Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Compton Heights Neighborhood

Compton Heights is one of the premier neighborhoods in St. Louis. Here are the boundaries:If you haven't checked this area out already, you must. You won't be disappointed by the winding streets south of Russell. Hawthorne and Longfellow are strikingly beautiful, as are the surrounding areas in Tower Grove East, Fox Park and Shaw. Let's start with the interesting places along Grand in CH:
The former Pelican's Restaurant is on the north side of Shenandoah.
It was built in 1895 for local brewer Anton Griesedieck, who hired German-born Carl Anschuetz from Tony Faust's restaurant to run a first-class restaurant and "liquortorium." Mmmm liquortorium. I can't find a photo of the old neon Pelican sign that once adorned the corner of this building. If anyone has a photo please forward to me or post a link. This building is slated for renovation and redevelopment. I hope the old neon sign is somewhere safe while the building is in limbo, and that it gets reinstalled upon renovation.

The old YMCA between the Pelican and the above CH gates is planned to be demolished for a new 3 story mixed use building.
I can't figure out how to post a picture, but you can see the plans on pages 4 & 5 of this pdf. The development looks very handsome and HAS PARKING IN THE REAR!!! Usually I would mourn the loss of an old building, but in this case, I think it would be a net gain to get a residential/office/retail building that is nicely scaled and apportioned to the surrounding buildings on Grand.

Also on Grand in Compton Heights is the striking water tower just north of Russell and south of I-44:

The Reservoir Park water tower is probably one of St. Louis' most recognizable landmarks. Did you know there were tennis courts and a dog park here as well? I sure didn't. The water tower is open to the public on the 1st Saturday of each month between April and November from noon to 4 pm. There appears to be some major stone/marble work going on around one of the fountains/pools.

Here are some facts and stats on the neighborhood:

Compton Heights is one of the earliest examples of planned residential developments of the American 19th century (1889). It was curiously designed "to view nature as neighbor not as an enemy to be subjugated by some rectilinear grid." Damn, that's harsh. I've come to love the rectilinear grid of St. Louis. In fact the homes on the grid north of Hawthorne and Longfellow are among my favorites in the neighborhood.

Not unlike the other neighborhoods I've visited so far, Compton Heights experienced a loss in residents from 1677 in 1990 to 1448 in 2000 (14% decline in population). Sad. Another loss was observed in the 2010 Census count where a 9% loss was observed.  1,315 people now call Compton Heights home, of which 71% are white, 21% black, 4% Asian and the 2% Hispanic/Latino.
This neighborhood is so beautiful, I don't think I have much to say that won't be too emotive so I'll just let the pictures do the talking.  This first mansion was the former home of the Magic Chef founder:

Pretty nice, eh?

There are opportunities for more intra-neighborhood services, restaurants, stores, etc. along Shenandoah. With just a few more businesses and services, this could be a very walkable, self contained, mixed use neighborhood.

This neighborhood has a personal significance, as my wife and I slumbered at the Fleur-De-Lys mansion on the night of our wedding, before we headed to Charleston, South Carolina for our honeymoon. Shan, thanks for the photos of the water tower!

This is one of the neighborhoods I would take an out of towner on a tour to showcase St. Louis.

On to Hamilton Heights...


  1. Beautiful tour!

    As far as neighborhoods that gained between 1990 and 2000, I know Bevo, Southampton, and Baden gained a little bit.

    I wouldn't put incredibly stock in the 2000 numbers though, as they're nine years old and the city has changed quite a bit demographically.

    Sadly, in 2010, I'll bet you'll observe more 10-20% population loss in many North Side neighborhoods, but I think you'll see in most South/Central neighborhoods slight gains.

  2. By the way, I would highly recommend posting your photos to Skyscraper Page. They do a good service to our city, and it's great to show people in other cities what we've got!

    (Under City Photography N-Z)

  3. You are welcome! It was a good day, and I discovered those awesome faces on the reservoir!

  4. If you have a chance, splurge 5 bucks and trek up the 198 steps to the top of the Compton Hill Water Tower. The view is great and so is the surrounding park. They are having a dedication ceremony for the newly rebuilt pond this weekend - complete with rubber duck races and free shuttles to the Shaw Art Fair.

  5. Thanks for the pics. Offically, you have pics of the Compton Heights, Compton Hill, and Tower Grove East neighborhoods. Compton Heights does not include Water Tower Park or the surrounding streets. They are their own neighborhood, Compton Hill. And Shannendoah and its business district are part of Tower Grove East. Your pictures are awesome though!

  6. ^Matt M. will post pics on skyscraper page.

    ^anon 10:00 pm, rubber duck races sound fun

    ^anon 6:39 pm, thanks for the correction on the CH boundaries. Where did you get your info? The maps I'm posting to plot out the neighborhoods came directly from the city website.

  7. The official boundaries are 44, Shenandoah, Nebraska, and Grand.

    Compton Hill/Reservoir Square is an unofficial designation (the city did add this neighborhood to the website at one point.)

  8. Great neighborhood that is the representative of the best St. Louis has to offer. Amazing old brick houses, diverse community, historic landmarks, and surrounded by equally beautiful old neighborhoods.

  9. By the way, Mark,

    Skyscraper Page photography threads usually contain at least 50 photos. So maybe we should wait until you're done with another neighborhood or two and then post those as a collection.

    Just let me know where you store your photos and if you have enough bandwidth for me to post them on SSP and I will be happy to do it for you!

  10. I wanted to say thank you for the photo of the Pelican Restaurant building - I am doing some research on the Anschuetz family history and Carl Anschuetz is my sister-in-law's great great grandfather. He was a caterer in the St. Louis area for around twenty years. Very cool to stumble across this bit of info. THANKS!!

  11. Hi, posted on the Shaw page recently as well. I noticed you often wonder "why" the neighborhoods lost population, as if a loss of population was associated with a decline. In fact, throughout the '60s, '70s and '80s these neighborhoods often subdivided buildings more than was wise, turning beautiful old homes into apartments. One way that the city has encouraged gentrification and revitalization is to use tax incentives to reduce population density. I know that for many of us is a mixed bag, as density means efficient use of resources and vibrant neighborhoods, but OTOH, the families and people of more means want more space, and even more modern apartment redesigns want larger spaces than was expected in the past. So that old four flats now often become two's, and duplexes sometimes become single family homes. I think that this process, when coupled with the maintenance and update of some larger, historic apartment developments makes for the ideal mix and density for a neighborhood to remain vital in the modern world. I live in Shaw and LOVE Compton Heights. After Portland place its my favorite stretch of homes in STL.

  12. I just came across your blog, many years late to the party, and I'm now fully immersed! Thank you! I have a pic of the old neon Pelican sign if you still need one. I bought it from a photographer at a booth at the Soulard Farmers Market about 12 years ago. It's framed and still hanging in my bathroom. I knew nothing of the history - I just knew it was a cool picture. :) Let me know how to send it to you if you still want!

  13. My husband and I were trying to think of the name of the restaurant where we enjoyed the delicious turtle soup....The Pelican. Have been looking for a pic of the sign on the internet, but can't find it. Would love to have a copy, just to show our children and grandchildren. (Linda and Fred)