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HuSTLe City: The City of St. Louis

st louis ghetto

Hustle City and the St Louis Ghetto Story

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.

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.

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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South St. Louis

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 once 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”.

South of Interstate 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 1980s and 1990s.

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.

Currently, the urban community of South St Louis is constantly moving further south as the future may have the urban residents of South Side neighborhoods to move even further south.  As year by year the community furthering towards the city and county boundary line into areas like Cardondelet, Lemay Ferry, or Mehlville.

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West Side STL

From St. Louis City, between Natural Bridge and Delmar, to St. Louis County, communities south of Interstate 70 and west of Kienlen Avenue, the West Side has proven to be the heart of St. Louis.

The streets of West Side St Louis, before the arrival of the Los Angeles’ gangs of Bloods and Crips, were already well established with ‘hoods like the Stroll, around Sarah and Olive, and old school gangs like the Westside Rockers, Hardy Boys, or the Boys of Destruction.

As the movie “Colors” brought the lifestyle of South Central into the spotlight, many people were fascinated by Los Angeles’ gang culture of Bloods and Crips, which in turn led to many neighborhoods to begin to identify with either of the two.

When gang members from a specific Blood or Crip set in Los Angeles made the trip to St. Louis for financial reasons they also brought their set into whatever community in St. Louis they were affiliated with.

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This would help ‘hoods like 5-7 Cates, 5-9 Wabada, 13 BOD (1300 Boys of Destruction), 4-1 Del, or the 5-1 Skan to become Rollin’ 60 Crips, while every other section of the West Side within the city would adopt the Bloods moniker to their ‘hood.

Another Crip gang that had a present on the West Side was the 62 East Coast Crips, which included neighborhoods like the Ville, 442 Ville (from Aldine to North Market), and Page and Kingshighway in the areas of , Fountain Park’s 4-5 Trackz, or Academy and Minerva.

The Bloods dominated the St Louis ghetto of the West Side in well reputable neighborhoods like the Horseshoe, 1-1 Hodiamont, 5-7 T-Mob and K-Mob, Arlington and number of others expanding from Fountain Park to Goodfellow Boulevard.

In St. Louis County, Bloods and Crips expanded into the numerous of neighborhoods along Natural Bridge and Page Avenue.  With every neighborhood attending Normandy High School, other than ‘hoods of University City from Eastgate to 82nd, this region has always had some sort of conflict or tension among each other.

Pine Lawn, which sits along Jennings Station Road and was once known as the Pit and PLO (Pine Lawn Organization), is a segregated community with multiple affiliations like Stillwell and Creston, Hillside, 6100, 3700, and 6200 Brim.

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Often called the Dead End or 6400, the small city of Wellston is one of the most respected communities in St. Louis County that has been known for federal indictments, conflicts with other neighborhoods like 5-9 Wabada and others, police corruption, and problems that have plagued the area for years.

The once home of Loonie Mob and Waxx Mob and the only community in St. Louis to once have Rollin’ 30s Crips, Pagedale is centered around Page Avenue while being divided amongst blocks, 6500, 6700, or 1200 to 1600.

From 88 Mob of Hanley Hills to Northwoods to Hillsdale, the West Side of St. Louis County is much different from the other urban section of St. Louis County, North County.

The streets of the West Side are not as active as North County as a larger population and a large influx of apartment complexes have led to North County to be in the headlines more than the West Side where the streets are more underground and are not broadcast.

History of the West Side

Before the vast majority of the West Side neighborhoods became predominantly African-American, Taylor Boulevard served as the racial dividing line with neighborhoods like the Ville and Finney Avenue being the only areas designated for black families.

By the 1960s, African-Americans were beginning to move into these once segregated communities starting in neighborhoods like the West End, along Goodfellow Boulevard, or into St. Louis County communities like Pagedale or Wellston.  

By the 1980s, from Interstate 170 to Grand Boulevard, the entire West Side became a key part to St. Louis’ black population and African-American community as the majority resided in a West Side neighborhood.

Currently, gentrification is affecting all communities and sections of the West Side, even the neighborhoods that are not experiencing any sort of rebuilding.

The affects in St. Louis city can be seen as neighborhoods have been seem purposely left to deteriorate as the lack of upkeep has provided the West Side of the city with hundreds of vacant lots and abandoned homes that will soon be demolished or renovated, but not in the near future.

st louis ghetto

The St Louis ghetto within the once historic Ville neighborhood.

In St. Louis County the attempt to relocate working class African-Americans and replace them with lower income families from the city can be seen as unexpectedly Normandy High School became unaccredited, which sounds worst than it actually is.

As Normandy became unaccredited, they had to pay the expense for students to attend other schools with the only school district that students were allowed to attend with their expense being paid for was Fort Zummalt.

Located 30 minutes away in St. Charles County, the choice of busing Normandy High School students makes one wonder as there are multiple school districts nearby that are much closer than Fort Zumwalt.

While students could attend other schools, though their parents had to provide the means to do so, it seems suspect as middle-class African-Americans having been slowly moving further and further into West St. Louis County (Maryland Heights or Creve Coeur) and St. Charles County.

To further the gentrification process of St. Louis City as many West Side communities are sought after, especially the area of the West End near the highly trafficked and tourist destinated Delmar Loop, the community is seeing very little rebuilding as vacant properties are adding up on the West Side.

With the lack of available properties many are relocating into either the far South Side or into St. Louis County, preferably North County or the West Side, with the fate of the community seeming to bring a future of a change in the local demographics, racial and/or financial.

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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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