The Forgotten Bircher Boulevard

I thought I would look into greater depth regarding the former Bircher Boulevard, which while still preserved as a highway exit off Interstate 70, has largely been destroyed. I looked at the houses on the south side of the former boulevard back in April of 2019, and I can only imagine what happened to the property values and quality of life of the houses and people who called the area home in the Penrose neighborhood.

Richard Lemen, View looking Northeast from Kingshighway near what is currently Penrose Park. A large field and partially-buried pipe are visible center frame. In the background, beyond a set of railroad tracks, stands a large factory belonging to the Valier & Spies Milling Corporation at 5020 Shreve Avenue. The Langenberg Manufacturing Company building is visible on the left side of the image in the background. The Langenberg Manufacturing Company constructed this three-story complex near the corner of Euclid and Bircher Avenues, address 4519-4542 North Euclid, in 1923., c. 1930, Lemen Streets and Sewers Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, St. Louis Public Library, Lemen 1014.

The area remained largely rural well into the Twentieth Century, as can be seen above in this photograph where North Kingshighway split into Northwest and Northeast branches (how many people alive to remember that?). I suspect World War II and the construction of the great ordinance plant helped to finally fill in this corner of the city, as well as the post-war housing crunch. Interestingly, to the north Walnut Park looks complete.

Aerial View of the Intersection of Bircher and Union Boulevards, 1937, St. Louis County Open Government

But just look at the disruption of the interstate’s construction, shown below at Union Boulevard. It must have been psychologically devastating. I remember a woman who grew up in Old North telling me that even if a family’s house was not demolished for the interstate, many people chose to move anyway, seeing it as the “writing on the wall” for the neighborhood.

© Studio, Final Stages of Construction of Insterstate 70, Union and Bircher Boulevards, 1961, Missouri History Museum, P0243-12588-01-4a

This house sits vacant in Penrose Park, a relic of disinvestment that came with the interstates. I would love to know its story.

Likewise, architectural masterpieces such as the house below were lost at the southeast corner of the intersection of what is now Interstate 70 and West Florissant Avenue, a victim of the slash through the heart of the city.

William Swekosky, Henry Steinlage House, Constructed 1880, 4524 West Florissant Avenue, 1959, Missouri History Museum, N06836

One Comment Add yours

  1. Barbara Brennecke Eufinger says:

    I grew up at the corner of Hooke Ave and Euclid (where both deadend). Would love to see any information and/or pictures of a miniature golf course on Bircher and a frozen custard stand at about the same place..right off Kingshighway by the baseball diamonds. Born in 1947, I remember going to each of these.

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