St. Louis's "West End" Neighborhood can cause quite the confusion. Many refer to the bustling and popular Central West End by the same shortened name. Others think of the "West End" more in its historical sense, taking in an area from Kingshighway to city limits, Page Avenue to Forest Park.
Today's West End neighborhood is considered a solid part of the North Side, being located north of Delmar. Most people don't consider that this neighborhood shares the East Loop with Skinker-DeBaliviere; contains one of the oldest houses in the city; was indeed once part of that nebulous and larger West End region that was defined by its wealth and prestige.
If you read the History of Urban Renewal in St. Louis, you'll discover that the West End (current definition) was one of the city's countless "urban renewal" areas. Usually this meant mass demolition for new construction and green space. However, the West End was a late urban renewal zone. By the dawn of the 1970s, Pruitt-Igoe and like-public housing projects were rapidly losing favor. The federal government's Model Cities program contained public participation requirements for urban redevelopments receiving federal funding; through this more democratic approach, mid-century planners were beginning to hear the voices of unrest and upheaval. To their surprise, many low-income residents liked their neighborhoods and did not want to see them cleared outright.
Accordingly, in the West End, the intent was rehabilitation of the bulk of the neighborhood's fine homes. The plans also called for a popular crime-deterring technique of the 1970s, one that has scarred the city throughout--street closures and other disruptions to the grid. Sadly, planned rehabilitations in the West End Urban Renewal Area were outpaced by demolitions. The street grid was still marred as planned, in many cases.
Today's West End has little relation to the better known Central West End, socioeconomically or otherwise. There are some new homes:
These homes are located on the 5800 block of Clemens. Their presence is probably a good sign for the neighborhood, though their execution could clearly have been better. Driveways should be banned in most of St. Louis's urban neighborhoods, including the West End. In addition, the city should probably discourage the brick facade-vinyl siding phenomenon in a well-articulated urban design guidelines. Still, the several blocks that have witnessed these new homes are at least no longer desolate.
Even better, the West End contains one of the city's most picturesque and historic private streets--West Cabanne Place. It has sustained some high profile losses, but for the most part is intact. For a great history of the Cabanne area, please make sure to see the immaculate Vanishing St. Louis post: "Survival and Loss on the West End's Cabanne Avenue".
The West End neighborhood is also notable for hosting several examples of a relatively rare American housing style--the Shingle-style house. West Cabanne Place has several--as does Bartmer Avenue centered on Belt.
Unfortunately, last month's Preservation Board meeting saw the unanimous approval of the demolition of one of these rare housing types. 5594 Bartmer was requested for demolition by an adjacent property owner who had built a new home and was worried about the condition of this neighboring home. It is pictured below, courtesy of the St. Louis Community Information Network.
Vacant for many years, 5594 was given several reprieves by the Preservation Board in the past in order to find a fitting owner. Such an owner never materialized. Now the house will be demolished.
The West End has lost another important building recently as well. The 30-unit building at Goodfellow and Cabanne is no more. Courtesy of Vanishing St. Louis:
The West End was likely once not too much unlike its neighbor to the south, Skinker-DeBaliviere. That is to say, it contained lots of large apartment buildings like that above and many unique, turn-of-the-century single-family homes. Despite its many losses, it's not too late for a neighborhood like the West End. Urban design guidelines, a neighborhood-wide National Register nomination, re-opening the neighborhood's street grid and, who knows, maybe the Loop Trolley, could all help to get the neighborhood back on its feet. We shouldn't forget the two West End attributes when we rebuild any neighborhood in the city--uniqueness (see the rare Shingle style houses that call the neighborhood home) and density (its formerly numerous apartment blocks).
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