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Saturday, May 1, 2010

So You Think Southwest City is Boring?

I've heard it said before by many a St. Louis urbanist: southwest St. Louis, with its tidy rows of gingerbread Tudors and neo-Georgian colonials, is "quaint" at best. It's boring at worst.

Those that desire the red brick ambiance of the city's older innards will not be disappointed by Southwest Garden--a neighborhood that stretches to Hampton Avenue on the west, which is surely an urban-suburban demarcation in the minds of some. (For many, that boundary is anything west of Kingshighway, or even Grand).

Southwest Garden is an incredibly architecturally diverse neighborhood. The eastern section of the neighborhood, east of Kingshighway and south of Vandeventer, is mostly brown brick multi-families with Craftsman or even Spanish Colonial detailing. The subdivisions just west of Kingshighway have some larger homes in the American Foursquare, Romanesque, and Classical Revival styles. There are even two International style houses on Kingshighway itself within the neighborhood. The rest of Southwest Garden is home to frame shotguns that clearly belong to the Hill neighborhood's housing stock; tract houses built in the 1950s; "bungaloids" of the 1920s; and the aforementioned Tudors and Georgians that changed the landscape of St. Louis post-World War I but pre-modernist fever.

I like neighborhoods with a diverse housing stock, and St. Louis has some of the most variation within and between neighborhoods that I've ever witnessed in an American city.

Just a short three blocks from Hampton Avenue--the encroaching suburban ethos is palpable--sits the 5600 block of Reber Place. No, this isn't the part of Reber with the tree-lined median that you'll find just west of Kingshighway. We're talking really close to Hampton, here, folks!

It's my favorite block in the neighborhood. This block rests, humble and demure, allowing "cooler" South Side neighborhoods their unfounded disdain. It's no matter, though; 5600 Reber's quiet confidence is there for those that appreciate it.

Southwest City is not boring. If it is, it certainly doesn't look the part. If you need more than architectural evidence, I'll now point you to the Luminary Arts Center and the TreeHugger installation in Southwest Garden. Oh, and Sandrina's.


Chris said...

I call the streets of St. Louis Hills "symphonies of brick." Not every neighborhood needs to be full of excitement. St. Louis is a great city because it has a neighborhood for everyone.

john w. said... even has a neighborhood for Mayor Slay.

Doug Duckworth said...
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Doug Duckworth said...

Instead of calling Southwest City boring, perhaps criticize that it receives a greater proportion of public services(directly tied to its racial demographics).

St. Louis City, with other designed to be urban cities, is as suburban as anything else if you consider car ownership and transit ridership. In this regard Southwest City is as auto-centric or suburban as most of south South Louis. It could certainly use more corner stores and stronger commercial districts, as well as socioeconomic diversity, but there isn't a huge divide.

I do admit that the lack of sidewalks as well as contemporary and historic suburban housing can be annoying -- and especially the disgusting vinyl second story addition to perfectly fine one story brick homes. But these are broader issues which can and should be addressed with planning and preservation regarding this period.

I spend a lot of time in Lafayette Square and less around Francis Park. However I wouldn't consider Lafayette Square several orders of magnitude more exciting. We have quite a few extremely entertaining neighborhoods in St. Louis City, which usually center around established or emerging commercial/entertainment districts. Southwest City has fewer and needs to do more promoting them! Southwest Gardens must get its historic district, improve its master plan, and implement it through zoning overlay and design guidelines.

Finally, we should stop the hating and realize St. Louis, and most US cities, is generally all equally lame insofar as in 50 years coral reefs will no longer exist because we tore up our streetcars. Unite and prevent that from happening my hipster cohort who drives a car, van, truck, or any mode of transport which isn't a scooter, bicycle, motorcycle, large farm animal, or who finally uses our limited transit. After all, giving Southwest City back its streetcars will change it greatly -- and perhaps extinguish a few fires in California and Australia.

Swayback said...

Nuke it.

淑慧 said...
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STLgasm said...

Nowhere is the St. Louis accent more alive than in Southwest City. That fact alone makes it cool.

Ryley said...

Southwest City boring? Ha! Hardly. When my wife and I decided to stay in the USA last year we looked all over STL for the right neighborhood. Southwest City has equal architectural charm to any part of STL and has buckets of everything else that makes STL City such a great place to live.

Our 1930s Gingerbread Tudor is truly an amazing home, every bit as special as a Painted Lady or Wash Ave loft.

Brian said...

I miss North Hampton. What a great - and beautiful - neighborhood. So much character there.

tagskie said...
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