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?

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