I realized I had not been up to Kinloch in a decade, and I decided to revisit, having heard that a new documentary is coming out soon chronicling the history of the famous town. Things sure have changed. The whole west half of the historic African American town has been turned into two huge distribution warehouses. As far as I know they are paying taxes to the town. It is really surreal to see what had been overgrown, blocked-off streets owned by the City of St. Louis for sound remediation (and a terminated eastern expansion of the airport) replaced with wide open spaces. There has been some controversy with the mayor and city council, and the police force has been disbanded. St. Louis County Police now patrol the town.
I proceeded up to the “downtown” where there is a monument to all of the famous African Americans who have called Kinloch home. More importantly, it was just known as a town that was a bastion of the middle class, where generations of African Americans lived in well-maintained houses surrounded by manicured lawns–while streets were blocked off into nearby Berkeley and Ferguson.
I was surprised, even in the dead of winter, how overgrown the underbrush has gotten. I can only imagine how dense it becomes in the height of the summer. I could probably convince many people that the picture below was out in the middle of the Ozarks, not in the middle of North County, in between St. Louis and Florissant, the 13th largest city in Missouri in the 2010 census. Tens of thousands of people drive by on I-170 every weekday only a half mile from what you see below on their daily commute.
And then, my God, the illegal dumping. I can assure you the dumping is not done by residents of Kinloch. It is done by your neighbor, or maybe even someone you know. It is disgusting, it is a crime, and it is wrong. If you know someone who is doing this, tell them to stop, or better yet, turn them in. Much of the northern half of Kinloch doesn’t have any residents, so there is no one to see someone sneak into the town in the middle of the night. The 2010 census estimate said the population was 298, but I suspect ten years later it is much lower. The airport expansion that never happened destroyed this town.
The one institution that has not given up on Kinloch are the many churches, of which there are several. There was even a Roman Catholic church at one point.
As I was heading back out town, I passed by a St. Louis County Police SUV at a four-way stop a quarter mile or so north of the apartment complex below. The police officer gave me a good, hard and long stare-down as I made sure I came to a complete stop.
“Good for him,” I thought as I proceeded on my way. After witnessing the huge amount of illegal dumping, I’m glad that St. Louis County is at least making some sort of effort at being vigilant and keeping their eyes out. Obviously, it is a Sisyphean task, and there’s just no way to constantly have eyes on every corner of the town at all times, and the illegal dumpers still get through. It would be a nice gesture if St. Louis County would provide the resources to clean up the illegally dumped trash. It’s a metaphor for Kinloch, getting dumped on by outsiders who care nothing about its history or the people who live here.
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Most of that impenetrable growth taking over is the bush honeysuckle and other invasive trees. It’s awful, but hides a multitude of sins.