Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Thanking A Favorite Aunt

It was Christmas, 1971, which means I would have been 12 years old, when we made our first trip to Missouri. We travelled from Los Angeles to Kansas City by train and I'll never forget waking with a start at about 5 AM, somewhere on the Kansas prairie. The train was going about 110, when I woke the rest of the family, convinced we had missed our stop. In a couple hours, we'd arrive at Kansas City's Union Station.

It would be my first trip to Missouri. We were there to visit our favorite Aunt, Aunt Ruthie. She would show us around Kansas City, but she also made plans to drive us across the state to see St. Louis. In 1971, St. Louis was just beginning it's long planned renaissance; the Arch and Busch Stadium were only a few years old.

Aunt Ruthie took us to the bank of the Mississippi and the Arch. We walked on the cobblestones and visited the Goldenrod Showboat. We went up in the Arch.

The visit made a lasting impression on me, and St. Louis remained fond in my memory. Little did I know then that in a little over ten years, it would become our adopted hometown. Thanks, Aunt Ruthie, for making that introduction over thirty years ago.

Town Talk of the Week

Retail Disaster

IN REGARDS TO the proposed shopping center to be built right in the middle of our nice quiet residential area. How will the small two-lane Weber Road and Union Road handle all the extra traffic? Anyone with half a brain can see this will be a disaster. These roads cannot be widened without taking many more nice homes. Even now, there are no sidewalks. This is residential area and should be kept this way. Only homes should be built on this site as is being done in the residential neighborhood off of Robert.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Carondelet Betterment Upgrades Website, Offers Virtual House Tour

The Carondelet neighborhood has experienced much growth in the last ten years.

Now, the Carondelet Community Betterment Federation has a great new website to promote the area. Check it out at:

One of the features of the site is a virtual house tour of Carondelet, available here:

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mardis Gras Group To Fund Soulard Area Improvements

Thanks to a grant awarded by the Mardis Gras Foundation, the Soulard neighborhood will receive nearly $50,000 to install over one quarter mile of 4 foot tall, new, historically sensitive wrought iron fencing at Soulard Market and Pontiac Parks.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cherry Pickers Rising!

Check it out: while traversing the city from Union to St. Louis Avenue, I spied two, count 'em two, hi-lift bucket tractors stationed next to the south wall of the Mullanphy Building!

How'd they do that?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Good With It

Yesterday, I was riding the elevator, when a long-time acquaintance stepped on at about the twelfth floor. I mentioned to him how I'd enjoyed reading his occasional comments over at Urban Review and we chatted about how the city seems to be getting comfortable with its middling urban status.

He mentioned how no longer are we the city which aimed to be the top city in the United States, or even home to the US capitol as some had hoped. How we're not the place all those dreamers imagined at the time of the St. Louis World's Fair.

Instead we're a modest, mid-sized city with great potential, interesting neighborhoods, solid opportunity, and really nice people.

We're not a Chicago, San Francisco, or New York. Maybe that' s one of our advantages?

South City Folk Music Tradition Continues

Based in an historic Carondelet church, posted at CityFolk blog...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Neighbors Assisting Neighbors

Since the year 2000, a group of volunteers has helped neighbors and whole communities to improve the quality of life in the St. Louis area, one household and one neighborhood at a time.

The group is called, "Neighbors Assisting Neighbors". Check out their new blog for more information about their programs and services.

Teach Music For Mullanphy?

Response has been great for the "Music Lessons For Mullanphy" effort, so great in fact that I am now having to turn away requests for more guitar students. We need more volunteer music teachers!

If you'd like to donate your time giving music lessons, in exchange for your students making tax deductible contributions to help save the Mullanphy Emigrant Home in Old North, please contact me for more information. Thanks.

