Possibly the most extensive and thoughtful documentation of any single MLK has been that carried out on the site Urban Review STL by Steve Patterson . The above photograph is one of several he contributed to the MLK BLVD Flickr Pool a while back. At the time, the St. Louis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects was conducting a “design charrette” in St. Louis’ Ville neighborhood — a historic area where MLK Drive is a major street. “During the event I scootered up and down MLK getting photos of buildings both in the Ville and in areas east and west,” Patterson later wrote.
Of the above building he wrote: “Stunning building with corner storefront and attached flats.”
In September 2006, the building was razed:
Patterson wrote at the time: “The photos are all that remain of this building that, if rehabbed, could have made a nice contribution to the streetscape. Instead another vacant lot will join all the others along MLK.”
More of Patterson’s images, plus links to and highlights from his writing on MLK Drive in St. Louis, after the jump. This past January, Patterson offered a five-post series on MLK Drive; it starts here. That first post offers a bit of historic background, quoted here:
Most of the street we now call MLK Drive was known as Easton Ave and a small part of Franklin Ave. (East of Jefferson).
Easton Ave & Franklin Ave were named for Dr. King in 1972, four years after his assasination in 1968.
In 1948 the US Supreme Court ruled on a St. Louis case, Shelley vs. Kramer, that racially restrictive covenants prohibiting non-whites from owning property in certain areas could not be enforced by the government. That case involved a house on Labadie Ave just 10 blocks north of then Easton Ave near Kingshighway. And yes, it was the “Kramer’s” that were seeking to keep the Shelley’s off their street, long before Michael Richards portrayed character Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld.
The historically black neighborhood, The Ville, borders MLK and is just blocks to the east of the area where the Shelley vs. Kramer case was attempting to keep out blacks. Following the 1948 ruling, black families could search for housing throughout the city. And leave they did, the Ville’s population dropped by nearly 40% between 1950 and 1970. For perspective, the city’s overall population drop in the same period was roughly 28% so we can see the Ville experienced a much higher rate of outflux. To be fair, restrictive actions meant to contain blacks in the Ville and a few other small areas meant the Ville was likely far more overcrowded than many other parts of the city. Still, the city lost 237,527 residents during this two decade period so the writing was on the wall for urban commercial streets like MLK Drive.
Partly in response to the loss of population, the streetcar line that once traversed the length of then Easton ran its final time on July 28, 1963 — nearly 44 years ago! It was replaced the following day with bus service.
Toward the end of that post he writes: “St. Louis’ MLK Drive is not worthy of the man it is intended to honor. We should be ashamed of the condition we’ve let this once vibrant street get to. We must also hold up higher standards for how we invest in the future of the street.” Here again is a link to his series.
The images below are among those Patterson contributed to the MLK BLVD Flickr pool (and the comments below each images are his). More of his MLK Drive/St. Louis images can be found in several of his Flickr sets:
“Probably one of the most significant corner mixed use buildings in all of St. Louis. Beautifully detailed and wonderfully proportioned. A classic.”
“This spectacular building on MLK in The Ville has perfect detailing. This is an ideal candidate for rehab into a couple of storefronts and a couple of upper level condos. 42xx MLK .”