Friday, January 06, 2006

Winnebago Revisited

It was the winter of 1986, and we were about to spend our first night in St. Louis in the vacant and unfurnished upstairs unit of a 2-family on Winnebago, a couple blocks east of Grand, near the old Lindy's Sausage shop.

A couple of months previously, and only a few months into married life, my promising new job working for a prominent Northern California real estate company came to an abrupt end when the company owner drove his 1984 Corvette off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean in the tiny resort town of Mendocino. The company shut down its development arm, and I was given notice about my job ending.

In the meantime, Kerri had joined Citicorp, and was in daily communication with people in their St. Louis offices. She developed a friendly working relationship over the phone with one of the St. Louis staffers, and, as my job was ending, Citicorp was closing down its Northern California leasing operations, leaving Kerri and I both out of work. Citicorp was looking to fill lots of positions in St. Louis, so we figued, why not? Let's check it out.

Kerri's Citicorp telephone-friend encouraged us to visit St. Louis, and invited us to stay with them at their Winnebago 2-family. We booked a flight, and afer a whirlwind tour and Kerri's job interview, we made the decision to relocate to St. Louis.

We were immediately taken in by the neighborhood around our friend's apartment. Coming from the land of frame and stucco, we had never seen so much brick. Even the streets were brick. That was 20 years ago, and our friends no longer live on Winnebago, but we still live just a few minutes away from this building.

One of my morning routes to work goes through the intersection of Chippewa and Gravois. Usually, I'll head up Gravois toward downtown, but it's not necessary, or even faster. So, today I decided to stay on Chippewa, heading east toward Grand.

Crossing Grand, I passed the Keystone Place project. It's good to see a few new homes starting construction. I made a left, and drove one block north to Winnebago. I made a right, heading east. On the second block, I passed our friend's old apartment. Whenever I'm on this block, I check out that old 2-family where we spent our first night in St. Louis. It looked pretty much the same. Brick buildings are pretty slow to change.

I decided to stay on Winnebago and head over to Jefferson. The street is now part of the Gravois Jefferson National Register Historic District, and you can see why. Nearly every original building is intact, with historic live-work commercial buildings on the corners. There are lots of original, faded wall signs painted on the sides of buildings.

One block before Jefferson, Winnebago has been barricaded to through traffic, diverting me north past the historic Lutheran Church where a few years ago we attended the funeral of firefighter Rob Morrison, the father of one Matt's then-classmates, who along with fellow firefighter Derek Martin died fighting a fire in a south city refrigeration company.

I crossed Jefferson, headeding east, entering the south side of the Benton Park neighborhood. There has been a noticeable amount of new, single family, infill residential construction. My route took then me through the Cherokee Antique Row district, where this time of year the place looks its best. The Bradford Pear trees have dropped their leaves, so you can easily see the beutiful detailing of the all the buildings.

The building that housed one of the first "Nickelodian" movie theaters in St. Louis is part of this district. Many of the Antique Row buildings have newly added decorative lighting, which added a warm glow to the brick buildings and sidewalks.

I crossed I-55 at the historic St. Agatha's Church, and hit a traffic jam on Broadway at the Brewery. Being a snob (or smart?) city driver, and loathing traffic tie-ups, instead of sitting in the Broadway traffic, I turned at Arsenal, merged onto northbound I-55, and finished the trip downtown to the office in about the same amount of time that I would have had I made that northeasterly turn back at Gravois and Chippewa about fifteen minutes earlier.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When you're on Cherokee in Antique Row, your on the southside of the Benton Park neighborhood, but on the northside of the Marine Villa neighborhood. Nothing makes Craig Schmid more angry than confusing Marine Villa for Benton Park! Although it is all part of the Benton Park National Register district.