The Tortured Land Around Lambert Airport


I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “Hey guys, let’s go hang out around the airport!” But surprisingly, the site of Lambert was once a cottonwood marsh known in French as Marais des Liards, which was also the original name of Bridgeton, whose original site lies under the new runway. Nowadays, this land is perhaps the most aesthetically displeasing quadrant of St. Louis County. It is a loud, desolate and barren landscape shaped by humans for over two hundred years, not always for the better.


If you look closely above on the Pitzmann map from the 1870’s, you can see the little street grid of Bridgeton, which was originally settled by the French in the late Eighteenth Century. Natural Bridge Road, as well as the infamous Coldwater Creek, both used to go right by the settlement. Natural Bridge was rerouted to the south, while Coldwater Creek flows through a culvert under the airport. The airport was originally Kinloch Field, and I suspect the flat terrain of the former marsh was perfect for the flat site needed for runways. Interestingly, some things never change; the rail line that runs from east to west above the present airport is still in operation and probably serves Boeing.


This aerial view of Lambert from the 1940’s is illuminating; already two of the major runways that are still in use today have already been platted, and Natural Bridge is already going around the airport. On the far left, decades before the new runway, the sleepy hamlet of Bridgeton is visible.


Here is the original settlement of Mariais des Liards today, completely annihilated by the new runway. Down at the end of this road, now called Navaid Road but what I suspect was the original alignment of Natural Bridge, are two remnants of the French Catholic-inspired street grid of Bridgeton: St. Andrew and St. Thomas Lanes. They are now part of the maintenance buildings’ yard; no traces of original buildings remain. Below, I snapped a picture of the now horribly dilapidated and vacant hangars viewable in the upper portion of the historic aerial view along Banshee Road. I’m curious about the name of the road; perhaps the roar of McDonnell-Douglass’s jets reminded an observer of the mythic specter famous for her scream? This whole area is surreal…


Backtracking to the south, there is this little stretch of what Google calls Long Road, but what once continued to Bridgeton; to the west is an abandoned section of Lindbergh Boulevard in its original alignment.


I feel a little like Rip Van Winkle when talk turns to the construction of the W1W runway in the last decade; I lived on the East Coast through all of the destruction and controversy, and only moved back after Lambert’s flight schedule had been decimated.? Surely many of my readers can provide more information and recollection of what was demolished around here. Carrollton’s demise was well documented by 56 Houses Left. I vaguely remember some hotel being demolished called the Henry VII or something like that.


Heading through the ridiculous and seemingly overly long Lindbergh Tunnel, I arrived at the exit of Coldwater Creek from its culvert under Lambert along Banshee Road. Further up, you can see the site of SLAPS, ingeniously named by some Army Corps of engineer as “St. Louis Airport Site.” You’ll recognize the spot at the intersection of Banshee Road and McDonnell Douglass Boulevard because there’s an out of place Corps flag in the middle of a green field. If an out-of-town guest asks you to show them some historical site that is unique to St. Louis and world history, this is the perfect place to take them; it is where the radioactive ore from Mallinckrodt’s uranium enrichment program during World War II was illegally dumped. Supposedly that waste is from the uranium processing that produced the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Just think, in 400,000 years this could be valuable land again!

22 Comments Add yours

  1. mark says:

    I believe Banshee Road is named after the Banshee Aircraft manufactured by McDonnell Douglas in the 50s(?)

  2. Amy in StL says:

    Banshee was an aircraft built by McDonnell. Although no-one hangs around the airport now, for decades people did go there to watch flights land and take-off. Blue lights is what my generation called the parking lot at the end of the runway; but my mom’s generation just called it the airport viewing lot.

    1. Sue Stanis Castro says:

      I was one who went to the airport to not only watch the flights take off and land, but to have lunch, and sit at the Braniff gate waiting room, and just overall enjoy the atmosphere of the airport. I was 11 when I started hanging out there, in lieu of school, and did so for about 3 years until I discovered I could take the bus to either Northland or River Roads Shopping Center and have a more productive day (buying stuff.) This would have been around 1967. Since I lived in Normandy, I would just hop on a bus.

  3. Broadwing says:

    Furthermore, Mr. McDonnell’s penchant for the occult was legendary. The Banshee was one of their first big breaks in the industry, but there was also the Phantom (and Phantom II/Spectre, which kept St. Louis in military contracts for a good long time), Goblin, Voodoo, Demon, and so on.

    A bit amazed a St. Louis historian didn’t know that. Also, just focusing on the bad around the area? The Engineering Campus and the IBM IT building are pretty nifty in the area – the former’s pretty nicely mid-century.

