Hodiamont Streetcar Right-of-Way and Urban Development

Update: I returned to this intersection in the fall of 2020. The yellow building is gone.

If you’ve ever spent much time in the West End and the Fountain Park neighborhoods, you might have noticed a very strange, almost street-like avenue that cuts between the buildings and has “no trespassing” signs guarding each entrance. It is in fact the former right-of-way for the street car line that once passed through the area; unlike many street cars lines in St. Louis, this one did not travel down the middle of streets. Its creates interesting little triangles of land with the street grid, such as the one on which this fantastic building sits. I can imagine dozens of people hopping off the street car in front of the store, heading in to pick up some groceries before walking home in the neighborhood.

This beautiful apartment building across the street probably commanded healthy rents due to its proximity to the street car lines; it now sits abandoned, tucked away in a forgotten corner of the West End.

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Garrett says:

    This seems like a great place for a “rails to trails” type development. Connecting this to the newly refinished Ruth Porter Mall would seem to be a great way of making these neighborhoods that have a lot of potential more attractive to prospective owners.

  2. David says:

    I just wanted to tell you that I look forward to reading your posts every morning. I believe that this streetcar line was the one that ran behind the Smith home on Kensington avenue that was famously derailed in the 1944 film and book ” Meet Me In St. Louis.” Also, I wanted to respond to an earlier post about the Marmaduke apartment building. I visited my 94 year old aunt last week and she lives on the 6th floor of the Tower Grove Manor facing the park. You have a clear view of Beauvais Manor across the street and a wonderful view across Tower Grove Park all the way to the State hospital. Also, I have some suggestions for further posts in the future. There are a lot of awsome churches throughout the city other than the Catholic churches that usually get all of the attention. For instance, there were originally 8 Christian Science churches and the original Principia College. All the buildings still exist, the original on Kingshighway, one on West Page, one on Russell at South Grand, one right off of Gravois near the South city Schnucks, one near Carondelet Park and Holly Hills, one on Hampton(now a Carrllton Bank), one on Natural Bridge by Beaumont High school and one on Washington avenue near midtown. Also throughout the city there are a lot of remaining synagogues, even one in McRee town on Folsom in neighborhoods you would not associate with a Jewish population. It is interesting how the demographics have shifted in just one or two generations. I have a lot of research about almost every church in the city over 60 years old or older, if you need any information. I have wanted to publish a book about all of the historic churches in the city, but like you, I lack the funds for good quality camera equipment. Anyway, keep up the good work on your blog, I thouroughly enjoy it.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      David, I would be happy to hear more about your research. Yes, due to the use of the Gothic style in many Catholic churches in St. Louis, I find myself drawn to them more than other churches. There are amazing churches and synagogues in the strangest places. Where is the McReeTown one?

      1. David says:

        The one in McRee town is on Blaine, very near the Liggett and Myers plant. It is now a church of another denomination and is not very big, you can still notice the Star of David motifs in the architecture. As far as I can tell this one and the one near Sherman Elementary are the only two left on the southside. I’ve located 8 other synagogues and 3 educational buildings mostly in the CWE and the West end near Page and Delmar. There was once a strong Jewish population in Baden and several of the street names in this area are named after Jewish settlers, but I haven’t located any of their former synagogues or schools.

        1. Ann says:

          I think I found the one on Page and Delmar. I was driving in Fountain Park and though I spotted a synagogue but when I got closer, it was a church.

          1. samizdat says:

            If you were near Pruitt (or is it Spruitt?) and Page, yes, that was a synagogue at one time.

      2. k says:

        Chris (and all interested onlookers), if you have any interest in learning about north side buildings that were once synagogues and other Jewish community centers, I suggest seeking out “Harold’s Historic Two-Wheeled Tours” on Facebook. Harold and Karen Karabell lead variously-themed bicycle tours in & around St. Louis, one of which visits a number of such buildings that have been repurposed. I did his Jewish history tour last year and was stunned by how much history was in plain sight (and quite beautiful), once I knew how and where to seek it out.

        1. Chris Naffziger says:

          I love coming across old synagogues in the West End neighborhood (and elsewhere). They were indeed all over the place, and many are tucked away on side streets.

