Forest Park Southeast District
The Forest Park Southeast District was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2007, The Gombach Group.
The Forest Park Southeast Historic District's setting reflects its overwhelming residential land use and its historic buildings reflect a late nineteenth and early twentieth century working class neighborhood. The commercial land use along the north side of Chouteau Avenue and the north and south sides of Manchester Avenue further define the District as a residential enclave. There are 612 contributing properties in the District. Fifteen percent of these buildings are ancillary buildings erected between c. 1906 and 1920. The primary buildings date from 1891 and 1934. Of these properties, 65 date to the 1890s; 331 date to the period from 1900 to 1910; 72 date to the period from 1911-1920; 57 date to the period from 1921-1930; and two date to the period from 1931 to 1950. There are 65 noncontributing buildings dating from 1900 to 1995. Forty-eight of these (74 percent) are ancillary buildings that include garages and storage buildings located at the rear of the properties. There are 53 vacant lots. scattered throughout the district. The non-contributing primary buildings built after 1951 and non-historic vacant lots constitute less than 14 percent of the District. Approximately 60 percent of the extant buildings are two-family units; 17 percent are multi-family residences; 16 percent are single family residences; three percent are commercial and residential mixed-use buildings; and one percent are commercial buildings.
With the exception of single-family shot-gun houses located in groups along certain streets, all of the residential and commercial buildings are two or three stories in height. There are four large institutional buildings, three churches and a Masonic hall. The residential buildings are on narrow lots measuring 25-feet by 125-feet platted in a grid system and, with a few exceptions, face north and south. They usually occupy the full width of the lots. Parcels containing multi-family units with common walls often take up multiple lots. Brick alleys run east-west through the blocks. Located on the rear alley line are garages and storage buildings. The size and materials of the garages usually corresponds with the size and materials of the primary building. Neighborhood commercial buildings and institutional buildings are located on corner lots and face east and west on north-south streets. The streets have sidewalks on both sides and concrete and limestone curbs.
With a few exceptions, a large percent of the buildings have dark red, brown or buff brick cladding. Light colored terra-cotta, white glazed brick, and limestone provide restrained contrasting ornamentation. Exposed foundations are either coursed ashlar or brick veneer over limestone rubble. Frequently one color of brick denotes the foundation area, while another color fills the remainder of the facade. A small number of the residential buildings have stone walls. The churches have both brick and stone wall materials. A few wood frame, gable-front houses have non-masonry siding. Infill housing erected within the last five years has brick veneer on the primary facade and vinyl lap siding on the other elevations. Although the setback varies, all of the buildings on each block share the same setback, a treatment that contributes to the cohesiveness of the District. On some blocks, the buildings are on elevated terraces requiring steps from the sidewalk to the terrace level and, from there, to stairs to the entrance. On streets with a decided change in grade and elevated terraces, an ashlar wall often separates the sidewalk from the yard. On other streets, the building sits within several feet of the sidewalk.
Architectural Style and Building Type
Architectural styles found in the District range from high style buildings to building types with stylistic references. Most of the high style buildings are restrained versions applied to a working, middle-class neighborhood and include variations of popular styles from the era in which they were constructed.
Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Revival styles include 40 Colonial Revival; three Tudor Revival; three Late Gothic Revival churches; and one Mission Revival. Modern Movement buildings found in the District include the Art Deco Masonic Building (1052-56 Kingshighway Blvd.) and nine Craftsman style residences.
In addition to buildings with high style architectural treatments, there are 356 buildings classified as "Other" styles. They are classified either as Historical Eclecticism sub-types due to the presence of a number of stylistic references popular when the building was erected (4445 Arco Ave., 4564 Gibson Ave., 1083 S. Taylor and 4360 Chouteau Ave.) or by the presence of very simple treatments that reference a particular style. These stylistic references are not strong or pronounced enough to qualify as pure styles, but characteristics of the style can be identified as such. Examples include: Romanesque Revival references (4527 Oakland Ave. and 4331 Arco Ave.); Colonial Revival references (4563 Chouteau Ave., and 4378 Chouteau Ave.); Mission Revival references (4554 Chouteau Ave.); and Prairie Style/Arts and Crafts references (4527 Wichita Ave., 4552 Chouteau Ave.).
In addition, there are a number of buildings that have no stylistic references. They include National Folk House forms such as the Gable-Front house (4420 Chouteau) and the shot-gun house (4425-29 Arco Ave.). Others have a classifiable form with restrained ornamentation such as tapestry brick (1120-22 S. Taylor Ave.).
A Preservation Plan for St. Louis defines property types by style, original function and form. In addition to their style, the resources in the District have distinguishable building types that are associated with their historic function and form. The District includes 504 residential buildings, five commercial buildings, 19 commercial and residential mixed-use buildings, and five institutional buildings. Although these buildings encompass a variety of styles, fenestration patterns, roof forms, materials and ornamentation, all can be further classified based on their form, in particular, the primary facade which provides cues as to their original use and internal arrangement of rooms.
Residential building types found in the District include Single Family Houses, Two-Family Flats, Four-Family Flats, Six- and Eight-Family Flats, Row Houses, Multi-Family Walk-Ups, and Low-Rise Apartment Buildings. They appear in a variety of sub-forms and in different styles.
Institutional forms found in the District include churches in either the Late Gothic Revival (1975 S. Taylor Ave.) or Romanesque Revival styles (4464 Gibson Ave.). All are on corner locations. The Masonic Hall is the other institutional building and faces a main thoroughfare on the edge of the District (1054 Kingshighway Blvd.).
Except where noted all of the buildings in the District are rectangular in plan and all retain a high degree of integrity. The following individual building descriptions are by street address alphabetically. Descriptive information about integrity notes elements that affected their evaluation as contributing or non-contributing properties in the District.
