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Parkview Historic District

Unidentified Street in the Parkview Historic District, St. Louis/University City, MO, National Register

Photo: Unidentified Street in the Parkview Historic District, St. Louis/University City, MO. The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Photographed by user:Dagwar (own work), 2009, [cc-by-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed May, 2014.

Streetcar Suburb

Julius Pitzman's last subdivision design, Parkview began in 1904, straddling the city and county boundary and using the adjacent streetcar line as a selling point since it was designed to attract middle to upper class families. [†]

The Parkview Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2014, The Gombach Group.

Parkview is a residential district covering 70 acres, two thirds of which lie in University City in St. Louis County and the remainder in the City of St. Louis. Common areas, including streets, tree lawns and parks, constitute a greater part of this area than the privately-owned lots. The 254 houses (84 in the City of St. Louis) face seven named streets. Parkview was designed in 1904 to attract middle-to-upper-class families, and about 85 per cent of the houses were built between 1906 and 1914. They were mostly architect-designed and represent the styles popular in those years.

The design of Parkview follows the tradition of the private place that had developed in the preceding half-century in St. Louis, with limited street access and common areas held by trustees (here called agents), but it departs from the typical rectilinear private street plan in Its size and its curvilinear streets, laid out as horseshoe curves set within each other. The constantly changing vistas created by this pattern effectively dissolve the grid pattern of the city to the east. The northwest and southwest corners of Parkview, bypassed by the curving streets, are given over to heavily wooded triangular parks which intensify the green environment created by the closely-spaced street trees. Service alleys bisect the inner blocks, while the peripheral blocks back onto other rights-of-way: to the west a public walkway named Greenway and its continuation as Melville Avenue; to the north an alley serving commercial buildings that face Delmar; and to the south Millbrook Boulevard, a major thoroughfare. The primary entrance to the neighborhood is to the east, where five streets meet Skinker Boulevard, a north-south artery paralleling the boundary between St. Louis City and County.

Each street is marked at Skinker by large, smooth-faced stone piers crowned by urns. These piers have wall-mounted lanterns with the names of the streets printed on the glass, while plaques with the word "Parkview" are fitted into the entablature zones on the side faces. The sidewalks passing these urn-topped piers are marked on the opposite sides by shorter piers, which are also repeated at the entrances to the alleys. A coursed rubble limestone wall parallels Skinker and links these piers, except between Waterman and McPherson, inhere a semicircular shaped park provides an opportunity for a more formal treatment. Here lengths of ashlar Mall about eight feet high link the urn-topped piers to taller and bulkier pylons having dentil led cornices and monitor-like finials ornamented with volutes. These pylons are connected to each other by lower ashlar walls which give way to wrought-Iron railings toward the center of the park. This composition of piers, pylons, walls, fence and park form a formal frontispiece for Parkview. At the west side of the district a gate with brick piers closes Center Street at Melville Avenue. All these entrances are closed periodically to regulate traffic and to maintain subdivision property rights. The north entrances at Limit and Westgate have pylons similar to the secondary entrances on Skinker but are closed to vehicular traffic by wrought-iron gates.

The city-county line is marked by a pedestrian walkway called Limits Walk, which runs from Delmar Boulevard on the north to Millbrook and Washington University on the south. Along the streets trees are planted both in the five-foot-wide tree lawns and in the front yards, most of which are raised above sidewalk level and extend to a uniform 50-foot setback line. Original trees, the majority of which survive, were sycamore, pin oak, elm, soft maple, pine, and ash. Replacements and additions are provided by the Parkview Agents. The trees give a visual unity to the district, a continuous rhythmic columnar architecture. A second vertical element, the street lights, are not original but are a modern adaptation of an earlier gas light design.

Transportation has never posed a problem for Parkview residents. In the early 20th century, major streetcar lines ran on the thoroughfares that surround the district. Delmar Boulevard carried the Delmar Street Car Line, which "looped" around the business district there; the area is still known as the Loop. Skinker Boulevard had the Clayton Street Car line, and to the west, the Kirkwood-Ferguson Car Line ran from north to south connecting two county suburbs. The Rock Island Railroad paralleled Millbrook on the southern boundary of Parkview. This accessibility was a strong selling point made by real estate agents to prospective buyers. When the automobile became popular, carriage houses were converted to garages, and new garages were built. The new garages often echoed the style and choice of materials used in the main house, and some are architecturally significant in their own right. Later, as garages posed maintenance problems, some were torn down.

