in 1906. By 1913, when Rev. George M. Poth took charge, the church's membership had declined and it was burdened with debt. Inspired by the new pastor, the church met the challenge and later a new addition was required. A more recent addition was completed in 1961.

Trinity United Church of Christ on the southeast corner of South Grand Boulevard and Itaska Street, was originally located at Michigan Avenue and Neosho Street, as early as 1898. It moved to its present building in 1931, and in 1954, a church school addition was completed adjacent to the church. The Evangelical Church of Our Redeemer at 6450 South Kingshighway has occupied its present building since 1927, and has occupied several locations in the vicinity since 1912. An addition was built to the south of the church about 1956. Richard M. Scruggs United Methodist Church at Grace and Fairview Avenues had its beginning as the Grand Avenue M. E. Church at Grand Boulevard and Connecticut Street in 1905. The present name was adopted when the church received money from the Methodist building fund to construct its new building in the late 1920's. These funds came from the sale of the former Scruggs Memorial M. E. Church at Spring and Cook Avenues, with the understanding that the proceeds would be used for the erection of another church with that name. Consequently, when the present church on Fairview Avenue was occupied in 1930, it adopted the Scruggs name.

Christy Memorial United Methodist Church, at Morganford Road and Neosho Street, was originally organized as the Beckville M. E. Church South in 1892. Its first services were held in Voyce's Hall at the southwest corner of Morganford and Chippewa. Later, a frame church was built at Morganford and Oleatha and by 1900, it was known as the Oak Hill M. E. Church. This building was moved in 1911, to the present church site, at which time it was named in honor of Calvin Christy. The present church building was completed in 1914, and in 1939, a gymnasium and classroom addition were erected. During the early 1960's, the parsonage was razed and a three-story educational and office building addition to the church was completed. Since the formation of the United Methodist Church in 1968, Christy Church has been a member of that denomination.

A major renovation of the church's facade and bell tower was made in 1974 at a cost of about $80,000. Oak Hill Presbyterian Church began in a frame church building at the corner of Bent Avenue and Humphrey Street in 1895. This original lot was donated by Mrs. Lucy Bent Russell. On March 17, 1907, the frame church was destroyed in a fire, and in the following summer, the first lot at the present site at Oak Hill Avenue and Connecticut Street was purchased. For some months after the fire, services were held in a lodge hall at Morganford and Connecticut. Later, a tent was raised for summer services on the new lot, but during cold weather, the congregation worshipped in a hall at Morganford and Juniata. The first building to be occupied at the Oak Hill Avenue site was a chapel, which was completed in September, 1911. Dedication of the present church building took place on June 20, 1920, and in the following year the manse was acquired. In October, 1954, a new educational building, joining the church to an adjacent annex, was dedicated. During the summer of 1969, the church sanctuary was renovated at a cost of $55,000. In 1943, Oak Hill Church sponsored the organization of the First Presbyterian Church of Affton as a mission.

One of the earliest Protestant church movements in the Oak Hill area was a mission of the Haven Street Methodist Church of Carondelet, which was said to have been established in the "coal diggin's" soon after the Civil War. Among other Protestant churches in the area is the Christy Park General Baptist Church in a building erected in 1961 at 6220 Gravois Avenue and the First Wesleyan Church at 4011 Tholozan Avenue.


The first Oak Hill School was erected in 1870 on what is now Morganford Road, south of Arsenal Street. It was a two-story structure on an acre of ground and contained four rooms seating 240 students. A few years later, the first Gardenville School was opened in a two-story, three-room building on Gravois Road near Kingshighway. It could accommodate 80 pupils, was located on a 3/4 acre site and was valued at $3,750 in 1881. Oldest of the present brick school buildings in the Oak Hill area is the Horace Mann School at 4047 Juniata Street, which was completed in 1901 from plans by architect William B. Ittner. In 1913, an addition was made to the school, which was named for a prominent American educator.

The year of 1907 saw the opening of three new Ittner-designed public schools in the area, including the Rose Fanning building at 3417 Grace Avenue. It was the namesake of a teacher who taught in the school system for nearly fifty years. The other buildings that were opened in 1907 were the new Oak Hill School at 4318 Morganford Road and the Gardenville School at 6651 Gravois. An addition made to the latter in 1917 was designed by R. M. Milligan. The Richard M. Scruggs School at 4611 South Grand Boulevard, which was completed in 1917, was named for the well-known St. Louis merchant. It was the work of architect R. M. Milligan and had an addition erected in 1927.

The Edward H. Long School at 5028 Morganford Road, also designed by Milligan, was built in 1922, with an addition in 1927. Long was a St. Louis educator for many years.