The district includes 612 contributing resources (including 92 outbuildings), 65 non-contributing properties (including 48 buildings) and 53 vacant lots. Its period of significance begins with the construction of the earliest extant dwelling in 1890 and continues to 1935, the construction date of the last contributing property. The District is significant in the area of Community Planning and Development for its associations with a significant national and local urban development patterns — emigration to the suburbs. Specifically, the district represents the late nineteenth and early twentieth century phenomenon of the working- and middle-class quest for relief from the crowded and polluted conditions in the older residential sections of St. Louis. As a surviving working class neighborhood located adjacent to public transit lines several miles from the older downtown commercial center, it reflects a significant development pattern in the city. Due to its density, variations on common popular architecture themes from a finite time period, and exclusive concentration of working class residential property types, it has a distinctly homogeneous appearance that differentiates it from older residential neighborhoods in the city's historic core as well from contemporaneous working- and middle-class neighborhoods in the immediate area. The District is also significant in its representation of the conscious effort to separate commercial and manufacturing facilities from residential streets and to relegate them to defined areas that began during this period. Moreover, it is an important reminder that segregation of residential enclaves from other land uses occurred in the creation of working class neighborhoods as well as in upper-middle and upper class neighborhoods. The District is architecturally significant for the number and variety of modest residential building types and styles it contains that collectively represent an important facet in the evolution of the city's residential architecture during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The District's residential buildings, often designed as cohesive units and built a block or more at a time, reflect the work of builders and developers who responded to a growing working- and middle-class housing market. In particular, the dwellings in the District represent the complete gamut of late nineteenth and early twentieth century working class residential building types including, single-family, shot gun houses town houses, row houses and two-story, two-, four-, six-, and eight-family flats. In particular, the high number of multi-family residences in the District provides a unique concentration of this property type erected during a specific period. Although few of the buildings within the proposed district are particularly noteworthy as individual structures, as a group they comprise an architecturally significant collection of small-scale residential and neighborhood commercial and institutional building types harmoniously designed over a 40-year period. The District enjoys a high degree of cohesiveness reflecting the large number of properties that retain architectural integrity and dense, homogeneous streetscapes created by uniform lot size and building set-backs, as well as contiguous rows of one- and two-story residences that share the same scale, massing, materials and repetition of architectural styles and detailing. The District is also significant for its simple but picturesque treatments of Late Victorian, Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Revival, Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century American Movement, and Twentieth Century Modern Movement architecture. Many of the buildings are simple adaptations of these styles, often combining multiple stylistic idioms of the period in which they were built. Whether expressing conservative design traditions or current architectural fashion, the quality of their brick and stonework and other architectural detailing distinguishes the vast majority of the buildings. In particular, the predominant use of dark brick with contrasting light colored terra-cotta, wood or stone embellishments contributes to the cohesive appearance of the District. With the exception of missing entrance porches or porch elements, most of the buildings retain a high degree of integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feelings and associations.
An understanding of the significance of the resources found in the Forest Park Southeast Historic District requires knowledge of the relationship of the resources to larger historic contexts associated with the development in St. Louis and the evolution of architectural styles in the city. In addition to contextual information relating to the resources themselves, four general thematic contexts relate to the development of St. Louis in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They are: "The Forest Park Neighborhood History," "Community Planning and Development," "Residential Architecture in the era of the Spreading Metropolis," and "Working Class Residential Property Types."
The Forest Park Southeast Historic District was originally part of the Prairie des Noyers or "Meadows of the Walnut Trees," which were commonly-held agricultural fields laid out by the French settlers in 1769. These fields included most of the present day Prairie Groves/Shaw Neighborhood in the City of St. Louis, Missouri. The northern section of the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood was within the Cul de Sac common field and the St. Louis Commons. The Prairie des Noyers consisted of a series of strips of varying widths cultivated by the European settlers that ran westward from what later became Grand Boulevard to Kingshighway Boulevard. After the Louisiana Purchase, it took the United States government several decades to settle land claim issues in this area dating from the French settlement period. Ultimately, the various French families who retained their property titles sold their tracts to land speculators.
Between 1825 and 1832, Colonel Samuel McRee assembled a 1,000-acre tract in this area. McRee was a retired army officer who began acquiring the parcels when he was Surveyor General of the Missouri and Illinois District. McRee's property was west of the then St. Louis city limits just east of present day Grand Boulevard and ran to Kingshighway Boulevard. At this time only two roads cut through the McRee land — old Manchester Road (now Vandeventer Avenue) and "New Manchester Road" (present day Manchester Avenue).
In the 1840s, wealthy philanthropist Henry Shaw purchased the southern portion of McRee's tract along with other parcels in the area. In 1850, the Missouri Pacific Railroad purchased a tract through the area south of Vandeventer Avenue. The expansion of the city limits 600 feet west of Grand Boulevard in 1855 prompted Shaw and Mary S. Tyler, an owner of adjacent land, to plat three streets in 1857 and to impose deed restrictions prohibiting the construction of factories and other "nuisances."
However, with the exception of these activities, little development took place in the area until after the Civil War. The area north of Manchester Avenue remained farmland owned by McRee's widow, Mary. In 1869, Mary McRee subdivided about 320 acres and platted an area called the McRee City subdivision. That area today is bounded by Spring, Vandeventer, Park and McRee avenues. That same year, the City of St. Louis annexed McRee City, stimulating building activity on the north side of the rail lines. Mary McRee also sold 80 acres west of Boyle Avenue to the Laclede Association for development as a racecourse. The racetrack failed soon thereafter and the land sold at auction in 1869. The City limits expanded west from Grand Boulevard 600 feet west to Skinker Boulevard in 1876. Included in those boundaries was the newly dedicated 1,292-acre Forest Park. An 1878 map of the area shows two farmsteads between Manchester and Chouteau avenues in the area adjacent to Kingshighway Boulevard at the southeast corner of Forest Park. Along the Missouri Pacific Railroad, there was considerable development, particularly in the McRee City area. To the south, Tower Grove Park and Shaw's Missouri Botanical Gardens appear to be a well-landscaped and developed sites, while the surrounding area was largely vacant land except for a few houses on the perimeter streets.
The expansion of the city's transportation lines in the last decades of the nineteenth century had a profound effect on the development of the Forest Park/Tower Grove area. In 1882, the Lindell Company extended its horse-drawn streetcar line westward on Chouteau Avenue and along Kingshighway Boulevard stimulating some development along the line. Three years later, the first transit lines west from Grand Boulevard on Lindell Avenue reached the eastern edge of Forest Park. Before the consolidation of transit services in 1899 as the United Railways Company, several independent companies furnished services to the area. They included: the Market Street branch of the Missouri Railroad, which ran out Old Manchester Road to Tower Grove Avenue; the Tower Grove line on Arsenal Street, a branch of the Union Depot Railroad, which, in the 1890s, terminated at Kingshighway; the Compton and Park streetcar lines developed from the earlier Compton Heights line of the Lindell Railway Company; the Tiffany Line that connected the transit offices and shops at 39th and Park with Chouteau Avenue; and the Manchester Line that was originally part of the Suburban Railway system servicing the county enclaves of Maplewood and Kirkwood.
When the streetcar lines reached Forest Park during the 1880s (see streetcar suburbs), wealthy real estate developer, T. A. Scott purchased and platted the Gibson Heights subdivision between Kingshighway Boulevard and Newstead, Chouteau and Swan avenues and marketed it as the city's first "subdivision." Because much of Gibson Heights was across the street from Forest Park and directly accessible to public transit lines, the area was highly desirable. Residential buildings erected between Kingshighway Boulevard and South Taylor Avenue during this period were larger and more expensive than those built south of Manchester and east of Taylor.
