California Avenue, Northern Benton Park West, September 2019

I am continuously fascinated by the portion of Benton Park West north of Arsenal, bounded by Jefferson Avenue on the east, and Gravois Avenue on the northwest (of course, the whole of the neighborhood is a triangle). Over the next week, I’ll be looking at the north-south streets, long known legendarily (or maligned) as the “State Streets” in the lore of South St. Louis. Many people might not realize that for a time this portion of Benton Park West was part of Fox Park, before being wedded to the south, which stretches down to Cherokee Street. But the crossroads of Jefferson and Gravois, just like to the northeast in McKinley Heights, has led to a fascinating mix of styles, as settlement has existed out here for a very long time, before being filled in during the early Twentieth Century, in what is now the historic district known as the Jefferson-Gravois Streetcar Suburb National Historic District.

And just look at the architecture of these three townhouses, just hanging out right by an alley on California. Looking closely, we see that there are two apartments in each of them, with the upper apartments having the third floor, in what is basically a house sitting on top of a one story apartment.

The detailing on the rooflines reflect the optimism and the strength of the economy of the South Side when these buildings were built around 1900. Germans were flooding the area, and they were working in the nearby breweries and other associated industries.

But then, moving north, as can be seen below, we see the early houses of the neighborhood, built for the early exurban residents around or just after the Civil War. Note the man in the chair sitting between the houses; I did not see him until I got home and looked at the photo.

I really like these little houses, with the dormer windows; they might be described as Greek Revival, based off of the appearance and proportions of Greek temples, such as those as Paestum.

These little duplexes are super rare, and might not have a lot of admirers, but I strongly argue they are unique and important representatives of workers’ dwellings built in vernacular style around the Civil War. Note the white one on the right; it has been converted into a single houses, which is not uncommon. I think the one on the left has, too, despite preserving two front doors; there is only one mailbox and one address number displayed.

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