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Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District

St Louis City, Independent Cities, MO

The Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]

Located in South St. Louis City, the Marine Villa Neighborhood grew in conjunction with the expansion of the streetcar along South Broadway at the end of the 19th century, as well as the emigration of the working- and middle-class to suburban neighborhoods as tremendous growth occurred in the urban centers. The architectural patterns in the district represent those popular in St. Louis during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, utilizing variations of national styles on multi- and single-family housing forms popular in working-class subdivisions during the 1870-1930 period.

The period of significance begins in 1870, when the first primary resources were constructed, and ends in 1930. The majority of the resources were constructed during this time, with a two decade break before additional construction or redevelopment began in the 1950s.

The property types found in South St. Louis Streetcar Suburbs can take on any number of architectural styles, and were often constructed in vernacular adaptations of high-style national and local motifs. Most of the buildings in the district are variations of late 19th and early 20th century American Movements and Revival Styles. However, some of the high style elements applied to the buildings in the district allow for categorization. The most common architectural styles found in the Marine Villa Neighborhood are the Italianate, Second Empire, and Romanesque Revival Styles. Other discernible styles include the Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival Styles.

The ten city blocks that comprise the Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District were originally part of the St. Louis Commons. Designated for use as wood lots and pasturage when the area was under French control, the St. Louis Commons was utilized by citizens living in the heart of the city. The river city's expansion during the 18th century thrust north and south of the original town, with westward development only two or three blocks from the river. Population stimulation in the first decades of the 19th century encouraged sprawl in all directions, and the City began the first large scale divisions of the Commons for residential use in March of 1835. Though ten acre blocks of land were available for auction, developers were hesitant to buy property so far from the urban center.

In 1854 street grids and lot divisions were drawn up on the remaining land in the Commons, and the area was auctioned to developers in forty-acre blocks. Construction in the area thus resulted in cohesive grid layouts with identical lot sizes, similar to those found in the city's inner subdivisions. The population boomed, spreading outward in a fan shape from the center of the city, and prompted the expansion of the city limits in 1855 to encompass the area south of South Grand Boulevard to Keokuk Street, incorporating what would become the Marine Villa Neighborhood.

In 1870 the City expanded its boarders again, this time incorporating the township of Carondelet. The main street access to Carondelet was Carondelet Avenue, which had originally run through the Commons and ended at Keokuk, but had been extended to the town. Later known as South Broadway, Carondelet Avenue became the north and west boundary of the Marine Villa Neighborhood. The lack of paved roads, dramatic distance to streetcar lines, and the disconnected pathways between streets created an enormous problem as access to the south became more vital.

The increasing traffic along Carondelet Avenue, including a short lived horse railway, encouraged residential and commercial construction along the route. The majority of development in the area came after the extension of the streetcar along South Broadway in 1890. The 40 South Broadway line started at Grape Street in the northern part of the city and ran southward from the north St. Louis residential and industrial areas, along the Mississippi River, through downtown activity, and ending at Chippewa (the route was later extended to include Carondelet). In 1890 the 22 Jefferson streetcar line opened, and connected to the South Broadway line a block west of the Marine Neighborhood at Chippewa. The new line transported passengers from Jefferson and South Broadway through Mill Creek, to the Olive Street retail center, and continued north to Grand, terminating just south of Fairground Park.

These two streetcar lines jumped a great hurdle by connecting the northern part of the city to the southern, creating a link between the more affluent northern sections of the city and the low priced property of the south. This allowed commuting workers in the outlying areas to travel to the city's core for downtown occupations and commerce. In addition, industrial workers were able to live further from their places of employment, escaping the loud, crowded, and unsanitary conditions of the inner city.

St. Louis suburban streetcar neighborhoods were more uniform in appearance than older city neighborhoods, with the vast majority of the buildings utilizing "variations on recurring architectural themes." These included primarily brick buildings that were typically two-story, though one-story "shotgun" houses were also common. The residential structures within these neighborhoods normally feature two- or three-bay facades, and an abundance of two, three, and four family multi-family flats are found intermingled with single family residences. The Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District includes six building style subtypes, ranging from side-gabled parapet houses to multi-family flats. Commercial buildings grew in corridors along streetcar lines and at intersections rather than dispersed between residential properties. The Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District includes Two-Part Commercial Block buildings and Corner Entrance Commercial property subtypes. In addition, a multitude of high style architectural themes were included in muted or varied interpretations within these suburban streetcar districts. 15 distinct styles are found in these neighborhoods, including revival styles and turn-of-the century American movement designs. Within the boundaries of the Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District can be found nine of these clearly defined styles, including Spanish Colonial, Romanesque, Colonial, Tudor, and Jacobethan Revivals as well as Italianate, Bungalow, and Second Empire designs. The Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District incorporates several characteristics of St. Louis suburban streetcar neighborhoods, which are reflected in its historical and architectural development.

The Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District consists of ten blocks of cohesive, relatively intact buildings located within the larger Marine Villa Neighborhood. The area known as the Marine Villa Neighborhood is located between Miami and Chippewa Streets, with Interstate 55 and Jefferson Avenue acting as the east and west boundaries respectively. It is located two blocks southeast of the Benton Park Historic District, and one block east of the Jefferson-Gravois Historic District. The historic district was not included in the documentation for these previously National Register listed districts because the demolition of historic structures along South Broadway and the construction of new buildings to the north of the Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District created a barrier between these cohesive late 19th and early 20th century working- and middle-class neighborhoods.

The Marine Villa Neighborhood received its official name in 1968 as part of St. Louis City redistricting, most likely in reference to the U. S. Marine Hospital that once occupied a lot on the east side of Marine Avenue at Kosciusko (property currently occupied by the National Record Archives). Completed in 1852, the three-story hospital at 3630 Marine (not extant) was used for "sick seamen, boatmen, and all other navigators on the western waters and lakes." The hospital stood on the edge of the river, with a tunnel running from its basement to the river's bank. The building was razed in 1959.

One of the largest industries in the area was beer brewing, and more residents in the historic district worked for one of the three local breweries than in any other occupation. The Independent Brewers Association had a small brewery located just south of Miami on Salena Avenue, only one block north of the historic district. Across South Broadway (then known as Carondelet Avenue) was the large Lemp Brewery, and about a mile north of the historic district was the Anheuser-Busch brewing complex. The brewery workers in the historic district lived primarily on Salena or Marine Avenues, though a few shared housing on Winnebago Street.

The few women residents in the historic district in 1900 who did not stay home found occupations close by. Four of the local school teachers lived in the Historic District, and several women worked as seamstresses or dress makers. Kosciusko Street housed several unmarried women who worked as nurses, dining room servants, and laundresses at the Marine Hospital, and the newly constructed Salvation Army Rescue Home.

Constructed in 1898, the Salvation Army Rescue Home was a safe haven for unwed mothers and their children that offered medical care and religious instruction to its residents. Located at 3740 Marine Avenue, the Salvation Army Hospital stood on the eastern side of the district, across Winnebago Street from the Marine Hospital. By 1929 the hospital decided to expand, demolished the old building, and opened a three-story, Jacobethan Revival style building in April of 1930. The institution changed its name over the next 79 years, operating as the Salvation Army Women's Home, Salvation Army Booth Memorial Hospital, and eventually the Booth Memorial Hospital for Unmarried Women. The hospital served women from the larger South St. Louis community, and did not cater to the Marine Villa Neighborhood alone.

Though many of the south St. Louis streetcar neighborhoods developed commercial districts along the streetcar lines, the Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District also had a few commercial structures at the secondary street intersections, most of which were utilized primarily by the local residents. A total of eighteen commercial buildings remain in the historic district, thirteen along South Broadway and five located on interior street corners. The two-part commercial building at 2027 Chippewa was originally used as a butcher's shop, the owner of which lived on Salena Street. The commercial property on Broadway had small furniture shops and wagon equipment, and even a hardware store with paint supplies that most likely catered to the many carpenters living in the neighborhood. The remaining commercial building is located on Salena and housed Henry Dueringer's grocery store. A large commercial center was located one block west of the district at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and South Broadway, and several commercial structures remain at this intersection. It is likely that the people of the Marine Villa Neighborhood did much of their shopping at that intersection or in the shopping districts located in the neighborhoods on the west side of South Broadway.

The Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District is a sampling of the turn-of-the-century housing constructed primarily by local architects and builders. Though a few groupings of buildings were constructed by a single developer, most of the buildings were developed by individual property owners for personal use. This resulted in similar building forms with variations of architectural styles, setting individual homes apart while maintaining an overall consistency of materials and designs.

The most prolific developer in the historic district was a railroad clerk named George Kempf. Kempf was a German immigrant who lived on Michigan Avenue not far from the Marine Villa Neighborhood. Beginning in 1892, Kempf bought property on Marine and Salena Avenues and constructed seven homes by the end of the decade. Kempf was one of the rare developers that also acted as builder in the district, constructing not only his own buildings but also homes for others on Wisconsin Avenue and a few outside the historic district.

Development by the Knittel family is also prevalent in the district. Thomas Knittel was a carpenter who lived on Salena Avenue in a house he constructed in 1892. Together with his sons Frank, a day laborer, and Fred, a brewery worker, the family constructed six homes on Chippewa between 1883 and 1891. Fred eventually developed his own architectural firm, and went on to construct homes with his sons on Wisconsin Avenue. The Knittel family primarily constructed shotgun houses, quite a few of which had mansard roofs and decorative brick cornices.

