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Charless Street at Gravois Avenue, McKinley Heights

I was back in the southern tip of McKinley Heights, which I first looked at in June of 2014. I’m endlessly intrigued with what was a little hamlet of small houses, some frame, some brick, and some “in between.” Take the small alley house above. Looking at the Sanborn map from August of 1909, which carefully documented construction materials and type for the purposes of determining insurance rates. The alley house is actually wood frame with bricks filling in between the studs. I know of one house in Benton Park with the same construction. I don’t think it’s terribly strong, or it would have been done more often.

I’ve actually looked at this little alley house before in April of 2015. I’ve circled the little house in red; I now want to turn your attention to the now-vanished building circled in blue. That is the first Charless School, which was renovated/replaced by a second school, that was in turn demolished and turned into a vacant lot that sat empty for decades.

Looking at Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis, we see the two buildings’ neighborhood has changed dramatically since 1876. The little hamlet is largely gone. While Jules Street is still the same, Virginia Street has become standardized as Missouri Avenue. In-fill to replace the vacant lot where the Charless School once stood was just in the initial stages back in September of 2016, and it is now done. Below is a photograph of the original Charless School.

Charless School, Kingsbury Street near Gravois Road, 1876, Photograph by Emil Boehl, Missouri History Museum, N34801

You can see a photograph of the second iteration of the Charless School here; I’m not sure if it was a renovation or a complete replacement of the original school.

Nowadays, Charless Street “pops out” onto Gravois Avenue through the street wall of the almost completely intact row businesses on the north side of the important artery. They are almost all abandoned or filled with light industrial uses. Maybe some day this will be a lively, urban stretch of Gravois again.

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