The Mystery Wall on Oregon Ave, Benton Park West


I was driving around the streets south of Cherokee Street a couple of weeks ago when I spotted this strange sight: a large retaining wall blocking off Oregon Avenue just north of Miami.  What a lot of people don’t realize is the terrain of the city is very much the product of grading that occurred a century ago, smoothing out hills and filling in ravines and sinkholes.

But why did the developer of this block keep the street level, instead of grading it gradually down to Miami Street?  The two staircases on either side of the wall are now fenced off, which is another oddity.

The massive foundations of the apartment buildings also point to the dramatic drop in elevation; interestingly, though, the alleys behind this block of Oregon are sloped, and are through.

I checked the Sanborn maps, and you can see that the block was very late in being built out; the apartment buildings that line the street date from 1922-24, while the houses on the surrounding blocks are from the turn of the century.  Perhaps there was some sort of business here; likewise, maybe the developer wanted to create a nice quiet street without through traffic.

Sadly, Miami Street is synonymous with urban decay along much of its length.  This building across the street is severely damaged and deteriorating.  Does anyone know what is going on with this block of Oregon, and why it was built in this manner?



6 Responses

  1. Chris Naffziger

    11/25/2012, 10:54 pm

    Frank, thanks for the very cool link to your photos and discussion. I think I’m going for the rocky outcropping as the culprit; there’s just no room for a streetcar to turn around in those spaces. The fence was definitely built to cut down on drug dealing, and I’m not surprised to hear that that street had been a haven of drug dealing.

  2. Tom Maher - Kirkwood

    11/26/2012, 05:58 pm

    Thanks for the additional photos, Frank. I remember this street from when I was a teen in the late ’50s, following directions to a party; they were given by some wiseacre South City guy who knew the bumpkin from Kirkwood would be totally confused. And I was…
    It’s amazing that the concrete panels are free of graffiti; maybe the taggers are afeerd of the neighborhood as well?
    Also – I wonder how the green stair handrails have survived scrappers; maybe they are not brass but are just painted?

    • Chris Naffziger

      11/28/2012, 12:02 am

      I don’t consider this Gravois Park; it’s much closer to Benton Park. Arbitrary? Yes.


Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published