St. Louis

Do a trip report here....go to another city and want to relate it to what KC is doing right or could do better? Give us a summary in here.
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St. Louis

Postby SWFan » Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:28 am

This weekend I took my wife to St. Louis for the Louis CK show at the Fox theater. We left Saturday morning and stayed the night. We didn't get to see a lot of St. Louis.

We drove straight to Forest Park. We were going to hit the zoo, but the temps were just a little too cold for us, so we went to the Art Museum instead. I'm not much of an art person, and I definitely don't get the surreal or modernism stuff. Overall it was a nice way to spend time. Oddly though the Art Museum has what I consider to be more historical stuff and not art. For instance there is a room with old body armor and weapons. I don't really consider that art. It was a little weird.

After spending some time there we walked down to the Grand Basin, what a lovely area. The grassy area reminds me of the grass area running south from Nelson Atkins, though steeper. I'd give this park an A+.

After leaving the park we drove a couple places. We didn't get out, but we did drive just to the east of the park to what I believe they call West End or some such. Lots of row apartment buildings, looking very much like I'm driving in Washington, DC or Georgetown. Parking was difficult in this area which is why we didn't stop. We then drove northwest of the park to The Loop which was an eclectic couple block area, somewhat reminiscent of West Port. We did stop there and walked around.

After leaving the Loop it was time to hit our hotel so we drove east on surface streets until getting there. We ate next to our hotel and then headed to the Louis CK show.

The Fox theater is a gorgeous old theater, very ornate interior. I don't have anything negative to say about it.

Sunday morning we walked through the Saint Louis University campus to get to the south side where there was a Starbucks. I don't drink it, but my wife is addicted to it. Have to say the campus is very nice and quaint.

Overall my impression of St. Louis is that it feels more old city, east coast. Obviously we just saw this small core part of the city, but I can't say there is anything in KC that looks as historic on such a scale as what I saw there. Don't get me wrong, I know KC has its historic looking areas, I just mean what I saw in St. Louis was just lots more of it.

The only negative I have from my limited trip are the surface roads. I will likely never complain about KCMO's roads again. The roads in the core part of the city are atrocious. The roads look like a multi-colored quilt, there has been so much patching. You're constantly weaving around to avoid sewer grates where there is a one or two inch lip that will tear up a sports car's suspension. The highways we were on were in good condition, and I'm sure in the suburbs the roads are probably on par with KC's suburban roads. Driving in downtown KC down to Westport, then the Plaza I find the roads here in good condition with few, if any, spots that might cause a car to go out of alignment. In St. Louis that was not the case. They've turned many a water/sewer lids into basic pot holes.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby chaglang » Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:15 am

Thanks for the write-up. We're headed there at the end of the month. I haven't been back since I graduated from SLU 20+ years ago. I'm excited to see what the area looks like now. Back then the area around the campus was pretty dicey. In fact, the Grand Street Guesthouse, where we are staying, was the TKE house when I was a student. Two of my friends were mugged on the front steps. Aaaah, memories.

The Central West End was pretty nice, even back then. And you're right, It's more of an east coast city.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby SWFan » Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:29 pm

chaglang wrote:Thanks for the write-up. We're headed there at the end of the month. I haven't been back since I graduated from SLU 20+ years ago. I'm excited to see what the area looks like now. Back then the area around the campus was pretty dicey. In fact, the Grand Street Guesthouse, where we are staying, was the TKE house when I was a student. Two of my friends were mugged on the front steps. Aaaah, memories.

The Central West End was pretty nice, even back then. And you're right, It's more of an east coast city.


We stayed at the Hotel Ignacio. As we were driving down Lindell Blvd to get to the hotel I started to get worried about the area being dicey. Have to say once we reached the SLU area it looked much better.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby chaglang » Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:43 pm

That's funny. If I'm thinking of the right building, the Ignacio was an abandoned apartment building when I was there. Every so often one of the squatters would really get a burn barrel going on the roof and the FD would come out. The second week I was at SLU, I saw a prostitute at work in a car parked in the driveway. Good times.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby brewcrew1000 » Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:44 pm

I think once you get north of Delmar it still gets pretty dicey

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Re: St. Louis

Postby kcmetro » Mon Oct 08, 2012 4:47 pm

There's a reason a lot of those nice neighborhoods in the Central West End have gates at the intersections. The ghetto bleeds into that area pretty frequently.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby Highlander » Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:11 pm

kcmetro wrote:There's a reason a lot of those nice neighborhoods in the Central West End have gates at the intersections. The ghetto bleeds into that area pretty frequently.


