Tower Grove South Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
At the heart of South St. Louis, Tower Grove South is bound by Arsenal to the North, South Grand to the East, Chippewa to the South, and South Kingshighway to the West.
Over the years, Tower Grove South has grown from a prairie to a rich agricultural area to an active business and residential neighborhood. During the nineteenth century, the land in the Tower Grove South area was called Prairie des Noyers. It was a rich agricultural area, divided into long strips called "common fields" and sold to anyone interested in farming the land. The Russell family acquired a significant portion of these common fields to build their family estate, Oak Hill.
Shortly after the Russell family built their estate, they discovered coal in the fields. The Russells realized the economic potential of coal mining as the nearby population of St. Louis City grew. The Parker-Russell Mining Company was formed and employed people in the community as miners.
In 1849, a cholera epidemic decimated the community, effectively closing the mines. Simultaneously the Parker-Russell Mining Company realized that the coal supply was dwindling and they needed to find another way to sustain their business. Oak Hill Fire Brick and Tile Works near the present day Utah Street, made a shift from mining coal to quarrying fire clay. This fire clay was the main component of the bricks that were being made in the area. The brick manufacturing industry in St. Louis helped attract new residents and businesses to the area.
In 1850 there was a significant influx of Germans into the neighborhood and they were quickly being employed as truck drivers and merchants. Churches, schools and other structures were built, turning the formerly agricultural area into a healthy small suburb of the city. In 1876 the city limits of St. Louis were expanded to include Tower Grove South.
Between Grand and Gustine were several landowners, including the McDonalds and the Tholozans. The McDonalds were first to sell out to a major subdivision-Tower Grove Heights. Following the opening of the Grand viaduct and dedication of Tower Grove Park, this area saw rapid real estate speculation.
As the homes were being built, the area was also attracting businesses. In the 1920's, South Grand began to have banks, businesses, bakeries, drug stores and movie theaters. After a serious slump in the 1970s, the South Grand Business District became a destination for new Vietnamese immigrants who moved to the area, and opened new restaurants and shops. The past two decades have seen the additions of coffee houses, specialty shops, beauty boutiques and antique stores to this unique mix.
Today Tower Grove South Neighborhood and its business districts along South Grand and Morgan Ford are diverse, evolving, and thriving.
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