Locale and Topography
The Oakland Area comprises the district to the south or Forest Park from Kingshighway west to the city limits with Interstate Highway 44 as its southern boundary.
Its principal topographic feature is the valley of the River des Peres, which emerges from the park a short distance west of Kingshighway and then crosses the eastern part of the Oakland area to a point south of Manchester Avenue. At that point it assumes a southwesterly direction, generally parallel to the Frisco Railway and finally crosses the railroad and Highway 44 near the western city limits. Land on both sides of the valley naturally slopes toward the old river bed, and north of Manchester Avenue the ground rises both to the north and west, culminating in some of the city's highest elevations, near Oakland and McCausland Avenues. This vicinity is appropriately named Hi-Pointe.
Originally this area was a part of the Gratiot League Square, so called because it was intended to be three miles square, although it was later slightly shortened on its western side. Its northern limit was a line bisecting Forest Park, on the south it reached to the present Bancroft Avenue and in an east-west direction it extended from Kingshighway to Big Bend Road. Charles Gratiot was a French immigrant who settled in Cahokia in 1777 and moved to St. Louis in 1781. In that year he married Victoire Chouteau, a sister of Auguste Chouteau, one of the founders of St. Louis. He applied to the Spanish Lieutenant-Governer Cruzat in 1785 for a large land grant to the west of the Prairie des Noyers Common field. After a survey by Antoine Soulard in 1796, its area was found to be 5,716 acres.
Gratiot's claim to it was approved by the territorial government at New Orleans in 1798, after which he built a log house on the property and cultivated a farm. After the transfer of the Louisiana Territory to the United States, Gratiot's grant was confirmed by the Board of Land Commissioners in 1808 as U. S. Survey 2037. In later years, Gratiot became a judge and was chairman of the board of trustees for the town of St. Louis, as well as organizer of the Bank of Missouri.
Following his death in 1817, the Gratiot League Square was divided among his heirs, into a series of east-west strips each about 1,000 feet in width. By 1850, the principal landholders in that part of the League Square which now comprises the Oakland area were Peter Lindell, Paul M. Gratiot, Pierre Chouteau, Jr., David W. Graham, Solomon B. Sublette and the Berthold Estate.
Construction of the Pacific Railroad, now the Missouri Pacific, through the area in the early 1850's led to the opening of several subdivisions. Among the earliest of these were the subdivision of D. W. Graham's Sulphur Spring Tract in 1851 and Gratiot Place by Pierre Chouteau, Jr. in 1852. In the next year Cheltenham and Cheltenham Place were platted in the eastern portion of the Sulphur Spring Tract near Sublette Avenue. In 1857, Mount St. Louis was developed south of the New Manchester Road and east of Sublette Avenue. Farther to the west, Ringrose D. Watson subdivided his Glades Tract in 1852. It reached from Tamm Road west to McCausland between the present Dale and Mitchell Avenues.
In 1859, James McCausland opened a tract west of the Glades, running west to the western line of Gratiot League Square. Later, other tracts opened for development included those of James V. Prather, B. F. Buchanan and James C. Sutton.
By the 1890's, most of the subdivision activity was situated west of Hampton and along Manchester out to the city limits. This was obviously influenced by the presence of the railroad and the electric street car line on Manchester Avenue. There was a considerable development on both sides of Tamm Avenue south of Clayton Road, beginning in 1885 with Berthold's Subdivision and followed by several additions by the Shield's Realty Company in 1887-90. Blue's Subdivision in 1888 and Carlisle in 1890 were also platted in this vicinity.
Farther west and north of Manchester, several subdivisions were developed in the old Prather Tract, starting with Kleinschmidt's subdivision in 1884 and Samuel's in the next year. West of McCausland Avenue, Blendon Place was opened in 1885 and south of Manchester, along the city limits, Ellendale was developed in 1884, followed by Greenwood in 1891. However, most of the latter subdivision was in Maplewood.
