For a while now, I've been toying around with the idea of collaborating with others in St. Louis's urbanist community in producing neighborhood guides for prospective residents and business owners of St. Louis.
There are some terrific examples out there.
When I visited Detroit in the summer of 2006, Model D's website was an unbelievable help. Similar sites exist for Pittsburgh (Pop City) and Cincinnati (Soap Box).
While Detroit's site (not an official site, either) focuses only on "Hot Spots," it would be nice to produce a guide that covers all the neighborhoods of St. Louis.
The problem is that, few people agree totally with the city's "official" 79 neighborhoods. Looking for Dogtown, Kingshighway Hills, Lindell Park, the Ivory Triangle, or Compton Hill on the city's official list? Let me help you out: you won't find them.
Some people argue for clear and well-defined neighborhoods that give order to the endless cityscape, while others appreciate the local folklore and idiosyncratic nature of place-naming, where each couple blocks seems to earn its own distinction. I lean towards the latter.
E.g...what do you call the up-and-coming Morgan Ford Business District's neighborhood? To the city of St. Louis, it's Tower Grove South. To historical researchers, it might be known as part of the Oak Hill neighborhood. To others, it's simply a small section of a large collection of neighborhoods known as "Tower Grove". A small but growing minority calls the business district and surrounding area "Skinnytown". Is anyone of these correct, or incorrect? I don't know.
When it comes to assisting people through the urban maze that is St. Louis, the choices made in how to define neighborhoods are difficult and usually impossible if the effort is to please/include/represent everyone.
Nevetheless, I have taken a stab. Below are my 25 neighborhoods. Twenty-five is certainly more manageable than 79. What do you think of the idea of having a web site where people interested in the city can check out each neighborhood in-depth?
View St. Louis Neighborhoods in a larger map
For a neat take on capturing St. Louis City's neighborhoods' individual look and feel, check out Mark Groth's blog, St. Louis City Talk, where he has profiled some of the "Heights" neighborhoods: Botanical Heights, Clifton Heights, Compton Heights, and Hamilton Heights. Stay tuned for more from his series, which aspires to cover all 79 official neighborhoods.
And good luck to anyone trying to simplify the complexity of one of America's great cities!
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