by Andrew Wanko
From Rural to Urban
In 1890, visitors to Grand-Bates would have found little more than rolling Missouri prairie, dirt paths, and the occasional countryside home. The future neighborhood’s open land sat just outside the small riverside community of Carondelet (the history of which stretches back to the 1760s), next to St. Louis’s newest park. Carondelet Park – just 14 years old – already featured a lagoon and paved roads, but the area was still too distant without access to the city transit system. That all changed when the electric streetcar arrived in 1899.
The Birth of Grand-Bates
Within three decades Grand-Bates would fill up with hundreds of homes and apartments, stretching in neat rows down tree-lined, manicured streets for residents ranging from working class to upper middle-class. Dover Place and Wilmington Avenue filled up first, with dozens of stately homes featuring the popular Victorian flourishes of the early 1900s. These homes were decorated with pointed towers, delicate trimmings, and gentle arched openings, but styles were changing as the neighborhood developed. Soon residents were seeing homes with long horizontal lines. The details became simpler but bolder, and structural connections became works of art. The Craftsman home had arrived in Grand-Bates.
The neighborhood’s showpiece street, Bellerive Boulevard, is an encyclopedia of Craftsman-style homes. Its wide parkway was completed in 1912 as St. Louis’s first and only recreational driving boulevard. Bellerive, originally known as “Kingshighway Parkway” was designed by noted landscape architect George Kessler, who laid out park plans for dozens of U.S. cities as well as the grounds of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World’s Fair) in Forest Park.
A Flourishing Neighborhood
By 1930, rows of handsome bungalows had sprung up in the remaining stretches between Wilmington Avenue and Carondelet Park. As more people moved in, investment in the area increased. Storefronts opened, four churches planted roots, and Bell Telephone even opened a telephone exchange office. The St. Louis Board of Education purchased a full city block in 1907 and built a three-room school. In 1915 it was named for Calvin Milton Woodward, a Washington University professor and founder of the St. Louis Manual Training School, and in 1922, school architect Rockwell Milligan built the Woodward Elementary School seen today. With people, homes, and businesses now filling the once rolling prairie, an urban community was formed and the Grand-Bates neighborhood was born.
Today, Grand-Bates is looking towards the future, and it’s looking better than ever.
Woodward Elementary School continues educating area youth, new businesses are arriving, and families continue moving into the neighborhood’s historic, century-old homes. It’s just a short stroll to one of St. Louis’s great urban greenspaces. Carondelet Park borders the Grand-Bates neighborhood’s south side, and neighbors can find bike trails, picnic pavilions, two lakes, sports fields, and the YMCA Rec Plex and pool.
If you love architecture, homes in Grand-Bates offer glazed terra cotta, decorative woodwork, some of the city’s best residential art glass, and every shade and texture of brick imaginable. Grand-Bates has homes and apartments for families of all sizes, from Craftsman mansions, to gingerbread cottages, to miniature castles.
Being, in part, a Historic District
by Jeet Chadha
On September 16, 2009 the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places listed the Grand-Bates Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places. The district encompasses the residential area roughly bounded by Grand Avenue on the west, Bates Avenue on the north, I-55 on the east and Iron Street on the south. The nomination was written by Andrew Weil, Research Associate for Landmarks Association of St. Louis and funded through the work of Alderman Matt Villa (D-11th). More than 90% of the neighborhood’s homes are listed within the Grand-Bates Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places. Read more about the Grand-Bates listing on the National Register of Historic Places here.
Grand-Bates neighborhood is actually bigger than the historic district designation.
…[M]issing from the nomination is an area between Iron and Carondelet Park…Thus, landmarks like the Corinthian Baptist Church on Idaho Avenue (an anchor of Carondelet’s historic African-American enclave), First District Police Station and the Seventh Church of Christ Scientist on Holly Hills Boulevard, the Southern Funeral Home on Grand Boulevard — all eligible for listing as single sites or as part of another district — are not covered. Hopefully they will get listed as well.
(Local Historian and Urbanist Michael R. Allen, Preservation Research Office)
By including more of the surrounding blocks, the Grand-Bates neighborhood can do more to:
- Foster block, neighborhood, and community pride
- Strengthen the local economy
- Promote our unique neighborhood with the rest of the city, metro area – and beyond