by Michael R. Allen
On Thursday, July 29th, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance will cut the ribbon on Crown Square, the new name for the former 14th Street Mall. The public is invited to the celebratory event, which runs as a street party until 8:00 p.m. Indeed, there will be an actual paved street on the two blocks of 14th and Montgomery streets for the first time since 1976.
Not much time passed after the 14th Street Mall grand opening on March 21, 1977 before the street closure started having negative impacts on the businesses of the dense commercial district. Storefronts devolved to lesser uses and ultimately entire buildings went vacant. Within ten years, the 14th Street Mall was a failure, and by the early 1990s was a symbol of the decay of the near north side. No longer.
A look back at photographs taken in 1991 by Cindi Longwisch, then Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, shows dire conditions. That we are celebrating rebirth of the collection of historic buildings 19 years later is nothing short of miraculous. A few of the buildings on 14th Street in the two blocks did not survive the mall years, but most did.
The building at2709 N. 14th Street, shown above, was one that did not survive. However, the buildings to either side have been fully rehabilitated as part of Crown Square.
The Eugene Building at the southwest corner of 14th and Monthgomery has an ornate entrance and extensive colorful catalog terra cotta ornament. The building is now fully rehabilitated as part of Crown Square.
The building across the street from the Eugene Building, at the northwest corner of the intersection, as been extensively rehabilitated by owner Peter Sparks. Work is not yet complete, but the transformation is beautiful.
Demolition of the building at 2715 N. 14th Street was underway with Cindi Longwisch took this shot. The heavily altered one-story building at left, 2713 N. 14th Street, was demolished as part of the Crown Square project.