Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Gateway Geyser and Mississippi River Overlook

Today, for the first time, I was driving across the Eads Bridge and actually saw the Gateway Geyser in full operation! It must have been about 1:10 pm, since it only operates twice daily (12:00 to 12:15 pm and 1:00 to 1:15 pm).

Sadly, I was not able to get close enough to take a photograph until it had already stopped running.

But I did manage to drive alongside of it -- it is fenced off with signs that say "No Trespassing." Also, I saw the construction workers still building the adjacent Mississippi River Overlook.

Here's the official website. No photos there, either. ;-(

Here's a map.

And here's a YouTube video from Channel 9.

The overlook and geyser combined make up what is known as Malcolm Martin Memorial Park (MMM Park), owned and operated by the Metro East Park and Recreation District -- the Illinois counterpart to Great Rivers Greenway, both created by the passage of a sales tax by voters in November 2000.

At present, the overlook is still surrounded by construction vehicles, but hopefully by the end of summer you'll be able to visit. It promises to offer an impressive view of the St. Louis skyline.

To get there...

From MetroLink:
  • Exit at East Riverfront station. Take the elevator or stairs to ground level.
  • Walk south along Front Street, past the sprawling Casino Queen complex and the imposing Cargill grain terminal
  • Turn left onto W. Trendley Avenue. By now you should be able to see the overlook. The geyser is a few hundred yards further east.

    By bicycle:

    Take the Eads Bridge (south side of bridge only), then the ramp down to the MetroLink platform, and follow the pedestrian instructions above.

    By car:

  • Drive east across the Eads Bridge. As you go around a slight curve, downhill, on the Illinois approach ramps, turn left at the first traffic signal (River Park Drive).
  • Continue west along River Park, past both casino entrances, to the stop sign. This is Front Street.
  • Turn left on Front Street. Follow the pedestrian instructions from there.

    It's actually not as hard to find as I'd thought. After all, once you get off the Eads Bridge, Front and Trendley are pretty much the only streets that still exist. Not that that is a good thing, but it certainly makes navigating a bit easier.

    Unfortunately, the pavement on these streets can be treacherous. Aside from a portion of the Casino Queen frontage, there are no sidewalks. And there are huge potholes and occasional missing drainage grates in places, which I imagine could twist an ankle and/or break a bicycle wheel. Even in a car, it's pretty bumpy -- although not quite as bad, actually, as some other areas in EStL, where there are blocks and blocks of nearly empty property and decades of deferred maintenance.

    We think things are rough in North City. Well, take a look at the East Side. It's not that nobody cares. But who has the resources to fix all the problems?

    Maybe (just maybe) places like the Malcolm Martin park can get people to start thinking about the possibilities on the East Side, rather than always just focusing on the negative.
  • Monday, June 23, 2008 May Need a Little Help Understanding St. Louis

    OK, so I checked my Yahoo! Mail this afternoon. Most of the mail I get on that account these days that is not spam, comes from one of the local railroad enthusiast email lists: [4staterailfancommunity], [stlouisrailfans], and [stlouisrailroadinfo].

    So, today I got a message from I rarely check my account, so most of my communication from them borders on spam.

    And I guess they've jumped onto the localization bandwagon, with a feature called Classmates Neighborhoods. Here's part of the message they sent me:

    It's time to get local Joseph,

    Groundbreaking news! Classmates Neighborhoods is the new way to connect with people close to home. It's where you share news about your neighborhood, swap views on the coolest haunts, create a true kinship, and more.

    Which of these neighborhoods is closest to you?

    Hathaway Meadows


    Chatting Up Hathaway Meadows
    New! Like a favorite hangout, your Hathaway Meadows neighborhood message board is where you start a dialogue on cultural happenings, trendy hot-spots, civic goings-on, and more.


    Get local and make Hathaway Meadows a better place. Leave a message today.

    Of course, I live in the City of St. Louis. Not Sauget nor Cahokia, both in Illinois.

    OK, so I think Hathaway Meadows is the name of a subdivision in North St. Louis County, either part of or adjacent to the City of Moline Acres.

