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North City: Streets of North St. Louis

North St Louis

The dividing line between the two different societies of St. Louis, the streets and the richness of St. Louis’ elite, is Delmar Boulevard that separates North St Louis from other areas of the city.

From the downtown housing complexes off Cass Avenue to the many ‘hoods and blocks along West Florissant, the North Side is the heart of the streets in St. Louis, the streets that have often been labeled as the most dangerous.

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Graffiti of JVL tagged along Cass Avenue

Before popular culture and individuals from Los Angeles introduced Bloods and Crips into the urban neighborhoods of St. Louis, the city was divided with homegrown cliques and neighborhoods, especially in the Downtown area with JVL Posse, VTO (Vaughn Takin’ Over), and the Thunderkats.

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In downtown St. Louis, the community was centered around public housing complexes that were first constructed during the 1940s and 1950s as a replacement to the former communities of Mill Creek Valley and Desoto Carr.

Mill Creek Valley and DeSoto Carr were some of the city’s first black communities until urban renewal construction and slum clearance destroyed the neighborhoods and relocated the residents into housing complexes and other neighborhoods of St. Louis.

With the city labeling DeSoto Carr as the worst St Louis ghetto neighborhood, multiple housing projects were built in the area like Carr Square, Cochran, Blumeyer, Pruitt-Igoe, George Vaughn, and Laclede Town, which was a mile away.

Pruitt Igoe, which was one of the country’s largest housing complexes with 33 high rise buildings, was segregated with one half for white families and the other half for black families, while eventually becoming demolished during the late 1970s because it was too large.

With Pruitt Igoe demolished, the focus of the community would be in the George Vaughn complex, home to VTO, and Laclede Town near St Louis University, the once home of the Thunderkats before being demolished.

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The OPz, aka Ofallon Place Apartments, is one of the last housing complexes left in the area.

As street activity increased the Blumeyer, known as 33Blu for its location around the 3300 block of Delmar, the Cochran Mob (or DTACC) around 8th Street, and the OPz of Ofallon Place became some of the main neighborhoods of downtown.

Outside of the housing complexes, Cass Avenue became infamous for numerous neighborhoods like the Helen Street block, 26 MAD (2600 Madison), or the JVL neighborhood from the 3100 block of Bratner Place to 2700 James Cool Papa Bell, many in which have become of the past.

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The Ville, another famous historic black community of St Louis, was home some of the country’s first all-black public institutions while once housing Tina Turner, activist and comedian Dick Gregory, the creator of Rock music Chuck Berry, and many more famous and historic people from the community.

After desegregation, many decided to leave the community, only the ones who had the finances, which would later provide the decline of much of the Ville, a large neighborhood that expands from the North Side to the West Side.

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The Mark Twain neighborhood off West Florissant

While from the late 1950s and well into the 1970s, the black population expanded starting with neighborhoods along West Florissant like the Ofallon Park area and later into Walnut Park and the Baden community as white flight into St Louis County was leaving numerous neighborhoods vacant.

By the 1980s and 1990s, many of these areas became reputable in the city of St. Louis as many neighborhoods adopted L.A. gangs of the Rollin’ 60s Crips, like OPAC of Ofallon Park, East Coast 62 Crips, like College N Carter, or Bloods, like Walnut Park’s BAD (Beacon Alcott Davidson).

The North Side would become known for many neighborhoods along Natural Bridge like the LEX (Lexington of the Ville) or Margaretta and West Florissant like the Dub (College Hill), Adelaide, or Walnut Park from Claxton to Lucille Avenue. 

north st louis ghetto

The Dub neighborhood, officially known as College Hill

Currently, with the vast majority of the properties in North St Louis being vacant the bulk of the North Side’s population have either relocated into North County or South City St. Louis.

Gentrification is affecting many neighborhoods, especially along Cass Avenue and areas east of Grand Boulevard, as downtown St Louis has been completely transformed and neighborhoods less than miles of famous attractions in areas of Old North St Louis, Central West End, and Grand Center are the most sought after.

As very little rebuilding has been occurring in the many areas of North City that have been plagued vacant properties, leading many people to relocate from their former neighborhoods, the future of the North St Louis ghetto seems to be out of the urban community.

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*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research.  Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

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