Frank and Eva in St. Louis, MO
In June of 2001 I visited Eva Privett in Salem, Missouri. Her memory has deteriorated greatly in the past few years, but, as with many seniors, her memories of the distant past can be quite detailed. We talked about living with her family for a few years in St. Louis in the late 1910's and early 1920's in a bording house that the family owned. She mentioned being introduced to my grandfather by a mutual friend as she walked down a hill on Jefferson Avenue. She also casually mentioned her street address from the time (2123 Olive or 2321 Olive, she couldn't remember which) and two schools she attended: Carr School and Glasgow School.
Having a few hours on Sunday morning prior to my flight back to New York from St. Louis, I decided to take a drive downtown and find out whether the old lady was making up stories.
As with most major urban areas in the Midwest, inner city St. Louis was abandoned in the "White Flight" of the 60's and 70's, leaving behind a tremendous architectural heritage to a largely minority community without the means to care for it. My initial drive through North St. Louis was deeply fascinating and saddening as I drove past the abandoned and burned out hulks of what was once a vibrant residential and business area. For those interested, there is a WONDERFUL site on the abandoned, neglected, demolished and revived architecture of St. Louis: builtstlouis.net.
A drive down Glasgow street didn't reveal anything that looked like an early 20th century school building. I later found out that Glasgow School was actually located at 1215 North Garrison Avenue and has since been renamed Dunbar Elementary School, after Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), an African-American poet, novelist and short-story writer who was probably most famous for his use of black dialect in formal poetry.
As I drove down Jefferson Avenue (where Grandma said she met Grandpa), I passed Carr Lane and was again saddened to see a 50's era school building named Carr Lane School. I therefore assumed that Carr School had been torn down in the arrogant 50's and no longer existed.
Given these failures, I approached The Olive Street address without much hope. Modern day Olive Street is a major street leading into downtown and is lined primarily with light industry and abandoned buildings.
Both addresses turned out to be parking lots, although 2123 Olive bore the possible remnants of a building foundation. Click on thumbnails for a larger view.
New Carr School
2321 Olive Street
2200 block of Olive Street - a closed restaurant that said it had been in business since 1915!
2123 Olive Street
Since I had been so quickly disappointed I has a little free time so I decided to drive back up to Carr Lane and see if anything else from the early 20th century had survived. Happily, the area has been rebuilt with townhouses and some modern warehouses. I passed Desoto Park filled with sunday morning soccer players.
Then, lo and behold, I spotted a rotting hulk of an ancient building surrounded by new townhouses and casting it's shadow on the park. I was again delighted and saddened that a "Carr School" sign still stood in front.
On returning to NYC, I did some searching on the web and found that Carr School is among many fine school buildings designed by architect William B. Ittner in the early years of the century. This one was noted for its kindergarten space, located in the center of the building. There is a concerted effort to and preserve the building which sits in the heart of a newly renovated Carr Square Village, a low-rise public housing project built in 1942 for black families. More information and pictures are available from the Landmarks Association of St. Louis and builtstlouis.net.
Carr Square is named after William C. Carr, who presented Carr Square Park to the city in 1842.
I also discovered from a site on the Ellendale neighborhood that the Scullin Steel plant that grandpa used to talk about ad nauseum closed in the late 70's and the site on Manchester and Abbott is now home to the St. Louis Marketplace, a diversified shopping area.
In a side note, the 1921, 1922 and 1923 U.S. Open Cup Soccer Championships were won by a team from Scullin Steel, according to the Association of Football Statisticians.
In September, 2006, I returned to Carr School to find the building still standing but in an increasingly serious state of decline. Most alarming was the notable collapse of the dormers, indicating catastrophic roof failure, which ultimately will lead to the complete ruin of whatever interior remains. As I was leaving, I also noticed police activity behind the school, indicating that the largely open building was being used for nefarious purposes.
November 2010: The decline continues...