About the same time that electrification of local transit lines occurred in 1890, residential development in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood began in earnest. Manchester Avenue, also known as the "road to Jefferson City," began to experience rapid development. In 1892, real estate investors purchased the area east of South Newstead Avenue and developed it under the name of McRee Place. Over the next eight years, contractors erected nearly 500 residences, most on speculation. Between 1890 and 1900, the McRee City neighborhood also became well-populated. By the end of the decade, developers had erected nearly half of the existing buildings in the larger Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood.
In the early twentieth century, the neighborhood continued to grow. Factories located into the area north of Chouteau Avenue and Manchester Avenue developed into a thriving neighborhood commercial district. In particular, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the 1904 World's Fair, held in Forest Park, further stimulated development in surrounding neighborhoods. By 1920 over 90 percent of all extant buildings in the neighborhood had been built.
Costs for two-story buildings ranged from $8,000 to $13,000 and one-story buildings averaged around $2,000. The owners of a significant number of the multi-family buildings resided in the neighborhood. Many who applied for the building permits were women who continued to live in the neighborhood after erecting at least two buildings. A selective review of census records indicates that many of the property owners were of German and Italian descent. Occupations listed for residents in the District include: grocers, florists, clerks, woodworkers, butchers, school teachers, an undertaker, a salesman, a station engineer and a river boat captain, carpenters, millwrights, machinists, a glass bender, a brass polisher, house painters, electricians and policemen.
By virtue of the establishment of the city along the bluffs of the Mississippi River, the City of St. Louis' development patterns always included spreading development to the west across flat river bottom and rolling prairie land. The need for railroad lines to utilize the gradual rise in grade found along the river corridor and the separation of the city from its surrounding county in 1875 further defined the city's growth and settlement patterns. Historians divide the development of St. Louis into five discrete phases based on general temporal periods. They include: 1) the "Original Urban Landscape" - communities founded in the Colonial period before the Louisiana Purchase of 1803; 2) "Central St. Louis" - the older neighborhoods closely clustered around downtown; 3) "The Spreading Metropolis" - more distant urban neighborhoods built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; 4) "The Suburbs" - newer towns outside the city limits; and 5) "Communities Beyond" - smaller communities that have remained outside the urban region. The District has strong associations with the era of the "Spreading Metropolis."
From 1764 to 1803, St. Louis was an European outpost with only minimal planning at the edge of a wilderness. The first Euro-American inhabitants relied on their common traditions in the design of their village and in the conveyance of property. Their traditional town plan was an integrated arrangement of public and private spaces with both rural and urban functions. Although Auguste Chouteau platted the first blocks of the village of St. Louis in 1874, the area beyond followed traditional European agricultural patterns. The earliest farmers laid out long, narrow commonly held agricultural fields between present-day Grand Boulevard and Kingshighway Boulevard in the 1760s. Today, the irregular streets north of Arsenal reflect the arrangement of these fields. Later in 1836, the city designed the area to the south on a grid with Arsenal as one axis. These two designs converge at Grand Boulevard, accounting for changes in direction of some streets and the skewed grid in some areas. Developers started dividing the prairie in 1805, but people only moved into pockets near work sites such as coal mines or along transportation corridors.
By the nineteenth century, St. Louis began to acquire the appearance of an American city. Land use became specialized with areas divided into industrial, commercial, retail and residential sections. Within this pattern, the workplace both created and preserved neighborhoods. While the wealthy had access to private transportation — horse and carriage — that allowed them to reside away from the noise and pollution of the commercial and industrial areas, most people lived within easy walking distance of their job site. Consequently, densely built residential neighborhoods surrounded work sites along the river and, later, railroad tracks. The presence of residential streets stimulated retail and service businesses to locate near residences at corners and along the busiest roads. The presence of these services, in turn, stimulated the erection of more residences. The new residences encouraged more commercial development. Today much of the evidence of this historical pattern no longer exist as a result of post-World War II urban renewal programs and the creation of interstate highway systems. Only fragments of these larger early nineteenth century neighborhood systems remain intact.
THE "SPREADING METROPOLIS"
A third type of neighborhood emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century during the era of the "Spreading Metropolis." These were urban neighborhoods within the city limits located several miles away from the city's historic downtown. Residential development near the city's expanding edges in St. Louis resulted from the same conditions that stimulated the growth of hundreds of "suburban" tracts in American cities across the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Dislike of crowded, noisy, polluted conditions of the older city core, made new, outlying neighborhoods appealing to increasing numbers of the working and upper-middle classes.
The construction of new housing additions required the presence speculative developers to provide the initial capital for the purchase, subdivision and marketing of large farm holdings such as the McRee and Tyler lands. Successful development also depended upon accessible public utilities and transit systems that attracted builders and residents.
The Forest Park Southeast District has direct associations with these typical late nineteenth and early twentieth century development patterns in St. Louis. The District also marks the appearance of one of the first working class streetcar suburbs of the Central West End area.
Late Nineteenth Century Development Patterns
In 1870, most of the land west of Grand Boulevard was agricultural. By 1900, only the land on the city's western and southwestern boundaries remained undeveloped. The boom in building occurred as the city's population grew from 160,773 in 1870 to 575,238 in 1900. Where once the city's leaders thought the 1875 boundaries would contain all the growth the city needed, it was apparent within several decades that little rural land within the city existed and the migration from the city's historic core would continue beyond the city limits.
As early as the 1860s, the wealthy citizens of St. Louis, able to afford their own private transportation (carriages and horses), developed private residential enclaves away from the central city area. These neighborhoods, designed and platted by civil engineers, often took the form of gated private streets with their own maintenance and security crews. Their designs often included paved streets and sidewalks, ornamental landscape elements and small parks. By the 1880s private streets were a unique feature of St. Louis' upper middle-class and upper-class neighborhoods, a practice that continued well into the twentieth century. Most were north of Lindell Avenue, a self-imposed dividing line that removed these elite private residential enclaves from commercial and working class residential intrusions.
As mass transportation networks evolved, more modest homes and neighborhoods followed the same general pattern of residents relocating to new subdivisions on the outskirts of town and commuting into the city for work, shopping and services. Streetcar and cable car lines allowed working- and middle-class citizens an expanded choice of residential locations. The Missouri Railway Company ran the city's first horse-drawn streetcars in 1859. Almost 20 years later, the company's narrow-gauge streetcar line stimulated suburban development northward as well as westward. Cable-powered cars arrived in 1886. It was, however, the switch to electric streetcars that truly expanded the city's transportation network.