    I miss the hell out of the spotter’s lot along the old route of Lindbergh. They were *supposed* to replace it, but of course they didn’t. Of course, I’m not in the area anymore, but I really liked that lot.

    The airport waste site is interesting. I slightly debate ‘illegal dumping’ – it was probably just fine at the time, though appalling today. They even went back later and extracted MORE Uranium from the waste pile, once they had better methods. At least it’s not as disturbing (or land-scarring) as all the stuff they did at Weldon Spring.

    The hotel was indeed the Henry VIII. Silly faux-olde-English facade and all. I had a coworker that was caught up in the buyout. He always felt it was more or less fair, though agreed with me it was silly to do it after American basically destroyed the St. Louis hub. I heard at the time that American was basically keeping JUST enough infrastructure at Lambert to make it plausible they could make it a fortress hub again, just to keep others from moving into what should be an excellent hub airport.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Ah yes, I was sitting on the train going to Chicago, separated from a computer, when it dawned on me what the Banshee was.

      Perhaps this post is a bit negative, but it is a statement on how humans have destroyed their natural and historic environment.

      1. Lynn says:

        I grew up in North County, first in Berkeley and then in Hazelwood after the airport expansion took our home in the early 1970’s. The radioactive waste site you mentioned was once a Khoury League ball field. One of my childhood friends played ball there with all of her siblings, she and both of her parents later died of cancer. Terrifying. Although I blame Lambert Airport for ruining the communities that surround it, I did smile at people’s memories of airport’s Public Viewing Area. By the time I was in high school, it had become THE PLACE to go parking with your sweetie to make out. My husband and I had our wedding reception at Lambert Airport, oddly enough. It was at the Air National Guard officers club. Thanks for your interesting website, it brought back lots of memories.

        1. Chris Naffziger says:

          Thank you for sharing your memories; I’m sorry to hear about your friend and her family, Lynn.

  4. Christina says:

    I grew up watching the planes take off and land at the airport viewing lot. During the spring and fall, my parents would load up all of us kids, in the station wagon, on a Saturday evening with a picnic dinner and watch the planes until late in the evening. Ahhh such good memories!

  5. Tom Maher - Kirkwood says:

    Going to the airport in the the immediate post-WWII years was a staple weekend trip for many parents, just to “watch the airplanes take off.” Back then, the prop planes taxied right to the tarmac where you were standing, separated from you by only a low chainlink fence. OH! The romance when they would turn around and you would be hit by the prop wash. And the terminal building had the most marvelous popcorn; the “operator” said the secret was using coconut oil in the kettle (dunno if true, but after 60+ years I recall the heavenly taste – much better than us popping the corn in the shakedr on top of the stove).

    And in HS in the late ’50s, it was common to take a date to the NEW terminal to “watch the JET planes take off.” Ahh, how simple it was… My grandkids just shake their heads (at so many of my memories…).

  6. Chris Naffziger says:

    Everyone’s memories of visiting the airport are very interesting; unfortunately, it is not a pleasant place for a picnic anymore–which I think is one point of my post.

  7. John Jackson says:

    Growing up in Bel Nor my pals and I used to walk/hitchhike to the airport just to hang out, watch planes take off and land and sometimes find forgotten change in the return slot of pay telephones. There were a lot of them then. Sometimes on the way back we stopped at Holiday Hills on Natural Bridge Road to jump on a few rides or watch girls. What a grand life it was. I also recall the old terminal building. We picked up cousins from New York City at the old building in the early 50s I think. They were dressed to the teeth and so were we. Don’t recall the popcorn however.

  8. Sharon says:

    I grew up in the early 50’s in Berkeley. Moved to Bridgeton for Jr High and High school (Pattonville). We lived at that time in Carrollton Suddivision. I remember in the 50’s going to the airport terminal that was on Lindbergh. Also, on above mention of Long Road, that used to be called Bridgeton Terrace, There were homes and the St. Mary’s school there. There were duplex apartments there on Natural Bridge and a restaurant across the street called, “The Flying Saucer”, that would cater to the airport employees. Also along Cypress Road, before the airport torn it up, was a paupers cemetery, close to the then Bridgeton Terrace. Right at Natural Bridge and St. Charles Rock Road, there was Grandpa Pigeons. Also in the same area, across from Grandpa’s at one time was an amusement part called Westlake Amusement Park.

