Neighborhood Gardens

Neighborhood Gardens Housing Project, View from 7th and O’Fallon Streets to the Southwest, June 12, 1935, Missouri History Museum, N35029

Designed by architect Joseph Murphy of the firm of Hoener, Baume and Froese and opening in 1935, Neighborhood Gardens is a historic public housing project in the Columbus Square neighborhood just north of downtown. It is historic in that is the first example of the wealthy coming in with good intentions, clear-cutting a whole city block and building a new-fangled type of housing and imposing it on poor people. We all know how this turns out.

(I looked at the area to the west of here, Carr Square in a two part series in St. Louis Magazine, which you can read here: Part One and Part Two. It tells the story of when government goes totally berserk.)

Still, it’s interesting coming up on the one hundredth anniversary of the apartment complex’s construction in just over a decade to take a look at the buildings and their surprisingly urbane design. They’re very European in appearance, and reminds me something I might see coming out of the Bauhaus.

Rechristened Collins Terrace, the complex has some design elements that would later be a disaster at Pruitt-Igoe, for example. Note above how two buildings come together and connect at the corner, creating walls that block out the passage of people from the front and back.

Heavy black fencing, not originally part of the design give entrance portals the feel of a German army barracks, to be honest.

Great architecture can’t save society; solid urban planning that is organic and develops along the lines of how humans actually want to interact with the built environment is what works. Why do you think I am always posting stuff from European cities?

But like I said, there is still a certain charm to some of the space created.

But what will the future hold? The problems of the past remain. The houses torn down to build this complex in 1935 were criticized for being slum properties. Go take a look at the on-line reviews for this property–has anything changed?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. W. White says:

    The March 2011 issue of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH) has the article “‘In the Nature of a Clinic’: The Design of Early Public Housing in St. Louis” by Joseph Heathcott which discusses developments such as Neighborhood Gardens.

  2. David says:

    William Inge , the playwright who wrote “Come Back Little Sheba”, “Picnic”, “Bustop” and “Splendour in theGrass”, lived in these apartments in the 1940’s when he worked as a newspaper journalist.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      How fascinating. I bet there are all sorts of stories like that. I know that Laclede Town had some interesting residents.

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