Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Baden Neighborhood

Baden is a north St. Louis neighborhood located east and south of the city limits (Riverview Boulevard), north of Calvary Cemetery and west of Hall Street:
Check out the roundabout at the convergence of Goodfellow, Halls Ferry, Riverview, and Lewis and Clark Blvd; it reminds me of the Tempest screen. There just aren't that many roundabouts in St. Louis, but this one is very cool. The St. Louis County cities of Bellefontaine Neighbors and Jennings abut Baden to the north and west.

Baden became part of St. Louis in 1876, but was never incorporated as a city prior to that date.  It has the distinction of being a north side residential neighborhood that had a GAIN in population at 3% in the 2000 Census count.  However, that momentum was not sustained from 2000-2010 when Baden lost 14% of its residents.  The 2010 Census data showed the racial demographics of 92% black and 6% white.  St. Louis continues to take a beating in loss of residents.  People are voting with their feet and Baden, like nearly all neighborhoods, felt that sentiment.
The welcome mat to Baden, visible from Broadway

I had the privilege of a guided tour of Baden by one of St. Louis' finest firemen.  He was able to show me around and point out some of the more unique areas of Baden.  I'll get to those in a minute.

To me Baden is mostly known for it's almost completely intact business district along a cool stretch of Broadway from Switzer Avenue to Halls Ferry Road. This northern stretch of Broadway along with the  southernmost stretch that goes through the Patch and Carondelet are simply brimming with potential and possibilities for a 21st Century rebirth.
 This sign warrants contemplation..."I'll take the gold genie looking one on the second shelf and the 4'x6' velvet Elvis"
 If anyone has a photo of this sign in it's original state, please email me!
The bones are obviously there and lie (hopefully) temporarily mummified in a thin layer of patina waiting for those who want to stay here or more importantly, move to St. Louis and work hard and invest their time and money in the rebirth of the city.  This part of town could easily add to St. Louis' resume as the premier brick city in the U.S.A.

Broadway ain't all charm and good design though.  The 1980's descended on Baden and took a big dump and then packed it up and left this:
When will we learn that strip malls don't generally work in urban areas and this crap belongs in the burbs?  We destroy tasteful architecture, history and workmanship for this?  What will happen to this property now?

The largest city park serving Baden residents is David Hickey Park named in honor of the first St. Louis member of the Expeditionary Forces killed in the World War (source).

Baden has the feel of another neighborhood on the verge of stability vs. decline.  It will be a good harbinger of thing to come for St. Louis as a whole.  Are we headed toward better days, or still getting closer and closer to rock bottom? We'll have to use the census data in 2020 to judge whether the downward spiral of people packing it up continues.  For now, Baden has the feel of a stable neighborhood, but not without challenges. 

Outside of the Broadway business district, Baden is largely home to many mid-century modern buildings and homes.  I guess I was expecting older, turn of the 20th Century homes.  But that's not really the case.  And if you are a fan of mid-century apartment complexes, you better get there and check them out, because many are coming down:
Some of the typical home styles in Baden:
There are scads more of the above examples, built in the 1940's to 1960's.  Some others:
Check out the front yards in the next 2 shots...hey we are the Mound City, right?

Now let me get to some of the more unique sites in Baden.  I probably never would have discovered some of these had it not been for my well informed tour guide with an eye for Baden-nuance.

Let's start with the houses on the train tracks.  There are homes with front yards that contain railroad tracks just feet from the front doors. 
Check out the makeshift elevated bumps between the tracks for easier crossing:
Then there are these homes built at a curious 45 degree angle from the street:
How about the pastoral Gast Place:
Gast Place suddenly transforms into one of the weirdest multi-unit complexes in the entire city:
Check out this sign marking an "unimproved street":
As it was explained to me, the house numbering system on the city grid typically increases in # as the streets run east/west from the Mississippi River and north/south with Market Street as somewhat of a centering point.  Due to the strange topography of Baden:  somewhat hilly, somewhat askew from the typical grid, there are some curious anomalies in the house numbering conventions.  See what I mean in the next 2 homes which sit side by side yet are not ordered as such:
Looks pretty routine right, but the street numbers suggest the nuance, 1219 sitting right next to 8312:
Baden doesn't seem to share nearly as much in common with the other St. Louis residential neighborhoods that were built out longer ago.  It reminds me more of an annex of Bellefontaine Neighbors.  There are some churches, etc that do harken back to the classic St. Louis styles:
Baden is one of St. Louis' finest neighborhoods.  The commercial district, proximity to the River and the Riverfront Trail make it a highly desirable place. 


  1. What an interesting post. Love the railroad track front yard houses and those 45-degree angle houses are just bizarre.

  2. Hey Mark,

    I found your blog from Mike Meuth, a fellow parishoner of mine at Our Lady of Providence in Crestwood.

