Midtown Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
Midtown is located at the geographic center of the city. The boundaries of Midtown are Chouteau Avenue on the south, Jefferson Avenue on the east, Vandeventer Avenue on the west, and Delmar Boulevard and Olive Street via North Compton Avenue on the north. Midtown does not include the Grand Center Arts & Entertainment District, which is part of the Covenant Blu/Grand Center neighborhood (77).
Mill Creek Valley, named for the small stream which once meandered through it, was original within the vast Chouteau Mill Tract, which reached westward to Vandeventer Avenue between the present Laclede and Chouteau Avenues. East of Jefferson Avenue, the northern part of the Midtown area was a portion of the St. Louis Commonfields and west of Jefferson were several large tracts stretching westward to Grand Boulevard. West of Grand and north of Olive Street was the southeastern corner of Grand Prairie Commonfields.
The area until 1850 was largely rural in character with estates such as that of William Stokes, who had a country home at what later became Pine Street and Leffingwell Avenue as early as 1820.
One of the earliest subdivisions was the suburb of Highland, platted by John R. Shepley in 1848. Its boundaries were Eugenia Street, Jefferson, Leffingwell and Laclede Avenues. A large tract owned by Henry Stoddard and others was subdivided in 1851 as Stoddard's Addition, bounded by Jefferson, Laclede, Leffingwell Avenues and Dayton Street. Its lots were sold in the first great auction of real estate in St. Louis with over $700.000 realized from the sales. The sale, conducted by the real estate firm of Hiram W. Leffingwell and Richard Smith Elliott, brought prices ranging from $15 per front foot, at Locust and Beaumont Streets, to $5.74 per foot, at Washington and Garrison. Within eight years property in this addition was selling for from $60 to $100 per front foot. Property owners in Stoddard's Addition were proponents of the "Second Municipality of St. Louis" which was incorporated in 1852 to include the area west of the city limits at 18th Street as far as Grand Avenue. However, it was rather short lived, becoming a part of St. Louis when the city limits were extended west of Grand Avenue in 1855.
Grand Avenue was original projected in 1850 by Leffingwell as a broad street, 150 feet in width, running along a high ridge from north to south St. Louis. A rather short sighted decision by the County Court reduced the width of the street to its present eighty feet, denying the city of a future great thoroughfare.
The elevated location of Stoddard's Addition made it a desirable place to build fashionable mansions of the city's wealthier citizens and by the eve of the Civil War the addition had supplanted Lucas Place as the city's finest residential district. Many of the principal churches relocated there soon after the War. A proposal for a twenty acre park along Theresa Avenue between Market and Chouteau failed in 1860 as it deemed to be too remote.
This soon changed with the construction of horse car lines westward to Grand Avenue in the late 1860's, thus providing convenient access to previously unbuilt areas. By 1875, the area east of Compton Avenue was well occupied by large Lownhouses with intermittent buildings west to Grand. At that time, with the exception of rows of large houses on Lindell and Washington west of Grand, the area out to Vandeventer was mostly rural. The Grand and olive intersection began to assume an urban aspect with row houses and some stores on both streets. Lindell east of Grand was similarly developed then.
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