I found the CWE to be kind of patchy. It wasn't the contiguous neighborhood that I expected from reading the accounts on this forum. In fact, that was my opinion of urban St Louis. It had some cool places but they were geographically small and non contiguous. Kind of like KC without the Plaza. I spent some time in the CWE because we stayed there in hotel tied to a large hospital. Restaurant choices were good, but again, the activity is not concentrated like it is on the Plaza.

I did like the metro link or whatever it's called. It made getting around without a car an easy thing to do although it was not ideally placed for some of the attractions - it's a bit of a long walk from the Forest Park station to the zoo. Since we were there visiting Wash U and St Louis U, we took the metro to Delmar Loop and walked to Wash U, not as short of a walk as I expected but not bad. We had to drive to St Louis U, station was closed. Delmar Loop was a major disappointment for us. They talked it up at Wash U so we checked it out. It was dead at lunch time and the offerings and aesthetics were less than compelling.

The Hill was a pretty unique place....like a larger version of Colombus Park on KC's north end with Italians living there still (that was my assumption at least, are they still living there?). The Italian restaurants were not trendy but more in the style of Garozzo's than Lidia's.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby chaglang » Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:19 pm

Highlander wrote:
kcmetro wrote:There's a reason a lot of those nice neighborhoods in the Central West End have gates at the intersections. The ghetto bleeds into that area pretty frequently.


I found the CWE to be kind of patchy. It wasn't the contiguous neighborhood that I expected from reading the accounts on this forum. In fact, that was my opinion of urban St Louis. It had some cool places but they were geographically small and non contiguous. Kind of like KC without the Plaza. I spent some time in the CWE because we stayed there in hotel tied to a large hospital. Restaurant choices were good, but again, the activity is not concentrated like it is on the Plaza.

I did like the metro link or whatever it's called. It made getting around without a car an easy thing to do although it was not ideally placed for some of the attractions - it's a bit of a long walk from the Forest Park station to the zoo. Since we were there visiting Wash U and St Louis U, we took the metro to Delmar Loop and walked to Wash U, not as short as I expected but not bad. We had to drive to St Louis U, station was closed. Delmar Loop was a major disappointment for us. They talked it up at Wash U so we checked it out. It was dead at lunch time and the offerings and aesthetics were less than compelling.


The SLU Metrolink stop is under a bridge, about 30' below street level. You didn't miss much.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby chingon » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:29 am

Highlander wrote:
I found the CWE to be kind of patchy. It wasn't the contiguous neighborhood that I expected from reading the accounts on this forum. In fact, that was my opinion of urban St Louis. It had some cool places but they were geographically small and non contiguous. Kind of like KC without the Plaza. I spent some time in the CWE because we stayed there in hotel tied to a large hospital. Restaurant choices were good, but again, the activity is not concentrated like it is on the Plaza.

I did like the metro link or whatever it's called. It made getting around without a car an easy thing to do although it was not ideally placed for some of the attractions - it's a bit of a long walk from the Forest Park station to the zoo. Since we were there visiting Wash U and St Louis U, we took the metro to Delmar Loop and walked to Wash U, not as short of a walk as I expected but not bad. We had to drive to St Louis U, station was closed. Delmar Loop was a major disappointment for us. They talked it up at Wash U so we checked it out. It was dead at lunch time and the offerings and aesthetics were less than compelling.

The Hill was a pretty unique place....like a larger version of Colombus Park on KC's north end with Italians living there still (that was my assumption at least, are they still living there?). The Italian restaurants were not trendy but more in the style of Garozzo's than Lidia's.


Yes, lots of Italians still live on the Hill. In fact, a lot of the houses don't get listed by realtors, but sold in family or to other Italian families. And yes, the restaurant style is more downscale, though there is a range, and some of them are spendier. Interesting that you should mention Garozzo's, since Mike and his family are from the Hill, not KC. For a long time the Hill was mostly Milanese, though I don't know if that's true anymore. KC Italians are largely Sicilian, and you of all people certainly understand how different Sicilian culture can be from actual Italian, especially northern Italian. That said, before the KC Italian Northland diaspora, the North End (ironically, Columbus Park is an appellation applied after the Italians had more or less left) was a lot like the Hill, only denser.

