A Walk Through Carondelet, St. Louis, March 29, 2008

by Brian Cofer June. 04, 2008 3008 views

One Saturday in March, I hiked into the Carondelet neighborhood, just across the freeway from where I live. The neighborhod has a fascinating history, founded in 1767 as a separate city when this was a part of French Louisiana and annexed by St. Louis in the 1870s. Among Carondelet's claims to fame are the first kindergarten in the U.S., an iron works where Union gunboats like the U.S.S. Carondelet were built during the Civil War and the founding home of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, a Catholic order that operates schools and hospitals across the country.

The neighborhood is a bit shabby and gritty, although safe and friendly. It's a mixed bag of well-maintained showplaces standing alongside fabulous wrecks. The people are largely pretty nice, although more than a few men like to go shirtless and show off their many tattoos. That's just part of the charm of this neighborhood, a prime example of the scruffy, working class subculture of South City.St. Louis.

One Saturday in March, I hiked into the Carondelet neighborhood, just across the freeway from where I live. The neighborhod has a fascinating history, founded in 1767 as a separate city when this was a part of French Louisiana and annexed by St. Louis in the 1870s. Among Carondelet's claims to fame are the first kindergarten in the U.S., an iron works where Union gunboats like the U.S.S. Carondelet were built during the Civil War and the founding home of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, a Catholic order that operates schools and hospitals across the country.

The neighborhood is a bit shabby and gritty, although safe and friendly. It's a mixed bag of well-maintained showplaces standing alongside fabulous wrecks. The people are largely pretty nice, although more than a few men like to go shirtless and show off their many tattoos. That's just part of the charm of this neighborhood, a prime example of the scruffy, working class subculture of South City.St. Louis.

The Carondelet Y has been in this wreck of a building since about 1907. In spite of its indcredibly shabby digs, the place is really popular and clearly serves a strong neighborhood demand. Their book sale every August is one of my favorite annual events.

This is probably my favorite house in the whole neighborhood.

Blow Middle School is part of the architectrual legacy of William Ittner, whose firm built practically all of the public schools here in the early 20th century. Note all the architectural detail. Like Blow, all of his schools are designed as ornate palaces of learning.

What a terrible name for a school! Although from the reports I hear, the name fits. If I had kids, this would be their neighborhood middle school. I'm also told that you wouldn't dare send your kids unless you had no other choice. Maybe someday the St. Louis Public Schools will get themselves in order, but it's hard to imagine that anytime soon. But then I guess that's a rant for someone else's blog.

A 1960s ghost sign for Vess Whistle. Vess is one of those regional soda brands like Faygo in Detroit or Moxie in Maine, and Whistle is their orange flavor. This building was no doubt once a grocery store. These old corner store buildings can be found throughout St. Louis spaced out about every two blocks. Very few remain in business as groceries these days. Most seem to have been converted to houses.

Here's our neighborhood public library. Now this is how a library should look!

Yep, it's a Carnegie Library.

Some local color.

There's so much architectural variety to the neighborhood. You never know what you're going to find just around the next corner.

These flatroofed houses with the brick facades are a uniquely St. Louis house design from the early 20th century.

Some identical 50s houses with a cement plant behind it, the Mississippi River behind that, and the wilds of Illinois behind that.

Perced over the river is Broadway Bluffs, one of the few parks in St. Louis that allows you to look out over the river.

This grand old bridge over Broadway serves as a splendid approach to the park.

Here's what someone tagged onto the bridge. Please don't infer any political statement on my part here, I'm just taking pictures of things I see. If I find something equally nutty from the Right, I'll be sure to post it.

Old Man River.

Never mind Budweiser, St. Louisans with completely non-discriminating tastes who think a $3.99 six-pack is a deal not to be passed up prefer the thin watery goodness of Stag. Since 1851, it's been brewed across the river in Belleville and available only to cheap drunks in Missouri and Illinois. Stag is part of the Pabst line, which owns several regional brands of varying quality like Schmidt, Blatz and Lone Star.

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