Gravois Avenue Viaduct

The Gravois Avenue underpass, started in 1940, is much deeper than its neighbor, the Chippewa Avenue underpass. Much like its neighbor, it was built to go under the Missouri Pacific railroad tracks, and was originally budgeted to cost around $600,000. It ended up costing $850,000.

And similarly, the right-of-way and its bridge are now much more narrow. The construction of the underpass was delayed due to World War II and the fact that Gravois was not considered a highway critical to the war effort, holding up delivery of materials needed for its construction.

Like the Chippewa underpass, it has those peculiar pedestrian walkways that go under the train tracks, complete with windows, that then pop back up on the other side. For obvious reasons, these have been closed for decades. I am curious if any readers have any memories, good or bad, of walking through these pedestrian tunnels.

Unlike the Chippewa underpass, the “exits” up to the top of the underpass for Gravois give access to a street for the old National Candy Company building, as well as an industrial area along the railroad tracks.

There are a couple of cool light industrial buildings along Bingham Avenue.

Heading over to the Bevo side of the underpass, which newspapers at the time of its opening in February of 1943 boasted at being around a third of a mile long, we can see the National Candy Company in the distance.

While designed as “four” lanes of traffic, the Missouri Department of Transportation has since narrowed down to two lanes, in tandem with the road diet in the commercial shopping district in downtown Bevo.

This construction project is very much a great example of a “proto-highway” that we will see built throughout the City in the years after World War II.

But what is really fascinating are the houses and apartment buildings left high up on the hill to the northwest of the deep cut left for the Gravois underpass. Check out this Queen Anne beauty below, which is hiding in the trees.

Or look at this four-family, which was obviously built before street grading and the underpass was completed. It sits high up on top of two giant retaining walls.

The topography of St. Louis was once far more rugged than we realize; it was smoothed out by grading and filling in or even removing hills.

The exits to the pedestrian walkways pop up in the undergrowth on the west side of the underpass.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Dan Lewis says:

    Now it’s hard to imagine a time when those pedestrian tunnels would have been safe to use.Innocence lost indeed.

  2. W says:

    It wasn’t the streets department, it was MODoT. They control Gravois and all work done on it (but not Chippewa).

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      That’s true, while originally the viaduct was constructed by the City of St. Louis, the State of Missouri now has jurisdiction as Gravois is MO Route 30.

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