Archive for April, 2007

Monday, April 30, 2007

14th Street: A Great Street in the Making

Day 29 of “45 Days in Old North” As we get closer to a start-up of redevelopment work along the 14th Street Mall, it’s worth considering some helpful guidelines from East West Gateway Council of Government’s St. Louis Great Streets Initiative:

Why Great Streets?

Great Streets can potentially exist anywhere – downtowns, residential neighborhoods, employment centers and so forth. What are Great Streets? The key characteristics to look for include:

1) Great Streets are representative of their places. A Great Street reflects the neighborhood through which it passes and has a scale and design appropriate to the character of the abutting properties and land uses.
2) Great Streets allow people to walk comfortably and safely. The pedestrian environment on, along and near the street is well-designed and well-furnished. The relationship between the street and its adjacent buildings is organic, conducive to walking, and inviting to people.
3) Great Streets contribute to the economic vitality of the city. Great Streets facilitate the interaction of people and the promotion of commerce. They serve as destinations, not just transportation channels. They are good commercial addresses and provide location value to businesses that power the local economy.
4) Great Streets are functionally complete. Great Streets support balanced mobility with appropriate provision for safe and convenient travel by all of the ground transportation modes: transit, walking, bicycling, personal motor vehicles and freight movement.
5) Great Streets provide mobility. Great Streets strike an appropriate balance among the three elements of modern mobility: through travel, local circulation and access. The right balance varies with the function of the street and the character of its neighborhoods and abutting properties.
6) Great Streets facilitate placemaking. Great Streets incorporate within them places that are memorable and interesting. These may include plazas, pocket parks, attractive intersections and corners, or simply wide sidewalks fostering an active street life.
7) Great Streets are green. Great Streets provide an attractive and refreshing environment by working with natural systems. They incorporate environmentally sensitive design standards and green development techniques, including generous provision of street trees and other plantings and application of modern storm water management practices.

Many of these ideas have been incorporated into the plan for the ONSL’s “town center” along the former 14th Street Mall. Watch this space for updates on how these concepts are coming to life in Old North St. Louis.
Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mullanphy Benefit Concert Flyer

Day 28 of “45 Days in Old North”

As promised on Friday, here is the flyer for the Mullanphy preservation benefit concert, scheduled for Wednesday, May 16 at Christ Church Cathedral:
Lydia Ruffin has been called “one of St. Louis’ best folk musicians,” and the Flying Mules have been known to play everything from bluegrass to jazz, and from music with rock overtones to the gospel blues.
The cost is $20 in advance (call 241-5031 or 421-6474) or $25 at the door. If you’d like your own pile of flyers to mail or distribute to your fellow music-loving and/or historic preservation-minded friends, give a call to the ONSLRG office at 241-5031.
[UPDATE: Click HERE if you'd like to download and print your own copy of this flyer.]
Saturday, April 28, 2007

Pitching In & Cleaning Up in Old North St. Louis

Day 27 of “45 Days in Old North”

One distinguishing characteristic of a healthy and sustainable neighborhood is that the residents don’t just sit around and wait for other people to come in and fix things for them; residents of these neighborhoods pitch in and work with their neighbors to make their communities what they want it to be. In a demonstration of how this is happening in Old North St. Louis, residents from throughout the neighborhood took to the streets, alleys, parks and vacant lots today as part of the annual Operation Brightside clean-up.
The following photos show many of these ONSL residents taking action to beautify their neighborhood, with a bit of help from more than 100 St. Louis University students from the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.

Above: Tom Tschetter, John Burse, John Bratkowski, Matt Fernandez, Barbara Manzara, and Courtney McDermott get ready to take work teams to different parts of the neighborhood.

Above: Gloria Bratkowski describing the various projects and dividing the the SLU students and other volunteers into different work teams.

Above: North Market Place homeowner Chris Blackwell leads a group of volunteers in cleaning up Jackson Park.