As the city grew, the "outskirts" moved farther and farther from downtown. New streetcar line extensions reached farther into St. Louis County, with new residential subdivisions following close behind. And just as the neighborhoods established in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century owe their locations, in part, to the streetcar and, later, the automobile, commercial areas developed along transit corridors as well. The widespread network of streetcars transformed the arterial streets on which they ran into commercial zones. Streets such as Grand and Manchester avenues and Kingshighway Boulevard evolved into retail commercial corridors providing convenient services to the increasing number of mass transit riders.
The Forest Park Southeast Historic District is an excellent example of this development. An important stimulus to the establishment of the neighborhood was a system of electric street car service on the main streets in that area. The 1889 opening of the Grand Boulevard viaduct, in particular, provided easy access and streetcar connections between the new "western" subdivisions and the rest of the city. It should also be noted that other forces stimulated development in the area. While new and expanding forms of transportation hastened a continuing pattern of residential settlement away from the downtown areas, the presence of recreational amenities like Forest Park and Tower Grove Park, also stimulated the location of transit lines which, in turn, drew tenants and homeowners from their old neighborhoods to new residential areas such as the Forest Park Southeast Historic District. With transit systems in place and a population increase of 29 percent in the previous decade," real estate speculators felt safe purchasing the land from property owners who had assembled large tracts in the mid-nineteenth century. The District's first homes appeared in the 1890s, and construction accelerated after the end of the Panic of 1893. Within the next decade or so, builder/developers platted small subdivisions and a neighborhood emerged. The 1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the area encompassed by the Forest Park Southeast Historic District almost completely developed. The neighborhood's neat middle-class detached houses and multi-family living units offered a life removed from the hustle, grime, smoke, and cramped living of the neighborhoods to the east, and represented the most recent installment in the city's residential expansion westward.
Moreover, the District is significant as a unique surviving example of a residential land-use specifically allocated to the working class in the Central West End District. Neighborhoods for the affluent upper and middle class to the north and west include private streets and visual buffer zones between commercial and residential neighborhoods. Because of the relatively small triangular area created by the commercial thoroughfares of Chouteau, Kingshighway and Manchester, and their related commercial and industrial intrusion in the surrounding area, the highest and best use for the land now included in the District and in the surrounding blocks was as working class housing. Because of mid-twentieth century highway construction, institutional expansion and urban renewal programs, the District is significant as a surviving intact neighborhood in the area. There are other surviving working class enclaves in the surrounding area, such as neighborhoods near Tower Grove Park to the south. However, these neighborhoods have a different appearance and configuration due to the physical and contextual peculiarities and historic development of their immediate area. While some similar architecture styles and building types occur in these neighborhoods, they do not have the variety of single and multiple family property types and stylistic treatments, nor the density found in the Forest Park Southeast Historic District — all a result of development parameters associated with the District's size and proximity to specific historic commercial and transportation corridors and the designs of the variety of builders and architects over a finite period of time.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, St. Louis, like other industrial cities, lacked cohesiveness, order, and aesthetic amenities. As the city grew throughout the nineteenth century, it engulfed other communities, merging their land use patterns and infrastructure into its own as well as creating new suburban areas. City residents and new neighborhoods spread out farther and farther with each decade. As the new century got underway, the city's leaders introduced the new concepts of city planning and landscape design in an effort to curb the urban chaos that emerged during the industrialization and rapid growth during the late nineteenth century.
This transition mirrored that of other cities at this time. Beginning with the 1893 Columbian Exposition at Chicago, the civic leaders of America enthusiastically embraced what became known as the City Beautiful Movement. The movement had its foundation in the philosophies of the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts, which trained an entire generation of architects and designers in classical building forms, and the progressive reform movement that repudiated the social models of the nineteenth century and sought to create safe, clean and healthy environments for the working poor as well as the elite. The progressive's belief in city planning as a solution to urban ills had its roots in the concept that changing people's environment would improve not only their health but also their behavior. Thus, the new movement incorporated the disciplines of architecture, planning and landscape design to create orderly, healthy and aesthetically pleasing cities.
Beginning with the Civic Improvement League, founded in 1901, and continuing with the City Plan after 1910, St. Louis decision-makers worked to enhance the quality of housing; to beautify the city's commercial centers and parks, and to improve public transportation, recreation and cultural life. Under the direction of noted landscape architect George Kessler, the city began an effort to impose order on the city through a comprehensive plan joining the city with a system of streets and boulevards and at the same time inaugurating improvements to the city's water and sanitation systems. The first step was a plan to correct the piecemeal design of Kingshighway into a broad, landscaped boulevard that ringed the city. Not coincidentally, this corresponded with the city's preparation to host the Louisiana Exposition to be held in 1904 in Forest Park, which had Kingshighway as its eastern boundary. In 1902, the city spent $277,000 on street and sewer repairs and paved its dirt thoroughfares, including Linoell Avenue the entrance to the fair's location in Forest Park.
After the Fair and development of the Kingshighway plan, the city embarked upon its first comprehensive city plan leading to further phased improvements in infrastructure, land use and civic landscaping. One immediate benefactor of these events was the neighborhood surrounding the Forest Park, including the developing Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood. Paved thoroughfares and other amenities only enhanced the area as a location for residence.
The 1910 census showed St. Louis to be the fourth largest city in the country, behind New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. The city at this time began to move beyond Forest Park. Streetcars, trains and the automobile carried people on a daily basis between "bedroom communities" in the surrounding county and the city. In the period from 1910 to the entry of the United States in World War I, 92 new buildings appeared in the District. The restriction on imported building materials during the war, and the fear of inflation after the war, slowed housing starts. By 1920, residential development increased. This building activity reflected a period of active development of apartment buildings that began in 1908 and continued until 1930. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, most of the construction occurred on the city's expanding edge. A large number of apartments constructed at this time were in the vicinity of Tower Grove Park and Forest Park. All were near streetcar lines. In the 1920s, the city's new suburbs expanded beyond the city limits, the city's population fell while the county population doubled. The final spurt of construction in the District occurred between the end of World War I and 1925. During this period contractors erected 41 buildings. Between the onset of the Great Depression and the end of World War II, only a few new buildings appeared in the District.
