Monday, August 15, 2005

Secret Passages

Secret Passages

St. Louis was once a streetcar town. Electric streetcar routes criss-crossed the city and the inner-ring suburbs, serving a wide swath of St. Louis County, as well as selected portions of the Metro East, particularly via the interurban car network across the McKinley Bridge.

As the name suggests, most streetcars ran on streets; but some ran on private rights-of-way. And in some cases, particularly in the suburbs, access to those lines was available not just via traditional streets, but also by semi-public walkways running perpendicular to neighboring streets.

Some of those rights-of-way and walkways still exist. If you walk around and look closely, you can find them.

Most of the walkways I know are in or near University City and Clayton. There used to be a walkway that provided access to the 93 Lindell line and the Rock Island Railway (now Forest Park Parkway - or, actually, the under construction MetroLink line) called "Waterman Way" in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood from about 5900 Waterman to 5900 Forest Park Parkway in St. Louis City, but it was vacated and barricaded in 1999.

Identifiable former streetcar rights-of-way:

  • Hodiamont Right-of-Way from Cole Elementary School at 3935 Enright Ave. to Gwen Giles Park at about 900 Hodiamont Ave. Most of this old narrow-gauge railroad r-o-w, which later became the Hodiamont streetcar route - the last remaining streetcar in the city, terminated in 1966 - is still served by the #15 Hodiamont MetroBus route. Confusingly, the Hodiamont bus no longer runs on Hodiamont Ave. at all. Sometime in the 1970s, probably, the section of the r-o-w behind West Cabanne Place was closed off, and recent bus restructuring means the westbound Hodiamont bus, after leaving the r-o-w at Hamilton Blvd., travels north to Etzel Ave., then west on Etzel Ave. straight to Sutter and Plymouth in Wellston, ending at the Wellston MetroLink station. Until a couple years ago, the Hodiamont bus route went to the Wellston Loop instead.

  • Ackert Walkway, which is probably better known as the shortcut to get from the Loop to WashU. It used to be the Kirkwood-Ferguson streetcar right-of-way. Two portions of it are only open for pedestrians and cyclists: the WashU-maintained section from the - also under construction - pedestrian bridge over Forest Park Parkway into WashU near the Cyclotron and Powerhouse buildings, to Kingsbury Blvd.; and the much longer University City municipal 'park' section from Delmar Blvd. all the way to Vernon Ave., dedicated as a city park in 1967. The intervening two-block section of Melville Ave. from Delmar (next to Blueberry Hill) to Kingsbury was also part of the streetcar route.

  • DeMun Ave. in Clayton and Yale Ave. in Richmond Heights/Maplewood were also part of the Kirkwood-Ferguson line. The route also traversed the WashU Hilltop campus, but all traces of it have been obliterated there. DeMun/Yale had streetcar service running right down the middle of the super-wide grassy median.

    Since at least the 1970s, DeMun has been closed to through traffic at a point between Arundel Place and Northwood Avenue, next to Captain Elementary School. Indeed, part of the old street is now the school parking lot; and walking through there requires going up several steps. This enforces the separation between the single-family large-lot residential district north of the school, and the DeMun Ave. retail strip accessible via Clayton Road to the south. Thus, DeMun no longer has public transit service.

    Likewise, Yale Ave. was broken by the construction of Highway 40 through Richmond Heights in the 1960s. The wide median is still evident on Yale on an orphaned half-block from Wise Ave. to West Park Ave., and then south of 40 from Nashville Ave. all the way to Manchester Ave. in Maplewood. I suppose that the connection between DeMun and Yale on this route was once made on a right-of-way that's now part of the St. Mary's Health Center campus. Bus service still operates just one block west, on Bellevue Ave., via the #16 City Limits.

  • Wydown Blvd. in Clayton/St. Louis City from Skinker to Hanley, of course, also has a very wide median, which used to be used by the Lindell streetcar. The Lindell bus still runs on this exact route.

  • Lindbergh Dr. from through Richmond Heights and Maplewood was once the route of the Brentwood 'dinky' car line. This sidestreet, again with a very wide median, should not be confused with the much wider and more prominent Lindbergh Blvd. in St. Louis County, which never had streetcar service on it, and just barely has bus service now. I believe the route started at Dale Ave., as a branch from the more important Forest Park streetcar line that ended nearby on Dale, then followed Lindbergh Dr. southwestwardly, and continued on a private r-o-w that you can almost still find, to about Laclede Station Road at Jerome Avenue in Maplewood. There was probably a further extension of this r-o-w, but industrial development on Hanley has made it hard to identify.

  • The median between Dorothy Dr. and Mary Dr. in Brentwood now known as Rogers Parkway was part of a streetcar route, perhaps another branch of the Brentwood dinky. Because of modern retail and industrial development in north Brentwood, it's hard to tell where the r-o-w started, but it certainly extended through central Brentwood, south to Manchester Road, and perhaps all the way south along Mary Ave. to the railroad tracks near Petrolite and the current-day Brentwood MetroBus garage.

  • Believe it or not, there used to be a streetcar-only (and later, bus-only) 1,000-foot long bridge across Deer Creek Park in Maplewood, all the way into Webster Groves. The bridge abutments, apparently, still exist; and several of the parcels leading up the bridge are still owned by Bi-State! The route, part of the Manchester streetcar and later used by express buses until the bridge was condemned in the 1970s, was roughly along Bartold Ave. in Maplewood - only a few blocks from where MetroLink is currently being built - then onto the bridge, then via Summit Ave. and Theater Ln. in Webster. It would be really interesting if some of this right-of-way could someday be used as a branch from the Cross-County MetroLink directly into Webster Groves.

