Nestled above downtown St.Louis and just west of the Mississippi lies a 30 acre neighborhood:Old North St. Louis. Within this small locality exists a duplicitous community of decrepit, backless houses, peppered with newer revitalized homes, centered around the clean-swept, newly paved, sleek façaded Crown Square.
Brick two-story townhouses mark the streets. However, after years of vacancy, many have collapsed under structural pressures.
According to 2010 census data for the area, of the 995 houses in Old North, 223 are vacant. Bricks which once supported these empty houses now lie strewn about the front lawns of the empty homes.
These historic St. Louis structures date back to as early as 1816 and for the past five decades, have seen steep decline in community,care and upkeep; the population inOld North St. Louis is, according to the 2010 census, 1,916 occupants.
But throughout the area are homes that stand strong and emulate a nostalgic quality, commemorating the 200 years in which Old North has existed.
Unlike the homes of Clayton, in their various neighborhoods that seem to fit with each other, the ones in Old North do not. The mixture of quaint homes which have preserved the community’s history, and ones that have fallen apart with time fill Old North.
This dichotomy is the result of a long standing program to renovate and restore the value and charm of this historic area.
The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, which was established in 1981, is comprised of community members who strive to better the physical and social aspects of the neighborhood.
On various dilapidated homes throughout the community are boarded down signs displaying that the Restoration Group is in the process of stabilization. The group has also given homes in the area new foundations to avoid the fate that the crumbling buildings has faced.
Just blocks from the housing district is Old North’s Crown Square. This area lures outsiders as Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Lou-
is’s oldest soda fountain, is one of the most popular diners in the area. Similar to some of the homes in Old North, Crown Candy has maintained its historic quality and charm for over a century.
Crown Square was revamped by the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group in 2007. Today, Crown Square exists as a pocket of contemporary storefronts in the sea of more traditional, yet sordid houses.
Within Crown Square, there is a mix of quaint mom and pop shops and modern establishments, such as a furniture shop and yoga studio.
While Crown Square represents the progressive revitalization effort, the citizens of Old North still retain a fierce pride for the historical community. Hung in the windows of many stores and homes are signs displaying their love of the district reading, “I love Old North.”
Although Old North St. Louis has had both a colored and troubled past, their is potential for the neighborhood as the Restoration Group is “building an urban village on the edge of downtown.”
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