Statement of Significance
Originally a portion of the 18th century Spanish land grant to Marie Louise Chouteau Papin, sister of St. Louis co-founder Augusta Chouteau, much of the Skinker – DeBaliviere – Catlin Tract – Parkview Historic District remained within the extended Chouteau-Papin family until late in the nineteenth century. North of Delmar, the land below Clemens, Jr. who had married the daughter of John Mullanphy, St. Louis’ first millionaire. South of Forest Park Parkway, the land now called the Catlin tract was owned by Robert Forsyth, a portion of the 800 acres his father had bought from Jean Marie Papin in the 1820s. The section from Kingsbury north to Delmar belonged to Larkin Deaver, who had married Frances Papin. The Section from Kingsbury north to Delmar belonged to Larkin Deaver, who had married Frances Papin. The section from Kingsbury south to Forest Park Parkway was owned by Captain James W. Kingsbury, West Point Class of 1824, who married Julia Cabanne in 1830. Their two daughters, Sarah Mary Virginia and Adele Louise, subdivided the “Kingsbury Farm” in 1873 and are responsible for some of the street names in the area today; Kingsbury; DeGiverville, for Mary Virginia’s husband, Count deGiverville; Waterman, for Adele’s husband, Alfred Waterman; and DeBaliviere, named for the mother superior of the convent school in Paris which both sisters attended. Skinker Road was logically the road to Thomas Skinker’s home; Des Peres Avenue is the street under which the River Des Peres now actually courses in a large concrete pipe. Rosedale comes from a development near Gov. Hamilton Gamble’s “Rose Hill” estate.
This area had originally been requested by Madame Papin for a farm and, because of its topographical nature, faced constant threat of inundation by the snakelike River Des Peres which yearly rose beyond its banks to flood the low-lying adjacent land. The river’s threat caused the land to remain an area of truck-farms until the turn of the century. Development of land to the south and east of the Kingsbury Farm as a huge city park, along with rapid expansion of residential sites west from Grand Avenue led to the dedication of Forest Park (directly south of the Kingsbury Farm) and the establishment of the boundaries of the City of St. Louis just west of the park in the same year, 1876. By 1895, westward expansion had continued so vigorously that Robert S. Brookings chose land just west of Forest Park as the site of the new campus of Washington University.
North of Delmar, to the east of the Wabash Railroad tracks, was the highly desirable residential area known as the Cabanne District. Immediately east of DeBaliviere, several fine private residential subdivisions were built in the 1890s, continuing the direction of quality residential development along the City’s central corridor. New street car facilities along Delmar and the current Forest Park Parkway linked the area to the rest of the City. Obviously, with development in the north and east, Forest park to the south and Washington University continuing west from there, it was time to take another look at the farmland so long dominated by the unruly River Des Peres.
Acquisition of the Land and Plans for its Development as a Whole
First the prospect, then the reality of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition being sited in the western, undeveloped portion of Forest Park precipitated action in the area in the spring of 1901. A sudden rush of land purchases occurred in this rural area by one Courtland B. Van Sickler, a resident of the Cabanne District who was listed in the city directory as a clerk at the Carleton Dry Goods Company downtown. By November, 1901, Parkview Realty and Improvement Company had been formed with Van Sickler the majority stockholder in this, the third company to announce major plans for the land in six months. The capital stock of Parkview Realty totaled $5,500,000, an enormous sum for the time, and the tract it now owned consisted of everything from the northern boundary of Forest Park to Delmar Boulevard, and from DeBaliviere Avenue west to Mehlville Avenue in St. Louis County, excluding only Washington University land at the southwest corner of the tract. John Scott, a highly regarded railroad builder was hired to grade the land and tame the River Des Peres. The grading contract was let in February, 1902, but this immense work was not complete until December, 1902, more than a year later than originally planned. This grading cost over three-quarters of a million dollars and resulted in a long court suit about the proper fee for Scott which dragged on until it reached the Missouri Supreme Court in 1914.
