Monday, January 25, 2010

Old North St. Louis Neighborhood

According to the city website, Old North St. Louis is bound by Palm Street CORRECTION, BRANCH STREET (01/29/10) on the north, Cass on the south, Howard on the east and Florissant on the west; to me it seemed more like 10 street or I-70 was the eastern boundary:
Firstly, this neighborhood has the best website I've seen to date.  Shaw's was good, McKinley Heights and Clifton Heights were good, this one is exceptional.  This place sounds like the garden of freakin' eden.  I'm a gardener, I'm a lover of local foods and produce, I'm a fan of old buildings; I was giddy to check this neck of the woods out.

After visiting Patch yesterday and ONSL today, I feel as though I've discovered two of the neighborhoods with the most rehab activity and positive improvement going on.  I really like it here.  This could be the Soulard of the north because of all the row houses.  I feel optimistic about the future of this place.

There are amazing things going on in this neighborhood.  It's been a couple years since I've been up here and much has changed.  Most in St. Louis are probably familiar with ONSL because of the landmark Crown Candy Kitchen.
And just across the street is the awesome Crown Square or 14th Street Mall.  Man, does this place look amazing.


There is a Confluence Academy campus in ONSL:

I wanted to try Urban Studio Cafe but it's closed on Sundays:

Some Paul McKee critisism I presume (the second photo says Legacy by McEagle).  I thought McKee's development was outside of ONSL, guess I'm wrong:
Just like every other St. Louis neighborhood, there are beautiful churches:

My favorite spiral fire escape in the city (and a couple others):

Wow, some cool looking formal industrial sites and old businesses too:

This neighborhood is not without it's problems.  Empty lots, fallow fields, falling structures and some suburban styled developments called Bristol Place and Murphy Blair Apartments that don't seem to fit in with the historical homes/buildings:

But don't let this cloud the fact that this neighborhood is clearly on the mend.  I sense this place has a lot of pride.  The new construction I observed was extremely tasteful and fit in quite nicely with the surrounding cool properties.  The street grid seems very much intact and it's easy to get around.  The ONSL Restoration Group appears to be doing a fantastic job suring up historic properties and they are making great head way.  This neighborhood has a very positive vibe and I think this could be one of the coolest places in the city due to the amount of AMAZING row houses.

I am personally interested in landscaping this triangle park.
I am serious, if anyone from ONSL reads this, I'd be willing to help.  This part of the neighborhood is really cool and has tons of potential.  If this pocket park was redone it would really highlight the homes around the park.

Some new construction that fits in quite nicely, and some other interesting odds and ends:

Population wise, ONSL took a beating from 1990 to 2000 losing 37% of its residents.  1,498 people called ONSL home in 2000, 27% white, 69% black (the north city neighborhood with the most racial diversity that I've visited so far).  There were 1,036 housing units counted, 58% occupied, 42% vacant.  Of the occupied units, 21% were owner occupied and 79% rented.

I expect these numbers to improve in the next round of census data.  I expect many more good things to come in ONSL.  Another great St. Louis neighborhood on the rise.  Congrats to the work of the ONSL restoration group.  Another good sign for ONSL is that there are 3 National Historic Districts within it's confines that were established in the 1980's (Mullanphy, Murphy Blair and SS Cyril and Methodius).


  1. Did you see the area around the entrance to the Iron Horse Trestle?
    Renderings here,

    This among other things has me planning to move to ONSL.

  2. ^Daron, that is an amazing project, thanks for the link.

  3. Mark,
    I will get in touch with you by e-mail about Wingmann Park. A neighborhood Macho Action Group has been meeting once a month to do building board-up and other projects. They are interested in refurbishing the sign this spring.
    Would love to have your help.

  4. Thanks for the wrote up!
    Our Neighborhood's northern border is actually Branch St.

  5. Glad you liked our neighborhood - it seems like you got around and saw a lot of the neighborhood and didn't just focus on the Crown Candy area, which is great. Next time you are in the area, you should go in to Marx's and visit with them. They have some great stories and the store itself is like stepping back into time. Especially in the winter, when they have the wood burning pot bellied stove going in the middle of the place.