    However, Classmates seems to think it's somewhere near the corner of DeTonty and Thurman in what I would generally call the Shaw neighborhood.

    Even more curious, when I clicked on the link into, I got a list of nearby neighborhoods that included:

    Cabanne Place
    Clifton Heights
    Richmond Heights
    Rock Springs
    St. Louis
    Tower Grove
    University City

    Some of those locations, of course, are well-known neighborhood identities. But some have been largely lost to history.

    Now you might think that location "Benton" was referencing Benton Park, which would be pretty darn close to my actual neighborhood, BP West.

    But in fact it refers to a location lost in the history books, but somehow still evident in cyberspace, called Benton Station. See the St Louis Public Library St Louis Street Index (1994):

    BENTON TERRACE (N-S). In the 1908 Kreickenbaum's Subdivision, it was named for its vicinity, long known as Benton Station, which in the 1850s was the Pacific Railroad's second station west of its downtown St. Louis starting point. The station appellation honors Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a strong backer of the Pacific Railroad. (Oakland)

    To make matters even more confusing, the neighborhood name in parenthesis at the end of each street name entry in the Library's index is not based on the Schoemehl-era map that's still largely in use by city agencies today. Instead, it refers to the Poelker/Conway-era map that was used by Norbury Wayman and his team at CDA in writing the official histories of each neighborhood during the late 1970s.

    I guess Classmates is giving us a little history lesson, though. What high school did kids from Benton Station attend, I wonder? (Probably the answer is: none, given we're talking about a then-rural area in the mid 19th-century.)

    And who knew Senator Thomas Hart Benton (not to be confused with his grand-nephew, 20th Century painter Thomas Hart Benton) was so popular in mid 19th Century St. Louis?

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Google Street View as a Solution to High Gas Prices?

    OK, so you probably know by now that Google Street View has arrived in St Louis.

    Not every street is completed yet, but large swaths of South City are done, as are pockets of North City, and most of Kirkwood and Webster Groves. In other areas, only major streets and roads have been photographed and uploaded.

    This seems like it could be a great tool for a lot of uses:

  • Prospective home-buyers could use Street View to compare what a house's front facade and surroundings look like, with what they get on

  • City planners could use it to supplement data they already have about real estate markets and building conditions

  • Neighborhood residents and leaders could use it to highlight problem locations, because of course city neighborhoods are not two-dimensional but three! For example, it could perhaps be used (along with other supporting evidence of course) to evict one tenant in a four- or six-family building that was engaged in criminal activity, rather than shutting the whole building down (wishful thinking I realize...)

  • Aldermen could use Street View to verify the locations of problem spots about which their constituents complain, again combined with other data

  • These are just some potential uses. I am a little uneasy about the potential privacy issues, but given that faces and license plate numbers are pretty much always rendered unidentifiable, you'd really have to know exactly what somebody's car looked like or exactly what clothes a particular person owns in order to identify them precisely. Besides which, how much of a privacy expectation is there really on a public street? Anonymity, yes, that I can understand we expect anonymity when in public. But complete privacy is unrealistic; after all, you never really know when you might just happen to run into somebody you know on the street.

    The other thing that is striking about Street View is just how few people you see walking on the sidewalks in downtown St. Louis. Maybe that's because the images were taken at off-peak hours to minimize the number of car license plates and human faces that would need to be distorted. Indeed, comparing downtown Chicago with downtown St. Louis on Street View, suggests that is exactly what they are doing. It's almost as dead-looking as downtown St. Louis is on Street View!

    Now midtown Manhattan seems filled with people on Street View.... but maybe, in fact, that was the slowest period they could find in Times Square! I guess a slow period in NYC (Sunday morning?) is about the same level of pedestrian activity as at a weekday lunchtime in downtown St. Louis!

    Anyway, it does help reduce my urge to drive around and look at trains. At least, for a few days anyway. ;-) I'm still not sure how they managed to photograph all along South Wharf Street alongside the flood wall between Chouteau and Victor like they did. I didn't even think that was a public street anymore!