The District continued to function as working class neighborhood until the post-World War II period when government funded loans for suburban development created a mass exodus of blue- and white-collar workers from the city to the suburbs. At the same time, demolition associated with development of an interstate freeway system and urban renewal programs leveled entire neighborhoods in the city's older neighborhoods destroying the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood's physical links with other neighborhoods in the immediate area. With the loss of physical connections, any economic synergy the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood enjoyed with the surrounding commercial and industrial centers declined. Within a decade, the buildings that once housed tradesmen, civil servants, factory workers and schoolteachers became the home of the city's working poor and indigents.
One characteristic of the neighborhoods associated with the era of "The Spreading Metropolis," was a recognizable, more uniform appearance due to more homogenous architecture and land uses than those found in the older central city. "Most of these neighborhoods were exclusively residential, reflecting conscious efforts to separate business and industry from residential streets and allocate them in their own defined areas. Homes and apartments often built a block or more at a time reflected the work of builders and developers who sought to supply their clients with a tidy, quiet environment free from the noise and soot of downtown." At the edges of such developments, busy streets like Manchester Avenue in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood provided new sources of shopping and employment making city residents even less dependent on downtown services.
Like most of the city's residential neighborhoods prior to the adoption of a zoning ordinance in 1918, title covenants dictated set-backs from the street, a two-story height limit and masonry construction. This is important in understanding the significance of the Forest Park Southeast District. It was not until almost three decades after development began in the District, that the city enacted zoning plans mirroring the self-imposed "restrictions" that the District's real estate developers enacted to protect their investments. It is even more significant in view of the fact that St. Louis was second only to New York among the major American cities to adopt industrial/residential zoning, something the developers of the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood consciously established in the late nineteenth century.
Overwhelmingly a multi-family residential enclave, the District has visual unity created by buildings erected for similar costs featuring uniform lot sizes, setbacks, height, scale, and materials; the repetition of architectural styles; and the quality of masonry construction and ornamental detailing. With the exception of a commercial storage building facing onto Chouteau Avenue, neighborhood commercial buildings within the District are one and two stories in height, maintaining the predominant scale of the residential buildings in the neighborhood. Ground floor space was largely reserved for shops, while the upper stories were used for offices, studios or apartments. Church buildings sit on large corner lots on east-west streets.
The houses and apartments erected in the nation's new suburban subdivisions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century offered improvements over the residential building stock in the older city neighborhoods. They provided front yards, individual street-front entrances and porches, carriage houses and later, garages, as well as fashionable architectural detailing. Their architectural styles and the stylistic adaptations of local builders reflect the dynamic tension in the early twentieth century between traditional and progressive styles. Americans responded to nostalgia as represented by the popularity of English prototypes and the American styles of the eastern seaboard. The European-based revival styles represented tradition, affluence and good taste while the American colonial styles provided practical restraint. The new "honest" and "useful" styles, such as the early twentieth century Prairie and Craftsman houses associated with the Modern American Movement reflected a utilitarian practicality, particularly in the design of the homes of the American working- and middle-classes. Both the traditional revival and the modern Arts and Crafts-based styles were a reaction to the excessive and eclectic ornamentation of the Victorian Era.
Just as important as the architectural styles in defining the character of the District are the building plans, forms, and materials. The vast majority of the residential buildings within the District are variations on recurring architectural themes and include detached single-family houses, multi-family flats, row houses, multi-family walk-ups and low-rise apartments. With the exception of one-story "shot-gun" folk houses, the majority of the District's residences are two-story buildings with two- or three-bay facades. The height of the buildings has direct associations to their period of construction and reflects the fact that before the creation of zoning ordinances after World War I, there was a height limitation of two floors for residential structures. All have narrow fronts and long, side elevations in keeping with the narrow lots. All but a few are masonry structures, the overwhelming number are of dark brick. This is not unusual in St. Louis. Beginning in the 1850s, when a fire destroyed blocks of buildings and caused millions of dollars in damage, the city required masonry construction of its buildings. Before the advent of zoning and building codes in the twentieth century, property deeds in many new developments in the city required masonry construction. Consequently, the District visually conveys feelings and has direct associations with the preponderance of brick structures dating from the mid-nineteenth century that shaped the city's appearance in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Designed for the city's growing middle-class and built by developers who anticipated the desirability of the area as a place of residence and neighborhood commerce, all of these buildings reflect the evolution of architectural styles and the technological changes in construction that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to these forces, they reflect architectural practices unique to St. Louis.
Late Nineteenth Century Architecture and Technology
In American cities in the last half of the nineteenth century, immigrants, laborers and newly arrived rural white and black factory workers crowded into shacks lining ravines, tall tenements and boardinghouses. Those with better paying jobs lived in row houses and small "flats," while the increasing number of the middle- and upper-classes opted for detached cottages, town houses, rural villas or substantial masonry mansions.
The urban population explosion following the Civil War continued until the twentieth century and resulted in rapidly changing architectural styles. The rich and robust Italianate, Second Empire and Romanesque styles with their exuberant designs appealed to the citizens of the prosperous post-Civil War period. In city or town, there was a perceived and psychological need to make order from the chaos of the war and the early settlement period. In rural and urban communities, elected officials commissioned the leveling of bluffs, the erection of bridges and the paving of streets. Citizens voted bond issues to install gas, electricity and telephone lines. New concerns for public health and safety resulted in fire and building codes and the creation of water and sewer systems. Innovations — indoor plumbing, central heat and gas light — created a demand for change.
This level of construction was possible because of the increasing industrialization of building technology and a newly developed rail freighting system that transported materials for long distances from their manufacturing centers. Mass-produced building materials included brick, cut stone, pressed brick, plate glass, cast iron, gingerbread, and turned, cut and pierced wood. Architects and the popular builders' guides utilized both traditional and new materials in a variety of combinations to create a rich and dramatic effect.
Each architectural sub-type had its own combination of materials and treatments. Popular wall materials during this period included dark-red, industrially-produced brick, dark glazed brick and pressed brick; pale blue, tan, gray and frosty white limestone, brownstone, and dark granite — carved and incised, smooth or rough-faced — as well as horizontal clapboard and ornamental shingles. Decorative materials included terra-cotta cast in decorative patterns and incised, chamfered, carved and turned wood; gray, green, blue and red slate tiles; and wrought and cast iron.
Architectural styling for even the simplest of the residential buildings erected in St. Louis in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century was closely aligned with the prevailing architectural styles of the day. The buildings in the District represent a typical cross-section of styles found in the late nineteenth century and the first 25 years of the twentieth century in Midwestern communities. Identified by their plan and form, the vast majority of these buildings feature little, if any, academic architectural styling. Even the larger buildings had simple treatments, although ornamentation alluded more strongly to a specific architectural style.