The designs of the houses have been influenced by subdivision layout and deed restrictions. Lot frontages vary from 50 to 100 feet, with the larger lots concentrated in the center of the subdivision on McPherson and Westminster, while the smaller lots, and consequently the smaller houses, are found on the perimeters. Minimum construction costs stipulated in the deed restrictions ranged between $4,000 and $7,000; as the result of inflation, later houses tend to be smaller in scale than their earlier counterparts, although the materials used remain generally consistent.

Roof materials are predominantly slate and tile; roof lines are generally either gabled or hipped, while gables may be either front-facing or at the sides. The prevailing building material is brick, generally dark red with dark mortar joints, laid in a stretcher bond or a variation combining courses of stretcher and Flemish bond. Terra cotta and glazed bricks were used to vary masonry surfaces with geometric patterning. They are typically located at cornices, near windows and doors. Other secondary materials used are stucco, stone and wood.

Parkview's architecture reflects the push and pull in the early twentieth century between traditional and progressive styles. Americans turned to nostalgia during this period as represented by English prototypes and American styles of the Eastern seaboard. The English Revival styles represented tradition, wealth, and good taste, while the American styles, the Colonial and Georgian Revival, were associated with patriotism and restraint. While traditional, these relatively restrained styles were, perhaps, a reaction to the Victorian excess. By contrast, reformers opposed to the emotionalism of the Romantics sought to eliminate excessive ornamentation. These utilitarians focused on "honest" and "useful" architecture. This philosophy derived from William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, and was publicized in this country by Gustav Stickley through his simple but functional mission furniture and his magazine The Craftsman. These "modern" houses were prototypes of the modern house of today. This new ideology was represented in Parkview by a house that, due to the narrow urban lot, had taller proportions and was more compact in plan than the typical modern house. These Utilitarian styles included the Craftsman Bungalow, American Foursquare and Prairie styles. Features from these styles were combined to create vernacular designs. Many porches and eaves reflect the Craftsman influence with exposed rafters, rectangular knee braces supporting the eaves, large, over-sized porch columns and simplified forms. The Prairie style is seen in the emphasis on horizontal lines, projecting eaves with windows set in horizontal bands and window glazing. The American Foursquare, which is found across the country, emerged because of its simplicity and practicality. Architects and builders took the basic shape of the Foursquare (generally two stories, somewhat box-shaped, with a porch extending across the front facade and with a low hipped roof with dormer) and added other decorative motifs that were popular at the time.

The land in which Parkview lies was one of the holdings of Marie Louise Chouteau Papin, whose father, Pierre Laclede, was the founder of St. Louis. By 1796, Marie Papin had acquired over 2,700 acres. When the City of St. Louis separated from the county in 1876, her descendants still had land holdings in this area, which was known as Kingsbury Farm. Builders were by then working north of Delmar and northeast of Parkview. The lack of interest in developing the Kingsbury Farm property was due to the fact that the River Des Peres meandered southeast through the area into Forest Park. With higher ground to the west draining into this area, heavy rains flooded this natural flood plain. This situation changed in 1901 when St. Louis selected the western half of Forest Park as the site for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. As one can imagine, this area was scrutinized by businessmen, who visualized the profits that could be theirs if they could develop it to handle the crowds that would be attending the Fair. That same year, Courtland B. Van Sickler bought an interest in the parcels of land between DeBaliviere and Skinker, and between Delmar and Forest Park, just east of the Parkview site. A few months later, Henry S. Caulfield, then an attorney for the Lincoln Trust Company, filed Articles of Incorporation in behalf of the Parkview Realty and Improvement Company. The corporate directors listed were established St. Louisans: Adrian Ogle Rule, vice-president of Kilgen-Rule Real Estate Company; Thomas Wright, a cigar manufacturer; Moses Greenwood, Jr. a U. S. Assistant Civil Engineer; George Durant, general manager of Bell Telephone and first vice-president of' Lincoln Trust Company; and Edward H. Coffin, who worked for the Wabash Railroad which ran on the southern boundary of Parkview.

The 1903 Parkview Realty and Improvement Company Prospectus states that the proposed area for development "has peculiar value" for the following reasons:

  1. The proposed real estate is in a direct line from the quality housing in the city.
  2. Its location is protected by Washington University on the south, and its association with the upper-class private places to the east such as Westmoreland, Portland, and Bell (later Kingsbury) Places would give the area permanence.
  3. Transportation facilities are ideal, with streetcar routes maintained around the perimeter of the proposed real estate.
  4. The land is prepared for development with water available at Skinker, and the grading of the land has an ideal eastern slope.

The Parkview Company divided its land into three sections, and developed it as a whole.

Section 1: The Catlin Tract was to be leased to the Exposition for facilities needed by the Fair, such as rides, booths, etc. This area was from Lindell Boulevard north to Forest Park Parkway.

