The Hill Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
The Hill neighborhood is generally defined by Manchester on the north, Southwest Avenue and Columbia to the south, Kingshighway on the east, and Hampton on the west.
In pre-Civil War years, immigrants of German and Irish origin flocked to the Hill to mine the clay deposits so prevalent in the area. African Americans eventually joined the ranks of the Hill community. After the Evens and Howard Fire Brick Company and clay mines opened in 1854-55, more than a dozen brick and tile factories sprang up along the banks of the River Des Peres to support the new industry. Between the 1880s and 1924, Italian immigrants laid claim to the Hill by outnumbering the other groups. In the days when the Hill was nothing but a mining camp, most of the Italians were men who lived in boarding houses. Eventually they arranged for their families to join them and the area grew into an Italian immigrant neighborhood. The neighborhood became self-supporting with opportunities for work, shopping, socializing, church, and school-all within the neighborhood.
Some of the traditional Italian community icons have faded over the years in the neighborhood. For example, the once popular "Big Club," a social club where Italian men would play cards and bocce (similar to lawn bowling) and drink beer fought the evolution of the neighborhood by first becoming a neighborhood-wide community center. Eventually, though, the club didn't even survive its new role. Having bought the building at the southwest corner of Shaw and Marconi in 1929, the members sold it in 1994 to a photographer, who now uses it as a studio.
With some loss of traditions within the community comes some gain in investment from outside the community. For example, in 1987 an architect/artist from outside the neighborhood bought the old Columbia Show site, then gutted and renovated it for a living quarters and studio.
One of the most traumatic times for the neighborhood came in the early 1970s with the decision to pave Interstate 44 right through the Hill. The building of the highway eventually forced the destruction of 98 of the Hill's homes and the isolation of 450 residents from the heart of the neighborhood. The only real concession the Hill received in exchange for this great sacrifice was an overpass connecting the two sides of the neighborhood.