Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Holly Hills Neighborhood

Holly Hills is a south St. Louis neighborhood bound by Bates/Walsh on the north east, Holly Hills on the south, Leona/MoPac RR to the north west and Grand on the south east:
As of 2000, Holly Hills was home to 3,698 people, a 1% decrease from 1990.  It's 92% white, 5% black, 2% Hispanic/Latino and 1% Asian.  Of the 1,887 housing units, 92% were occupied with a nice mix of 58% owner occupied, 42% rental. 2010 Census counts saw the addition of three people! The count is now 3,701 with a minor demographic shift where it is now 81% white, 11% black, 5% Hispanic/Latino and 2% Asian.

A brief history from the excellent HH website:
In the early 1920's, developers William Federer, Gus Arendes and Don Livingston purchased a large plot of land from Missouri Pacific Railroad. They planned to develop the area north of Carondelet Park into a residential area with the elegance of Hollywood; thus the name Holly Hills. The first building permit for a home on Holly Hills, across from the park, was issued in 1926. The Great Depression affected Holly Hills as it did elsewhere and the size of many of the later homes built in the neighborhood was scaled back from Federer's original vision. Many unemployed in the area found work stabilizing the channel of the River Des Peres with limestone boulders.

In 1927, the Holly Hills Improvement Association was formed. Today it is the oldest active neighborhood organization in the city of St. Louis.

Development of the area continued after World War II. At the time, Morgan Ford Road was still two lanes and unpaved. In 1951, rent controls initiated during the war to deal with housing shortages were lifted. The 1950's brought on a building boom of houses, churches and schools.

Today Holly Hills is a thriving and desirable neighborhood in south St. Louis.
And the history of the street names:
Adkins Avenue: Named after Henry Adkins, a steamboat captain.

Alexander Street:  Named after Alexander Lacey Lyle who owned the estate that later became Carondelet Park.

Alma Avenue:  First appeared in the Arcadia Heights subdivision of 1913. The name began to be popular after British troops fought at the Battle of Alma, a river in the Crimea, in 1854.

Arendes Drive:  Gus Arendes was one of the three developers of the neighborhood.

Bates Street:  Named after Frederick Bates, the second governor of Missouri.

Bellerive Boulevard:  Named for Louis St. Ange de Bellerive, a commandant from Illinois. He governed the village of St. Louis before the arrival of the first Spanish governor.

Bowen Street:  Named for Confederate General John Bowen, a former St. Louis neighbor of Ulysses S. Grant.

Burgen Avenue:  In 1909 the Burgen Place subdivision was named from the Burgenland province in eastern Austria.

Concordia Avenue:  The private Concordia Heights subdivision of 1910 which was named for the nearby Concordia Cemetery. Concordia was the ancient Roman goddess of harmony or peace.

Coronado Avenue:  The three developers of Holly Hills, Federer, Livingston and Arendes, made plans at the Coronado hotel, and named one of the streets in its honor.

Dewey Avenue:  Named for Admiral George Dewey, a hero of the Spanish American war.

Dover Place:  One of the developers was originally from Delaware, and named two streets after Delaware cities: Dover and Wilmington.

Federer Place:  William Federer was one of the three developers of the neighborhood.

Fillmore Street:  Named after United States President Millard Fillmore.

Grand Boulevard:  Hiriam Leffingwell, one of the original Forest Park founders, envisioned a broad boulevard stretching from the Mississippi River north of the city to the river south of the city. When he couldn't get buy-in on his desire to name it Lindell Boulevard, due to its proximity to Peter and Jesse Lindell's property, he settled on calling it "grand boulevard." 

Haven Street:  Originally named after Edward Haren, a landowner and banker, a street sign was printed wrong and never fixed. The street has ever since been known as Haven.

Holly Hills Boulevard:  Named after the neighborhood, which in turn was named after Hollywood.

Iron Street:  Named after the Iron Mountain Railroad.

Leona Street:  First appeared in the Leona Place subdivision of 1923.

Livingston Drive:  Donald Livingston was one of the three developers of the neighborhood.

Loughborough Avenue:  Named for surveyor John M. Loughborough.

Marwinette Avenue:  Marwinette is a composite name of the wives of the three developers of Holly Hills: MARie Federer, WINifred Livingston and JeanETTE Arendes.

Morganford Road: Morganford Road originally led to a ford on the River Des Peres owned by James Morgan. "Morgan's Ford" was eventually shortened to Morganford.

Newport Avenue:  Named after an original subdivision from 1908.

