Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
Forest Park Southeast is located southeast of Forest Park, and just south of the Central West End. The boundaries are Interstate 64/U.S. Highway 40 on the north, Interstate 44 on the south, South Vandeventer Avenue on the east and southeast, and South Kingshighway Boulevard on the west.
Before 1989, the Forest Park Southeast (FPSE) neighborhood had been known by various names over the years. Originally, the area was known as Rock Spring, named for the large spring that was the principal source of the Mill Creek. Rock Spring drew a large crowd from the central city and became a resort where they could get away from the urban grind. The demographics of the area changed drastically, though, with the arrival of the Pacific Railway and the influx of industry that followed. As a result, the area took on the names of the subdivisions that developed to house the great number of those arriving to work in the factories. The subdivisions surfaced in the following order: Laclede Race Course, McRee Place, and Gibson Heights. The Forest Park Southeast area officially became part of St. Louis city in 1876. The area’s growth was due initially to its railroad access and eventually to its streetcar service.
In the last half century there has been much ambivalence on the part of city planners toward the condition of the neighborhood. In 1953, the neighborhood was identified as a "reconstruction" area and almost fell victim to the widespread demolition of urban renewal that was so popular in the fifties. Then in 1961, the city hoped to convert the area to an industrial park. In 1973, the neighborhood began to be identified for "neighborhood improvement" through code enforcement, and other means. Little was produced as a result of the plan and the neighborhood appeared to be put on the back burner again. In 1974, however, Joe Roddy was instrumental in persuading the Washington Redevelopment Corporation to include the section of Forest Park Southeast that lies west of South Taylor, north of Oakland Avenue, and east of Kingshighway in its revitalization plan. Having accomplished this plan, it wasn’t until the Washington University Community Revitalization Program started operating in Forest Park Southeast in 1995, though, that the Redevelopment Corporation concentrated much effort in the neighborhood.
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