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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.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2007 at 10:57 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

WHAT'S NEW IN OLD NORTH

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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