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Why Chouteau's Landing Matters: The Slow Decay of One of St. Louis' Oldest Neighborhoods

Categories: Architecture

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Photo by Chris Naffziger
Chouteau's Landing streetscape.
Hidden away just south of the Arch lies Chouteau's Landing, a commercial district cut off from view by the elevated lanes of Interstate 55 and the Poplar Street Bridge. While only encompassing a total of a dozen city blocks, the area preserves some of the last vestiges of the original St. Louis street grid and the types of buildings that flanked the Mississippi River prior to construction of the Arch. Walking the narrow streets of Chouteau's Landing is a walk back in time to the earliest decades of the nineteenth century, when the river -- not Highway 40 -- was the main avenue of commerce and immigrants flocked to St. Louis in search of opportunity.

Chouteau's Landing has been in the news a lot in the last year, and not for the right reasons. What had been an excellently preserved collection of turn-of-the-century warehouses is being threatened by a series of fires and demolitions that are chipping away at the historic integrity of Chouteau's Landing. The district represents great potential for redevelopment, but only if it comes in time. The events of the last several years show that such vision is needed now. Let's take a look at some of the losses as well as some of the remaining gems of this neighborhood.

St. Mary of Victories Roman Catholic Church

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St. Mary of Victories Roman Catholic Church
While Chouteau's Landing is now dominated by old warehouses and factories, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the neighborhood was filled with thousands of immigrants, including an ever expanding German Catholic population. Responding to the need for a German language church, the Diocese of St. Louis commissioned the construction of the second Catholic parish church in St. Louis. Completed in two phases, in 1844 and 1861, the Franz Saler-designed temple sits in the shadow of I-55, its original congregation long since moving to other parts of the city.

MacArthur Bridge

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The MacArthur Bridge
Originally named the Municipal Free Bridge, the city constructed the MacArthur Bridge to break the monopoly the Terminal Railroad Association held over the Eads Bridge. The railroad portion of the bridge still operates, but the infamous automobile deck has been closed since the 1980s due to its reputation for gruesome wrecks. Towering high above Chouteau's Landing, the bridge represents an era when over-engineering and strength dominated.

Crunden-Martin

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Crunden-Martin Manufacturing
The sprawling complex of Crunden-Martin Manufacturing sits in the heart of Chouteau's Landing. Crunden-Martin closed shop in the 1990, after decades of producing wooden products as diverse as buckets to baskets. The complex has sat largely vacant since then, though some buildings have been rented out for storage. Misfortune struck when a fire swept through one of the buildings in 2011. Now threatened with demolition, the future of at least some of the Crunden-Martin complex is in doubt.

Continue to the next page for more on Chouteau's Landing


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25 comments
Carey Uxa Morgan
Carey Uxa Morgan

Love this new column! Been reading St. Louis Patina for awhile and am glad to see these perspectives shared more widely.

Devin Campbell
Devin Campbell

Tear it all down for a walmart! (I jest). No walmarts in city limits, please.

Scott McGlothlin
Scott McGlothlin

Convert into a nightlife area with clubs and restaurants

danknoll15
danknoll15

I'd love to live in one of the bldgs

Edward Hecker
Edward Hecker

Because, Almas, cities are not open-air architecture museums. They are first and foremost economic engines that require cutting edge functionality out of their real estate and infrastructure in order to remain economically competitive. These buildings represent the functionality of over a century past; not the functionality of today and tomorrow. Take away the city's ability to compete, and there will be no more city.

Almas Farmhouseantiques
Almas Farmhouseantiques

Your comment is disgraceful St Louis is one of the greatest cities ever built Why would we tear down super buildings and put in Mush board junk?

Edward Hecker
Edward Hecker

The church and Crunden Martin. Tear the rest down and redevelop into something that complements Soulard and the Blues Bar strip. In a healthy city, buildings are NOT forever.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

People need to knock off the crocodile tears for the Powell Square demo. At the end the 'building' was a fucking skeleton that added nothing to DT except to advertise how shitty some of the city is to visitors. Glad the piece of shit is gone. The only way that story could have had a happier ending is if the city rounded up the worthless ghetto ass tagger 'artists' and chained them to the building before they fired up the bulldozers. Now THAT would have improved this city tremendously.

Denise Acsay
Denise Acsay

St. Mary of Victories was where I was married in 1972.

jbradhicks
jbradhicks

Back when the city approved tax credits for the developers of Laclede's Landing, wasn't this where the housing component of the project was supposed to go?


And look how that turned out. But never mind that, the Ballpark Village developers promised us housing development alongside their commercial development, and I'm sure that this time they'll keep their word. Right? Yeah, right.

Jason Green
Jason Green

I lived close to there not too long ago. I never really concerned myself with crime. You really have to be asking for it most the time in that part of the city to have any problems. Schools are a huge problem though to attract families.

Bill Bernickus
Bill Bernickus

Unless families with children want to live there most neighborhoods die off. Obviously some rare exceptions/success stories. Crime problems too.

Jason Green
Jason Green

St Louis has redeveloped a lot of old neighborhoods and can't fill the vacancys. That being said I like the history of old neighborhoods

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker

I do not ever want to give up one inch of St. Louis. I wish more investors would see the potential in these areas. Young people ARE working on this. They are moving into the city, despite the crime, and trying to make a difference.

Nathan Wambold
Nathan Wambold

oh, and if there is a need or desire, I'd be very interested in photographing these buildings (as an architectural photographer as well as an architect) :)

Nathan Wambold
Nathan Wambold

...sorry, but I didn't see the tour date and time, or is this an online tour?

Shawn Emily
Shawn Emily

I was working at the top of the Arch when the Servco fire happened. Between the fire itself and the news choppers at eye level, the guests had plenty to talk about.

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