Around Ashland Avenue, The Greater Ville

Two years ago, I wrote the following about the houses above that I photographed on a cold, gray morning:

“And then, there is a small pocket of Modern bungalows, which if this neighborhood’s trend continues, might very well have been part of a quarry operation or always open space before these were built around or after World War II.”

I was right to be suspicious, but wrong about why there was so much open space all the way into the mid 1950s. It turns out there was in fact a huge country estate, the Ansyl Phillips Residence, that took up five-house wide and two block long swath of land from the south side of Ashland Avenue down to the north side of Greer.

Ansyl Phillips Residence, 4542 Ashland, Photograph by William Swekosky, 1940-1959, Missouri History Museum, N06788

Fire insurance maps show that in 1909, huge strips of land held wood frame country estates in the northwestern corner of the Greater Ville, and Elmbank Avenue had not even been cut through from east to west yet between Ashland and Greer. The Phillips Residence is the yellow one with the blue square on the left side of 4462 below. Aerial photography from 1955 reveals that the southern two-thirds had been subdivided, and tidy bungalows had been built, and Elmbank had been cut through. But it would take until 1957 for the northern third to be developed, and the trees that had still been visible in the 1955 aerial photograph were gone in the 1957 overhead shot. I suspect the mansion came crashing down at that time. Those twenty houses are the only clue of what was once there. I suspect that Elmbank might be a reminder of the former name of the estate, possibly.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, St. Louis, Missouri, 1909 October, Sheet 052, Volume Seven

Below, this photograph presents a quandary; it is clearly labeled as Marcus and Ashland, but that does not make sense.

Intersection of Marcus and Ashland Avenues, June 2, 1920, Missouri History Museum, P0245-S03-00121-8n

The houses on the right side of the photograph are of a style that I’ve seen in the area, but they clearly do not match the houses that have clearly been on the block for a century.

Above, there is a series of vacant lots, but Google maps, reveal that an apartment building stood there that was demolished recently. Likewise, just in case, I checked Ashland Court, one block north, and these houses don’t match, either. They are not replacements, as they are clearly a century old.

Below, this photograph shows two rows of well-kept houses and a streetcar track going down a hill, in what is labeled as northbound Marcus Avenue from Ashland Avenue.

View Looking North Down Marcus from Ashland Avenue, June 2, 1920, Missouri History Museum, P0245-S03-00120-8n

But this cannot be true, as the Western Lutheran Cemetery has been on the east side of Marcus since the Nineteenth Century. Where is this streetscape in the photo above actually from? It is a mystery.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lynn says:

    You are correct. I lived on Marcus at Ashland 1960s. (Grandparents home). My relatives still own the home and live there. The cemetery you mentioned was at that northeast corner of Marcus and Ashland. There was a church on Marcus right next to it. This is my childhood neighborhood and the community was great. A lot of good fun loving memories.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Interesting, thanks for sharing! The cemetery and church are still there, though the former gets pretty lush during the summer.

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