In an era predating municipal zoning (introduced in University City in 1922; St. Louis in 1926), when residential property was often encroached upon and frequently destroyed by commercial and industrial development, the problem of control was a major concern to developers of new residential areas. A general plan for the entire Parkview Realty tract had been stated as early as 1902 and was followed by subsequent developers. The goal was to “improve the immense tract as one property, which plan would so develop that the building and treatment of each part will add to the value and betterment of the remainder.”
The initial phase of the development plan was expressed in this manner in a promotional brochure about 1903; to improve the area on the northern edge of the park, the Catlin Tract, for “lease to the World’s Fair, Railroads and Hotel’s” lease the land between DeBaliviere and Skinker north of the Catlin Tract for storage or temporary hotels and cottages and restaurants during the Fair; and to have a private company of “friends and insiders” develop the area west of Skinker, “Parkview,” as a private subdivision of “artistic homes” in “artistic surroundings.” Following this plan, the strip along Forest Park was “graded and improved with streets, gutters, curbs, sidewalks, sewers, gas, trees and shrubs, all at an expense of about $350,000.” As planned, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company leased this property and it was used as the World’s Fair amusement center, “The Pike.”
General economic conditions (such as the nationwide Panics of 1903 and 1907) and, no doubt, the continuing suit of John Scott, prevented Parkview Realty and Improvement Company from personally carrying out the rest of their plans. But after the Fair, the company’s directors and friends formed other development companies and proceeded to continue in the original vein.
Construction of Buildings and Coordinated Pattern of Development
The first new development undertaken was Parkview subdivision. In November, 1905, the Beredith Realty Company, a new organization created by Parkview Realty specifically to develop that area, filed plats and a Trust Indenture in both the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County (which boundary the property straddled), establishing the private subdivision of Parkview. Henry Stewart Caulfield (later to serve as governor of Missouri) was a principal figure in Parkview’s founding and development, a role which he continued as resident and Trustee until his death in 1966. Julius Pitzman, the developer of most of St. Louis’ private places, designed and surveyed the streets and property and was, as well, a shareholder in Beredith Realty Company.
Parkview was designed as the largest of St. Louis private places, comprising 271 lots on 70 acres, and it demonstrated Pitzman’s most complex street pattern. Five existing city streets entered Parkview from Skinker Boulevard, roughly in line with their eastern origins, but were turned toward each other in generally a double-horseshoe – shaped configuration with only one western gated outlet at the center. This design effectively created a pattern on inner circulation which gave the subdivision a sense of closeness and identity. In addition, the curved streets were visually attractive and at the time of their creation stood nearly alone in the prevailing grid patterns of most city streets. The only other significant examples are parks and cemeteries, and two residential subdivisions: Clifton Heights, established and surveyed in 1885 when Pitzman was the City Surveyor, and Compton Heights, designed by Pitzman around 1850. Carved streets were used in the design of a few early developments in the county but these, like Clifton Heights, were all on hilly terrain and were suburban rather than urban in character. Parkview’s strong ordering elements such as uniform setbacks and fairly closely spaced, similarly scaled houses were decidedly urban in nature and, when combined with a quality of grace due to the gently curving tree-lined streets, resulted in a residential area that was, and remains, unique in St. Louis. By its large size, the subdivision expanded the St. Louis private street concept of control through deed restrictions.
Parkview Realty’s general plan, having begun with Parkview subdivision, moved next to the streets just east of Skinker. In this area, platted in 1907 as “Washington Heights,” the inner streets were reserved for relatively large single-family houses, where the streets to the north and south, especially along the streetcar lines, were developed for two-family houses or shops served interior neighborhood needs at the Kingsbury and Pershing Intersections with the River Des Peres bridges.