Ray Avenue:  Named for Frederick Ray, an area developer.

Rosa Avenue:  Possibly named after an original subdivision named Rosa Park, or it may be named after Rosa Weil.

Toenges Avenue:  Named for a subdivision developer in 1922.

Tyrolean Avenue:  Named after a region in Austria because it was originally in a subdivision called Austria Heights.

Wilmington Avenue:  One of the developers was originally from Delaware, and named two streets after Delaware cities: Dover and Wilmington.
In full disclosure, I lived in this neighborhood for nine years.  I have many ties here and in many ways it'll always be somewhat home and definitely part of me.  In fact, the challenge in summarizing this neighborhood will be to keep the personal stories to a minimum, as I've walked these streets for many years and met many good people here.  I do feel obliged to say that my wife and I started our adult life here.  We rented our first apartment together on Fillmore, we walked across the alleys to meet friends and neighbors.  We bought our first home on Arendes.  We brought our first baby home to Holly Hills.  We conceived our second child there.  We love this neighborhood today and always will. 

There is an amazing network of people here who deeply care about the well being of their hood.  I won't call specific people out, but there are a handful of people living here that have inspired me to be a proactive citizen of St. Louis.  I owe them much. 

People here do not tolerate crime, petty or otherwise; property neglect is taken seriously.  Just take a walk through Holly Hills on a weekday and notice the amount of service vehicles and repair men out doing work on these old/high-maintenance beauties.  These old homes take hard work and dedication to maintain.  The people of Holly Hills are all over maintenance and are good stewards of their part of St. Louis.

Many that live in Holly Hills grew up here, and they have been tremendous guardians of the hood, and have done nothing but improve this place in my 16 years living in St. Louis.

OK, enough of the insider view of Holly Hills.

Make no mistake, Holly Hills a small, residential, tightly-knit neighborhood.

To that point, it has very few intra-neighborhood businesses, either walkable or otherwise.  It's a residential neighborhood in and out.  Public transportation is limited to buses and the Grand or Shrewsbury Metrolink are the closest access to rail transit.

There aren't many restaurants in HH proper, but there are many great places in surrounding areas of Carondelet, Dutchtown, Bevo, Boulevard Heights, etc.  There is a good middle eastern market/deli on Bates and Mr. Yummy's on Bates (home of chicken gizzards AND ice cream....a righteous call to all, no?):

There are some businesses including a dentist, hair salons, a women's clothing store, a cool little service station and a salon equipment place that fit in extremely well with their surroundings:
Don't get me wrong, the limited intra-neighborhood businesses are only a minor issue, there are other pluses that outweigh this.  The awesome Carondelet Park with it's paved walking trails, boathouse, ball fields, recycling center, mulch source, playgrounds and fishing ponds complement Holly Hills.  And then you have the awesome Carondelet Rec Plex as your immediate neighbor.  The perimeters of the neighborhood are landscaped largely by one individual who calls for volunteers a couple times a year to pitch in and help plant thousands of bulbs and perennials to keep this neighborhood the show place that it is.

And even though Loughborough Commons is a cluster f of bad suburban design and pedestrian inaccessibility, it's almost completely leased and has some pretty useful chain-stuff (Lowes, Schnucks, Starbucks, Qdoba, Little Caesars, etc).

But, as I mentioned, this is a residential neighborhood.  So let's get to the homes.  The "showcase" homes are right along Holly Hills Boulevard from Arendes to Leona (although my personal favorites are on Dover):
If you ever take someone on a tour of St. Louis, you need to go through Holly Hills, it's one of the best, cleanest, safest neighborhoods in the city.

The garages in Holly Hills have more soul than most contemporary suburban homes:
Yeah, Holly Hills Blvd gets most of the glory, but there are homes within the heart of HH that are just as stunning.
Most of the multi-family properties in Holly Hills are as tidy and well kept as the single fams:
The streets are tree lined and yards range from simple and tidy to elaborately landscaped. 
Some of the best gingerbread homes this side of Princeton Heights and Southampton can be found in Holly Hills:
And some of our favorites:
The churches in Holly Hills add to the tight knit fabric of the neighborhood. 
St. Stephens on Wilmington is a good example.  They have one of the best parish picnics in town, as the homes/apartments across the street frame the picnic quite nicely, never letting you forget you're right smack dab in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood.
There is a large community garden on the lot at Bates/Arendes.  Neighbors rent beds and grow fruits and veggies of all kinds, some of which are donated to a local food bank.  There is a bee keeper who is raising his own honey.
There are many smaller shotguns, and post war sided homes in the blocks just south and north of Bates that add to the density.
Bates has many multi-family properties.  Some of which have had lots of dubious activity occurring there.  This is nothing though compared to other neighborhoods, and some property owners are taking matters into their  own hands to curb the ignorant behavior of the tenants by erecting fencing (legally under permit) and installing surveillance cameras.
This place needs to be a coffee shop:
If you've never visited Holly Hills or Carondelet Park, you are missing out on one of the most beautiful, serene neighborhoods areas in the city.

