Walnut Park West Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
The Walnut Park West neighborhood is situated in northwest St. Louis. It is bounded by West Florissant Avenue to the northeast, Riverview Boulevard to the southeast, Interstate Highway 70 (I-70) to the south, and the City limits (St. Louis County and the City of Jennings) to the west and northwest.
Walnut Park West is the third of three neighborhoods that are north of outbound I-70 from West Florissant to the City of St. Louis/St. Louis County line. From the beginning, its development and welfare have been closely linked to its neighbor, Walnut Park East, and to the Mark Twain neighborhood farther southeast. Its future is intertwined with these communities as well.
Nevertheless, there is a somewhat different look and feel to Walnut Park West than its related neighborhoods. Part of this difference is attributable to the timing of its development. Being farther out and on the fringe of St. Louis, it had to wait longer for transit, utility, and municipal services to support its development. Whereas huge swaths of the areas to the southeast were constructed between 1900 and 1920, most of Walnut Park West was built after World War I, although platting had begun a decade or so earlier. In a sense, Walnut Park West developed as a "suburb" of its older neighbors.
This suburban quality was expressed in several ways. Walnut Park West’s housing stock is generally newer and on usually wider streets. Few duplex, four-family flats, and apartment units (less than 10 percent) were built as part of this residential mix. Historically, there were significantly fewer corner commercial sites than was typical to the southeast. Indeed, block after block of Goodfellow Boulevard, a major north-south St. Louis artery, is commercial development free from north of Lilian to near West Florissant. Industrial land use has been negligible from the start.
A large portion of Walnut Park was constructed to better "between the wars era" suburban standards. Lot sizes, setbacks, structural dimensions, exterior finishes and details, and so forth are such that the area bounded by Emma, Mimika, Lalite and the City limits appears to be a middle to upper middle-class suburb of the time. Most of the rest of Walnut Park West is more working-class in origins and appearances but still looks newer, relatively speaking, than most of the area to the southeast.
Walnut Park West also functioned as an "orphan" suburb in an institutional sense. No public park or public school has ever been located within its boundaries. No Roman Catholic church nor parochial school of any kind ever functioned locally as well. Indeed, for years churches of any kind were few, and there was (and is) no library, post office, fire house, recreation center, or the like. These services or facilities had to be obtained from sources outside the area blocks or miles away.
The early German/German-American influence was less pronounced in Walnut Park West than in the Walnut Park East and Mark Twain neighborhoods. For this and other reasons, such as the paucity of local institutions, it never developed a clear identity. It adjoined the "real" Walnut Park but was not quite Walnut Park or anything else. Lack of identity or not, it settled into a half-century of existence as a white St. Louis neighborhood.
A myriad of factors contributed to the racial transition that gripped the area during the 1960s and 1970s. The first black family to move the area bought a home in the 5100 block of Goodfellow in 1963. Others followed and, for a while, it seemed that an enduring racially integrated community might be established in the nicer parts of Walnut Park West. In any case, that did not occur, and the transition process was largely completed by the mid 1970s.
In recent years, Walnut Park West has tended to do somewhat better than its neighboring communities to the southeast. Nevertheless, its residents share many of the same concerns although conditions vary markedly from block to block or within certain blocks. Crime, physical deterioration, education and economic opportunities, airport-related noise, debris-strewn alleys, and single-family home rentals are local issues and problems that extend beyond neighborhood or political boundaries. Unfortunately, one of the more problematic parts of the City of Jennings, in St. Louis County, abuts Walnut Park West.