During the late Victorian period in St. Louis, the size and design of residences expanded. Replacing the popular and entrenched Italianate style, the Second Empire style became established in the city in the 1870s. The defining element of the style is the mansard roof: a double-pitched roof that has a flat upper slope and steep lower slants that terminate in a decorative cornice. Dormers are often present in the steep roof, which had slate shingles. Although the style declined at the end of the century, a number of adaptations continued to occur in commercial and multi-family buildings, hi the District, examples can be found of both styles. The use of the mansard roof on residential buildings created a third attic story that extended a short distance toward the back of the building, enough to create additional space in a neighborhood that had a residential height restriction of two stories. Both two-story and one-story examples exist of dwelling space within the attic space created by the roof form. In addition to this treatment, many of the flat roof buildings featured mansard-like roofs applied to the parapet area. The District has nine Italianate residential buildings (4200-08 Chouteau Avenue) and four Second Empire buildings (4300-06 Chouteau Avenue).
In the 1880s, the Romanesque Revival style began to appear in large, single family residences and in large, multi-family flats. The early examples incorporated a variety of full arches at the windows, doors and cornices, and usually had dark red brick walls, and high dressed limestone foundations and sills. By the last decade of the century, the Romanesque Revival residence became more restrained. As applied to multi-family buildings, brickwork and narrow stonecourses, as well as the ever present full arch recessed entrance and window surrounds became the character-defining elements of the style. The District includes 37 buildings reflecting a variety of examples of the style as applied to modest single and multi-family dwellings (4459-61 Oakland Avenue). All feature the use of dark brick walls, elegant brickwork and contrasting light limestone foundations, sills and belt courses. Restrained versions that reference the style include the use of full arch windows, a recessed entrance on the first story and segmental or flat arch fenestration on the second story.
The Queen Anne style also became popular in the city in the 1880s. While brick houses of this style were rare in most cities, because of the City's fire ordinance, the availability of brick and the high number of skilled brick masons in the city, most Queen Anne houses in St. Louis were brick. Like their popular frame cousins, they feature an asymmetrical facade, a variety of roof forms, projecting bays, turrets, and elaborate combinations of brickwork, pressed brick and terra-cotta. In the District, those used for single-family and multi-family housing at the turn-of-the-century are restrained versions. While they have quality brickwork, most reference the style in the asymmetrical arrangement of the facade, a full height projecting bay window culminating in a turret, steep roofs, dormers, and sometimes a gable-front bay. There are 10 Queen Anne houses in the district (4547 Arco Avenue).
Italian Renaissance (Renaissance Revival) residential buildings appeared in St. Louis near the end of the nineteenth century. The popularity was due, in part, to the French designs that appeared at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893 and the growing popularity at this time of revival styles. As they appear in the District, they are restrained flat-roof versions, usually of light-colored brick with arched fenestration on the first story and simpler rectangular windows on the second. The symmetrical design always features a slightly projecting center entrance bay. They have high foundations of dressed coursed limestone or brick veneer. Narrow stonecourses between floors creates a horizontal emphasis. Brickwork often mimics quoins and appears at corners and in the foundation area. There are nine examples of the style in the District (4445-47 Gibson Avenue). The style was particularly applicable to the large row houses and flats.
With the wide variety of Victorian and Revival styles popular in St. Louis at the end of the nineteenth century, it is not surprising that architects and builders combined these elements in their designs for middle- and working class housing. Because late Victorian architecture was a reaction to the rigidity of the earlier Georgian and Greek Revival architecture, architects and builders alike felt comfortable mixing different architectural styles, particularly in the design of residences.
In addition to the single-family house, St. Louis had, by the late nineteenth century, a number of urban housing forms. The Second Empire, Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival styles all adapted quite successfully to the town house building type. In the Second Empire variation, the mansard roof was the defining element. As noted earlier, many of the District's buildings had a mansard roof only on the front elevation and parapet walls continued up a full story on each side elevation. Queen Anne Townhouses are rare in the city, but several restrained versions can be found in the District. One of the most popular styles for the town house was the Romanesque Revival style. Unlike the Richardsonian Romanesque houses of the wealthy in St. Louis, the town house version incorporated the use of arched motifs around doors and windows, without the style's characteristic deep window recesses. The most distinguishing element of these buildings is the quality and profusion of the brickwork ornamentation. In addition to these high-style treatments, a number of the late nineteenth century town houses found in the District are simple symmetrical designs reminiscent of the Federal style.
Two National Folk House building types appear in the District. Scattered among the dark red brick buildings with flat roofs and shaped parapets are a few Gable-Front houses. All are of frame construction with brick or wood wall cladding. More prevalent are the Shotgun houses. With the exception of the Italian Renaissance idiom, these one-story brick buildings can be found with elements of all the Late Victorian styles. The great majority borrow from a number of styles. With a few exceptions all feature parapets, some with exaggerated forms. A few have mansard roof forms, some of which may be historic alterations. In the District, Gable-front houses are striking due to their clustering along streetscapes and the variations in design and ornamentation. The grouping in the western part of the District on Arco Avenue is particularly significant for the wide variety of high style and builder designed examples.
Early Twentieth Century Architecture and Construction Technology
The rapidly expanding industrial economy at the turn-of-the-century created burgeoning job opportunities throughout the nation, which created a growing middle-class consumer generation. The new lifestyle and the effects of the machine age created nostalgia for traditional decorative arts and a quest for new ways of relating interior and exterior space. At the same time, there was a return to the simple architectural styles of the eighteenth century. These trends reflected diverse undercurrents combining the Arts and Crafts movement in England, the availability of mass produced building materials, Japanese aesthetic principles, and a repudiation of the excesses of Victorian art and architecture. Beginning in the late nineteenth century stylistic interpretations of older Euro-American period houses gained popularity. The historic eclectic movement began when European-trained architects began to design houses for wealthy clients in the United States based on relatively pure copies of earlier styles. The architecture of the Colombian Exposition of 1893 further accelerated the movement. By the first decades of the twentieth century, Colonial and Classical Revival styles, as well as adaptations of Mediterranean and French styles enjoyed increasing popularity.
During the early years of the twentieth century, the new and distinctly American Craftsman and Prairie School styles also appeared and quickly began to overshadow the eclectic movement. Unlike their predecessors, the form and ornament of these houses was devoid of historical references. One- and two-story treatments, usually applied to the twentieth century Prairie four-square and bungalow residential forms, successfully competed with the historically-based revival styles between 1900 and 1920. The Prairie School style developed from the work of a creative group of Chicago architects, influenced by the early designs of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. The work of two Californians, Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Green, inspired the popular Craftsman house. The brothers practiced architecture together from 1893 to 1914. Around 1903 they began to design simple Craftsman type bungalows, based on the designs and treatments of the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Popular architectural publications and pattern books quickly popularized the style and the one-story Craftsman house becoming the most popular and fashionable smaller house in the country.