After the World's Fair of 1904, more buildup occurred south of Oakland Avenue and east of McCausland. First to be developed was Victoria Place in 1906, followed by Oakland Terrace in 1907, Forest Park Home Place in 1908, Justin Place in 1910, and Dillenberger Place in 1911.
Following World War I, the Kraft Street Addition was platted in 1919. Activity during this period was also noticeable in the Benton and Glades areas where McDermott's Addition to Benton was opened in 1905, followed by Brockschmitt's Subdivision in 1911 and Winkle's in 1914. In 1916 Dale Avenue Heights and Wismann's Addition were developed. Not much subdivision platting occurred in the area during the 1920's and 1930's, the largest one in this period being Tamm Avenue Heights in 1927 and Parkhurst in 1937. After World War II, Louisville Heights was opened at West Park and Louisville Avenues and in 1953, Mitchell Terrace, the most recent to be developed, was opened.
In contrast to most of the outlying sections of St. Louis during the 1870's, the Oakland area was rather well built-up at that time. From Kingshighway westward to about the present location of Macklind Avenue, it was rural in character, with farms and fenced meadow land. There was no street along the south side of Forest Park where Oakland Avenue is today.
Clayton Road angled across the park and the western part of the Oakland area to continue its westward course into the county. Urbanization of the midsection of the area, from Macklind to beyond Tamm Avenue was due to access by the Pacific Railroad and New Manchester Road. A sufficient amount of buildup had taken place so that a Catholic church and a public school were established. In addition to a collection of smaller dwellings, several larger houses were located in the vicinity. Among them were the mansions of Henry H. and Doctor Charles B. Gratiot, as well as those of Eliza Billon and George A. Davis.
Cheltenham Station on the railroad was situated at Billon (now Hampton) Avenue, near some sulphur springs, with two hotels across from it on Manchester Road. To the south of the railroad was an industrial area of fire clay and brick works and the plant of the St. Louis Smelting and Refining Company. There were a small number of houses constructed by this time in the Benton-Glades district, near the present Dale and Plateau Avenues, and a Benton Station was located on the Pacific Railroad at Prather Avenue.
As in other neighborhoods, the names of many streets in the Oakland area derive from families of early landholders. Some of these which survive on present day streets are January, Dalton, Devlin, Wise, Tamm, Kraft, Berthold, Prather and McCausland. Ones which have fallen by the wayside include Cooper, Woods, Billon, and Davis.
In the 1830's, the Sublette brothers, William and Solomon, each purchased a large tract of land with profits from their successful fur trade ventures. These tracts were in the eastern part of Gratiot League Square along Kingshighway, south of Manchester. William, the elder, married Frances Hereford and upon his death in 1845 he willed his fortune to his wife providing she did not change her name. So as to protect her interest, she subsequently married her brotherin-law, Solomon. After her death in 1857, the tracts were subdivided and one was platted as Fairmont in 1868. Streets hearing their family names now run through the area.
A name which formerly applied to West Park Avenue and to portions of Sublette and Sulphur Avenues, was Cheltenham. This name was once given to an area also known as the Sulphur Spring Tract and to a local station on the Pacific Railroad. It originated as the title of the country estate of William Wible and was taken from a well-known spa in Gloucestershire, England. Cheltenham later survived in the name of a clay products company along Manchester Avenue, but is not presently used in that vicinity.
Sulphur Avenue takes its name from a sulphur spring near the River des Peres, located on David W. Graham's large tract of the same name. Manchester Avenue was originally called Fox Creek Road, but was later given its present name because it was the route to the town of Manchester. Clayton Road, was so-named because it ran out to the country estate of Ralph Clayton, later to become the county seat. Oakland:Avenue received its name from the many oak trees in adjacent Forest Park. Macklind Avenue is named for a surveyor and engineer who laid out subdivisions in the area, as was a street named Cozens, which is now a portion of January Avenue. Hampton Avenue was originally the western most street in the Southampton Subdivision and when the street was extended in the 1920's, that same name was continued on portions of Billon and Sulphur Avenues to create a continuous street.
