Demolition Lewis Place North St. Louis

Depletion, Newstead and Evans

by Michael R. Allen

Photograph from Geo St. Louis showing the corner building at 4401 Evans Avenue (right).

“Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe should yawn at alteration.”
Othello, Act 5, Scene 2

Yesterday, the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival ended this year’s run of Othello, and the quote included here reminded me of where I had been on Saturday. On Saturday, I spent some time with a journalist examining the sites of north city buildings that were sound and saveable but whose ends were near or already passed. While the ongoing depletion of north city’s neighborhoods is not the sudden and intense calamity that fell upon Cyprus in the play, it certainly represents a tragic eclipse occurring slowly and deliberately.

The globe of the city seems to yawn in response indeed, even though the results of building loss render some corners more rural than the Bootheel. At the northwest corner of Evans and Newstead avenues, we came upon the unearthed foundation of a corner storefront freshly demolished. Seven years ago, I walked this block of Evans to be greeted by a medley of brick buildings richly detailed with abundant ornamental brick, terra cotta, stamped metal and carved wood.

The site of 4401 Evans Avenue as it appeared over the weekend.

Now, the view from the corner makes the eye aim a half-block to hit a building wall. What the eye catches there is a vacant building, whose own life seems at a close. To the north, there is meadow and tree line for two blocks. Upon the soil no longer is rendered city, but some decomposed self. Like Othello, we have been blinded to the truth of our condition. Yet no schemer’s machinations lead us astray — just the neglect of inadequate policy.

2 replies on “Depletion, Newstead and Evans”

‘Yet no schemer’s machinations lead us astray — just the neglect of inadequate policy.’
Populations are dispersed, cities are dismantled, power is stripped.  It’s all benign neglect.  An ‘accident’.  Whoops.

C’mon.  What is it about American culture that strips us of our ability to identify, never mind address, ill intent?  

Without insight into ill intent, the masses are consigned to lives of lamenting and sighing.

The schemes of urban renewal certainly were the machinations of a power elite. Yet the loss of corner storefronts in north St. Louis in the 21st century is not the work of any powerful hand, but simply the resigned continuation of the old approach. The worst damage was done through depletion and dispersal of targeted areas like Mill Creek Valley and JeffVanderLou. Now the giants are too lazy to plan, but they also don’t have to. Everyone is tearing the north side down.

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