Above: ONSLRG intern Matt Fernandez leads a work team in cleaning up the soon-to-be redeveloped 14th Street Mall.
Above: Gloria Bratkowski and her work team get the Hebert Community Garden in shape for the Old North St. Louis House & Community Tour, two weeks from today (May 12). Just one more reminder to get your tickets at

Friday, April 27, 2007

14th Street in the Business Journal; Updates on House Tour & Mullanphy Concert

Day 26 of “45 Days in Old North”

This week’s St. Louis Business Journal has two different articles that deal with our plans for the 14th Street Mall. The report by freelance writer Frank Fuerst (Rundown 14th Street Mall plans contingent on funds) focuses on the 14th Street development and how it fits into the larger context of ONSLRG’s mission and the work going on throughout the neighborhood. Barbara Geisman, Mayor Slay’s executive director for development, is quoted once again comparing ONSL with another historic neighborhood near downtown that has been revitalized in recent years: “We view Old North St. Louis as the Soulard of the 21st century.”

The other article (Early applicants get priority on housing bond allocations) addresses some of the financing challenges for projects, such as the 14th Street Mall redevelopment and others that had counted on tax-exempt bonds from the state. Despite a rather unpredictable decision-making process used by the Missouri Housing Development Commission, RHCDA president Stephen Acree is quoted as being optimistic that the mall development would receive the necessary private activity bond allocation this year.

House Tour Update

The Old North St. Louis House & Community Tour is just two weeks from Saturday! (That would be Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) It’s not too late to buy your advance tickets - for yourself and all of your friends, colleagues, family members, and anybody else who appreciates historic, urban neighborhoods undergoing community-wide transformation. For online ticket purchases, more information, or to volunteer to help, visit

Mullanphy Update
And while you’re marking your calendar, your next opportunity to contribute to the preservation of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home will be a benefit concert on Wednesday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. The concert will take place at Christ Church Cathedral, 1210 Locust, in Downtown St. Louis, just east of the Central Library. The benefit concert will feature traditional and bluegrass music by Lydia Ruffin and The Flying Mules. The cost is $20 in advance (call 241-5031) or $25 at the door. We’ll post a flyer for the event within the next few days.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Farewell to a Neighborhood Institution

Day 25 of “45 Days in Old North”

Last night the St. Louis Board of Education voted to approve closing Webster Middle School at 2127 N. 11th Street. For more than a century and a half, the plot of land at 11th and Clinton has been dedicated to public education, and the school buildings that have occupied the site have served as architectural landmarks in the community. Now, the future of the building and the use of that space are unknown. The school system intends to sell the building.

The following description was prepared by the Old North St. Louis History Committee for the Old North St. Louis History Trail:

Clinton Place and Webster School
Clinton Place was established as one of the three circular spaces laid out by the founding fathers of Old North St. Louis–Major William Chambers, Thomas Wright and William Christy. This southernmost circle was set aside for a “seminary of learning,” a goal that was achieved with the construction of Webster School in 1852. Daniel Webster, the school’s namesake, was a famous statesman and orator, as well as a former visitor to the neighborhood. Fifteen years earlier, a reception in his honor had been held at William Christy’s mansion on Monroe Street.

Webster School, at 2127 N. 11 th Street, was among the first schools in the city to introduce German language instruction in the 1860s as part of an effort to increase attendance among immigrant children. The experiment in bilingual education was controversial, but it succeeded in boosting public school enrollment. Webster School, which hired two German language teachers in 1867, boasted attendance rates that were among the highest in the city. By the turn-of-the-century, enrollment figures had reached the point where a larger building was needed. In 1908, the School Board oversaw the construction of the present structure, which was designed by William Ittner, a nationally renowned architect. Standing four stories in height, the school building was enhanced by the use of textured brick in various shades of red.

When the St. Louis Board of Aldermen decided to abandon the plot’s unique design in 1932, Clinton Place became the first of neighborhood’s three circles to disappear. Now smoothed over by the modern necessity of a school parking lot, the original circular lot afforded to Clinton Place by the Old North St. Louis founders remains only in historical memory.

