Carr Square Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
This near Northside neighborhood is bounded by Cass Avenue on the North, Cole Street on the South, North Tucker Boulevard and North 13th Street on the East, and North Jefferson on the West.
Carr Square historically provided housing for successive waves of immigrants to the area. German Protestants first inhabited the area, settling around Carr Square itself. About 1842, a group of Irish immigrants from County Kerry settled to the northeast near 18th Street and O’Fallon, an area that later became known as "Kerry Patch." The Irish immigrants built one-room shacks, claiming the land as squatter’s rights. Fortunately, an empathetic party, the Mullaphy, family owned much of the land and accepted their presence. After 1870, growing numbers of Polish immigrants made their home in "Kerry Patch," supplanting the Irish. By the 1880s, many German Protestants made an outward migration from Carr Square, succeeded in the area by Orthodox Jews. By 1920, the communities north and west of downtown assumed a polyglot character of mixed nationalities, including immigrants from Russia and the Balkan countries.
The depression and World War II brought large numbers of African-American migrants to the central portions of the city. They came in search of a better existence from rural areas of the South. For most, however, their new urban home came with harsh realities. They often lived in decrepit buildings erected before the days of indoor plumbing and central heating, many of which had been "remodeled" by landlords into even smaller units. It was partially in response to such overcrowded and unsanitary housing conditions that public housing emerged.
Carr Square and adjacent Columbus Square became testing grounds of public housing projects for St. Louis and for the country as a whole. The earliest housing project in the neighborhood was Carr Square Village, a low-rise development built in 1942 for poor, largely migrant African Americans. Nonetheless, the area became better known for the leviathan Pruitt-Igoe, begun in 1954. With the urban renewal slum-clearance—by some called "Negro-removal"—of Mill Creek Valley, 35 high-rise towers were built to house the large group of African Americans displaced. Also during this time period, when modern high-rise public housing projects were in vogue, Vaughn Family Apartments was built to the east of Pruitt-Igoe. In contrast to the glut of negative connotations surrounding high-rise housing projects today, it is useful to remember some of the ethos surrounding these projects. By modernizing the conditions of the poorest dwellers, urban planners hoped the lives of people might change. Nevertheless, the lives of people who were moved into Pruitt-Igoe did not change for the better; the condition of the housing project changed for the worst. Pruitt-Igoe was memorialized in history as the ultimate modernist failure with its implosion in 1976.
With the destruction of what had been one of the earliest and largest high-rise housing projects in the country, the movement away from large high-rise public housing began. By the 1980s, the same projects noted for their progressive vision became known for crime, drug wars, and poor conditions. Nevertheless, during this same period of disillusionment, another model for public housing arose. Carr Square Village became one of the first public housing projects to convert from management by the Local Housing Authority to a program of tenant management.