Old North, Revisited Winter 2022, Fourteenth Street Between Warren and Wright Streets

Over the next two weeks, leading up to the Fifteenth anniversary of St. Louis Patina, I’m going to be looking at the Old North St. Louis neighborhood. In many ways, it’s the area of the city that first got me interested in the preservation of St. Louis way back in the fall of 2006 when I was still living in Washington, DC, and planning on moving back. I was looking at Rob Power’s Built St. Louis, and his look at Old North. Things have dramatically changed, and in other ways not at all, but some things are better and other things are worse. We’ll first look at North Fourteenth Street, which is the commercial heart of the neighborhood. It was an almost completely abandoned pedestrian mall when I first looked at way back in 2008.

But it was dramatically redeveloped over the course of the first years of the second decade of the new millennium, and what had once been vacant and in some cases collapsing buildings are now beautifully rehabbed commercial storefronts and apartments. Marx Hardware, a staple of the neighborhood, is further to the south and is apparently going to close with the current generation.

But unfortunately, all these years later, many of the storefronts are still empty; there are just not enough people to provide the critical mass to fill these with businesses. Many are rented out at discounts, from what I understand, to artists and such. The apartments are occupied.

And the lessons of the past have been learned; pedestrian malls just don’t work in America, even if they are very successful in Europe. In May of 2008 and May of 2009, construction had just started. In May and June of 2010, construction was well underway. You can see some of these buildings from May of 2016 and August of 2010.

And of course, Crown Candy Kitchen has held on now for over a century. The Fourteenth Street Mall has been renamed Crown Square in honor of this holdout, and the restaurant and candy store still draws long lines on the weekends.

Sadly, a longtime mainstay in the neighborhood, La Mancha Coffee, which was directly across Fourteenth Street from Crown Candy, which served residents of Old North, closed on St. Patrick’s Day of 2022 after a decade of operation. It will be difficult to replace them.

The long line of Greek Revival rowhouses behind Crown Candy have never been abandoned.

They were once common in this city, and are now rare.

You can see the east side of the street in these posts, like this one from December of 2018, and March of 2012. as well as June of 2011.

It’s hard to believe that I photographed the house above in May of 2008 as a giant pile of rubble. Now it’s been over a decade since and it’s a beautifully restored house that is someone’s home.

The houses above and below are still in good shape. You can see this row from August of 2017.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. ME says:

    I think pedestrian malls work if they are located in the center of a thriving areas. Like the Pearl Street Mall located in Boulder, CO. When I was there last summer, it actually crossed my mind if our own Fourteenth Street Mall could ever be that lively. Other than Crown Candy, there’s not much else around that folks can already access in other areas around town.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      It does have to be a very dense city.

  2. Patrick Kleaver says:

    Chris: Congratulations on 15 years of your site! I especially appreciate your photos and reports on the status of buildings in my old neck-of-the-woods, Old North. I try to visit it myself yearly, but when I can’t go there I know yours is the “go-to” place for updates.

    Regarding the fourth photo down in this posting. It was a Woolworth’s “dime” store when I lived in the neighborhood. The one story building to the right of the corner one in the fifth photo shows J. J. Newberry’s, also a “dime” store. While my family patronized both, Woolworth’s got most of our business as it seemed to have a bigger selection.

    As to the pedestrian mall concept, it DID work (for a while) after it started in the mid-1970s. Most of the shops got behind it, agreeing to freshen up their storefronts, share maintenance and security expenses, and have the same shopping hours. However, by the mid-1980s the shop owners weren’t working together anymore and those who wanted to retire (most were mom-and-pop operations) had no one to take over.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Wow, thanks so much for all the information on the neighborhood! I really appreciate it.

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