  • Midland Blvd., from Delmar Blvd. in U. City all the way out to Lindbergh Blvd. near Maryland Heights was the streetcar route to Creve Coeur Lake, a major amusement park destination in its heyday. At Lindbergh, the current route of Midland diverges from the historic route, to merge into Dorsett Road. However, it appears that a long stretch of common ground in the recently developed Pinehurst Place subdivision and a Maryland Heights city park roughly follow the old streetcar route; and after that, Midland starts up again in the older part of Maryland Heights, west of Fee Fee. That road ends at a railroad track; then an industrial park has eliminated all traces of the streetcar route. West of I-270, the route would have run along Ameling Ave. and then into what is now Creve Coeur Lake Park.

    Still open walkways to old streetcar stops:

  • Limit Walk, at about the 6300 block through the Parkview private-street subdivision. The northernmost block, from Delmar to Washington, is technically a street, Limit Ave., but is barricaded permanently at the alley behind Delmar. The rest is a walkway, that as the name suggests, runs precisely along the St. Louis City limits. Until recently, though, you could walk along here all the way through to Forest Park Parkway. That exit, however, has been closed off due to the MetroLink construction, perhaps permanently. Nevertheless, it is still a fun way to cut through the Parkview area - especially since you're not supposed to be in there anyway. ;-)

  • Unnamed walkway from 72xx Westmoreland Ave. to 72xx Maryland Ave. in south U. City, which connected Maryland residents to the vicinity of Pershing Ave. and Forest Park Parkway, the old Lindell/Clayton streetcar and Rock Island Railway routes.

  • Unnamed walkways from 73xx Maryland Ave. to 73xx Westmoreland Ave., with a slightly jog via Westmoreland to 73xx Westmoreland, to 73xx Pershing and then 73xx Kingsbury Blvd. (at the corner of Warren Ave.) Part of this walkway is steep enough it includes a staircase. Provided access to the old Lindell/Clayton streetcar routes on Pershing.

    Other secret passages that are fun, but probably not streetcar-related:

  • Macklind Avenue underpass, which goes under I-64/US Highway 40 inside Forest Park just east of Macklind Avenue. It dates from at least the 1950s, and is primarily used by SLUH athletic teams accessing the Aviation Fields in the park.

  • Wellesley Avenue underpass in U. City, which connects 7200 Westmoreland, south of Forest Park Parkway, with the dead end of Wellesley Avenue just south of Pershing Avenue. Built probably in the 1960s to provide access to Flynn Park Elementary School for children residing south of the Parkway, it is now a graffiti-covered channel that seems somehow out-of-place in rather this rather idyllic suburban area. Almost connects with the 72xx Westmoreland/72xx Maryland walkway.

  • E.G. Lewis Park entranceways in University City. Although Lewis Park is visible from and just downhill from Delmar Blvd. a little west of Big Bend, it has two less well-known back entrances: one (which is marked) from the trianglar intersection of Pennsylvania, Vassar and Cornell Aves; and another (unmarked) from about 700 Yale Ave. in the private University Hills subdivision.
  • 4 comments:

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    Wayne Brasler said...

    There's more! Unbelievably, a patch of right-of-way from the old St. Louis, St. Charles and Western interurban sits on the west side of Fee Fee Road just north of the Rock Road, with an electric substation still in place. A long stretch of right-of-way marches further north across McKelvey Avenue, wiggling between townhouses before entering a grassy plain. The Rock Road west of Old St. Charles Road (now Boenker) is actually the route of the interburan! Before the interurban ceased, the Rock Road meandered along Fee Fee Creek, which constantly flooded it. A stretch of interurban right-of-way, with the original poles intact, also sits on the south side of the Rock Road just east of Earth City Expressway. The Brentwood line right-of-way and powerhouse still sits to the north of Deer Creek just east of Brentwood Boulevard. The Kirkwood-Ferguson substation where the Ferguson branch left the Florissant still sits, now a garage, on the east side of Hanley Road. Winding Parker Road which branches off Magnolia in Kirkwood was the Meramec Highlands streetcar right-of-way. The Kirkwood streetcar Rock Hill loop still exists as a bus loop in Webster Groves. The right-of-way of the St. Peters streetcar line still sits on the west side of Lucas and Hunt Road between Natural Bridge and the Rock Road. Pasadena Boulevard (originally Grove Avenue) wanders through Northwoods along the route of the Kirkwood-Ferguson and later City Limits lines. And steps down to the streetcar line still exist on the north side of Natural Bridge Road. The rights-of-way of the Kirkwood-Ferguson in Cool Valley and Brentwood lines in Maplewood still exist in the middle of nowhere, perfectly clear from the air and unrecognizable on the ground.

    dempster said...

    The line alomg Wydown was the Clayton line, not the Londell. although after tyhe Clayton streetcar line was terminated in the late 1940s, a branch of the Lindell bus line, called the Lindell-Wydown, ran along it.
    The lone of Demun was the City Limits line. The Kirkwood ferguson line ran through Clayton and made its way to Linden, Dorothy and Mary ave, then to Brentwood and then to Kirkham. Posted by Dempster Holland.

    NW Professional Tax said...

    Walking through these "secret passages" sounds like fun, my only concern though is the chance of being mugged in them? or is it more of an open area then i have pictured in my head. I would go for the old rule of using the buddy system