Vernon and Raymond Avenues, and Environs

Update: I revisited Raymond Avenue in the spring of 2021.

I’ve long said that I think the architecture of North St. Louis is more impressive than that of South St. Louis, and I stand by that. I know many of my friends in the preservation business who agree with me.

Likewise, I’ve also written extensively about how old residents have told me the so-called Central West End was a mid-century creation (confirmed by my analysis of old newspapers), carved out of the large West End neighborhood which stretched all the way to the city limits, and it was redlining that declared that the portion south of Delmar would be allowed to get home loans, and the portion north would not. Bizarrely, I even hear some people call the Central West End “South St. Louis” sometimes.

All of that, however, did not prepare me for the utterly stunning houses I found on the Vernon and Raymond Avenues just east of Union Avenue in what is technically the city-designated “Academy” neighborhood but is really the West End.

These streets are the heart of the African American middle class in St. Louis, where city leaders and employees live, and where the future health of the city lies.

Even with redlining, they forged ahead, bought these houses, and have kept them well-maintained. But what will the future hold?

This turreted house below has an identical friend down the block; it is stunning, even with new roof shingles replacing what were probably originally cedar or even terracotta.

These amazing side streets can be missed, because main drags such as Page Avenue are beaten up, and hide the gems hidden back off the high trafficked arteries.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. ben says:

    South of Page or MLK, from Grand west to the city limits…this part of the city is so poised to get hot and relatively intact. The building stock is amazing.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      I agree, but City leadership is too busy building matchstick frame “luxury condos” subsidizes in the central corridor with tax abatements and TIFs to even bother with looking at strategies to help these neighborhoods persevere.

      1. Everett Engbers says:

        You forgot to mention that they are also too busy chasing after more sports franchises and trying to privatize the airport.

        1. Chris Naffziger says:

          I did indeed! And trying to combine the City and County so their failure to stop population loss can be hidden by the addition of the latter’s one million people.

          1. Andrew Ratts says:

            Combining is the best hope to unify the St. Louis area toward solving the issues you document in the city complaining that investment is not being dropped into St. Louis city alone will not solve anything in the current situation that investment is guaranteed not to be coming

          2. Chris Naffziger says:

            I serve on the board of a non-profit that has invested tens of millions of dollars into affordable and market-rate housing in the City of St. Louis over the last 40 years. I reserve the right to complain.

  2. ME says:

    Great pictures. I’m sure it is hard to choose between which buildings to feature since every building on these blocks is it’s own unique masterpiece.

    Was the red-lining north of Delmar solely a result of a rise in crime? I don’t understand why the city didn’t step up police enforcement to try and reverse that, or offer incentives to entice residents to stay at that turning point. What did STL city officials think would happen, or did they not care… I never understood why the middle class fled these massive stately homes to be crammed in a gingerbread house in south city. But it’s good to see these featured homes have stood the test despite the city’s lack of investment.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      The owners of these houses moved to North County, according to the people who lived in these houses, and their children. I’ve talked to many of them. Redlining came BEFORE the explosion of crime in the late 1960s. Read “The Color of the Law” by Richard Rothstein.

  3. Chris Naffziger says:

    I have a saying: The City of St. Louis has three children; it showers all of its love and money on Central City, has given up on North City, and takes South City for granted.

    1. Slevin Kelevra says:

      That’s pretty accurate.

  4. Melissa says:

    I agree about the architecture! I used to work for the downtown enterprise and driving in this area was one of my favorite parts of the job.

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