Saturday, January 14, 2006



Early this morning I needed to go to UMSL, but since MetroLink wasn't running directly, I took the #30 Soulard bus northward from the Benton Park area, then transferred to the #04 Natural Bridge to go out west.

In so doing, I waited a little more than 10 minutes at a rather depressingly desolate corner: Parnell St. and St. Louis Ave.

Parnell is the northern extension of N. Jefferson Ave. that ends when it meets with Natural Bridge/Palm and Salisbury. It is a six-lane road, ridiculously wide. The stretch of N. Jefferson one block west is still pretty much a side street.

There are still some industrial buildings at or near this corner, but few residences nearby. The number of vacant lots is just astounding in this part of town.

But I wasn't scared. Sure, one I passed north of downtown, I was the only white person on either bus. That's not unusual.

However, it can really weigh heavily on a person to see so much decay as is evident in this section of town. You can clearly see the evidence of past buildings and past lives. Finding the potential in this area is harder, but surely if I spent a little more time there, I would.

There are lots of great assets not far away, like the Black World History Museum. And, amazingly, despite the dramatic population losses in this section of town, there are still three bus routes criss-crossing the area: the #04 on Parnell, the #30 on St. Louis, and the #41 Lee which turns from St. Louis onto Parnell as part of its twisty side-street route through the Northside.

While the sidewalks are almost ground away, and the streets largely bereft of people, I still have hope this section of the Northside can be revived. It won't be what it was 50 years ago, before these super-highway like streets were built, but maybe it will be something even more interesting and unique.

I just hope this area isn't just bulldozed for a suburban style subdivision of vinyl-clad garbage.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps a letter to Bill McClellan, or the Business Jornal, the Mayors office and other prominent business to come up with a plan for the area.

Anonymous said...

I lived there 50 years ago, it was not quite a vibrant neighborhood then. When Parnell "became Jefferson" two of the places we lived were taken down. Buss Fuse and the packing houses were the major employers. Most of us lived in three room shotgun cold water flats with outside open stairs to the second floor. The area was on the decline then as most people wanted more comfortable living arrangements. We moved to the still standing apartment building at Dodier and Parnell. We had a furnace and a place in the basement for a washer not to mention hot water, we had arrived! We moved from the neighborhood because we needed a larger place, another baby was coming, this took us to Lafayette St. which very shortly was to be taken for Highway 44. That was the death of that area as those buildings were still very well cared for and the neighborhood healthy to that point.
It is very sad to visit the old neighborhoods.

Urban Review - St. Louis said...

Great post, as always. While North St. Louis has some great streets & neighborhoods it also has more than its share of urban decay.

I think many believe the answer is in building a bunch of spread out single family homes. That might bring some population to the area in spots but it will never acheive the critical mass necessary to bring back the retail.