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