Infrastructure North St. Louis Old North

Trash Collection and City Block 1130

by Michael R. Allen

The Refuse Division missed pick-up of the one refuse dumpster on City Block 1130 — our block — starting on Friday, May 19. They missed pick-up on the following Tuesday and Friday. By Tuesday, people had started dumping trash into the yard waste dumpster on the block. We simply walked our trash to a business-sized dumpster the next block west that sits behind a vacant lot where a storefront building stood until the late 1980’s.

Complaint to the Citizens’ Service Bureau led to the trash in both the refuse and yard waste dumpsters being collected yesterday evening.

The incident reminded me of how depopulated Old North St. Louis remains, and how similar conditions are here to those found in the small towns of southern Illinois where I grew up. In both places, one must not expect any luxury or regularity to life, even in trash collection. There simply are not enough people in either place to keep things on schedule. Times like these can set people into a rage, and lead some to abandon a neighborhood. To a country-born fellow like myself, I simply shrug at the uncollected waste and take my trash to the next dumpster. Where I grew up, we burned our trash outdoors!

The 1897 Whipple fire insurance map shows 14 buildings on the irregularly-shaped City Block 1130 (almost a triangle formed by 14th, Wright and Sullivan streets). Today, there are four. (We own one and the sites of six others.) A quick estimate of households in 1897 is twenty-two; today, there are three. One dumpster for three households is a luxury by 1897 standards. Perhaps today it is, too — although I hope that the Refuse Division is not trying to phase out collection on our block.