Many street names are attributable to the subdivisions in which they were situated. Examples of these in the Oakland area includes Glades, Victoria, Dillenberger, Ellendale, Forest and Blendon. It is interesting to note some of the former names of present day streets such as Dale Avenue, which was Valley Road, Mitchell Avenue was Hill Road, Graham Street was Center Road, a part of Wise Avenue was Plateau and Barron Avenue was Gratiot Road. Finally and obviously, League Avenue perpetuates the memory of the Gratiot League Square.
The northern section of the Oakland area is served recreationally by being adjacent to Forest Park. Two smaller parks are located in the central and southern portions of the area. Franz Memorial Square at Mitchell and Prather Avenues was deeded to the city as a gift by E. D. Franz in 1915. It covers an area of nearly five acres. Farther to the south is the park at Ellendale Avenue and Arsenal Street, known as the Ellendale-Arsenal Park. It is nine acres in area and was acquired by the city in 1926 in conjunction with the Arsenal Street viaduct project.
The parish of St. James the Greater was organized in was then known as Cheltenham in 1861. It was founded as mission of St. Malachy's Church by Rev. John O'Sullivan, pastor of that church. A wooden church building and bell tower were built soon thereafter and a parochial school was established but was discontinued by 1870. It was revived during the pastorale of Rev. Henry Kelly (1870-78).
The present church at Tamm and Nashville Avenues was designed in the Gothic style by O'Meara and Hills and was dedicated in 1928. Its construction exhibits a similarity to the handiwork of medieval artisans as found in its eleventh century prototypes. Particularly notable are its hand-carved chestnut woodwork and wrought iron work in the interior, where tapestries and stained glass windows add accents of color to the sanctuary. A new parochial school building, at 1360 Tamm Avenue was dedicated by Archbishop Ritter in 1951. An annex was added to it in 1960, followed by a gymnasium in 1963.
Immanuel Methodist Church was founded in 1885 at the home of a member at Mitchell and McCausland Avenues, and later met in a Masonic lodge hall at Forest and Bruno. About 1897, a wooden church was erected on the present site at 2105 McCausland, and the existing brick church building was completed in 1927. An addition was constructed at the rear of the church in 1954,
Maplewood Congregational Church was originally located in that suburb and occupied its present home at 1517 McCausland Avenue during the 1930's. An educational building was added to the church in 1960. The church was built in 1927 for the McCausland Avenue Presbyterian Church, which closed during the depression. It was first situated at Garner and McCausland in Benton about 1900, before moving to its last location in 1927.
St. Augustine's Episcopal Church at Bruno Avenue and Blendon Place was erected in 1902 and its adjoining stone church hall was completed in 1920. An educational annex building behind the church hall was built in 1959. The Maplewood Bible Chapel at 7138 Southwest Avenue was constructed in 1932.
In 1889, a group of Lutherans in Benton Station organized a mission, and held their services in a Masonic lodge hall at Forest and Bruno Avenues, beginning in September, 1891. They continued to meet there until 1897, when they erected a building at 7277 Southwest Avenue in Maplewood. The name of Concordia Lutheran Church was adopted and in 1914 a new building was built at the present location, at 7291 Sarah Avenue in Maplewood. The present church structure there was dedicated in 1954.
Memorial Congregational Church of St. Louis was founded in Cheltenham in 1882 and by 1904 it occupied a building at Sulphur Avenue and Way Street. The church's present edifice at 6234 Victoria Avenue was completed in 1911. Maplewood Christian Church was organized in 1896 in Ellendale, a part of the City of St. Louis. In the next year it erected a building on Hewitt Avenue near Lanham, in the city, as the Ellendale Christian Church. In 1903 the church moved to a frame building on its present site at 2640 Oakview Terrace in Maplewood. At that time, it was incorporated as the Christian Church of Maplewood. In 1953, the frame church burned and was replaced by the existing structure. which was dedicated in 1958.