Other than the amazing housing stock, you will find some of the finest, kindest people anywhere in the city pridefully calling Holly Hills home.


  1. awesome. my grandparents used to take me to carondelet park to feed the ducks at the pond... good good memories. such a beautiful part of the city. i always felt like entering the park on grand and emerging on loughborough was like passing through a doorway to a different place. kind-of.

    incidentally, adkins ave continues for a short stretch on the other side of river des peres. we lived there until i was about 11 years old. very cool to discover its namesake! thanks!

  2. I just can't get enough.

    Thanks, Mark.

  3. The gingerbread homes here surprised me. When I think of Holly Hills I think of the beautiful, large homes that line Carondelet Park or the multi-family homes.

    Sometimes it pays to stray away from the beaten path. This whole series has been great.

  4. Wonderful article! We recently moved here from soco and love Holly Hills!! It has become a ritual after dinner to take a walk with my two young children and discover the beutiful homes from here to the park. I love to see that there are many people who get just as jazzed about this place as we do!

  5. Wonderful article! We recently moved here from soco and love Holly Hills!! It has become a ritual after dinner to take a walk with my two young children and discover the beutiful homes from here to the park. I love to see that there are many people who get just as jazzed about this place as we do!

  6. I love Holly Hills but you have got to be kidding me if you call it one of the "safest" neighborhoods.

  7. I really like the neighborhood. I should probably consider living in that place sometime. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. With such a neighborhood, who wouldn't love to live there. Good thing you shared that information to us.

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  9. I would love to live in a big house with big rooms installed with soft mattresses. Who would not want an undisturbed rest anyway. I'd probably recommend Holy Hills as well to my aunt.

  10. These are fantastic looking photos of the homes. I'm going to look around in our area if there are any homes that look like these. I'm sure there are some people that work in the Conveyancing Balmain selling industry that can help me.

  11. It looks like a pretty neighborhood, no wonder a lot of people choose to live here. I like the peaceful and very kept streets. I would soon buy a house in this place once I get good mortgage rates in Long Island.

  12. I love the gingerbread homes mostly because thats my street and I love in one. lol

    Thanks so much for viewing my neighborhood!

  13. Unfortunately, not everyone who lives here is neighborly. They;re big on conformity, and who doesn't love a tidy neighbor whose dogs bark quielty if at all, and so on. But I have a neighbor who routinbely vandalized the plants at the edge of my yard, becuase he doesn't like the look or worries thy'll drop leaves on his lawn. He has actually dug up one I suppose he thought might grow too large, and destroyed an anceint and gorgeous passio vine that was a glory to behold. He's sneaky, and when caught, denies it. As yet I have no photos of him in the act, so I have to tolerate being bullied and having beloved planst destroyed, lest he start on my pets next. (The way he kills stray wild animals makes me worry he's capable of it.) I live alone, and due to my having been very expensivley ill for some time, my house is in need of repairs. Finally I am able to make them. I've already started and will do more over the next several months, but I have felt bad that I could not until do more. Still I discovered new damage today. I am guessing he feels entitled to vandalize my yard in revenge for its somewhat weather-beaten appearance, and able because I have had so little resources to fight back. It has never occurred to him to offer help. When my mower died, he charged me double what a professional would to mow the lawn twice, and vandalized plants while he had access to the yard. It has been demoralizing. Thank God other neighors are to varying degrees kinder and law-abiding, or I'd abandon my house if need be to escape the bully.

  14. Hi - Just curious about something. The boundaries you list for Holly Hills differs from what the Holly Hills Association lists on their website (which is what the city uses on its on website for the list of neighborhoods). The Association lists a small part of Loughborough as it's southern most border. We're the HH borders expanded at some point?

  15. I grew up on Dover in a 2 family flat. In fact I saw several of the pics that made me think it was my house. I loved the neighborhood and have great memories of playing outside on summer evenings. The houses on my street and in HH area were so classic looking! I always dreamed as a child of living in the big Tudor house on the Blvd. Thank you for posting this. I learned things I never knew before.