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Velda City

Velda City is a pretty little suburb in North County, and one of the larger ones, with its own police department based in the valley where there looks to be a former small business district.

Like many of the towns up off of the general vicinity of Natural Bridge Road, Velda City has its own distinctive architectural style, with what I call the “giraffe” style stone houses alternating with brick Gingerbread houses.

2 Comments

  1. As always, thanks for your wonderful blog. I really look forward to viewing it every week.

    I don’t know if you know this, but the Veldas and Hanley Hills were both built by the Schuermann Organization, one of the most prolific home builders in St. Louis. Prior to WW II, Schuermann built Country Club Hills and Flor-dell Hills on West Florissant Avenue, the Veldas on Lucas and Hunt Road, and Ber-dell Hills on Bermuda Avenue in Normandy, among others.. Construction halted during the war, but Schuermann resumed construction on a smaller scale in 1946 with developments on West Park Avenue in the city and in University City. As demand for housing increased and materials became more readily available, Schuermann began work on Hanley Hills and Nor-dell Hills on Chambers Road in Berkeley.

    But Schuermann really began hitting their stride in 1950 when they began the huge Bissell Hills development in Bellefontaine Neighbors on Chambers Road between Bellefontaine Road and Lewis and Clark Blvd. This development has over 1000 homes in it and was completed by 1956. The homes in Bissell Hills are the same as the ones in Hanley Hills, but Schuermann introduced a model with three bedrooms instead of two, attached garages and breezeways, pretty revolutionary concepts at the time, at least for moderate priced housing in St Louis..

    From there, Schuermann began the various phases of Northland Hills, on both sides of West Florissant, from just north of Northland all the way up to the intersection with I-270. Some of these homes are quite nice, as they are larger and all brick (as opposed to the all frame in Hanley Hills east of Hanley Road). However, they have lost considerable value since 2014 because of their location in the heart of the riot area, as well as their close proximity to the numerous, notorious section 8 apartment complexes on West Florissant, including Northwinds Estates, Park Ridge and Canfield Green.

    After Northland Hills, the company wound down operations when Norman Schuermann retired in the early 1960’s. He died in 1981 and is buried in Valhalla Cemetery, according to the Post Dispatch archives. The company had a colorful history. Norman accidentally killed his brother/business partner John in the 1930’s in a dispute that concerned the company, and the company itself was involved in several very violent confrontations with labor unions for using non-union labor while they were building Velda Village and Velda Village Annex.

    Lastly, I want to comment on your remark about the housing stock in Hanley Hills today. You said not many young people today want a two-bedroom 800 square foot house. One of Shuermann’s earliest developments was part of the Summit Park development in Brentwood, with many of the same plans they used in Country Club Hills. I think your comment should be amended to: Not many young people today want to live in a two bedroom/one bath 800 square foot home in a terrible, unaccredited school district with high crime around it.. Many of the Schuermann built homes in Summit Park have been updated and/or had additions built and current selling prices in that neighborhood are in the $170K-$250K range.

    What is happening in North County is nothing short of tragic and I think it is a shame that St. Louis County isn’t being more proactive in combating the decline of the area, especially in Florissant and Black Jack, north of I270. The homes in such large scale developments such as Robinwood, Paddock Hills, Paddock Meadows, Paddock Estates, Wedgwood and Wedgwood Green are wonderful, classic examples of mid 20th century housing design and planned community development and construction. Most of them were designed by Ralph Fournier, who Toby Weiss has featured in her blog.. If you haven’t seen them, I urge you to drive up there and feature them in future posts. Simply drive up New Halls Ferry Road and most of these developments are on either side New Halls Ferry north of I-270 and all the way up its end at Shackelford Road in unincorporated St. Louis County, near the Missouri River.

    • Thanks, Steve, for your detailed and thoughtful comments. Toby and I have driven around North County together several times over the years (though it’s been far too long since the last time), and I think I was actually driving one time when she photographed Halls Ferry Road’s beautiful Modernist homes. I have hesitated to feature them in my own work since I feel like Toby has already done that so well already.
      http://www.beltstl.com/north-county-mcm-halls-ferry-road/
      But I stand by my comment that young people do not want 800 foot Cape Cods, even though many of them are being forced by skyrocketing housing prices in many Central Corridor suburbs to buy them at high prices in South County and other parts of the region. I have had many conversations with young parents who are giving up and buying less-than-desirable-aesthetically and small but still expensive houses because they need to get their children into accredited school districts.

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