Disappearing History in South County
While it's true that South St. Louis County is not the first place one thinks of when seeking historical sites, it's a shame that:
- Under the BRAC proposals by the Department of Defense, the last active military operations at Jefferson Barracks, will probably close. Admittedly it's only 67 positions at the Army National Guard operations, but it's the last vestiges of an installation opened originally in 1826. Most of it was closed in 1946, and the largest part became a St. Louis County park. Sylvan Springs Park was also part of the barracks. The National Cemetery and Veterans Hospital will still operate, in the south end of the barracks area; but those are run by the separate federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Today's South Post reports that the historic, 1895 St. John School on Will Avenue and Lemay Ferry Road in Mehlville may be sold by the Mehlville School District to a developer, who plans to demolish it for a nearly 200-unit condo development. They claim the window arrangement of the building would not lend itself to reuse for condo development within the building, which was until a few years ago leased to St. Louis Community College for its South County Education Center, now located a lot further south on Lemay Ferry at Meramec Bottom Road (not on a local bus line).
Mehlville School District administration over the years has shown it has no sense of the history its original buildings embodied. Since most of the old farmhouses in the area have long since been demolished, the solid brick school buildings were reminders of the past in a region where most houses were built in the 1960s or later. Yet just a couple years ago, they decided to completely demolish the old Oakville Elementary School, part of which dated to about 1900, and build a new one on the same site. Similar work was done in the 1990s to Point and Forder schools, although some elements of those historic buildings were preserved. Not the case at Oakville, and evidently not at St John either.
They even demolished the relatively new, 1954 built Bernard Elementary School to make way for the new Bernard Middle School.
While admittedly schools are not just buildings, having a sense of place and history is important for everyone. Whatever the traffic impacts or other problems associated with this condo development, it will not have nearly as much historic value to the community as St John School, which had been a public school site since the 1840s when it was donated for that purpose by a local farmer.