Only a few buildings in the District reflect the popular Prairie School and Craftsman residential style. Extant twentieth century residences in the district do not include the four-square or bungalow building types — two important vehicles for the style in the early twentieth century. There are nine Craftsman style residences in the district (4519 Oakland Avenue). There are a few buildings that utilize stylistic elements of the two styles such as horizontal emphasis, hipped roofs, exposed rafter ends, battered porch supports, and vertical muntins.
By 1900, the decline of the major Victorian architectural styles became apparent in St. Louis. Beaux-Arts, Arts and Crafts, Tudor and Georgian Revival styles began to replace the Italianate, Second Empire and Romanesque Revival models. Beginning in the first decade of the twentieth century, many of the city's wealthier homeowners began to choose Chateauesque style architecture based on French Renaissance models for their new homes. Others built grand mansions in the style of the Beaux-Arts Classicism popularized by the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and reinforced at the 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair. The more modest middle-class housing reflected other Revival Styles. Perhaps the most popular was the Colonial Revival Style that came to prominence in the United States during the last decades of the nineteenth century, and remained a popular source of residential design thereafter. In the Forest Park Southeast Historic District, there are 40 Colonial Revival buildings. Typical Colonial Revival motifs include an end-bay entrance portico with plain or fluted, round or square wood columns, doors with fanlight transoms and sidelights, pronounced cornices with dentils, pedimented roof dormers and windows with segmental or flat arches, often with keystones.
The Tudor and Jacobethan Revival styles, with their origin in English architecture of the 16th century, featured houses and apartment buildings clad in brick with a prominent front gable roof, dormers and casement windows. An identifying element of style is the use of decorative half-timbering applied to stucco-sheathed walls, which references the heavy timber framing in Medieval designs. The use of false half-timbers, particularly in gables and bay windows, became widespread in the early twentieth century, and appeared in the design of residential buildings of all sizes and forms. A few of the multi-family buildings in the District have a prominent front gable with half timbering. Closely related to the Tudor style in its origins and use of materials is the Jacobethan Revival style. It is a hybrid, combining elements from Elizabethan and Jacobethan buildings of England. Defining characteristics include brick walls with stone trim and distinctively shaped windows, gables, chimneys, parapets. In the District, references to the style occur in the use of brick walls with stone trim, crenellated parapets, and decorative stone tabs. The District contains three examples of these styles. The largest and most well defined example is the multi-family complex at, 4531-29 Chouteau Avenue.
The Spanish and Mission Revival styles have their origins in the seventeenth century Spanish Colonial missions of the southwest. Its most prominent features are low-pitched, red tile roofs with curvilinear shaped parapets, and stuccoed wall surfaces. In the District, this revival style is referenced in the use of low-pitched, false front structural elements with red tile and an absence of sculptural ornament applied to the brick elevations. One commercial building in the District represents this popular style (4301-03 Arco Avenue).
Three Late Gothic Revival Churches are the only representation of this refinement of the mid-nineteenth century Gothic Revival style.
The Modern Movement's Art Deco style appeared in St. Louis from 1920-1940. Characterized by smooth wall surfaces, flat roofs, horizontal belt courses and asymmetrical facades, the style repudiated classical form and decoration. Used sparingly, ornamentation was geometric and executed in low relief. In St. Louis, the Art Deco style was rarely used in single-family buildings but gained popularity in multi-family residences. Nevertheless, it is not as prevalent as other styles due to the fact that most of the city was developed by the end of the first decade of the century. It appears sporadically, usually in large public buildings. Only one multi-family residential building reflects Art Deco influences in vague verticality created by brick work and an unadorned brick facade. In contrast, the District's Lambskin Temple at 1042-1056 South Kingshighway Boulevard, constructed in 1927, is a high style example of the style.
Local Stylistic Adaptations
In addition to buildings with high style architectural treatments, the majority of the residential buildings in the District reflect the restrained stylistic treatments applied to housing for the working classes during this period. The District contains 356 buildings classified as Historical Eclecticism sub-types due to the presence of a number of stylistic references popular when the building was erected or by the presence of very simple treatments that reference a particular style. These stylistic references are not strong or pronounced enough to qualify as pure styles, but characteristics of the style can be identified as such. Examples include: Romanesque Revival references (4527 Oakland Avenue and 4331 Arco Avenue); Colonial Revival references (4563 Chouteau Avenue., and 4378 Chouteau Avenue); Mission Revival references (4554 Chouteau Avenue); and Prairie Style/Arts and Crafts references (4527 Wichita Avenue, 4552 Chouteau Avenue).
In addition, there are a number of buildings that have no stylistic references. They include National Folk House forms such as the example at 4420 Chouteau Avenue. Others have a classifiable form with restrained ornamentation such as tapestry brick building at 1120-22 S. Taylor Avenue.
The St. Louis Preservation Plan identifies a classification of single family houses called "Shaped Parapet Single Family Houses" which it defines as "a brick one-story house type with a front shaped parapet" with one or two bays. The plan notes that they enjoyed popularity between 1900 and 1920, and that "the earliest have recessed entries and Romanesque Revival detail; later houses had a small one-story porch. A distinctive feature of these houses is the use of decorative or glazed bricks to enliven the front facade." Examples of residences incorporating these identifying characteristics, in particular the use of a shaped parapet in front of a flat roof and decorative glazed bricks in the facade, are common among buildings with Late Victorian and Revival style references. The use of decorative parapets is almost universal in the District, reinforcing the cohesiveness of the District. With the exception of the handful of buildings featuring the Second Empire mansard roof, the Mission Revival tiled roof or the vernacular gable-front house; the remainder of the residences in the District, including multi-family buildings, has shaped parapets. As such, it is difficult to classify these features as a sub-style. As they appear in the District, they merely reference roof form and ornamentation patterns found in a large number of the residential and commercial buildings in the District.
20th Century Modernization
During the District's initial period of development, indoor plumbing, central heating, electric wiring and gas stoves changed the lives of not only the wealthy but also of the middle-class wage earner. Room arrangements put the kitchen of the servantless working class household in communication with other private spaces and opened house interiors to space, light and garden views. And, as the privy and the barn for horse and dairy cow disappeared, the back yard featured some amenities such as gardens and seating areas along with the coal shed and clothesline. By the twentieth century, the automobile garage replaced the dairy barn. The remaining garages and storage sheds in the District provide clues to the evolution of the outbuildings from fuel storage sheds and shelters for animals and carriages to meeting the needs of the automotive age. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, building permits for the demolition of wooden sheds and the construction of brick garages begin to appear. At the same time, building permits for new residential units include detached garages. The size of these ancillary buildings reflects the units for which they were built. Detached single-family houses have small, one-bay garages. Duplexes have two bay garage buildings, Four Family Flats have parking structures to accommodate four cars. Like their predecessors, the carriage house and barn, they are oriented to the brick alleys that bisect each block.
