Destruction, College Hill

Update: The whole north side of East Prairie Street was cleared of trees and underbrush in late December 2018; Cowan Street and its ruined buildings were demolished by this time as well. Also, this was once an incredibly historic church that appears on the Compton and Dry Pictorial St. Louis from 1876. Note the filled-in Gothic pointed arches. DeSoto Street was left exposed on the hilltop, as can be seen in this post from the winter of 2019.

I read about this devastated block on Exploring St. Louis, and I headed up to check it out myself.

Seriously, what does it take for a street to make it to this level of destruction? I lecture frequently in my classes about the abandonment of Rome, and how whole sections were left empty because there were simply no people to live there. Is that what we are witnessing here? The decline of a civilization?

I have to admit every time I come to the College Hill neighborhood, I get depressed. It is so desolate, so mysterious and so overgrown that I can’t imagine this as ever being a bustling neighborhood.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    My grandparents lived near the College Hill area all their lives. They actually lived on Conde St. near OFallon Park, but we often went shopping on West Florissant Ave., Went to the movies at the Tower Theater at W. Florissant, and Grand, and I sold The Post Dispatch and Globe Democrat in the busy traffic circle around the New Water Tower on Grand Ave. In the 1960s the area was very busy, but was just starting to decline. Some of the architecture in the area was incredible. We went to church at Our Lady of Perpetual Help near my grandparents. It was a beautiful set of buildings, but they are now gone. In the late 1960s we moved to the College Hill and Hyde Park Areas. I went to Irving School, then to Bryant Hill. Both buildings were incredible. We lived in the 2300 block of Salisbury, and then later moved to Gano Ave. and West Florissant. We walked everywhere, so we knew most buildings by heart. Even as a young teenager I was always amazed at the artistry that went into the architecture in the area and often wondered how incredible the area must have been in the 1940s and 1950s. The circle around the water tower was surrounded by two and three story buildings that housed businesses on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors. The buildings along Grand Ave. and West Florissant were similar. The only space between the buildings were narrow walkways that divided one building from the other. Most streets in the area were divided by alleys. All trash pickup, deliveries, etc. was done through the alleys to avoid impeding the heavy traffic. The last time I was in the area was in the late 1990s. Almost all of the buildings around the water tower were gone. Almost all of the houses in both neighborhoods were either torn down or boarded up waiting to be torn down, or waiting for the arsonists torch. Most streets were nearly empty of both people and cars. I was sick and depressed for weeks after seeing what had become of the area. Now, looking at pictures on the internet I can tell that very few of the buildings in these once beautiful neighborhoods still stand. Seeing them simply abandoned is a sad commentary on what our society has become. Unfortunately, there is very little left to prove that these beautiful neighborhoods ever existed. And beautiful areas like them will never exist again. Thank you for sharing your picturesas depressing as they may be. Ken R.

  2. Chris says:

    Ken, thanks so much for sharing your memories; you wouldn't happen to have any photos of the buildings back then, would you? I would love to see them.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Chris, Sorry, no I don't. I was actually looking for pictures of our old at 2308 Salisbury and Gano Ave. at West Florissant Avenue when I found your post. I have been looking for area pictues, including one of an old abandoned brewery that we used to play in on Natural Bridge near Central High School, where I went to school for quite some time. It kind of amazes me how few old photos of the area can be found on the web. I will keep looking and pass them if/when I find some. Have you ever looked at It is an amazing collection old photographs. There are a couple on there of the old water towers. I have to warn you though. There are hundreds of photos on the site, and once you start looking you won't be able to stop. …Ken

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