  3. David says:

    The name of the synagogue was “Tiphereth Azrill Congregation” located at 4200 Blaine avenue, built approximateley 1940

  4. Wayne Brasler says:

    There actually are streetcar rights-of-way all over the St. Louis area in the suburbs but the Hodiamont line is the only intact route. It began in the late 1800s as the West End Narrow Gauge Railway which, in stages, was built to Wellston, Normandy and Florissant to serve the great country estates in those areas. By the early 1900s the little steam engines had been replaced by electric streetcars and a branch from what is now Berkeley had been built to Ferguson. The Hodiamont line ran as far as Hodiamont and Kennerly at a loop at what was the Suburban Garden amusement park and theater. The ornate concrete staircase leading from Kennerly down to the streetcar tracks, which ran below street level through the woods, is still intact on top. My father was a streetcar motorman in the late 1930s and 1940s and part of my childhood was excursions into the country on his day off. Most of the line north of Suburban Garden loop is still traceable and Pasadena Boulevard in Pine Lawn, Northwoods and Normandy is indeed the streecar line. Substations still stand just north of Natural Bridge Road at Jennings Station Road and again at Hanley Road (which was Carson Road). Cranberry Lane in what was Carsonville has the streetcar right-of-way visible to its east and the right-of-way is still evident at the west end of Lake Aurora behind the Hilton Garden just off Hanley north of I-70. I’ve written several histories of the line and also of the Creve Coeur line and the St. Charles Rock Road line and they are easily found on the internet for everyone to enjoy as my gift. By the way, the right-of-way east of Union Boulevard curves strangely because the line was built there was an orchard there and the line curved around the orchard. I rode the Hodiamont line nearly every day of my life before being stolen by the University of Chicago to teach in 1964. But my love of St. Louis streetcar lure endures. On another note, if you want to see what a streetcar powerhouse looked like, the Brentwood line powerhouse still stands just east of Brentwood Boulevard on the north side of Deer Creek and in Berkeley on Hanley Road in the vicinity of Suburban Avenue
    (both roads were created from the streetcar rights-of-way to Florissant and Ferguson, there is a repair shop on the east side which was the substation at Ferguson Junction, where the Florissant and Ferguson line met.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Cool, thanks for the info.

      1. Wayne Brasler says:

        I did a photo page for the alumni newspaper at Normandy High School a few years back on streetcar remnants in the Normandy area and can e-mail it to you if you like. Just give me an e-mail address. We also have a Normandy history issue coming out in January (which I actually did last December) with pages and pages on the Woodson Road line, City Limits line and Creve Coeur Lake line with rare photos. Remind me in January and I will send you a copy.
        Wayne Brasler
        University of Chicago

    2. Wayne Brasler says:

      Sorry, not Lake Aurora but Lake Ramona. In fact, after the City Limits streetcar line stopped running, there was a Ramona bus line from the Wellston Loop up Kienlen to Natural Bridge then over to Carson (now Hanley) and on to Kinloch. The junction of the Florissant and Ferguson streetcar lines in Kinloch was known as Ramona Junction, later changed to Ferguson Junction.

      1. Chris Naffziger says:

        Thanks, Wayne. That is interesting information.

        1. Wayne Brasler says:

          Just west of the Hilton Garden Inn on I-70 at Hanley (which was Carson), Hanley veers west and joins the streetcar right-of-way all the way to Airport Road. The branch to Ferguson is now Suburban Avenue which never quite enters Kinloch and that was on purpose when the road was laid out in the late 1940s (I remember it being built west from Florissant Road block by block). Ther is an excellent website on the Kinloch Air Field which includes trackage of the Berkeley/Florissant line north of Airport Road. The streetcar route is now Hazelwood Avenue north to I-270.

  5. Wayne Brasler says:

    The City Limits streetcar right of the way on the north side of Natural Bridge Road west of Jennings Station Road is nearly 70 years after the trolleys stopped running still intact, minus ties and rails. I photographed it recently. In fact the electric substation there still stands and you can see the route as it heads northwest to join Pasadena Boulevard, which was originally Grove Avenue. A substation on the west side of Hanley Road south of Natural Bridge Road also is still standing and the large substation building at the point where the Ferguson line branched off from the Florissant/Berkeley Line just west of Ferguson is still there, in fact in beautiful condition. These were all beloved places of my childhood. Visiting St. Louis I stay at the Hilton Garden Inn west of I-70 on Hanley and it took a long time for me to realize the vast area of fields west and north of the hotel was once the thriving, bustling Berkeley neighborhood of Springdale. It was all wiped away when runways were lengthened at Lambert Field. Kinloch is mostly gone too, also wiped away for runway development which never happened. And also wiped away was the original St. Louis Country Day School, located on what was Brown Road just north of Natural Bridge, also for airport expansion. I remember when parking at the airport consisted of a tiny gravel lot in front.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Thanks for the information! I will need to go check this out.

  6. Steve Hendel says:

    Wayne,
    I am trying to trace the route of the “West End Narrow Gauge Railroad Company” Right of Way from St Ferdinand St & St Catherine St in Florissant to the Ferguson Junction location.
    Is there a Google Earth route map or a narrative of the route available?

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