St. Louis City Urban Ruin by Race

Entrance to Lewis Place Abandoned Home Off of Taylor Ave
K Gerard Thomas

As a native born in St Louis at what was once called City Hospital   #1, I am often in awe of how different communities that I lived in have changed in the many years since I lived there, the abandoned neighborhoods that once were booming during my childhood now looks like post WWII Europe or Japan.

 I noticed the dilapidation of my old neighborhood of Louis Place and Taylor and the surrounding area’s upon my last visit it was filled with abandoned boarded up homes, brick buildings that looked as if they were bombed, vacant lots covered with all sorts of plants and brushes much like an apocalyptic zombie move.

The St. Louis I remember in the 60s and 70s had its issues for sure, there was always a certain line of demarcation based on economics and of course race, as black citizens moved into the city, white citizens moved away taking with them the power, resources and will for the city government to put forth any effort to assure the neighborhoods are safe dwelling places for the large population of people of color.

While Creve Coeur, Brentwood, Ladue, Westwood, University City and Maryland Heights boomed with success in their suburban communities, the city of St. Louis was left financially and socially to fend on it’s own. The best example is the mass exodus from the Pruitt-Igoe segregated apartments that was designed for middle class families in the 1950s, where black families lived in Pruitt while white families lived in Igoe. 

When integration became law and black families could move to Igoe white citizens left by the carloads and fled to the suburbs, and in some cases would not allow blacks to follow, these same citizens some who worked in government stopped caring about the city once they left.

Certain neighborhoods are dilapidated while others are well kept simply put, some citizens make it a point to have an open dialogue with their city officials, keeping their feet to the fire, they are educated on how the city government operates and assure that certain aldermen will receive letters and bad press if they continue not to act on the behalf of their constituents. 

If you want a better looking community, you have to start somewhere you must fight for your block, your streets your avenues and shame those others who seem not to care, clean up the trash in front of your house or apartment get neighbors to pitch in and buy brooms, rakes and all the tools needed to make your neighborhood look better.   

 The Post-Dispatch reported on this issue stating that there are 7,100 abandoned buildings and a problem that requires the city to work with legal clinics, community development organizations and non-profits are putting together a vacancy advisory committee that will hold the land owners and the building owners accountable for abandoning their property.

This is all well and good but what the community needs action not just  another committee keeps kicking the can down the road, whatever happens a community revitalization organization should start with revitalization of those who live near these abandoned properties.

 My old neighborhood of Louis Place has seen changes over the years many of the homes I remember and the business’s I would patronize are all gone. The Rice Family the Cocks Family both were convince stores in the neighborhood but crime and integration helped put them out of business.

 Louis Place is a historical landmark because originally African Americans were not allowed to live there but once the color barrier was broken white flight began and like Pruitt-Igoe to the suburbs they fled, never to return.

What is most disappointing is all of the business’s that used to line Taylor Ave are all gone nothing left but abandoned buildings and vacant lots. Black businesses flourished in the community for a couple of decades but now from Olive to St. Louis Ave it looks more like a ghost town. 


Will there be any real effort to getting rid of the urban blight that is an eye sore to the community, the city, and for any political leader who represents those communities as they look the other way and ignore the problem, they should realize as long as their Ward looks bad or is an embarrassment what does it say about them.      


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