Tillie’s Corner, and the Decline of the Near North Side

Update: I visited Tillie’s Corner in February of 2021 for St. Louis Magazine and met Carla and Miguel Alexander to learn about their efforts to save Dunbar Elementary.

The high winds last week claimed several architectural victims across the city, including the three Second Empire rowhouses that made up Tillie’s Corner, at Sheridan and Garrison.? Emily Kozlowski had written an excellent piece on the importance of these three houses, which had long ago acquired storefronts at this busy corner as the neighborhood moved from a middle class suburb on the edge of the city to being right in the heart of it.

The houses are in bad shape, but I think the one on the end could be saved if there is an intervention in the next month.? If you know anyone who could help, please let me know.

Fascinatingly, Tillie’s Corner’s three rowhouses once had a northern partner (and two southern ones), as you can see in the lower right hand corner of the Sanborn map.? At some point, most likely when Dunbar Elementary School was built north of the corner, Sheridan Street was moved south a dozen feet, which you can see in this satellite view of the neighborhood, and claimed the rowhouse.? The currently standing northern house still has a narrow sideyard which is the truncated lot of its long vanished twin.

Interestingly, the property where Dunbar now sits once was a seemingly lavish stone mansion, complete with a turret, according to the Sanborn Map.? Was this an institution of some sort, or was it the home of a wealthy St. Louisan?? I do not know.? It’s always fascinating to see how neighborhoods structurally and architecturally transition between being middle class, to lower class, back up to middle class or into oblivion

Sadly, the collapse of Tillie’s Corner’s buildings is just one more loss for a devastated neighborhood. This area, the Near North Side, possesses some of the oldest housing stock still left in the city, dating back to the 1870’s and 1880’s.? Likewise, St. Louis was once a city of thousands of true rowhouses, and there are so few left.? The house below, likewise, a perfect example of the new houses going up on the edge of the city after the Civil War, is the only one left on its block; it’s the second one west of the alley west of Dunbar.? Happily it is still occupied.

This house below, which clearly once had a neighbor and thus the need for a door on the third floor, once held one family, then perhaps half a dozen, and now seems to still be occupied.? Will it come down in the next year or two in a horrible wind storm, like Tillie’s Corner?

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