We’ll post the details of how and when Webster School will be sold when they become available.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Happy Administrative Professional’s Day to Jane Smith

Day 24 of “45 Days in Old North” We’ve been told that one of the positive amenities of Old North St. Louis is the fact that we have an office that is open during regular hours and staffed by professionals who can provide helpful and timely information. A big part of that positive first impression is ONSLRG’s office manager, Jane Smith, who juggles most of the phone calls and greets visitors as they enter our front door , while also preparing financial reports for the Board, tracking property transactions, handling Citizen Service Bureau type of inquiries, processing thank you letters to contributors, and coordinating various other community projects, including volunteer deployment for our house tour, and so much more.

In addition to her calm and pleasant demeanor, it helps that Jane has lived in the neighborhood for about 30 years, thus giving her the perspective of somebody who knows a lot of the behind-the-scenes stories about the community. So, the next time you stop by or call in to the ONSLRG office, be sure to thank Jane for holding it all together.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Other Private Investment in the ONSL Rehab Market

Day 23 of “45 Days in Old North”

Above: 2831 N. 14th Street is being rehabbed for an owner-occupant and a for-sale unit.
Above: 2825-29 N. 14th Street is being renovated for three for-sale units.

Above: the vacant buildings at 1204 and 1208 Hebert Street are being rehabbed by Character Homes of St. Louis.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Discover Some Good Books in ONSL

Day 22 of “45 Days in Old North”

Thanks to the initiative of Old North St. Louis resident Peter Swietlicki, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office is now a BookCrossing crossing zone. If you’re confused about the concept, the website offers the following definition:

n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise. (added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in August 2004)

So, if you enjoy books, stop by the ONSLRG office at 2800 N. 14th Street to see what’s in the bin - and if you find something you like, take it home and read it, then set it free for someone else to discover. And if you have a book that you’d like to share, register it at, and then drop it off at our crossing zone. As of this writing, the ONSLRG crossing zone has more books “recently released into the wild” than any of the other 70+ registered crossing zones in the St. Louis area.
Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day from Environmentally-Friendly ONSL

Day 21 of “45 Days in Old North”

In honor of Earth Day, it’s worth noting how environmentally-friendly life in Old North St. Louis is. Recently the U.S. Green Building Council, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council announced a rating system for neighborhood development projects to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) designation. The LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system is in the pilot phase, but the published guidelines read like a description of Old North St. Louis.

Among the principles and characteristics of a neighborhood with good environmental design included in the LEED guidelines are: diversity of housing types, affordable rental housing, affordable for-sale housing, diversity of uses, compact development, bicycle network, school proximity, housing & jobs proximity, reduced automobile dependence, walkable streets, access to public spaces, access to active spaces, and reuse of historic buildings.

ONSL possesses all of these, but for today, consider the reduced automobile dependence criterion. ONSL is a neighborhood where it actually is convenient to use alternative transportation methods to access the region’s primary employment center and a multitude of shops, restaurants, & entertainment venues. Residents of ONSL enjoy walkable streets and many commute to work and other destinations by bike and public transit. The neighborhood is served by two bus routes (#30 - Soulard, and #74 - Florissant) that pass through the neighborhood and another (#40 - Broadway) just a quarter-mile east of the neighborhood.

Watch for more details later on plans for Bike St. Louis bike lanes through ONSL, which will make it even easier for residents and visitors to get to the Riverfront Trail and other sites throughout the region served by existing bike lanes.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Check out

Day 20 of “45 Days in Old North”

The very cool and user-friendly website for the campaign to preserve the Mullanphy Emigrant Home is up and running with full content, including details on the history and significance of the building, a lot of pictures, background on who Bryan Mullanphy was, the growing list of groups that have signed on as members of the Historic Mullanphy Alliance, and information on how to support the cause and get involved. Check it out at


Welcome to the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group's blog. What's New in Old North chronicles the dramatic transformation under way in the neighborhood of Old North St. Louis. As a neighborhood just north of Downtown St. Louis, Old North is becoming a dynamic urban village of new and historic homes, a landmark eating establishment, beautiful community gardens, and a diverse, friendly, and engaged community.


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