In Washington Heights First Addition, extending east from the River Des Peres, which was platted in 1909, the trend of the “protected core” continued. Waterman and DeGiverville Avenues formed an X-shaped core of single-family houses with smaller one and two-family homes, then apartment buildings radiating outward. The Washington Heights Second Addition (not included in the Historic District because of its present redevelopment status) became an apartment area serving as buffer between the neighborhood’s inner core and the busy intersection of Delmar and DeBaliviere, where the United Railroad Company’s carbarn, powerhouse and waiting room were located and which was destined soon to be bustling with traffic and commerce.
New commercial development grew rapidly along Delmar after World War I, that street being the site of a major streetcar line to the west. Most shops were small, however, and served only the surrounding neighborhoods.
Skinker, a wide major boulevard near the City’s western boundary, was the site of large handsome apartment buildings and churches as well as homes on the corners of intersecting residential streets.
Along the southern edge of the district, the valuable strip of land facing Forest Park, running from Skinker to Union, was reserved for the most expensive residential development in the Parkview Realty tract, continuing the manner of development to the east.
The gradual realization by developers seeking to establish a stable residential section in a growing city that they must enlarge and coordinate their area of control seems to have reached its final solution within the Skinker-DeBaliviere-Catlin Tract – Parkview area. The result was a community of planned economic mixture built within the space of twenty years, the great majority of the construction having been completed within the first ten years. Never the home of the extremely wealthy, the area basically attracted owners of good, solid growing businesses and many upper and middle management executives. Also included among the residents were doctors, lawyers, clergymen, architects, writers, and of course, faculty members from the local schools, colleges and universities, especially nearby Washington University. In addition, there were clerks, students, salesmen, city and state employees from all levels, and many others.
Although the distinction of the Skinker – DeBaliviere – Catlin Tract – Parkview Historic District is in its planning and overall appearance, and there are few highly significant individual buildings, the wide variety of historical styles and multiplicity of historical details used by architects of this eclectic period contribute greatly to the visual interest of the area. Many interiors show the influence of the late nineteenth century Arts and Crafts Movement, with stained glass and dark beamed ceilings and woodwork.
Among the types and styles in Parkview, where the first houses were built in 1906, are the side-entry house, related to the Italianate townhouses of the Central West End; the symmetrical center hall plan often Georgian in style; and the gabled-roofed, half-timbered, bracketed house of Medieval or Elizabethan origins.
The three most elaborate and pretentious houses are on large lots in the center of the subdivision: 6251, 6303 McPherson. Architect Otto J. Wilhelm created two freely eclectic designs: 6251 McPherson, built for brewer C. Marquard Forster, of grey brick embellished with Classical and Baroque details of stone, terra cotta, and cast iron, and 6303 McPherson, for Forster’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Schlosstein, of red brick which combines classical details with a Medieval round corner turret capped with a conical roof. At 6309 McPherson is a large Tudor country house designed for prosperous hardware merchant George Rubelmann by Ernst C. Janssen. More modest in scale and more correct in the interpretation of historical styles are several houses by Roth & Study (John Roth and Guy Study), the most significant being the gabled, half-timbered Tudor house at 6334 McPherson.
Several other well-known architects of the period are represented, but additionally there are a number of speculator-builder houses, most notably those of George Bergfield who constructed 35 houses between 1910 and 1913, plus his own residence at 6352 McPherson, built in 1919.
Within a year or two from the beginning of construction activity in Parkview, streets were built and houses were going up east of Skinker. George Bergfield was active here too, especially in the 6100 block of Kingsbury. Other major builders were A.A. Fischer and Humphrey & Vickery. Building setback lines, including porch lines, were rigidly adhered to and the scale of the houses is remarkably consistent, but a variety of roof types (mansard, gabled, hipped), use of dormers and varied window treatment, free and sometimes creative use of architectural details such as columns and pediments and applied facade embellishments, plus skill in the crafts of brick, stone and terra cotta work, enrich the visual appeal of the houses. Apartment buildings, a booming housing form of the period, were often planned with projections, courtyards, bays and balconies for maximum exposure to light and fresh air.
