Minerva Avenue, Hamilton Heights, Revisited Again

Update: Icame block in the summer of 2023 (second and third photos).

I discovered that one of the most compelling blocks in St. Louis, Minerva Avenue between Goodfellow and Hamilton, which I’ve featured back in January of 2015 and then again in September of 2019 was photographed by Richard Lemen back around 1925. You can see what it once looked like, around a century ago below, and what it looks like now above. I purposely allowed the wild, unkempt trees to intrude in my view in the photographs; their absence a century ago is a telling difference.

Richard Lemen, School kids, Image taken from the center of Minerva of children walking towards Hempstead School on the left, c. 1925. Lemen Streets and Sewers Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, St. Louis Public Library, Lemen0407.

I can only imagine how this block once hummed with activity, and while a few of the identical row of four family flats are still occupied, there were probably once easily over one hundred people or more living on this stretch of Minerva. And hundreds of children would have passed by on school days, and hundreds more people would have gone to then-St. Barbara’s on Saturday and Sunday for mass. There are still storefronts up at the corner with Hamilton.

Hempstead Elementary is still sitting empty, and it seems like the plan to demolish it and build senior housing is no longer happening. Just as a reminder, these schools were built as reinforced concrete blocks, so just because the roof is gone in places does not compromise the entire structure.

I looked at Minerva between Hodiamont and Hamilton in January of 2015; there are single family homes on the far side of the hill heading down to the city border. While the church is still open, its school building is abandoned.

New St. Augustine’s, formerly St. Barbara’s, originally possessed a taller spire reminiscent of the “Cathedral” of St. Bartholomew of Frankfurt am Main in Germany. It probably was battered by the weather and removed mid century.

Richard Lemen, 5900 block of Minerva, View of the 5900 block of Minerva Avenue. St. Barbara Catholic Church (now St. Augustine) is in view at Minerva and Hamilton. C. 1930, Lemen Streets and Sewers Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, St. Louis Public Library, Lemen1146.

Finally, I was surprised to see that a house on the west side of Hodiamont Avenue that I liked a lot had completely disappeared down to the foundation. It was still standing in the summer of 2019, when I had most recently photographed it (last photo).

2 Comments Add yours

  1. El says:

    One of the residents of the senior apartment complex where I work was a teacher at hempstead school.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      That’s great! How long ago did they teach at the school?

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