  9. Matt Wittich says:

    I grew up in Bridgeton on Majella Dr. in St. James Estates. I spent most of my childhood at St. Mary’s School at 4601 Long Rd. The church and rectory address was 4605 Long Rd. and convent was 4603. I started kindergarten sat St. Mary’s in 1989 and was active in the boy scouts, CYC soccer, and I was an altar boy serving Sunday Masses. I graduated in 1998 and went on to attend CBC high school in Clayton. The streets in Bridgeton Terrace were names after saints. (St. Mary’s, St. Thomas, St. James, St. Teresa, St. Phillip Lanes etc.) Most of the houses were gone by the time I started school there (due to the airport expansion). Behind (to the west of St. Mary’s) there was a street of brick apartment buildings between the school and Lindbergh Blvd. I know the school and church were completed in 1952 replacing an old two story brick building school built in the 1880s. I believe in 1990, there was a graveyard of slaves buried on parish grounds that were moved by the federal government and St. Mary’s Cemetery was moved to Hazelwood in the Robertson neighborhood which still exists today (although that neighborhood was bought out by the airport too). The TWA world headquarters was across the street and I remember taking field trips to do the flight simulations that trained TWA pilots. During Lent, the parish hosted fish fries starting at 11am on Fridays, We would eat lunch in the cafeteria while McDonell Douglass/Boeing and TWA employees would come in and eat in the cafeteria as well. What a great place to grow up… I loved my childhood.

    1. Tom Maher - Kirkwood says:

      OT, but – Class of ’02? I was class of ’58.

    2. Edward Baker says:

      Hi Matt. My great great great parents had there children baptised at St. Mary. Would have any pictures of St Mary Parish and school before it was torn down?

      1. Chris Naffziger says:

        Mr. Baker, I would suggest contacting the Archdiocesan archives. They have always been incredibly helpful to me, and would surely be happy to help a parishioner locate a photo of their church.

      2. Marty says:

        Hey Cuz,
        I have a book of all the closed parishe’s. I’ll send you a picture when I go look and see if it is in there.

  10. Allison huxtable says:

    My ended up like Holly Jolly in Stranger Things. I found this article because I woke up from a nightmare this morning. In my search box I entered children experimented on Bridgeton, mo. Gist park Dr. I am grateful to find this information. I was involved in human experimentation by NASA and the army. I went to carrolton oaks. I was put in a program called Specter. I an 45 years old now and information is scarce. Non-therapeutic research. The thinking at the time was that the children who were living there are going to be sick anyway ,why not? I am chilled by this.

  11. Bob Hoffman says:

    As a child we lived on St Rita La in the Terrace, it was quite a thriving neighborhood with its own police dept. Long rd. was the western border Natural Bridge the eastern as it ran between Bridgeton Terrace and the airport. As Natural Bridge turned back west to intersect with Long rd and Lindbergh there were several businesses along that stretch, I seem to remember hardware store barber shop (Mr. Green) funny what you remember.

  12. Cass Clements says:

    Thank you for posting this information. One of the older maps of the area shown above from the 1800’s shows a mapped out neighborhood subdivision that has also since disappeared , called Walton Place. Another survey map a few decades later (in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s) shows another neighborhood was platted and built next to Walton Place on it’s west border called Maple Place. A couple of the Streets called Edgar (not to be confused with East Edgar just north of this area) and Kentucky Avenues on the east side of the Maple Place subdivision were renamed at some point after 1940 . Those two streets are now called Endicott Avenue and Kincaid Avenue, they can be found in ST. John. I have some old deeds to property in the area that reflect these old Street names and the best I can tell where Endicott Park is today was once part of the Walton Place Neighborhood Subdivision. I’m still conducting more research when I can, thanks again.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Wow, that is really interesting! Please let us know more about what you discover.

  13. TRACY HAGER says:

    Thank you for this. I have an odd question. In the early 1980’s, when I was a teenager, I saw a plane crash-land near the airport in a neighbourhood. I’d been driving on the highway and was turning off anyway so decided to try and find where it went down – my heart was pounding. I turned left into a subdivision where I guessed it must have gone down. After driving around a few streets I saw the back of a jet behind a house. I got out of my car and two old people came to the front door shouting to see if anyone saw what happened – that a plane crashed in their back yard. They dragged me from the front door through their house to some sliding doors leading to their back yard. There was this huge plane and shockingly 2 pilots on the ground rubbing their heads just muttering f*** over and over.
    They said they were okay. The old couple rang emergency and I left. I kind of felt like an ambulance chaser and felt like I might be in the way.
    I am so curious to know if anyone else remembers this event. I haven’t thought about it in years, live in England now, and was reminded of it because a small plane crashed locally yesterday and took down a bunch of power lines (no one was hurt). It brought it all back.
    I can’t find anything online but know it happened though many details are fuzzy.

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