An interesting collection of 1920s arts and crafts style bungalows can be found in the 1900 block of Chippewa. All five of the buildings share the same form and most have similar facade garnishment, which implies they were constructed by the same developer and architect. Unfortunately, the building permits for these buildings are missing. However, this style and form is limited to this small grouping, and as few other buildings were constructed during the 1920s it is likely that it was the only work by this architect and developer found in the district.

The other "developers" in the district only constructed two or three buildings, usually multi-family homes concentrated near intersections. Architects for primary resources were typically architects or carpenters that lived in the Marine Villa Neighborhood, or those adjoining neighborhoods to the west. An example of such an architect is Joseph Degenhardt. Contracted to build two homes in the district, Degenhardt lived at 7128 Michigan Avenue, with an office three blocks away on the same street. Degenhardt owned his own retail lumber store from 1876 to 1904, but the Degenhardt name was well know for development in South St. Louis, and Theodore, Clemens, and Anton Degenhardt were all busy building homes on a number of property each owned just south of the Marine Villa Neighborhood.

The area consists primarily of residential buildings, with some commercial development lining South Broadway and a few corner storefront buildings throughout the district. The district is characterized by blocks of brick buildings, one and two stories tall, typically constructed between 1870 and 1930, on narrow lots in a grid system. Similar buildings are found in pairs or short rows, with few blocks utilizing a single form or style.

The earliest extant buildings in the Marine Villa Neighborhood Historic District date from the 1870s, when the annexation of Carondelet Township by the City of St. Louis drew traffic along Carondelet Avenue. These buildings are typically set back from the street farther than those constructed later. The increased travel along Carondelet Avenue encouraged more development, with nearly a third of the primary resources in the historic district constructed between 1880 and 1890. But it was the introduction of the streetcar to the neighborhood in 1890 that sparked vast development in Marine Villa, specifically because a main intersecting hub for two of the most utilized streetcar lines was located one block to the southwest, at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and South Broadway. More than half of the district's primary resources were constructed in the three decades following the introduction of the streetcar lines, with only 10 contributing resources constructed after 1920.

Most of the 126 single-family homes are one-story shotgun type houses, or one-story single family residences with hipped roofs and brick facades. Of the 69 multi-family buildings, most are two-story flats, with either two or four units. There are 15 two-story buildings with store fronts that appear to have originally been used for both commercial and domestic purposes.

The district was not constructed in a sequential pattern, but with scattered development on each street. It is not uncommon for an 1880s one-story shotgun to stand beside a 1910 two-story multi-family structure, though clusters of buildings from the same decade are often found in groups of three or four. There has been very little demolition within the district, with missing buildings located primarily along South Broadway. Newer construction is primarily located on City Block 1665, which has no alley. Historically, the block was comprised of large narrow lots, with most of the buildings facing Wisconsin Avenue. Subdivision of the plats occurred in the 1950s, with residential infill occurring by the end of the decade. The buildings in the district are primarily faced with red or brown brick. Most utilize brick parapets or pressed brick cornice designs rather than applied wood or metal cornices, and are set on smooth or rusticated stone foundations, though many of the buildings constructed after the period of significance were built on concrete or concrete block foundations. The few contributing garages in the district are primarily brick constructs with flat roofs and tile coping.

Shotgun houses are the most popular property type found in the district. These one and two story buildings feature brick walls with raised foundations and decorative corbelling at the cornice. Most have flat roofs, often hidden by parapet walls. Quite a few shotgun houses are found on Marine Avenue. Many found in the district feature an attic extension, with a mansard roof hiding the additional space. A representative example of this form is found at 2121 Chippewa. Most of the examples found in the Marine Villa Neighborhood feature two bays on the facade, with entrances located on the other elevations.

Another example of a single family house type is the Gable-Front House. Those found in Marine Villa are one-and-a-half stories with steeply pitched roofs. Some have front entrance stoops or full width porches, with entrances located on the facade. The building located at 3726 Illinois Avenue is an example of the gable-front subtype. It is one-and-a-half stories with two bays on the first level and a single sash window in the gable.

A few Flounder Houses can be found in the district as well. The Flounder House is somewhat exclusive to St. Louis working-class neighborhoods, typically found in densely populated portions of older neighborhoods. The "half gable" roof type makes the building appear cut in half, leaving a narrow one to two bay street facing facade with segmental arched windows. The entrance of these two to two-and-a-half story buildings is found on the side of the building. One of the unique examples of the Flounder House can be found at 38110 Kosciusko Avenue. The building features paired windows on the street facing facade, with the entrance on the south elevation. The gable end is actually a half Gambrel, and uncommon feature found in the type.

‡ Julie Ann LaMourie, Lafser & Associates, Marine Neighborhood Historic District, St. Louis, MO, nomination document, 2009, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Broadway South • Cahokia Street • Chippewa Street • Illinois Avenue • Kosciusko Street • Marine Avenue • Salena Street • Stansbury Street • Winnebago Street • Wisconsin Avenue