Friday, January 19, 2007

New Blog - "City Folk"

I've started a new blog dedicated to St. Louis city neighbors and folk music. Check it out at:

Check it out for information about a great place for listening to authentic Mariachi music in South City.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Town Talk Of The Week

This week's selection is a timely comment concerning recent power outages plaguing the St. Louis area as a result of severe ice storms...


THIS IS IN response to "Underground Solution" and to you Mr. Editor for calling it a solution. Where do you suggest all of St. Louis and surrounding counties live while AmerenUE tears down St. Louis to put thousands of miles of underground cable in and who would pay for St. Louis to be rebuilt? Shame on you dear editor for raising the hope of this person to the elevation that they might consider your suggestion anything but ludicrous.

The comment was followed by an editor's note...

The headline "Underground Solution" (a reference to the original Town Talk comment) was not intended to be read as an editorial comment endorsing the caller's opinion.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Link You Should Click

Friend to the city and her neighborhoods, Brian Marston, has created a new website devoted to the improvement of the Hyde Park neighborhood,

Brian was instrumental is assisting the Friedens Neighborhood Foundation in bringing the highly successful Youthbuild program to Hyde Park.

Update: This post has been edited to correct some errors kindly pointed out to me in an email. First, the organization mentioned in the original post, "Friedens Haus", is no more. (Never mind that I failed to apply all those years of German classes and called it Friedens House. Grandma would be sorely disappointed...)

The proper names for the organizations serving the area are Friedens United Church of Christ and the Friedens Neighborhood Foundation.

Downtown STL Gets National Stage

At. St. Louis' Union Station, there is a famous stained glass window above the entrance to the Grand Ballroom. The window shows three beautiful ladies, one representing San Francisco, one St. Louis, and the other New York.
Yesterday, Major League Baseball awarded the 2009 All-Star Game to St. Louis. The next three stops for the mid-summer baseball classic will be San Francisco in 2007, Yankee Stadium in 2008, and St. Louis in 2009.
The same Union Station stained glass window is visible in the fight scene from "Escape from New York, filmed in the then-abandoned Union Station. Movie makers picked St. Louis as the location to film a post-apocalyptic New York.
If any of the Escape from New York film makers come to town for the '09 All-Star game, they'll see how far we've come since the days St. Louis was picked for scenes of decay!

Sight'em: LA Rockers Shop Old Orchard

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are on tour, and last night they performed at the Scott Trade Center in downtown St. Louis.

Meanwhile, yesterday I was visiting Music Folk in Webster Groves, working out a trade for a new mandolin, when the salesman waiting on me gets called aside for a phone call. Someone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers was on the line looking to buy a hard to find folk instrument for their show.

Somehow, the Chili Peppers heard about Music Folk in Webster Groves. It's no wonder; Music Folk carries one of the largest selections of folk music instruments anywhere in the country.

Update: It turns out the Chili Peppers weren't looking for a folk instrument at all. Rather, they were searching for a "D-5 Clavinet" synthesizer. We don't know if they found a D5 in time for their St. Louis performance, but it's nice knowing they went to one of our local St. Louis music stores to try and find one!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Music Lessons For Mullanphy

Are you or someone you know interested in learning how to play the guitar? If so, here's an opportunity for you to learn a new skill while helping out an important STL community development project at the same time.

I currently have limited openings for new guitar students. From now until the time the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group has raised the necessary funds to rebuild the south wall of the historic Mullanphy building in Old North St. Louis, I am pledging to donate all proceeds from music lessons to the Mullanphy wall rebuilding effort.

For more information, please contact me at .


"Lazer Tag"

Lately, grafitti "artists" have been taking their work to "new heights". Turning the brick facades of some of our city's buildings into their personal "canvasses", some enterprising "taggers" have figured out a way to spray paint on the sides of buildings up to twenty feet high. Giant letters spelling out the word "LAZER" can be seen on the sides of some buildings around town.