Although a wide variety of new building materials emerged in the first decades of the twentieth century, middle- and working class residential architecture did not use the hand-crafted ceramic tile, leaded and stained glass, wrought iron and hand-finished wood ornament that were popular Arts and Crafts building materials. And, even though industrial technology made poured concrete, concrete cinder blocks, stucco on metal lath, steel framing, glass blocks and other mass-produced materials affordable, most dwellings continued to be built of traditional materials in traditional ways.
Research identified approximately 140 architects and/or builders as designers who contributed to the design of the buildings in the District. Most were active in development of residential neighborhoods in the surrounding area.
A review of the building permits for the District reveals several architect-builders who played an important role in the appearance of the district. With the exception of individuals who hired local contractors to erect buildings in the district, the majority of buildings were speculative. Where a particular architect or builder is present, there is, more often than not, an association with a real estate company as well. Most of those frequently listed as architect/builder in the District also appear as the original owner.
By virtue of the number of buildings they design in confined periods of time, these architects and master builders played a major role in the appearance of continuity in the District, as well as the almost whimsical juxtaposition of similar stylistic treatments incorporating mirror images, and subtle variations on a theme.
The architectural significance of the District lies in its embodiment of the distinctive characteristics of both styles of buildings predominant in urban residential development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in St. Louis. In particular, the District is significant for the variations in architectural styles of multi-family dwellings. As a group, the District's buildings form a significant and distinguishable entity, delineated by clear boundaries and architecturally unified by common materials, scale, siting, period of construction and repetition of architectural details.
Working Class Residential Property Types
Simple National Folk House forms traditionally housed the nation's working classes in both rural and urban areas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the United States. After the Civil War, there was an explosion in the scale of houses, as well as the varieties of house design. This was particularly true of the affluent citizens of St. Louis who wanted their houses to reflect their economic status. Their new detached residences reflected the popular architectural styles. At the same time housing for the city's middle classes mimicked that of the affluent on a smaller scale. The Queen Anne cottage, a one-story house with restrained Queen Anne massing and details appeared in middle-class neighborhoods. The shotgun house continued to house the city's working class. The late Victorian version often borrowed high style architectural elements but retained its traditional folk house form and plan. In St. Louis, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century versions often had higher roofs creating a story-and-a-half attic use.
By the late nineteenth century, working class neighborhoods in St. Louis included the simple, single family detached buildings with a single entrance on the primary facade. Sub-types of this vernacular houses found in the District include the Single Family House (4420 Chouteau Ave.); the Single Family Town House (4144 Chouteau Ave.); and the one-story Shotgun House (4427 Arco Ave.). Variations on these building types continued into the twentieth century. The gable-front folk house often incorporated craftsman bungalow details and features. The shotgun house began to feature a shaped parapet that enjoyed popularity until the 1920s.
Nevertheless, by the late nineteenth century the detached one-family dwelling was not the home of most of the nation's wage earners. The two- to six-family flat and row houses was home to thousands of families. And, by the early decades of the twentieth century, multi-family "walk-ups" and low-rise apartment buildings appeared. The large number of multi-family units in Forest Park Southeast Historic District reflects the prevalence and variety of the multi-family working class housing type erected in St. Louis during this period. As executed in the district, they share common plans and facade designs.
Flats share common walls and all rooms in a unit are on one floor. Those found in the District feature separate individual entrances and living units on one floor. The typical arrangement is a door on the front facade that opens directly into the first floor apartment, while a separate door on the same facade accesses the upper floor unit by an interior stair. Two-Family Flats found in the District include a variety of facade designs including those with a central recessed entrance (4428 Chouteau Avenue); a shared side bay entrance porch (4552 Chouteau Avenue); a side bay recessed entry, (1083 S. Taylor Avenue); a full-width porch, (4556-58 Oakland Avenue); and end bay entrances, (4559 Wichita Avenue). Four-Family Flats are a variation on the same theme. They feature recessed central entrances that are either shared (4445-47 Gibson Avenue) or paired (4544-46 Oakland Avenue); a shared central entrance porch that is accessed by the same set of stairs or separate steps (4435-37 Gibson Avenue); and individual paired entrance porches on end bays (4455-59 Oakland Avenue).
Six- and Eight-Family Flats incorporate all of these variations. (4559 Oakland Avenue). Also known as Multi-Family Flats, this residential building type also appears primarily in the Skinker-DeBaliviere and Academy neighborhoods in northwest St. Louis. Generally the exteriors of these buildings have defined stylistic detailing, often exhibiting Arts and Crafts, Prairie School Colonial Revival and Jacobethan stylistic influences. Usually situated on a corner lot, the buildings may be of several different configurations, but all have separate entrances for each unit.
Row Houses in the District reflect a common design found in other neighborhoods in the city. They have three or more two-story units that share a common wall; each unit has an individual entrance. (4424-36 Arco Avenue; 4419-37 Oakland Avenue; and 4515-20 Chouteau Avenue).
Multi-Family Walk-Ups were ubiquitous in St. Louis during the first two decades of the twentieth century. They have a single common-entrance and may have two, four, six or eight units composed of stacked one-floor units with a common central interior stair hall. (4500 Wichita Avenue).
Low-Rise Apartment Buildings have up to five stories and are larger than the Multi-Family Walk-Up. These buildings feature a common entrance with apartments accessed off a long, double-loaded corridor. Larger versions can have several common entrances to the buildings. (4580 Wichita Ave. and 4531-39 Chouteau Ave.)
The Forest Park Southeast Historic District, is significant in the number and variety of representative examples of all of these working class residential property types. As such they are a noteworthy assembly of not only representative examples of each of the types but also, because of the large number of each of the types, demonstrate the evolution of their design and stylistic treatments. Located in a residential setting, with scattered religions institutional and small neighborhood commercial business at strategic corners, the buildings and streetscapes of the District communicate not only information about late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture and building forms, they also are physical reminders of the age of the streetcar suburb and the migration of working class families out of the city's center to residential enclaves located along the city's mass transit corridors. As cultural resources, their simple design treatments and utilitarian plans reflect their associations with the continuum of the city's urban housing property types and as part of a larger evolving built environment.
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