In 1937, the Dunnica Avenue School was established in some wooden portable buildings at Dunnica and Gustine Avenues. These buildings were damaged by fire in 1961, and were razed in the following year. The school site and playground became Richard H. Amberg Park in 1963.

A Catholic secondary school in the area is St. Mary's High School at 4701 South Grand Boulevard. It was founded as the South Side Catholic High School in September, 1931, in some small wooden buildings on the grounds of St. Joseph's Home for Boys. Upon completion of a new home for the orphanage in 1935, the school moved into that institution's old building. In 1947, the present name was adopted and in 1964, the existing building was completed at a cost of $1,500,000, with a new wing added in 1967. The school, which has an enrollment of 975, has been administered by the Marianist Brothers since 1933.


St. Joseph's Home for Boys, which has been located at 4753 South Grand Boulevard since 1935, previously occupied another building at 4701 South Grand since 1895. At that time, the institution was known as the St. Joseph's Male Orphan Asylum and it had moved out from the downtown area where it was founded in 1846. A neighborhood landmark since 1895, was razed in 1969, to make way for the present Zayre Plaza shopping center. This was the House of the Good Shepherd, a vast red brick structure at Gravois, Gustine and Bamberger Avenues. Its eleven acre site was donated by Adolphus Busch, and proceeds from the sale of the old buildings at 17th and Chestnut Streets, together with a $75,000 legacy from Mrs. Winifred Patterson, enabled the erection of the massive building on Gravois. It was operated as a home and school for penitent females by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Another institution in the area was the Lutheran Convalescent Home at 4359 Taft Avenue, which occupied the former Christy mansion there from 1921 to 1974. An addition was built in 1938. At present, the facility is operated privately as the Avalon Nursing Home. At the southwest corner of South Grand Boulevard and Utah Place is the George C. Carpenter branch of the St. Louis Public Library. It was designed by the architectural firm of Trueblood and Graf and was completed in 1926. Among other semi-public facilities in the Oak Hill area is the Magnolia Masonic Temple at the southeast corner of Grace Avenue and Potomac Street and the Carondelet branch of the Y.W.C.A. at 4510 South Kingshighway. The Concordia Lutheran Cemetery at 4209 Bates Streets was originally founded on the present site of Holy Cross Lutheran Church at Miami Street and Texas Avenue in 1845. It was removed to its present location in 1856.


Housing construction began in the Russell tract in the 1890's and by 1904, it was concentrated along east-west streets south of Arsenal to Utah, and west from Grand to Morganford.

A well developed residential area, known as Beckville, in the vicinity of Morganford and Chippewa, dated back to the late 1870's. The Bevo Mill area began to build up after 1905, when considerable subdivision activity occurred following the extension of the Cherokee streetcar line on Gravois. Areas west of South Grand Boulevard, south of Chippewa Street, began to build up after 1910, with most of the activity in the 1920's.

The section immediately south of Tower Grove Park is mostly a single family neighborhood with a mixture of flats in some areas. Nearer to Gravois, flats are more numerous with some apartments scattered-through the district. South of Meramec and west of Grand, single family dwellings predominate, as is generally the case throughout the balance of the Oak Hill area.


In the same familiar pattern that is attributable to streetcar lines, the principal commercial concentrations in the Oak Hill area follow along the major streets carrying transit routes. Oldest and best established of these is along South Grand Boulevard from Arsenal to Meramec Street. Commercial strips through the area along Gravois and Kingshighway are more intermittent in character than on Grand. Minor commercial groups can be found along Morganford and on Chippewa, with the usual spots of local business at some interior intersections. The area also contains modern shopping centers such as Zayre Plaza, Southtown and Kingshighway and Delor.

Historically, the dominant business centers were located in the vicinity of major transit transfer points such as Grand and Gravois, Gravois and Morganford and Grand and Arsenal. Probably the most important of these was Grand and Gravois, convergence point for the two principal streets in South St. Louis. This intersection attracted commercial attention at an early date. During the late 1860's, this crossing was the location of a blacksmith shop and across the street, on the southwest corner was Henry Eschrich's saloon and grocery store. After the construction of electric trolley car lines on the two streets in the early 1890's, the district began a period of rapid growth. A prime indicator of the importance of the business community at Grand and Gravois was the establishment of a bank, the Farmers and Merchants Trust Company, on the northwest corner in 1907.

Prosperous growth required the bank to build a larger building on the southeast corner in 1914. In the late 1920's, this bank merged with the South Side Trust Company to form the South Side National Bank. South Side Trust dated back to 1891, when it was founded by Adolphus Busch at Broadway and Pestalozzi Street. The present ten-story home of South Side National Bank was opened for business on January 2, 1929. Almost contemporary with the new bank, was the opening of Sears-Roebuck's new store at Grand and Winnebago, spreading the business section southward to Chippewa Street. Another commercial institution there was the Melba Theater and building, opened in 1925. Further north on Grand at Arsenal, a business center grew up around the Tower Grove Bank at Grand and Hartford. This center at one time boasted of the Arsenal and Ritz theaters, dime and variety stores, restaurants and a wide range of commercial activities.

