St. Louis Hills Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
The St. Louis Hills neighborhood is situated in southwest St. Louis. It is bounded by Chippewa Street to the northwest and north, Hampton Avenue to the east, Gravois Avenue to the southeast, and the city limits to the southwest.
The vicinity in and around St. Louis Hills represents one of the last large expanses to be developed within the City of St. Louis' 1876 boundaries. Although this area was included among the earliest French colonial land claims, it remained largely undeveloped or agricultural for one and one half centuries. It was Cyrus Crane Willmore who provided the impetus for finally launching the area's urbanization. He envisioned a modern (1920s) middle-class and upper middle-class neighborhood with significant commercial and industrial uses within the area bounded by Chippewa, Hampton and the River Des Peres. At the center of this community would be the 60.3 acres of park land (Francis Park) donated to the City of St. Louis by David R. Francis in 1917.
Time and circumstances, in the forms of the Great Depression and World War II among other factors, somewhat altered the content and timing of Willmore's vision. For example, industrial development never occurred and the pace of housing construction was spasmodic. Nevertheless, the bulk of the area filled in with high-quality, all-brick residential development during the 1930s through the 1950s. Care was taken to preserve key sites for schools and churches. Commercial activity was basically limited to the Hampton and Chippewa corridors.
Much of the natural floodplain along the River Des Peres became the 105-acre Willmore Park in 1947, named in honor of Cyrus Crane Willmore as well as in recognition of his 70-acre land donation for creating this handsome facility. The area between the River Des Peres and the City Limits was developed in the 1940s and 1950s as a mixture of single-family and apartment homes. Today, it includes the Parkway Gardens and Villanova areas south of Chippewa.
Since the 1930s, the St. Louis Hills neighborhood has matured into one of the most desirable residential settings in the City of St. Louis. Although large numbers of apartments in small to larger structures were always a part of the mix, substantial owner-occupied single-family homes set the dominant tone from the beginning. The recent trend (1970s onward) of converting apartments to condominiums has strengthened local home ownership. Moreover, individual property owners have been upgrading their homes to keep pace with contemporary tastes.
Demographic hallmarks of this area have included a largely affluent population with a high degree of social stability. The local crime rate is usually among the lowest in St. Louis for residential neighborhoods. Notwithstanding a large proportion of older residents, younger households continue to flock to this historically white area. The population, however, has become somewhat more diverse in recent years. Bosnian immigrants, in small but growing numbers, are among the most recent arrivals.