East of Des Peres, with construction taking place generally between 1910 and 1920, houses were frequently two story and smaller in size, and elaborate use of decorative details gave way to a more modern and simple house type with wide broad-roofed front porches related to the Bungalow style.
In contrast, along the edge of Forest Park, a private subdivision, was platted for expensive, more elaborate homes. The design of the subdivision, which actually begins at Union Boulevard, called the Catlin Tract (after Daniel Catlin, tobacco manufacturer, later real estate holdings and banking), required lots to be at least 100 ft. wide along Lindell Boulevard and provided architectural opportunities for a fine view of the park from several rooms in each house. Houses therefore frequently took the form of spacious country houses of various styles: French Chateaux, Italian Villas, Spanish Haciendas, and English and German country houses. Several well-known St. Louis architectural firms are represented: Study and Farrar, 5733; Maritz and Young, 6145; Barnett, Haynes and Barnett, 6159; Maritz and Henderson, 5933 and 6127.
Three churches in the Historic District are neighborhood landmarks and focal points for much social activity. St. Roch’s Catholic Church was the first to hold services in the area, in 1911. Erection of a school (1912), rectory (1915) and finally a church (1922), designed by Lee and Rush in the Tudor Gothic style, shows the growth of the parish over a short 10 years. Grace Methodist was designed by Link, Rosenheim and Ittner and built originally on a site on Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue in 1897. During the next 15 years, a great population movement westward convinced this Methodist congregation to move west and, having secured a site at Waterman and Skinker, they moved their church stone by stone, the top stones of the old church becoming the bottom stones of the new one. Grace Church was completed in 1914 and boasts one of the few Tiffany windows in St. Louis. Delmar Baptist Church was the last of the three currently-existing major churches to move into the neighborhood, but is the oldest of the three congregations. Moving many times after its founding in 1887, as the St. Louis population moved westward, this Baptist congregation several times fought for its very existence before buying from Grace Methodist the lot at Washington and Skinker in 1916. World War I rescheduled all building plans and the church, designed by William B. Ittner, was not completed until 1919.
Another area landmark, Delmar Station on the railroad viaduct at Delmar and Des Peres, is a clean and simple Neo Classical Revival structure designed in 1928 by R. H. Mohr.
The survival of the area, now over 70 years old, with nearly all of its original physical structures intact, is a tribute to its planners. Most recently, however, as the neighborhood has begun to show its age, new efforts have been necessary for its preservation and social growth. Housing rehabilitation has been a major goal of owners old and new and of specific neighborhood organizations (the Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council and its Residential Service) for example all of whom consider the quality and architectural interest of the houses and the planning integrity of the area to be important assets. Attention is now being turned toward commercial areas which have largely lost contact with much of the neighborhood, due to the demise of the streetcar and the greater mobility of the automobile. Residents feel that, as in the past, many neighborhood commercial needs could be met within the area to the benefit of both residents and businessmen.
Following the logic and success of the original planners, current planning must continue to see the whole area as a coordinated entity within the City. The Skinker – DeBaliviere – Catlin Tract – Parkview Historic District includes a range of residential units from studio apartments to mansions as well as adjacent commercial uses in the hope that the continued preservation and mutual support of all of these parts will strengthen the entire district and maintain for the City this example of a unique, fully-planned neighborhood from St. Louis’ glorious days as America’s fourth largest city.
Historic District Review Committee
The Historic District Review Committee will serve as a standing committee of the Skinker – DeBaliviere Community Council, and its functions will include the following:
- Maintaining a listing of materials and their costs for residents and owners wishing to improve their buildings.
- Serving, if requested, as advocate for residents who may need aid or assistance in permit approval or appeal.
- Carrying on a continuing review of the impact of the Historic District Ordinance in the Skinker – DeBaliviere area. The Committee will be alert to possible hardships and abuse and will recommend new procedures to better make the purpose of the Historic District a reality without being a detriment or bringing undue hardship to residents and owners of the area. There will be continual review of the Historic District ordinance, and amendments will be made as necessary.