Section 2: This land was to be leased to the public for construction of hotels and restaurants to serve the Fair. After the Fair, this land would be developed for quality housing. The area was east of Skinker Boulevard and north of Forest Park Parkway.

Section 3: This land, the present Parkview tract, was considered the most ideal and most desirable of the tracts.

Parkview's name implies its close proximity to Forest Park, which was also designed by Julius Pitzman. Both are sited on rectangular tracts of land, and their streets are laid out in curvilinear patterns. Using the "norm" for street patterns — north to south, east to west — would have produced more saleable street frontage in Parkview. Instead, Pitzman provided more green spaces; his curvilinear lines were more soothing and peaceful to the eye than 45-degree angles. They added privacy as the streets curve gently out of sight, and they diminished the monotony of the continuous building setback. The unused areas left by the horseshoe-curved streets became triangular and semicircular natural parks. Trees were planted around the perimeters of these parks to define and enclose them.

Another planning tactic that Pitzman had incorporated into his subdivision design was the continuing use of Center Street. This pre-existing street bisected Parkview and was a major farm-to-market route. Was a truck route to be permitted to run through the middle of a private single-family subdivision? Pitzman alleviated the problem by reducing Center Street to an alley. Soon, farmers bypassed the area altogether.

The trust indenture insured Parkview's permanence. Henry Caulfield, who had filed the plat design in November, 1905, as attorney for Beredith Realty Company, in 1906 filed for a trust indenture. He was then a U. S. Representative and was soon to become a Parkview homeowner and trustee. This trust indenture defined the rights and responsibilities of the homeowners. It named three trustees Henry S. Caulfield, John C. Roberts, and Adrian Rule — and gave them the' power to act on behalf on the Parkview residents. Some of the more Important Trust Indenture Regulations were these:

  1. Not more than one residence may be erected on any lot, and not more than one family may occupy any residence.
  2. No apartment in, and no portion of, any house may be rented. The entire house and lot must be rented as a one-family residence only.
  3. No boarder or roomer may be taken into any residence, whether a business boarder or roomer, student or otherwise.
  4. No business, profession or commercial activity of any kind may be carried on in any portion of any residence, except for a doctor or dentist.
  5. No part of any building, except open porches, may extend beyond the building line, and no such open porch may extend more than ten (10) feet in front of the building line.
  6. No building or obstruction of any kind, except a fence or porte-cochere or porch, may be built within five feet of the side lines of any lot, without the written consent of the adjoining property owner.
  7. No fence, wall or hedge may be permitted in front of the building line.
  8. No nuisance of any kind may be maintained that would interfere with the peace and normal rights and privileges of the neighbors.

The Trust Indenture provided the Trustees with an easement over all the public areas in Parkview including the streets, walks, parks and alleys. The Trustees would hand 1e other needed provisions such as security and street lights, and were given the authority to collect assessments provided by the Indenture. The annual assessment was mandatory, which acted as a safeguard against non-contributors and further strengthened the organization's permanence. The indenture assured lot owners the use of the street, sidewalks, etc.

It also repeated the specifications of the subdivision plat, including widths of streets and alleys, sizes of lots, setbacks, minimum construction costs, and zoning differentiation. The standard building setback was 50 feet. The minimum cost of construction ranged between $4,000 and $7,000. Construction materials were to be brick, stone or stucco; in the event, the majority of the houses were brick. The larger lots and houses were nestled in the center of the district, perhaps to further protect them from encroachments.

By 1905, Parkview was prepared for lot buyers and builders. The land had been graded (before the World's Fair) and landscaped. Streets, sidewalks, curbs, sewers, water mains and electrical lines were in place.

During the course of Parkview's development, there were about 70 architects and about as many contractors involved in building the subdivision. Many of the architects involved were well-established, and most of the contractors and builders were known throughout the St. Louis area. Some architects and contractors designed homes for themselves. The most important firms, which are mentioned below, define, on the whole, Parkview's architectural fabric.

† Karen Bode Baxter, Architectural Historian, Matther Cerny, Mandy Ford, Time Maloney, Research Associates, Pasadena Hills Historic District, St. Louis County, Missouri, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

‡ V-J Bass, Assistant Curator, St. Louis County Parks & Recreation Department, Parkview Historic District, St. Louis County, Missouri, nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Parkview Historic District Map

Street Names
Center Avenue • Limit Avenue • McPherson Avenue • Pershing Avenue • Washington Avenue • Waterman Avenue • Westgate Avenue • Westminster Place

**Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. You should independently verify any information you use for decision making.
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