Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Franz Park Neighborhood

Franz Park is a south St. Louis neighborhood roughly bound by Dale to the north and east, Manchester to the south and the city limits to the west:
The 2000 census data counted 2,621 residents (down 10% from 1990's count) of whom 11% were black, 85% white, 1% Asian and 2% Hispanic/Latino. There were 1,318 housing units counted, 92% occupied (67%/33% owner/renter split).  I like the high occupancy rate.

The 2010 census data counted 2,442, down 6.8% from 2000's count, with 86% white, 8% black, 4% Hispanic/Latino and 2% Asian.

This is one of 3 neighborhoods collectively referred to as Dogtown, including Hi-Pointe and Clayton-Tamm.

Like Clayton-Tamm and Ellendale, Franz Park judiciously marks its territory with street light flags:
Here's a little background (source):
Franz Park grew with the other "Dogtown" neighborhoods in the mid-1800s, when clay mining moved into the area. The railroads further increased the speed at which residents began to move into the area. Many immigrants from places such as Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Poland came to work in the mines. St. Louis fire brick was a growing industry that was employing most of the residents, who built homes around the industrial locations.
By the end of World War II, the mines had closed, and subdivisions had been built upon the old sites. As a result of the erratic way in which the houses in the neighborhood were built, a variety of architectural styles exist within the area. Despite the fact that the jobs created by fire brick were gone, the strong working class communities remained. In fact, with the World’s Fair in 1904, even more people had been enticed to move into the neighborhood, as did the Sulphur Springs Spa, for a few years. 
 And the neighborhood takes it's name to the gentleman that donated the park to the city:
Originally given to the city by E. D. Franz in 1915, it continues to host local sports activities. It has baseball diamonds and lighted tennis courts. It also hosts summer programs run by the Parks Department. The park is close to Roe Elementary School, home to a preschool through grade five program. Along with strong language arts programs, it also serves ESL (English as a Second Language) students. The preschool has two sessions, morning and afternoon. 
So what does Franz Park look like?  The three neighborhoods of Dogtown are surprisingly hilly.  The streets are packed with cars on both sides, evidence of the high residential occupancy rate.  Overall, this neighborhood really doesn't remind me of any other St. Louis neighborhood I've seen so far...maybe a well cared for Walnut Park East would be the best comparison.  It's a real mixed bag; and as per the entry above "...the erratic way in which the houses in the neighborhood were built, a variety of architectural styles exist within the area..." That description couldn't be more accurate.  If there is a prevailing type or style of home, I'd say it was the small frame homes from post WWII:
There are many typical brick homes that can be seen in other parts of the city:
And there are some harder to categorize, unique places that remind me a lot of the inner ring suburb city of Maplewood:
But the real surprise was the amount of new construction.  I have to say....against all odds....I really like a lot of the contemporary infill in Franz Park, more so than any other neighborhood I've visited thus far:
There is a large public school directly west of Franz Park (the park) on Prather called Roe Elementary School.  It was designed by architect R. M. Milligan and was named for a well-known St. Louis steamboat captain and was finished in 1922, with an addition in 1927. 

Update May, 2017: the school now houses a successful early childhood center called Wilkinson. I blogged on this school back in 2013.
The charming nearly 5 acre park is in great condition and is obviously a neighborhood asset. I blogged on the park in October, 2013.

I didn't notice any intra-neighborhood businesses in Franz Park.  The businesses are concentrated along Manchester and McCausland.  There are several bars and restaurants as well as larger employers and many used car lots:
 I mentioned the former Scullin Steel Co. in my Ellendale post:
I've never patronized any of these places in Franz Park, so I can't speak to the quality of these joints.  However, I have both purchased and repaired vacuums at Discount Vac on McCausland just south of Olympia Taverna who recently tore down some homes for MORE surface parking.  But back to Discount Vac...this place is a St. Louis treasure.  You have to check it out and talk to the guy that owns/runs the place.  He's a total gentlemen and a true original.  You won't be disappointed.
Alright, I've covered Franz Park and Clayton-Tamm...on to Hi-Pointe to complete the Dogtown trifecta!


  1. Mark, thanks for blogging with St. Louis City Talk. I'm a South Side native (lived near Wyoming and Grand in my childhood) who's been away for 30+ years, but my family and roots are still strong in St. Louis. Your blog lets me indulge in my love of St. Louis and its neighborhoods. You clearly have a passion for this city--keep up the good work!

  2. More great work, Mark.

    I always check to make sure I see these.

  3. ^anonymous july 22nd, you'd be pleasantly surprised to see Grand and Wyoming today. It's a great urban area with lots of restaurants and night life. You should consider moving back "home" St. Louis has made a lot of progress since the 1980's. Cheers!

  4. I lived at 6711 Mitchell Ave across from Franz park from age5 until about 14. I attended Roe School starting in 1927. Just looked on Google at our old home and neighborhood and was stunned to see how nice the entire area remains after about 75 years. I am now 88. I worked at Scullin Steel from 1941 until 1943 when finally got an exemption to join the Navy. I had a critical industry job exemption as crane and Charger machine operator making parts for Tanks . I had to fight the draft board to get to enlist.All young men wanted to fight in WWII.Finally said let me quit and serve or I will quit and be drafted so the finally after 3 appeals. I attended Normandy High and then Washington Univ. later
    Don S. Thompson

  5. Thank u for comment Mr. Don Thomas(above)... I moved in right behind the park. i spoke with the alderman and had the swings put in this summer 2013. I saw all the Roe preschoolers playing today. Keep making Dogtown nice!!!!!!

  6. I live on Blendon Pl. on the other side of the "your" boundary but we have the Franz Park signs up on our street too.

  7. ^Anonymous, these are not "my boundaries". I used the neighborhood boundaries from the St. Louis City website.