    I really like what you are doing. I am in the infancy of doing something similar with my blog, too.

    I would love to share ideas sometime.

  3. My understanding of the 45 degree angle houses was that it gave you two additional views to the outside - the window on the front right side of the houses in the picture here, and also, I assume, a window in the back left of the houses. So you have your usual front and back windows giving you a view, plus these two additional windows (a view other than your neighbor's house, that is). I guess additional privacy is attained as well - instead of looking directly into your neighbors windows (and they into yours) the windows are off-set between the houses because of the angle.

  4. I love the Old school feel of the area. It's been a long time since i have seen houses near the track. I love the old ads in the area. I'll visit there soon.

  5. Baden became a part of the City of St. Louis in 1876 by the State legislature. Baden population was made up of 400 people. The neighborhood was located on the Kansas City and Northwestern Railroad. There were eleven stores in the neighborhood, 3 wagon shops, 4 churches, 4 schools, one public, two Catholic, and one Lutheran School.

    1. There was aold Cemetery at 1191 Bittner dating back to the mid 1850s Old Bethlehem lutheran Cemetery desrted since the 20s I played in the cemterey in a open tomb on the hillside right across the tracks from Calavary cemetery and the back side of Holy Cross school the graves were remove to New Bethlehem cemtery in the mid 60s the records were presumed lost so some of the graves were interned in mass graves until recently the cemerery records reappeared.

  6. Nice pictorial on Baden. My folks moved in during the late seventies; mom still lives there. You have pictures of her house on Gast Place. Been reading a bit on Baden, and it has been sad to witness its slow decline. However, there are yuppies moving into the nearby Old North neighborhood and pouring money into refurb and new businesses. Can we hope for the same in Baden? Just read that one of the last hold-out businesses in Baden, a bar named Kulage's, located on N. Broadway, has closed after a long, successful run. It follows a few other bars including Magee's, as well as some of the nicer restaurants like Cristo's and Romine's, that have all closed up shop in the last 10 (?) years or so.

  7. I lived in baden and went to baden school and our lady of mt carmel which is no longer there now
    It makes me very sad to see the places I called home turning into dope and crack houses,I used to live on gimblin a beautiful street,the house I used to live in has been rebuilt 3 times ,what is wrong with
    people today, a beautiful area blighted and messed up when i know how it used to be it really is very heartbreaking ,i hope baden does get rebuilt it deserves to be nice again and have childrn laughing and playing,and maybe this time it will stay nice like it used to be ,if people wake up and bann together to take care of their neighborhoods a die hard badenite

  8. OMG. My grandparents lived on Church Rd & Gimblin. I think that my grandparents (German culture) lived there starting about 1937 or 1940. We (my mother & 2 sisters) lived with my grandparents in 1960 while my Dad was going to radar school in Olathe KS with the Navy. I was in the 4th grade and went to Baden School. We also went to the Baden public library often. My Mom
    & Dad were married in a Lutheran church on Halls Ferry Rd near Church Rd (I think) in 1949. The last time I was there was in 1978 to visit my ailing grandmother. It is sad to see so much of the old neighborhood changed from your pics. I will be on a road trip in the Fall in which we go thru St.Louis so I am going to try to see if we can locate Baden and take a slight detour thru the old neighborhood.

  9. laurac001@yahoo.comOctober 8, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    My German Grandpa lived in Baden all his life, until the early 80's. He lived on Bittner St. I have fond memories of walking to the Catholic Church around the corner from his house, and going to the B&J Restaurant/Bar on Broadway where my Grandma (Irish American) worked. My Grandpa used to go to Deppies Bar. (spelling? I would love to see the beauty restored to this incredible neighborhood!

  10. I grew up on Wall St in Baden in the 50s and early 60s. Went to Baden School and was able to walk ANYWHERE you needed to go - school, church, the library, the Dr office, bank, the movies and stores. It was a terrific neighborhood. Thanks for your blog.

  11. My name is Terry Bartels. I enjoyed reading the information provided in this post. My family lived in a four family flat on Riverview Blvd. about 1/2 mile from the Halls Ferry Circle. I attended Baden school for about 5 years (starting in the mid 1940's.) I walked to school. I remember my fourth grade teacher, Miss Marco and the principal who was Mr. Green. I also remember that the playground was divided based on gender--the boys had one side, and the girls had the other. I have fond memories of attending the Baden theater on Friday nights, and eating at the Baden Hotel-they had great food. Those were the good old days!

  12. My name is Jim Fogarty I lived in Baden till I was 26. My mother RoseMary Gabrisch live in Baben all her life, Makes me sad to see what it as turn
    ed into.

