I don’t know how I stumbled upon them, but one day I realized that in an area of Dutchtown, shaped like an irregular pentagon bordered by Chippewa Street on the north, Grand Boulevard on the east and southeast, Meramec on the southwest and Gravois Avenue on the northwest, are a collection of special, unique and exquisitely detailed apartment buildings built in a tight period from 1929 to around 1931. I stumbled on one of them years ago. Today, they are the center of a flourishing immigrant community due to inexpensive rent and proximity to bus lines such as the 70 Grand.
I find this a fascinating time period for such large buildings to be built–apartments with well over eight to twenty-four units–right in the throes of the beginning of the Great Depression.
Could this greater density represent a need due to the changing economic times? Was there a need for more, smaller apartments packed into a smaller area due to people needing them? I find that interesting compared to our own time where there is still a terrible affordable rental crisis in our own economic turbulent time.
So bear with me over the next week or so as I examine these apartment buildings, each unique and bespoke with terracotta elements that are both mass-produced yet placed with care and a sense of artistic style.
They range in style from Tudor Revival, inspired by the work of Ittner and Milligan, and the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I of England.
While using those elements combined with fanciful, almost Hollywood panache.
Other buildings possess decoration that defy easy quantification, using bright brick colors in eye-confusing patterns.
Here are some of the smaller ones below; in the next week we’ll look at some of the larger ones on the quiet, narrow streets of Dutchtown.
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In regards to the increase in small apartments. This was likely due to the demand of the public. Hence, builders responded with increased supply of new buildings. This was accomplished without subsidized housing(section 8). In fairness. I would imagine the building codes were less stringent and/or less red tape.
It’s funny that these buildings were built during the Great Depression. They didn’t appear to cut costs or spare any unnecessary architectural details. So much character inside & out. Very different from the cardboard cutouts, or overpriced “industrial” style apartments of today!