McKinley Heights Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
McKinley Heights’ boundaries are defined as Gravois on the South, Jefferson on the West, and I-44 on the North.
McKinley Heights was originally platted beginning in the early 1850s, having previously been a portion of the Petit Prarie Common Field. By 1875, the area consisted mainly of small- to medium-sized single-family dwellings. These closely resemble those found in Soulard. Rowhouses are not nearly as common. Architectural styles used in the construction of these buildings include Second Empire Victorian townhouses, built between 1865 and 1885, and Italianate, built during the late 1880s. Homes built after 1890 generally are of Germanic influence.
The major transportation thoroughfare was Jefferson Avenue to the west, and present-day Broadway to the south of the neighborhood. In the early portion of McKinley Heights' existence, commercial development was slow to arrive. Street corner stores began to arrive around 1875. Eventually, commercial strips began to develop on the major transportation lines, including Jefferson and Gravois. The earliest form of transportation was provided by the Gravois Railway Company, which ran from downtown along Russell, Twelfth, Sidney, and Jefferson, to Gravois.
The Russian Church of St. Michael Orthodox Church was erected in 1927 at the corner of Ann and Gravois. St. Marcus U.C.C. was erected in 1914, at the intersection of Russell and McNair. Holy Trinity Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church is located at Geyer and McNair. Some of the most magnificent schools in the area were built around the turn of the century in McKinley Heights. The Charless School, which was the first school in the area, was built in 1895 by the architect A. H. Krishna but has since been demolished. Other older schools in the area are the McKinley Classical Junior Academy and the Sigel School.
The construction of I-55 and I-44 had a serious effect on the neighborhood. Essentially, the community became isolated and disconnected from its adjacent neighborhoods. The area experienced a decrease in population and an increase in economic problems. Many of the buildings slowly began to deteriorate. Today there are extensive efforts to redevelop and improve some of these historic buildings.
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