  13. I grew up in baden also sells ave. Right behind Kleinburgs tavern Hallsferry & Mclearen. Went to Ebenezer Lutheran school church rd. Theobold & veronica. one company i worked for in baden is still in business, Louisa Foods inc. Famous for toasted ravioli. They started on broadway next to kenny,s bowling lanes. Then moved to Hornsby near broadway now located in Jennings

  14. grew up in baden. went to Holy Cross.

    certainly isn't what it used to be...

    nice website!

  15. i grew up in baden , on lowell st , most of us went to holy cross for school because the public school was so bad , played sports at hickey park and hung out at dickman park , lot of good memories , really miss the 70's and 80's living there , good people and lots of great times

  16. Really cool posting about Baden. I'm putting something together for my dad's 80th birthday and could use some help. I remember going to Magee's Tavern with him and my grandpa but don't remember exactly where it was. If anybody could help with an address or better yet a picture that would be great! Thanks in advance.

  17. I was born 66 years ago on Baden Avenue, family name is Graham. Several years ago we wenrpt to Baden to see if the little house wraps still there. Seems Baden Avevue is closed off to where the house used to be. Would like assistance if there is a way to get there. My brothers and father used to play ball with a young man who made it in Major League Baseball by the name of Bobby Knopp (spelling?) would love to hear from him or his family if they still around.

  18. My Grandma worked at triangle plastic (printing factory for key chains) for many years till the early 2000s when they shut down. She use to bring home the paper and let me read it. She always had a story to tell.

    However my uncle on my fathers side stayed on Cannan just west of North Broadway. He'd leave town twice a month for a treatment and I'd stay at his house and tend to his dogs while he was out of state. the memory that stands out the most is the gun fire. night or broad day it didn't matter. Gun shots would ring out through out the city like bagdad and if I said it only happened once a day I'd be lying. The gun fire became a noraml occurrence there were times I didn't even care to look out side it happened so much. Baden has been wild ever since I can remember and still is till this day. If you say it isn't because of its historical look then you just aren't from stl. However, if you're from stl then you know Baden's reputation and you tread lightly.

  19. Kathy said...

    My Grandfather and Grandmother had a restaurant in Baden called the Sugar Bowl back in the 1930's and 1940's (WW II).
    I came along in 1951. My dad sold candy through a window from the Sugar Bowl to the theater. We had so much fun
    going to the Baden show. Mrs. Shipper's Clothing Store and Wilhelm's Uniform Shop all within walking distance.
    Everyone knew all their neighbors in Baden. We went to Holy Cross Church. We lived with my Grandmother until my
    parents bought a house and we moved. What great memories! Thank you so much for the pictures.

    I wish we had more walking neighborhoods today.

  20. My name is Paul E. Graham my sister posted on here on April 29, 2016 about being born on Baden Ave. I was there when she was born and I state that so you will understand more of my posts here. WE moved there in 1948 or 49 I was only 4 or 5 years old at the time we moved from there in 1951 or 1952 so everything you learn at that age is fascinating at least to me it was anyway. Baden Ave. at that time ran from No. Broadway East to the river levy, Hall Street did not exist during those days, instead there was a R/R tract that ran along there and it had a station/depot where it crossed Baden Ave.
    Where Hall St. crosses Baden Ave now there are barriers so you cannot get to the river and there are now scrapyards where our house as well as all the neighbors houses are no longer. 20 or so years ago I and my wife and mother were able to get around that barrier somehow and went on down the street and the only house still standing was the offices for the scrap yard I think and it was the one that was next door to where our house was.
    During those days as well from the R/R tracts to the river the houses along Baden Ave. had out house toilets in their back yards that were actually hooked into the city sewage system through a dump valve type system like you have on the airlines planes, it also had water supplied any a reservoir tank that you would have to fill up when you went in during the winter and when you done your business you would pull the chain and dump all the water out so it would not freeze, I always enjoyed filling and dumping. Were there any other streets on the East side of Broadway toward the river that had that set up? One reason other than the filling and dumping that I remember the out house was because the night my sister was born our Mother came in from a visit there to tell my father that her water had broken.
    I attended Baden School for kindergarten and transition (a program instituted for only one year to better equip kids for 1st grade and of course it had to be the year I was there) and 1st grade as well. My brother and I drove all around Baden this past fall and to see Baden school for sale and in such disrepair was disturbing to say the least. My mom would walk me to and from School every day with my brother in tow and pushing my baby sister in a stroller as long as the weather would allow here to, nearly two miles each way from our house.
    Does anyone know about what Dad called the hobo town on the other side of the levy from there, you would rarely if ever see one of them but you would know when one was going up and down the ally because all of a sudden things would be missing, mom had a pie missing from a window shelf cooling and a couple days later the pie pan showed back up totally cleaned, dad had a can of nail missing from under the rabbit hutch and sometime later it showed back up with different kind of nails in it. Please let me know if anyone knew of these things.