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Neighborhood Walking Tour

May 12, 2010
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Yes, the roof is still leaking, but we are VERY close to getting repair specifications done and contractors on board. More on that soon…

But first, we heard about a neighborhood walking tour of “Bungalows and Mosaics” – along Bellerive Boulevard, a wide tree-lined street just two blocks from B.A.B. The tour was given by Nini Harris with Maryville University, and Nini has written several books on local St. Louis history.

The tour started Saturday morning at Nini’s house, in the neighborhood, and when “calling roll” – she was excited to hear our names because she had heard of our building purchase and our renovation ideas. She mentioned that her latest book about Holly Hills contained a section specifically about our building when it was occupied by Jacoby Stained Glass. She quickly added an anecdote for the group in her living room: Just after World War II, there was a big boom in stained glass window demand, and several glass studios in the area became very busy. Due to the devastation in Europe, there were few jobs available, and with demand high for skilled glass craftsmen here, the neighborhood became home to many eastern European artisans employed by Jacoby. These exotic stylish men caught the attention of the neighborhood young women as the men arrived and departed for work each day. Apparently the curb across from 822 Wilmington was the favorite place for a row of girls to sit and eat their popsicles everyday as they admired these handsome men.

Oh yeah – back to the tour. Our first stop was St. Cecilia’s, a Catholic church just a block from Nini’s house. It’s 100+ years old, and has fantastic mosaics and stained glass windows.  Nini told many great stories about the history of the parish and how the church has been a significant part of the neighborhood. Here’s their website which has cool photos and more history: St. Cecilia

My photos are a little dark – Nini felt that the best way to see these beautiful stained glass windows was to not have any electric lights on and let daylight shine through, but I did the best I could.

St. Cecilia

St. Cecilia Window

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After the church, we followed Nini down Bellerive Blvd and she told stories about nearly every house. Stories about 20’s era gangster murder of mistaken identity, unsolved mystery murder of family members, and the speculative developer stories of the growth of the neighborhood. She also described that the neighborhood back then was truly a cross section of society – between regular houses were offices of doctors and dentists, and retail store owners, and quite the eclectic mix of nationalities.

But for us, one of the best aspects of this tour was that at least HALF of the twenty people on this tour actually lived in the neighborhood. Throughout the tour they’d occasionally ask us if we lived nearby, which often led to the “Not yet” reply, and then describing the building we bought, which led to them remembering the building and exclaiming “Really?!” and then further into the crazy discussions we typically find ourselves in when describing our aspirations for B.A.B. Fortunately most of these people thought it was really cool what we were going to do.

We also have to mention that we were allowed into two fabulous Arts & Crafts Bungalows along Bellerive and want to thank Patrice and Karen for their hospitality and their refreshments. Karen was on the tour the entire time – and it seemed almost humorous when the group arrived in front of her house and she said “Let’s go inside!”.

So it was a great way to spend a cool Saturday morning learning about the history of our neighborhood and getting to know more of our neighbors. It made us even more excited to get going on our renovations and closer to moving into B.A.B.

If you ever get a chance to do a walking tour with Nini – do it!

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