Posts Tagged ‘Abandoned’

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Cowan Street

May 2, 2011

Today I was randomly driving around the city when I passed what looked like a bombed out church just a stone’s throw from Interstate 70 on Prairie Avenue.  For some reason I felt a need to park my car and investigate on foot, a decision that led me to stumble upon a small and forgotten North St. Louis Street – Cowan Street.  The St. Louis Public Library’s Index of Street Names offers us a brief history:

COWAN STREET (E-W). Appeared in the 1854 subdivision of West Lowell. The name originated in the Irish and Scottish as “dweller in a hollow; worker in metal, a smith”. There is a Cowan, Tennessee, and a town and lake in Canada named Cowan. No specific personal attachment has been found for a St. Louisan, however. (Hyde Park & Bissell-College Hill)

Cowan Street

The current state of the street is terrible, with just two shells of unsalvageable buildings remaining on it.  Originally only one block long, the street was truncated into a dead end as soon as Highway 70 was built, severing it’s connection to Broadway.

Cowan Street on Bing Maps

Approximately 100 years ago, this little street was home to Wagon Making, Mushroom Tunnels, a Church, School, homes and more.

Cowan Street in 1909 - From a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

Today, St. Paul’s Lutheran School is two walls rising from a pile of rubble.  As can be seen above in the screenshot from Bing Maps, the school was standing fairly recently, and even hosted basketball games.

St. Paul's Lutheran School

However small Cowan Street is, its loss is a loss for the whole city.  I hope that some new development is lined up to capitalize on this site’s visibility from the interstate, but have little reason to be optimistic.

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A Scary Sight

December 12, 2010

While searching for an interesting route home from the Union Seventy Business Park, I turned South onto Clara from Natural Bridge and ended up on at a dead end. Clara becomes one way at Hebert (a one way street), and when I tried to continue down it, I hit a problem.

Hebert, Blackstone and Ashland when most of the homes were still standing

The street did not actually end, it just became impossible to drive down.

Blackwell Ave Blocked off by Trash

In addition to the trash in the street, all of the manholes on the block were missing their covers.

Uncovered Manhole on Blackwell Ave

I haven’t been able to dig up any information on whatever is going on over here but I am guessing it has to do with the train tracks that lie just to the North-West.  Or it is simply about removing blight.  If the later is the case they haven’t done a great job yet.  This has to be something that happened pretty recently, but it has been in about the same condition since at least late summer.

Blackwell Street in October

This is not what we want our city to look like, but we have to remember that parts of it do look like this.

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Urban Prairie

September 2, 2010

The only thing worse than this city’s abandoned buildings and surface parking lots, is the Urban Prairie that accounts for far too many blocks in North St. Louis.  One of the largest expanses of Urban Prairie that I have come across is in the area of North Market and 23rd Streets.  This area is just North of the Pruitt-Igoe site and is hardly better off than the rubble that remains from the housing project there.  At least the street grid is intact.

Looking South from N. Market and 23rd

It’s almost too depressing to try imagining what this intersection once looked like, but the task is made easier (but no less depressing) by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of the area in 1909.

N. Market and 23rd in 1909

This intersection was home to a 5-story building that housed “Moving Pictures” in a neighborhood made up mostly of 2 or 3 story flats.  Just around the corner on 23rd was a “Beer Depot”.  Although this area was clearly not extremely dense (at least not in 1909),  I can count over 20 homes that faced the alleys on either side of N. Market between 25th and 22nd.  These alleys are still in place, but only a handful of buildings remain within eyesight of 23rd and N. Market.  A look back to 1875 shows another picture that stands in sharp contrast to the current condition of 23rd and N. Market (in 1875 23rd Street was 19th).

N. Market and 23rd (then 19th) in 1875

For me, these historical documents are just ideas of what could be here next.  Currently, the slate is all but clean.

Urban Prairie

Although this expanse of Urban Prairie is particularly large and depressing, it is by no means strange to stumble across a similar sight while traveling around St. Louis.  Demolitions that continue to occur around our city increase the amount of totally vacant land and decrease the stock of historic buildings with rehab potential.  One plus side to the current state of this land is that Paul McKee would have to really try hard to screw up its redevelopment.  A NorthSide project that narrowed its scope to the Pruitt-Igoe site and the Urban Prairie nearby would have hardly any current residents or legacy buildings to worry about and would serve the purpose of reconnecting neighborhoods that are intact enough to resurrect themselves.  Since McKee has announced that he will soon begin work on the Clemens Mansion, these deserted blocks nearby would be a great place for him to demonstrate his vision and possibly win support for his broader plan for the much larger chunk of North St. Louis he wants to redevelop.

For more on this area/subject matter see Built St. Louis’ Excellent tour of St. Louis Place and Slow Death of a City Block.

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