Discovering Shaw, Part 1: Castleman Avenue Between Spring Avenue and Grand Boulevard, North Side

I realized something recently; of the 4,329 posts on this site, only nine of them are of the incredibly historic Shaw neighborhood (and one of those is of the replacement of interstate bridges on the northern edge!). That works out to 0.002% of all posts in the almost thirteen years St. Louis Patina has existed. It’s time to change that, and I have decided this winter, when the leaves are off the mature street trees and the sun is out, to discover this neighborhood.

We’re going to start on the northeast corner of Castleman and Spring avenues, and work east, looking at this huge turreted, towering house right on the corner. See the architecture on the block to the west here.

It’s cliche to say, but I can tell that many of the original owners of these houses were German, such as the massive edifice above. But looking below, we can also see that as Shaw was being filled in during the first decade of the Twentieth Century, more and more of St. Louis residents were born in America, and a greater sense of belonging to this country was becoming evident in the architecture.

These revival styles, with their eclectic play of different influences from all over Europe, create a new feeling in these neighborhoods that now were increasingly designed for the automobile. There is no alley to the north of Castleman in between it and Shaw Boulevard, nor on the south in between it and Russell Boulevard.

So of course, there are driveways, but what I like is that the garages, designed for much smaller cars(!), are often of matching styles as their houses up front.

The brick glows, and most importantly, we begin to see different colored brick other than red on the front facades of houses.

The fire escape is a reminder that these houses were often carved up into tenements during and after World War II, when these neighborhoods were declared “blighted.” The property values have returned to their original prices, if not more.

But oh my, look at this muscular Romanesque Revival house, still showing that the style was adapting to the new trends in architecture.

The shingled third story evokes fortresses in Europe, particularly in Germany.

But then we have a more delicate version of the style, getting closer to Grand Boulevard.

After this is the parking lot for the Saum Apartments, which bookends the north side of the block facing Grand Boulevard.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Sara says:

    Oscar Berninghaus once resided about two blocks west, at 3939 Castleman.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      I think I may have photographed his house, Sara.

  2. Pamela says:

    I believe my great grandmother lived in the first house you pictured, in the early 1950s. Thanks for all your work, I love your blog.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      That’s wonderful, Pamela! Was it a single family house at the time still? Many of the houses on the block look like they went through a period of being rooming houses.

      1. Pamela says:

        I dont know, it was just listed as her place of residence on her death certificate. I dont think so, though. She was living with her son in 1940 at an address on Pleasant St.and then I think with her daughter. Id be interested to find out.

        1. Chris Naffziger says:

          So I realized I could have already done this, but I looked up that house’s address, and by 1945, the house was listing many different adults with different last names associated with 3675 Castleman. I strongly suspect by World War II at the latest it had been divided up into a rooming house or apartment building, most likely to meet the needs of the housing crunch for workers at the armaments plants scattered around the City. So interesting, and thanks for sharing!

          1. Pamela says:

            Thank you! That is the right house number. I love seeing that the houses my family lived in are still standing.

          2. Karen Goering says:

            Our house at 3675 Castleman became a rooming house for the second phase of its existence (from the late 30s through the 70s. Originally built for coal dealer August Donk and his family , it was later a single family owned by the Bieber-Bennett family. When it first became a rooming house, it housed many employees that worked at the Missouri Pacific Hospital on Grand.
            When we bought the house in 1985, there were still numbers on many of the rooms upstairs. Based on the numbers, it appears that as many as 14 individual rooms were rented out at one time.

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