Earliest of the public schools in the Oakland Area was the Cheltenham School erected in 1868. At that time it was in St. Louis County and was located near what is now Graham Street and West Park Avenue. Typical of the rural schools of its time, it was a one-story frame building of two rooms, with seats for 110 pupils. By 1875, it was known as District School No. 3. As the area west of Cheltenham was built up, a school was opened in 1870 on Manchester Road near the Benton station on the railroad. It was similar in appearance to the Cheltenham school building, although its two rooms could accommodate 90 students.
In 1882, after its district became a part of the city school system, the Cheltenham School was replaced by the Charles Gratiot School at what is now 1615 Hampton Avenue. This was a two-story brick structure, which was enlarged by two wings in 1899 and 1919. Gratiot, 1752-1817, was the first presiding judge of the town of St. Louis and the owner of the Gratiot League Square.
With the development of subdivisions near the Hi-Pointe area, the need for a public school was met by the completion of the George Dewey School at 6746 Clayton Avenue in 1917. It was named for the Spanish-American War admiral and was one of the first St. Louis school buildings designed by architect R. M. Milligan.
Two other schools in the Oakland area were also designed by Milligan; these were the John J. Roe and Melville Wilkinson Schools. Roe School, at 1921 Prather Avenue, was named for a wellknown St. Louis steamboat captain and was finished in 1922, with an addition in 1927. The Wilkinson School at 7212 Arsenal Street was opened in 1927, as the namesake of a St. Louis merchant.
The only secondary public school in the area is the John O'Fallon Technical High School at 5101 Northrup Avenue. It was opened in 1955 as a successor to the Hadley Technical School, from plans by architect F. Ray Leimkuehler. An annex was added to the school in 1970. O'Fallon, who lived from 1791 to 1885, was a prominent St. Louis philanthropist"
On the site of old Forest Park Highlands at 5600 Oakland Avenue, is the Forest Park Community Junior College, which was completed in 1966. Two years later additional class rooms, a cafeteria and a gymnasium were added to the college.
To the west of the Junior College, near where the Arena stands today, was the campus of the Forest Park University from 1891 to 1927. It was begun in 1861 as the Kirkwood Seminary by Anna Sneed Cairns and was the first university in the United States to be chartered solely for women.
Down the street, at 4970 Oakland, is the St. Louis University High School, a Roman Catholic institution that was completed in 1924. This school can trace its history, as the high school department of St. Louis University, back to 1818 when the University was founded as the St. Louis Academy. It remained as an integral part of the University and held classes in the University buildings on Grand Avenue, until its move to the present building in 1924.
By that time, several other high schools and academies had been combined with the St. Louis University High School. The high school's new building was a gift from Mrs. Anna F. Backer, as a memorial to her late husband, George H. Backer. Its cornerstone was laid by Archbishop John J. Glennon on April 15, 1923 and it opened for classes in September of the next year.
The school's new location had been the site of the University's old stadium and athletic field. A later stadium, erected as a memorial to Edward A. Walsh, was completed to the west of the high school in 1930. During the early 1950's Walsh Stadium was razed and its site is now occupied by commercial structures.
St. Louis University High School sustained $150,000 damage in the tornado of September 29, 1927, fortunately without any loss of life. A new wing, containing the chapel and rectory, was completed in 1948, the new gymnasium was opened in 1956 and the latest addition to the high school was finished in 1973. A plan for the enlargement of its grounds is projected.
Deaconess Hospital at 6150 Oakland Avenue was founded in 1889 by the Evangelical Deaconess Society of the Evangelical Church, now the United Church of Christ. Its first location was in a large house on Eugenia Street near Union Station. In the early 1890's, a move was made to a former school building on West Belle Place west of Sarah Street, where the hospital had a capacity of 90 beds.