Even more distressing, the new stone retaining wall on the south side of the River Des Peres which leads to beautiful new pedestrian and cyclist bridge that crosses River Des Peres at Morganford, has had four or five of the wall sections defaced with graffiti. Removing grafitti from a natural stone wall has got to be a very expensive and difficult process.

Please, if you see anyone in the process of spray painting graffitti, dial 911.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

St. Louis Original: The Des Lee Collaborative

Last night, at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri St. Louis campus, the Des Lee Collaborative held a concert of its middle school and high school honor jazz bands.

The young performers, ranging from the 7th though 12th grades and coming from city public and parochial schools as well as sububan St. Louis school districts, were amazing musicians.

The Des Lee Collaborative is a one of a kind, arts program based at UMSL and funded in perpetuity through an endowment created by Mr. and Mrs. Desmond Lee.

The Collaborative brings together educators, students, and arts resources around the St. Louis region in a program involving thousands of indiviudals on an annual basis. St. Louis area students gain access to music education, art exhibits, and professional music and theater performances year round. The program is the envy of arts communities around the country.

KMOX: Suburban Parents Should Demand State Takeover of SLPS

Today KMOX radio in St. Louis aired an editorial calling on suburban St. Louis parents to push for a state takeover of the St. Louis Public Schools.

The editorial started out describing a content suburban St. Louis family getting their kids off to school, thinking they have no input on decisions involving the St. Louis Public Schools.

Then, making the case that the entire St. Louis region has an interest in the performance of the City's public schools, the station urged parents of suburban St. Louis to call for a state takeover of the St. Louis Public Schools.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

4208 Lawn Avenue Watch

For over a year, the building at 4208 Lawn Avenue has been in the process of slowly caving in. The entire roof has dropped about six feet into the second floor. The aerial above shows the building prior to its roof collapse.

A check of Citizen Service Bureau complaints shows a long history of nuisance violations against the property. On October 24, 2005, the building was condemned for demolition.

Buildings in worse condition than this have been rehabbed, but not without the help of sophisticated financing structures including state and federal historic tax credits. 4208 Lawn Avenue is not currently within a historic district. Absent historic tax credits, rehab will be very difficult.

Given the building has been slated for demolition for over a year, neighbors are likely most interested in an immediate resolution to the situation. The building is across the alley from another vacant eyesore, the Avalon Theater, and clearly visible from eastbound Chippewa Avenue.

For the benefit of the neighborhood, a satisifactory resolution is needed on 4208 Lawn Avenue. Follow the link on the right for updates on the status and resolution of this problem property.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

St. Louis Regional Brownfields Marketplace

Next week, you have the opportunity to learn about exciting development opportunities around the St. Louis area, where resource providers, investors, developers and landowners will be meeting to promote the redevelopment of "brownfield" sites.

The "St. Louis Regional Browfields Marketplace" will be held on the campus of the University of Missouri - St. Louis, from 7:30 AM till noon on Tuesday, January 9. The event is free and open to the public.

"Brownfields" are those sites possessing some physical characteristic making their reuse more challenging. Brownfields are frequently found in older areas and might include the presence of asbestos, underground fuel storage tanks, lead paint, or some other condition making them more expensive to develop.

To help offset the higher cost of redevelopment, special programs are in place to assist in making these sites more financially feasible for reuse. Information about brownfield sites and the programs available to assist in returning them to productive use will all be found at this informational event.

For more information or to register, please click here.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Turn On The Stove!

Happy New Year! With the arrival of 2007, it seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the Cardinals winning the World Series. Here we go again, with baseball season right around the corner!

Now is the time youth leagues send out manager and team signup information. Meetings start in January.

Many teams start indoor practices in January, with tryouts for more competitive teams continuing through March. Look for the first tournaments to start around the end of March.

Know a budding young ballplayer? Here are some suggestions to get him or her off to a good start. January is a great time to teach a little one how to play catch. Head to the basement with a spongy ball and have some fun!

When the grass turns green, you and your little ballplayer will be ready to hit the field!