DeBaliviere Place Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
The DeBaliviere Place neighborhood is bounded by Delmar Boulevard on the North, Union Boulevard on the East, Lindell Boulevard on the South, and DeBaliviere Avenue on the West.
The land west of Union Boulevard, south of Delmar, and north of Forest Park was part of a Spanish grant made to Madame Marie Louise Papin in 1776, in answer to her request for a farm on the banks of the River des Peres. By 1875, Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis showed along the west side ofUnion a number of country houses, including the Waterman family home, a large Victorian mansion with a square tower close to Forest Park; and the home of Daniel Bell, whose estate was later developed into Washington Terrace, at the southwest corner of Delmar and Union. A single track railroad line ran along the present MetroLink right-of-way. This route, the Wabash Railroad route (later Norfolk and Western) was originally constructed after the Civil War as the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railroad, which was acquired by the Wabash system in 1879. Its tracks were depressed through the area in the 1930s when the River des Peres was put underground. Lowering of the railroad eliminated grade crossings at Union, DeBaliviere, Laurel, Hamilton, and Delmar.
Most development in DeBaliviere Place occurred as a result of the 1904 World’s Fair. The fair resulted in the urbanization of the area as far west as DeBaliviere, the fair’s main entrance. In the northern part of the neighborhood are the private streets of Kingsbury Place and Washington Terrace. They were platted in the early 1890s for the Bell Place Realty Company by Julius Pitzman and have monumental entrance gates facing Union. The Washington Terrace entranceway, which until the 1970s was the residence of the street’s security guard, was designed in 1894. The white stone classic style gates, the nude bronze statue "Awakening Spring," and a fountain at Kingsbury Place were completed in 1908. Most of the early development in the neighborhood was in the form of large houses in these private places. Construction of the apartment buildings on Pershing, Waterman, and Delmar did not take place until after the Fair. One of the last sections to be built was along the south side of Pershing from Union to DeBaliviere, where most of the apartments were erected between 1915 and 1925.
DeBaliviere itself, sometimes called the "DeBaliviere Strip," between 1920 and 1950 was a major commercial street with chain drug and food stores, the Apollo Theater, the Parkmoor Restaurant, and Garavelli’s Restaurant. After World War II, the DeBaliviere Strip began to decline, becoming a street of cheap bars and night clubs, which exerted a negative influence over the surrounding neighborhood. Generally, neighborhood conditions remained fairly stable until World War II when the housing shortage created a stress on the area’s housing stock. During the 1950s a westward migration of residents from the demolished Mill Creek Valley project area created a considerable increase in population density in the apartment blocks. Overuse of the housing caused deterioration in housing quality, leading to vandalism and demolition of some units.
Beginning in 1977, the Pershing-Waterman Urban Renewal project, initiated by Leon Strauss’s Pantheon Corporation, took control of many properties in the area bounded generally by Delmar Boulevard and the Forest Park Parkway between Belt and Hamilton Avenues. Originally conceived as a primarily rental property development, Pantheon experienced so much interest in its first condominium building, the later phases placed increased emphasis upon the conversion of older apartments into condominium units. Most of this renewal occurred along Waterman and Pershing Avenues. New sidewalks were installed, streets were dead-ended, and amenities such as private swimming pools and tennis courts designed to appeal to upper-middle-class tenants, were created on vacant sites. Most of the existing historic apartment buildings were rehabilitated as upper-middle-income rental apartments and condominiums. The area received the moniker of "DeBaliviere Place," so the multifamily development area could be marketed as a whole.
The development of DeBaliviere Place as an upper-middle-class district was a major effort in maintaining the stability of the western part of the City’s central corridor. It resulted in, however, the displacement of many low-income African-American families and individuals from the area. The gentrification of DeBaliviere Place was decried by many community activists in the late 1970s. Later phases of the redevelopment, particularly along Delmar Boulevard facing the Regional Medical Center (now St. Louis ConnectCare), included affordable housing opportunities, primarily for elderly individuals. The Kingsbury Terrace public housing apartments for the elderly were built in the early 1980s.