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Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Patch - East of Broadway

Click here to pull up a map. Or scroll to the end of this post for a photo tour.

It doesn't look like much, but this forgotten section of St. Louis contains some of its oldest housing. The compact square blocks reflect the area's history--part of the Creole town of Carondelet.

If you removed some siding and tidied up a bit, you'd have the remnants of an old French and Spanish village. Many of the structures here date from the 1840s--and even earlier.

Even back in the anti-urban days of the 1960s, the City of St. Louis saw this area as a priority for preservation. The 1967 Riverfront Development Plan actually proposed dedicating this entire area to industry and moving all existing housing to flank a proposed park just to the north. In effect, they wanted to recreate the village of Carondelet as it once may have appeared.

While these undertakings usually create absolutely cheesy and inauthentic outdoor museums, I can't help but wish this one plan went through. Today, the area is more industrial area than residential neighborhood, as time and demolitions have taken their course. What houses remain are so altered from their formerly modest appearance that they appear to be cheap new construction.

I'd like to see another Riverfront Plan, but houses don't need to be moved this time. Instead, there needs to be a residential facade improvement program to bring these homes' history back to light. There also needs to be some infill that truly evokes the Creole cottages that lie underneath the ramshackle re-dos.

One of the very few remaining links to early St. Louis is slipping away almost unnoticed.

There's more history to be had in the National Register nomination of the "East of Broadway" multiple resource listing.

[To follow that last link, type in "MO" for state code and navigate to "East of Broadway"].

If my prediction comes true, and South Broadway becomes the city's next hot business district, we may some day see the Patch (east of Broadway) truly take off. There's a lot working against it, with heavy industrial neighbors not the least of those problems. Still, it's a historic and potentially handsome area. Imagine some new street lamps, sidewalks with brick pavers, street trees, a streetcar down Broadway, and we may have a deal.

The pictures below are from the St. Louis Community Information Network.

116 E. Steins St.
(Newly rehabbed as part of the Steins-Broadway Condos project.)

116-18 Steins St.
No offense to the owner of this property, but the siding-cladding of this historic structure is simply shameful. The Germanic limestone peeking out from the vinly is even more of a tease.

214 E. Steins
Who knows how old this double-balconied house is? Architectural ornament has long been removed. A quick check of city records claims an 1884 construction date. However, my experience with the St. Louis Community Information Network has taught me that they really don't have records prior to the 1880s, and so make guesses (and shoddy ones, it appears, some times) at the construction dates of earlier buildings.

218 E. Steins
A shoddy structure with some potential, despites its gritty location.

308 E. Courtois St.
While this is certainly no French Colonial structure, it's a handsome, if somewhat spare building that is deserving of preservation.

310 E. Courtois St.
This one could quite possibly be a late French Colonial structure (construction date: 1840s?). The roof pitch is suggestive of it. STL CIN says it was built in 1890--though it's not a member of any of the styles popular then--mostly Victorian styles, in St. Louis (Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, etc.).

7619 Water St.
Welcome to Old Carondelet!

7621 Water St.
A nice port-cochere example of a French Colonial. (I'm kidding)

7611 Water St.
It looks like Steins-Broadway Condos is renovating this French Colonial Style home! Nice! It's a great structure.

7623 Water St.
A cared-for but altered old Colonial.

7631 Water St.
A nice old row in the Patch. There's enough context here to redevelop this neighborhood into something truly special and valued.

7805 Water St.
This "newer" building (what--1880s?) brings the district architectural diversity.

7811 Water St.
Doesn't look like much, but what's underneath?

7827 Reilly Ave.
An ancient building that's slipping (slipped?) away.

7827 Reilly Ave.
A classic German limestone building covered by this latticed porch. It could be a two-story cousin to the better known Steins Row across Broadway.

7827 Vulcan
Solid industrial buildings along Vulcan.

The Jacob Steins House - Corner of Steins and Reilly Streets
Amazingly, this is still there despite the industrialization of this area (and despite this vintage shot that suggests the building is gone). Read more about the history of this house here.

That's all for now!


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