    It's funny that you mentioned Wingmann Park - we have a plan to move and stabilize the old sign sometime in the next few months and I'm sure the Green Space Committee would love to have your input and your help in improving the park. If you want, I can let you know when their next meeting will be held and you can attend and see what they are up to. Or if you'd like to help when we move the sign, we could use all the hands we can get - that thing is heavy!

    Also, the annual house tour is held in May, and this could be a good opportunity to see the insides of some of the houses you photographed and some you didn't. There's an old coal warehouse that has been converted to a fabulous home (shown on the right edge of the 29th picture down, next to the stabilized house) that you just have to see to believe. Our house was on the tour last year ( and it was a lot of fun meeting people from all over as they came through.

    One other development you'll like, too - there will be a food/grocery coop opening in the neighborhood at the end of June, most likely in the building at 13th and St. Louis. This site is co-located with the 13th Street Community Garden, which provides fresh produce for the farmer's market every summer and is available for use by community residents.

  6. I want to live in Old North. One day.

  7. ^Grayem, thanks for the correction. The city website says Palm is the northern border. My source:

    ^Gloria and Ben, glad to hear Wingmann's getting some love. I'd love to help, email me when it's time to TCB.

  8. I'm not sure when the neighborhood boundaries changed, but it wasn't that long ago. The ONSL boundary moved up one street, from Palm to Branch - I think to align the neighborhood boundary with the historic district and the aldermanic ward boundary between the 3rd and the 5th. The City is just REALLY slow in updating their neighborhood boundary maps, apparently.

    I'll be sure to let you know when we decide what we're doing.

  9. ^Ben, thanks for the clarification, I updated my post to include Branch as the northern border of ONSL. Cheers.

  10. Operation Brightside in partnership with Old North and Habitat for Humanity will be restoring (relandscaping) Wingmann Park on October 9th. Old North's Green Team has been instumental in making this hapen. Please help out as it fits into your schedule:

    September 4: Relocation of Wingmann Park sign
    September 9: Pick up of tools and hardscaping from Home Depot donated by Operation Brightside
    September 11: Site Preparation Day (Habitat new residents, Old North residents, United Way
    September 25: Possible Site Preparation Day (Habitat new residents, Old North residents)
    October 2: Possible Site Preparation Day (Habitat new residents, Old North residents)
    October 8: Pick up of plantings at Forest Park Greenhouses donated by Operation Brightside
    October 9: Planting Day (Habitat new residents, Old North residents, Isle of Capri volunteers)
    May 7, 2011 Possible dedication of the park on the day of the House Tour

    Please contact the Old North office or myself if you would like to volunteer 314-772-4646, Yvette Hartsfield

  11. Question: Those row houses are awesome... which street were they on? Do you remember?

  12. The City website has really mangled the borders of Old North. I-70 is indeed the Eastern boundary, as Howard is an East-West running street and couldn't possibly form an eastern border. They may have confused this with Hadley, which is a block in the neighborhood and is not a border street either.

  13. I want to say your blog is very great. I usually like to read some thing new about this because I’ve the comparable blog in my Country on this subject so this help’s me a lot.

  14. Thank you to whomever was in charge of getting Wingmann Park redone. I am a new resident right across the street from it and it's lovely. :)

  15. @emily. two of the photos of row house were on Warren St. between 13th and 14th sts. My grandma lived on that block. The house on the SE corner of 13th and warren was always my favorite with its wrought iron balconies, green shutters and brick paved side yard surrounded by an iron rail fence.

  16. Hello,
    I just stumbled on your web site and wanted you to know that I was happy to see a photo (13th from the top of your site) of my grandfather's old building.His name was Arthur John Meier Jr. The Meier & Pohlmann Furniture Company was founded by HIS grandfather, on the banks of the Mississippi, back in the days when they floated logs down the river from northern forests. My grandfather closed the business in the late 1960s or so, but you can still vaguely make out the lettering -- Meier & Pohlmann-- on the side of the four-story red brick building. Three generations of Meiers (and one Underhill, my dad, briefly) worked there, along with hundreds and hundreds of skilled craftsmen. Pieces of their fine furniture, and mid-Century modern furniture, can still be found on EBay. How I wish someone would repurpose that venerable old building, and pay tribute to the industry and artistry of a historic St. Louis company. Sincerely, Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick