Tiffany Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
The Tiffany neighborhood is located on the western side of Grand Avenue along the section containing St. Louis University’s Medical Complex. The neighborhood is defined by Chouteau Avenue on the North, Interstate 44 on the South, Grand Boulevard on the East and 39th Street on the West.
The Tiffany neighborhood as well as present-day Shaw and McRee Town neighborhoods were originally part of the common fields laid out by the French west of Grand Avenue. These included the Cul de Sac Common and the St. Louis Common to the North and the Prairie des Noyers, laid out in 1769, to the South. During this early period, Grand lay far beyond the edge of the settlement of St. Louis. Settlers cultivated various crops in the outlying fields and constructed huts for overnight stays.
After the Louisiana Purchase, confirmation of ownership by various French families was secured from the American Government. With time, many in turn sold their tracts to land speculators. By the 1860s, much of the northern area, including what is now the Tiffany neighborhood, had become the property of Mrs. Mary McRee. The Compton and Dry’s pictorial atlas of 1875 offer several birds-eye views of the area. Except for a few houses on the perimeter streets, most of the land is made up of meadows and cornfields. Some industry had begun to develop towards the railroads to the north and in McRee City (now Forest Park Southwest), but for the most part the area remained undeveloped.
This began to change in 1888 when Mary McRee sold her land to a developer. Dundee Place was platted a year later, covering the area between McRee and Park Avenues, westward from Grand to Old Manchester Road (now Vandeventer). With the completion of the Grand Avenue Viaduct in 1890 and electrified streetcar lines by the turn of the century, the area was transformed into a middle-class commuter suburb. The neighborhood takes its name for one of these streetcar lines. The Tiffany line connected transit offices and shops at 39th Street, then called Tiffany Street, and Park with Chouteau Avenue.
During the same period, the beginnings of the present day medical complex emerged. The Josephine Heikamp Hospital opened in 1900 at Grand Boulevard and Henrietta Street. The same year, Bethesda General, that had begun as a refuge for abandoned children, was donated a hospital site at Grand and Vista Avenue. In 1903, St. Louis University re-established its medical department when it acquired the merged Marion-Sims-Beaumont Hospital medical college. The medical school was augmented by two hospitals: the Firmin Desloge, opened in 1933 and Cardinal Glennon Hospital for Children, opened by the Sisters of St. Mary in 1954.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s, many of these institutions expanded their facilities, representing a demonstration of faith put in the medical center and its urban location when others chose to move to the county. The middle-class residential areas began to change radically in the mid-1960’s, within a few years of the construction of Interstate 44. The highway cut off the neighborhood from residential areas to the south, what is now the Shaw neighborhood. Tiffany, like many city neighborhoods during that time, experienced a general level of urban decay and middle-class flight to the suburbs.
In response the deterioration of residential areas, several of the medical institutions formed the Midtown Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation (MMCRC) in 1976. Through the redevelopment efforts of MMCRC, the Tiffany neighborhood was transformed. Newly painted and renovated homes surrounded a new community park and landscaped areas. With the changes in the tax laws in 1987, reinvestment stopped. By the late eighties, many apartments were vacant and landscaping had deteriorated. A number of apartments that had been designated for market rate by the original development plan were rented to government low-income tenants. These issues brought together members of the Tiffany Community Association to form a long rang plan in the early nineties. As a result of actions taken, the neighborhood has stabilized considerably and reinvestment once again begun.