01 October 2011

Compton Heights continued..

As posted before, the Compton Heights Neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri is one of the oldest, planned residential areas in the city dating back to 1889.  However, this neighborhood was not a smashing success overnight.  It had plenty of adversity to fight through before it became a popular area in which to live.

Investors like Adolphus Busch, James B. Eads (namesake of the Eads Bridge crossing the Mississippi River downtown), Governor Thomas C. Fletcher, and a famous surveyor Julius Pitzman (who was responsible for laying out most of the city's private streets) worried about the slower than planned development of the subdivision.  The lots were expensive, plenty of property was available nearby in Tyler Place, complaints about summer water pressure, and aggressive competition from new private streets in the suddenly fashionable Central West End, all coupled with an economic depression in 1893.  This caused several of the investors to buy back their lots.  By 1894, confidence had been restored only to have a devastating tornado rip through Compton Heights in May of 1896.  This tornado was famous for also destroying Lafayette Square and Soulard causing a downward shift in popularity at Lafayette Park, then the city's favorite and most glamorous.

The Great Depression hurt the neighborhood yet again when a small number of houses on Hawthorne and Longfellow were abandoned.  Despite the abandonments, very few homes in The Heights were demolished.  Other neighboring streets suffered more severe fates at the hands of bulldozers.  This instability in the immediate area served to only erode the neighborhood further.

The low point of the area was in the early 1970s when $25,000 would buy about any house pictured.  However, thanks to a resurgence in city living, by 2002 these same homes were selling for well over 10 times the 1970s prices.  A success story indeed.

Compton Heights is an entire neighborhood I never knew existed before a couple of weeks ago.  There are so many hidden pieces of history around this city.


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