South St Louis:
‘Hoods of Past & ‘Hoods of Present
With the process of gentrification taken over community after community, St Louis has many old ‘hoods that have become or becoming a memory to the streets of St Louis as many areas seem unrecognizable.
While North St. Louis is widely known and the most popular side of St. Louis, the streets and urban communities within the South St Louis ghetto have an untold story that is as interesting and like any other section of St Louis.
The South Side has traditionally always been predominantly white, especially west of Kingshighway Boulevard around Hampton Avenue, but there have been certain sections like Park Avenue that have been within St Louis’ urban and black community for generations.
Park Avenue was one the first black communities of South St Louis until much of the neighborhood was demolished decades only leaving the 3400 block of Park Avenue, even though the neighborhood was rebuilt during the 1990s and 2000s.
One section of Park Avenue is referred as the Grape or Grape Hill due to its one affiliation to Los Angeles gang of the Grape Street Crips, an area that runs from Park Avenue to Hickory Street around Ohio Avenue.
Historically, Park Avenue was always one of the South Side’s most active communities from the 3400 block to the 2600 block, but much has changed as the streets of South City has grown out of the South City that is near downtown and further into the South Side.
Further down Park Avenue, on the other side of Lafayette Park, is the most known South Side ‘hood by the name of the Peabody housing complex, or Da Projects, along with the former Darst Webbe housing project.
The Darst Webbe projects was a small number of high-rise housing projects based around Tucker Boulevard from Chouteau Avenue to Lafayette Avenue that was built during the 1950s and 1960s but was demolished by the 2000s.
The South Side community near downtown, from Grand Boulevard to Tucker Boulevard (12th Street), was considered as a slum or the South St Louis ghetto, which led to the destruction of most of the Park Avenue neighborhood and the slum clearance of the area that led the way for the Darst Webbe projects.
Today, what is left of the Darst Webbe projects are single family homes and rebuilt public housing around S. 13th Street, the Lasalle Park Village apartments and the old low rises of the Clinton Peabody housing projects.
Another historic all-black South St. Louis neighborhood, according to John Wright’s St Louis Disappearing Black Communities, was once known as Rock Springs that was around Boyle Avenue and Papin Street, on the other side of S. Grand from Park Avenue.
The neighborhood did not last long as the community was destroyed and demolished, probably forcing the community’s black population to move and relocate further down Tower Grove Avenue into two areas, McRee Town and along Manchester Avenue.
One neighborhood on the South Side that standouts is known to many as the Dark Side, officially McRee Town, that sits between Tower Grove Avenue and Grand Boulevard and based around the 3900 blocks of the neighborhood.
A former Blood ‘hood based around Blaine Avenue and Mcree Avenue, received the name of the Dark Side due to its darkness at night as the neighborhood was almost pitch black.
With its close location to downtown, St Louis University, the Botanical Gardens, and South Side’s middle-class neighborhoods, the entire neighborhood of the Dark Side has either been rebuilt, mainly between 39th and Thurman, or become filled with vacant apartment buildings and empty lots.
Going north on Tower Grove Avenue is a former ‘hood around Manchester that was once known for the GIB, Rollin 60s Crips of the 4300 Gibson, but like the Dark Side the community around Tower Grove and Manchester has received a complete makeover into becoming a new area, “The Grove”.
According to John Wright’s St Louis Disappearing Black Communities, African-Americans did reside in St. Louis’ far South Side, like the Cardondelet and Patch neighborhoods, along S. Broadway that dated back as far as the 1800s.
Many would eventually leave the area, especially during the 1960s after I-55 was placed directly in the heart of Cardondelet severing the community in two with the black community along South Broadway beginning to decline afterwards.
By the 2000s, St. Louis’ black population slowly started moving to South Side communities south of Gravois Avenue into the “State Streets”, east of South Grand, and moving further south year by year towards the city and county boundary line.
South of I-44 is the other side of South St Louis, a side that has been constantly growing as people from North City have been relocating into the South Side’s “State Streets” which started during the 1990s and 2000s.
The Shaw neighborhood, a diverse community of white and black families living together or on their own separate block, changed around the 1970s and would become known for blocks like 39 Shaw, 3900 block of Shaw also known as Shaw Town, and the Doah, 4000 block of Shenandoah.
Outside of a section around Russell and Jefferson, known for the 27 MAC ‘hood on Accomac, this generation of the South St Louis ghetto or the South City’s ‘hoods are around Cherokee, Chippewa, and Virginia streets.
From 35 CAVE (3500 Compton) to the Minno (Minnesota Avenue) to the 32 SIC (3200 Ohio), the State Streets have become one of St Louis’ most active areas being no different from East St Louis or North City.
As previously stated, the urban community of South St Louis is constantly moving further south as the future may have the community residing in South St Louis County in areas like Lemay Ferry or Mehlville.
*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.