Tower Grove Bank was founded by a group of businessmen in 1911, at the corner of Grand and Juniata. It occupied a building at its present location in 1920 and has since been rebuilt and enlarged several times. This section of South Grand is still well-known for its variety of restaurants.

A neighborhood shopping district of considerable size began to develop around Gravois and Morganford after the opening of Bevo Mill in 1916. It contained the Grant State Bank, the Woodland Theater, dime stores and furniture companies. Its decline can be charged to changes in the public riding habits from transit to automobiles. Like other such areas, it suffered from a lack of parking spaces, while in competition with drive-in shopping centers. Presently its commercial activity is anchored by Bevo Mill and the Granada Theater, a deluxe second-run movie house that opened in 1927. Kingshighway and Chippewa became a business center of importance when Famous-Barr opened their Southtown store in 1951. A similar role was played later by the Venture store in the shopping center at Kingshighway, Christy and Delor.

Industrial & Railroads

Probably the earliest industrial operations in the Oak Hill area were the clay mines in the Christy and Russell tracts. Coal was also mined in the "diggins" south of Tower Grove Park. These remained rather minor in scope until the construction of the Oak Hill and Carondelet branch of the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1886. Three years later a spur track was completed to the Christy properties south of Chippewa Street near Kingshighway. Most subsequent industrial activity in the area was tributary to the railroad, which created a somewhat parallel industrial district along its route. In later years, such large employers as Knapp Monarch and the Brown Shoe Company were among the varied types of industries that were established there. A more recent industrial district developed in the vicinity of Gustine Avenue after the completion of a railroad spur in 1922. The extension of Gustine from gingham to Delor in 1948, led to the construction of warehouses and trucking related industries in that section. The first public transit service to the Oak Hill area was provided by the Tower Grove branch of the Union Depot Railroad Company. This electric trolley line was built westward along Arsenal Street as far as Kingshighway in the early 1890's. By 1904, it was extended westwardly along Arsenal and Old Manchester Road to Tamm Avenue. Another branch of the Union Depot Railroad to serve the area was the Cherokee line which terminated at Grand and Gravois in 1896. After 1900, it was extended further out Gravois to a loop near the City limits. An intermediate loop was located at Gravois and Itaska Street. In 1896, the Market Street branch of the Missouri Street Railroad Company ran southwest along Old Manchester Road (now Vandeventer Avenue) to Tower Grove Avenue and thence southward to Magnolia. In the late nineties, an extension was built to Kingshighway and thence southward to Devonshire Avenue in the Southampton subdivision. At one time, a car line was contemplated on Morganford south from Arsenal, but no transit service was operated there until a bus line of a United Railways subsidiary was established about 1925. This later became a part of the Bates Street bus line. In 1926, the St. Louis Bus Company also operated a line on Delor Street from Morganford to Kingshighway and thence southward to Gravois. Service on South Kingshighway was also provided by a People's Motorbus Company line beginning in 1925. This later became the present Kingshighway bus line. Presently, the Oak Hill area is served by several local and express bus lines of the Bi-State Transit Agency.

Present Conditions

A slow decline in population has occurred in the northern portion of this area, coupled with a slight increase in the number of dwelling units between 1960 and 1970. This pattern tends to show that maturing children are leaving the family dwelling units in this district. Elsewhere in the area, population trends are more stable with only minor decreases apparent in the sections with more recently constructed residential buildings. This situation is also evident in the relative condition of buildings in the area. Generally, older structures show a greater need for repairs, and in the case of commercial uses, a larger proportion are vacant.

Although in a mild state of decline, efforts are underway to beautify and rehabilitate the commercial strip along Grand south of Arsenal Street. A more serious condition exists along Morganford and could induce a negative effect upon the surrounding residential neighborhood. A strong attempt to revive the Bevo Mill shopping area has been instituted by local interests, manifesting itself in the annual Bevo Day festivals and in a new City parking lot at Morganford and Gravois. South of Grand and Gravois, the major change commercially has been the erection of a large supermarket on the old site of St. Anthony's Hospital. It is expected that the shopping center at Gravois and Gustine will have a beneficial effect upon its surroundings. At present its major occupant is K-Mart, which superseded the Zayre Store in 1979. Several other major stores are included there, as well as a branch bank.


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

Community Development Agency - Staff Analysis - May, 1976

City Plan Commission - "Community Development Report" - 1973