Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Whatever Happened to Biddle Street?

Whatever Happened to Biddle Street?

Biddle Street, on the near Northside of St. Louis, was in days of yore well known as the heart of the Kerry Patch and later ethnic communities. Also, it was part of the earliest infrastructure development of the City: the Biddle Street Sewer, started in 1850.

However, it's quite evident that Biddle Street no longer exists as a true street, and hasn't for quite some time.

Walking eastward from lunch today, I noted the following blockages along Biddle from Tucker east:

  • Closed immediately east of Tucker, partly because of the decaying viaduct on which Tucker runs;
  • After being open from Hadley to 11th, disappears again for the plaza in front of the Shrine of St. Joseph, and Father Filipiac Park just east of the shrine; this covers the entire block from 11th to 10th.
  • In the block from 10th to 9th, Biddle is a very overgrown pedestrian mall, adjacent to Patrick Henry Elementary School and some very decrepit looking tennis courts.
  • Although I didn't follow it, the next block (from 9th to 8th) is non-existent, having long ago been consolidated into the superblock of the high-rise Cochran Gardens public housing complex. Perhaps the redevelopment planned would include restoring this street?
  • Biddle makes a brief reappearance adjacent to the historic Neighborhood Gardens Apartments between 8th and 7th.
  • From 7th to N. Broadway, Biddle is still a street - but not for long. The Bottle District plan seems to suggest - without actually labeling any streets! - that 6th at Biddle will be the epicenter of the proposed pedestrian mall.

    Other portions of Biddle are a little more street-like; for example, it's landscaped and wide east of I-70 all the way to Lenor K. Sullivan Blvd. However, this relatively recent improvement seems rather odd, given that there are no buildings on that section. It's pretty much just an attractive parking lot entryway.

    Perhaps the Pinnacle casino will relate to this street, but I'm not sure it will.

    West of Tucker, Biddle does somehow resemble a street, albeit with vast expanses of vacant land on several stretches, until about 20th St., when it disappears almost completely into the halfway-redeveloped southern end of the famous Pruitt-Igoe site. There are athletic fields there now, serving both Pruitt Military Middle School (the online picture of which looks like it should be on the edge of some suburban area with the amount of empty space in the background) and the Gateway schools complex, known officially as the Samuel Shepard Jr. Gateway Educational Park.

    Anonymous said...

    Some of the largest collections of superblocks border downtown, cutting it off from nearby neighborhoods.

    The area Joe mentions north of Washington to Cass, east of Tucker to I-70 is just one grouping of superblocks, blocking off the north.

    Downtown is also blocked off from the northwest by Pruitt-Igoe/Carr Square, to the west by AG Edwards' campus and to the south by Purina's campus and near-southside public housing.

    The culprit? Why, urban renewal!

    From Mill Creek Valley to Desoto-Carr, all these areas experienced massive demo for superblock developments that were again partially demolished (Pruitt-Igoe only the most infamous).

    And what did we learn from superblocks? Apparently nothing with the Bottle District's plan.

    Downtown may be reviving, but it remains a disconnected island from neighborhoods to the north, south and west with these bordering superblocks still in place.

    Michael Allen said...


    Great post! I would love to see or help create a series of short essays on lost or largely lost streets like Biddle.

    If only the bottle District could reconnect Biddle to Broadway, at least the street's name would be on more people's lips.

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you for this info, especially that Biddle Street was once part of Kerry Patch. I’m (attempting) to write a historical fiction that takes place in St.Louis in the 1920’s. I was particularly interested in this area of the city as I knew that a lot of immigrants lived there but I could not corroborate Biddle Street being in Kerry Patch until now.