    I did notice they have not photographed Arsenal Street east of Broadway, nor 2nd Street from Arsenal to Cherokee. I wondered whether that was at the request of our local intelligence agency, NGA. After all, while I'm sure they have access to many other tools more sophisticated than Google Maps and Google Earth, they are probably still a potential customer for such products.

    Then again, if I really want to see what the outside walls of NGA looks like, I could just drive right by, which I did last night and saw there was still a softball game going on across the street in Lyon Park, well after dark!

    Come to think of it, that's gotta be one of the most well-secured parks in the city, with NGA on one side and A-B on the other. And yet zero houses are located within a one-block radius, although there's a few dozen homes just uphill across Broadway around St. Agatha's in the Soulard neighborhood.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    Funny Title, Serious Topic

    I'm no Jay Leno, but this headline from the usually not especially interesting catch-all MU Info e-mail sent out weekly to all University of Missouri-Columbia faculty, staff and students was a bit troubling:

    Adults Who as Children were Exposed to Their Mothers Being Battered by an Intimate Partner for Research Study

    If that headline doesn't send mixed messages, I don't know what does.

    I will not divulge the name of the investigator on this one, who most likely was not the author of that headline, but here's the other curious part.

    "Participants will receive a Wal-mart gift card."

    Of course, I probably shouldn't talk. Once I participated in a discussion about neighborhood quality-of-life in return for a Shop N Save gift card. At least I never had to donate (sell) my plasma -- yet! I have donated blood without remuneration, but only once so far in life. It was a bit frustrating experience, and then a few weeks later that blood collection agency I visited went out of business. I should probably give it a try again though.

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Oh the Irony: STL Beacon Bash Same Night as Liquor License Town Hall

    OK, so yesterday I posted about a town hall on the 20th ward liquor license moratorium planned for Tuesday, June 17th.

    And now I've realized that the new online publication the Saint Louis Beacon, started several months back by a group of former Post-Dispatch journalists, is having a big kick-off event that same night at.... The Royale.

    Of course, Steve Smith's The Royale is often cited by backers of a relaxed liquor license policy on Cherokee Street, as an example of the kind of establishment that might do well on Cherokee.

    See the Beacon's Facebook page for more details.

    Anyway, I just thought the timing was ironical (if that's even a word). ;-)

    And I must note that my professor emeritus from UMSL, Lana Stein, recently penned a piece for the Beacon.

    Monday, June 02, 2008

    This Could Get Interesting: 20th Ward Liquor License Town Hall

    Town Hall Meeting on Liquor License Moratorium
    20th Ward, City of St. Louis
    Tuesday June 17
    6:00 PM
    Cherokee Place Business Incubator
    2715 Cherokee St., 63118
    (#93 Midtown-South County bus stops nearby, at the corner of Cherokee and Ohio)

    More information from Bill Byrd, Benton Park West Neighborhood Association president:
    You may or may not have heard about a change to the current liquor license control ordinance.
    The following information concerning specifically Cherokee Street
    affects Cherokee Street from Iowa to Nebraska.
    I would invite anyone who is interested in what is happening on Cherokee Street and how Cherokee Street affects the residential neighborhood areas.
    If you're concerned about parking, trash, noise as the commercial area of Cherokee continues to come alive, come and voice your opinion.
    If you're concerned about having a plan for business that will have alcohol as part of its business, yet protect the neighborhoods...being equal to both sides...then come and listen, evaluate, and voice your opinion.
    I am open to any BPW resident who would like to talk with me about this issue.
    Thanks to Pam Lanning from Marine Villa for putting together this information.
    Bill Byrd
    Benton Park West Neighborhood Association
    A town hall meeting to discuss and obtain broader input for a revision of the bill (to be revised in 90 days) is scheduled for Tuesday June 17 @ 6pm in the Cherokee Incubator (2715 Cherokee).
    All residents, business owners, property owners, and interested parties are encouraged to attend.
    This bill is for the 20th ward of St. Louis.
    To see the boundaries of the 20th Ward, click on the following link:

    Map of 20th Ward
    South Side Journal article
    Riverfront Times article