The neighborhood was originally part of La Petite Prairie, which was settled by the French in the early 1700s. Grazing land was held in common, and farming land was divided into long narrow tracts. The commons system was abandoned around 1800, and the land began to be sold into private hands. By the 1850s much of the property was owned by German Catholics, recent immigrants from Germany’s 1848 civil war. The German dairy farmers found it ideal as pasture land. They built comfortable homes and began creating a community toward the end of the 1800s. Blocks were developed, upon which many of the prosperous German immigrants built grand homes.This section of the city is my favorite. Shaw, Tower Grove South, Fox Park, McKinley Heights, Compton Heights... and of course Tower Grove East. There has been an amazing amount of investment in this neighborhood in the last 10-15 years. This used to not be such a nice place to live or even drive through. I've seen some crazy stuff in my time living in the city; and there used to be a lot of bad guys living and doing business here. I witnessed some drag racing in this neighborhood that made my head spin. There were guys blocking traffic on the side streets so these guys could drag race their cars in the neighborhood. This kind of ridiculous behavior doesn't exist today. Investment is up, people who care and want to live here are in higher numbers. The poor stewards of properties are being displaced by those who want and can care for these aging beauties, and their hard work and investment is starting to really pay dividends. Those who have lived in TGE for years are now reaping the benefits of sticking it out through the rough years. Call it gentrification, call it up and coming, call it a pendulum swing back toward the original pride of the neighborhood, what ever you want to call it, you can't deny there is cumulative positivity in this neighborhood that is growing and starting to tip the scales of negativity to something more healthy and sustainable.
The owners and builders in the early days of Tower Grove East were for the most part siblings, cousins and extended family members of the prominent Germans living in Compton Heights. Thus architectural trends originating in Compton Heights and Flora Place influenced the designs of homes on South Compton, Shenandoah and several of the other residential avenues. Like Tower Grove Heights, these residences were built on the four-square plan. The typical house is a pyramid or hipped roof on a two-story cube. Often, a pressed brick or limestone course separates the stories. The original developers then varied the theme through detail choices. Attention was heavily focused on the entry, cornice and windows. Buyers would often choose the architectural elements from pattern books that illustrated multiple styles of windows, doors, stairways and fireplace mantels. Thus the interiors of the homes in Tower Grove East are full of surprises. The often austere exterior facades typically hide a wealth of richly designed entries with carved fretwork; built-in hall benches, mirrors and bookcases; wood paneling; stained-glass windows and elaborate staircases.
TGE is stunning. Walk down the streets and be amazed. Most streets are lined with mature trees and classic homes. From the mansions near Grand to the more humble, but no less stately, smaller homes, this place is a virtual candyland for St. Louis lovers. It has all the housing styles that make us the world class architectural city that we are. I took over 200 photos of this neighborhood. I couldn't stop being amazed. Each block, each street, each home has something worthy of appreciation.
Today was a beautiful St. Louis spring day, and the neighborhood was buzzing with activity. Dog walkers, stoop sitters, rehabbers, stroller walkers, bicyclers, cars being washed in the streets, flowers being planted, yard sales popping up. People were in a good mood, I struck up some nice conversations with many TGE'ers and there is a good feel here. I spoke to a woman probably in her 70's who was so proud of her home, I asked her if the neighborhood is nice and she commented that it's gotten much better in the past few years. She's seen the ups and downs and is feeling good about the direction the neighborhood is headed in.
Fox Park and McKinley Heights are similar to TGE, but I did notice a few things that stood out over those hoods.
First, TGE has some great garages:
St. Elizabeth Academy has a beautiful campus within the neighborhood. This approach to the campus is the most stunning (my photo doesn't do it justice). It totally fits in with it's surroundings.
I must plug my favorite TGE restaurant the Shaved Duck. This place has delicious baked beans, mashed potatoes, brisket, pulled pork, etc. Meskerem, Jay's International, Sekisui, Cafe Natasha's Kabob International are all places worth checking out as well.