Continued expansion eventually caused the hospital to seek a new site. The present location was acquired in 1928 and the new hospital building was opened in 1930, with a capacity of 225 beds. A new nurse's home was completed in 1941, with an annex added in 1946. A chapel and a new wing on the Clayton Avenue side of hospital were added in 1954, the cafeteria and gift shop in 1966 and new additions to the rear of the original building in 1968. Deaconess Hospital now has a bed capacity of 505 and is about to embark upon a multi-million dollar building campaign, following a decision to remain at its present location in the City.
To the west of Deaconess Hospital is the Forest Park Manor Nursing Home at 6220 Oakland Avenue, which was constructed in 1964.
A historic St. Louis institution in a new setting is the Merchants Exchange, whose new building at 5100 Oakland was completed in 1957. This was the first grain exchange in the United States and was founded in 1836. Its first building was located on Main Street near the riverfront. In 1875, the Exchange moved into its well-remembered structure on Third Street between Pine and Chestnut. This classical building was designed by Lee and Annan and contained a block long trading hall, where civic events such as national political conventions and Veiled Prophet balls were held. It was razed following the Exchange's move to its present building.
At 1210 Macklind Avenue, is the Humane Society of Missouri which was founded in 1870 and occupied quarters on Carr Street Since 1928, the Society has been at its present location, where its existing building was erected in 1958, with an addition in 1965. In the 6600 block of Oakland Avenue was the former site of the Jewish Children's Home, which was occupied by that institution from 1929 to 1961.
Soon after the subdivision of Cheltenham in the late 1850's, that area began to develop and by the time of the World's Fair, the area from Hampton to Kraft, south of Clayton Avenue was well built up. Another well-settled residential area then was between Prather and Blendon, north of Manchester Avenue.
At the present time, there is not much residential development east of Hampton. One area is concentrated in the blocks west of Kingshighway south of Berthold, another area, largely single family in character exists, east of Hampton from Wise to Dale, while east of Pierce the single family dwellings are mixed with flats and some industrial land uses.
The area west of Hampton to the city limits is primarily single family in character, with a mixture of flats and apartments along Clayton Avenue west of Tamm.
A subdivision of two family flats, built in the 1940's is located in the vicinity of West Park and Louisville Avenues. Some flats and apartments are evident along McCausland Avenue and multiple family uses are rather heavy in the area north of Manchester from Kraft to beyond McCausland. A single family district is located west of Ellendale Avenue from Southwest Avenue to the River des Peres.
Commercial usage was rather meager in the Oakland area during the nineteenth century. By 1875, the only such uses were two small hotels on Manchester Road across from the Cheltenham station of the Pacific Railroad. Probably the first large scale commercial activity was the Forest Park Highlands, which began as a beer garden and amusement park in 1896. Its location on Oakland Avenue, east of the south side of the World's Fair grounds gave the Highlands a tremendous boost in business in 1904.
For many years after the fair, the amusement park's bandstand was a huge Japanese gate structure from the World's Fair's Pike. Known as the "Big Place on the Hill", the Highlands was the City's largest amusement park and the scene of countless school picnics and pleasure jaunts. It boasted of two roller coasters, the "Mountain Ride" and the "Racer Dip," a merry-go-round, all sorts of rides, shooting galleries, swimming pool, dance ball room, a fun house, and a large picnic gourds. In its later years, the Forest Park Highlands suffered from a decline in business and met a tragic end when it was destroyed by fire in 1963. Its site is now occupied by the Junior College.
To the west of the Highlands was another center of civic enterprise, the Arena. It was built in 1929 at a cost of two million dollars, for the National Dairy Show, by a company headed by Ben G. Brinkman and sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. With the onset of the depression, the Arena fell upon sad days and was placed in receivership in 1933.
The 17,000 seat structure with its side exhibition buildings, was offered for sale for $150,000 in 1936, but found no takers. After a varied career of trade expositions and sporting events for more than thirty years, the Arena was purchased by Sidney Solomon, Jr. in 1967 for $4,000,000. After acquiring the St. Louis hockey franchise and spending $1,500,000 for improvements to the Arena, it became the home of the Blues. One of its twin towers fell victim to the tornado of February, 1959, which also leveled the KTVI broadcasting tower. Its name has been changed to "The Checkerdome" after its acquisition by Ralston-Purina.
A row of commercial structures, including the Falstaff offices and the Quality Courts Motel, developed along Oakland Avenue, facing Forest Park, beginning in the late 1950's. At aboutthe same time, Hampton Avenue between Oakland and Manchester, became a commercial center. A strip of commercia uses is located on the north side of Manchester, west from Hampton to Maplewood. Other pockets of commercial uses are at Clayton and Tamm Avenues and in Hi-Pointe in the vicinity of Cheshire Inn. A small commercial area is located north OI Manchester on Kingshighway. A large hardware store and a supermarket have occupied the former Ontario Store building on Manchester near Hampton
Industrial activity in the area began with the construction of the Pacific Railroad in the middle 1850's. Excellent clay deposits in the vicinity brought the establishment of several fire-brick works before 1875. At that time, the larger plants were those of James Green's Laclede Works at about the present Wilson and Sulphur Avenues and Evens and Howard's Cheltenham Fire Brick Works on Manchester east of Macklind. A neighbor of the latter firm was the St. Louis Smelting and Refining Company, while across Manchester, near Sublette, was S. Mitchell's brick works, which dated from 1857. Coal was also discovered in the area in the late 1850's, supplementing the clay sources, which dated from twenty years before that.
At present, industrial and warehousing uses cover at least half of the Oakland area. The principal industrial sector runs west from Kingshighway along the nearly parallel tracks of the Missouri Pacific and Frisco Railways. Another broad area of industrial and warehousing exists north of Manchester from Kingshighway to Hampton.
Some establishments of long-standing in the area include the W. S. Dickey Clay Manufacturing Company, a survival of the Cheltenham brick works, the National Lead Company, Hydraulic Press Brick Company and Scullin Steel Company, a section of which was used as the Gateway Ammunition plant in World War II. The Highland Industrial Park and the Knox Industrial Drive along the River des Peres were developed in the 1960's.
Railroads and Population
The Pacific Railroad, a forerunner of the Missouri Pacific System, was organized in St. Louis on January 31, 1850 by Thomas Allen, James H. Lucas and others. Its tracks were completed for the five miles to Cheltenham by December 9, 1852, but the line did not reach Kansas City until after the Civil War. The Frisco Railway tracks were built through the Oakland area in the 1880's. Local public transit reached the area through extensions of existing electric trolley lines in the 1890's. The Chouteau Avenue line of the Lindell Railway Company was extended west to Forest Park in 1895 and thence westward along the southern edge of Forest Park a year later. This extension was responsible for the opening of the Forest Park Highlands and West End Heights amusement parks. This line was later called the Market Street car line and is now the Forest Park bus line.
The opening of the Pacific Railroad brought many Irish immigrants to the Cheltenham area, resulting in the establishment of St. James parish in 1860. Through the years this Irish settlement acquired the nickname of "Dogtown", a title which has survived through adoption by athletic clubs. In later years, the ethnic characteristics of the Oakland area have changed through immigration of people of varied national origins. The population base remains relatively stable as the residential portions of the area have not deteriorated to any great extent and the housing inventory remains fairly constant.
Compton and Dry, "Pictorial History of St. Louis", 1875
Scharf, J. Thomas, "History of St. Louis City and County", 1883
Stevens, Walter B., "St. Louis, the Fourth City", 1909
Hyde and Conard, "Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis,"
Bowdern, William S., S. J., "Sesquicentennial of St. Louis High School", 1968
Social Science Institute, Washington University, "The Hill"
McGill, Cune, "The St. Louis Story", 1952
City Plan Commission, "Community Development Report", 1973
Community Development Agency, "Staff Analysis", 1976