The Loop, while pretty sleepy during the day, is an absolute madhouse on Friday/Satruday nights in the summer, kind of like fin-de-siecle Westport on a Plaza scale.

Otherwise I come away from St Louis with a pretty similar opinion. Lots of the "neighborhoods" that get talked up really just corners with 2-5 business, with a lot of big dead zones between them, and I'm often left with the impression that St Louis boosters follow the cities lead to much with their official neighborhood definitions and kind of set up visitors (especially the kind of visitors who read city-nerd web chats) to be underwhelmed.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby brewcrew1000 » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:02 am

The thing that I think really sucks about St Louis, is the Industrial and Railroad tracks around Manchester/I-44 and 64, it really breaks up the city between south and north, There are some really cool neighborhoods on the south side, just wish they blended more with the park, SLU and other North Side hoods

Like the Hill for example, it really isn't that far from Forest Park, but the freeways, railroad and industrial really break it apart from Forest Park

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Re: St. Louis

Postby chrizow » Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:02 am

the "problem" with STL is indeed that, the various "nodes" of activity are quite far away from each other. for being a "small" landlocked city, it's actually a very large urban core, and even larger when you factor in the 40 corridor out into U City and downtown Clayton. thus, when taking surface roads between the attractions i feel like i am being beaten down by the huge stretches of blight and nothingness between the various areas. like it is exhausting to go from downtown to the CWE to the Loop, then if you want to swing down to South Grand or whatever it's another slog. this is a blessing and a curse - STL is a large, old city so it makes sense the urban core is vast, but it's hard to feel like you're "connecting the dots" so to speak.

by contrast, KC is a younger, smaller and more "compact" urban core in terms of the various nodes being near each other. In the Plaza-Westport-Midtown-39th-Crossroads-Downtown-Westside-River Market, spine, one is rarely more than a couple blocks from the next neighborhood hub, so even though the activity level overall is still pretty subdued like in STL, the relative contiguity of the various neighborhood hubs gives KC a bit more "active" energy.

however, KC's younger age gives it a more transitory, spacious feel that you don't get in the tightly-packed brick homes and commercial areas in STL - and even in the "dead zones" in STL the buildings and homes are usually still standing, even if they are underused or abandoned (apart from the stretches of cleared land in parts of north STL). thus, in STL you don't see areas like parts of Main or Broadway that could be Noland Rd in terms of architecture b/c historic, street-facing buildings were cleared for pawn shops or whatever 40 years ago.

also, the statistical fact that KC is doing a better job of attracting (and retaining) young folks is noticeable. there is a lot of urban reclamation happening in STL of course, but again the urban core is so huge that it's hard to feel it on the street because it's so dispersed. one obvious counterexample is Cherokee St, which has made very swift leaps and bounds over the years.

it has been too long since we were in STL City, this needs to change soon.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby Highlander » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:45 pm

A few of my pics from St Louis.

We stayed at the Parkway Hotel in CWE. I suspect the hotel is basically there to house family of people receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. The hospital district there reminded me a bit of Houston's medical center in the sheer number of medical facilities concentrated in a single area.

A few pics from our hotel window:

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Walking around CWE

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Restaurants on Euclid

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Curry house on Euclid. Wife and daugher are considering dining there - highly recommend it although I understand it is a chain.

While we enjoyed the CWE, it was a bit difficult on the ground to find the spots with commercial activity as they are not contiguous. Kind of need to know where you are going which is a disadvantage to the visitor as one wrong turn takes you away from activity you seek. But still, a pretty desirable place to spend some time.

Real reason we were in St Louis was to see Wash U. This is one place where St Louis excels over KC - academic institutions.

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Hotel on Delmar Loop. The Loop was pretty dead during the lunch hour. We caught the train from there back to CWE before heading to SLU.

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I liked the look of SLU and they took a huge interest in my daughter. But, she was kind of intimidated by the overwhelming urban nature of the location and some of the downtrodden neighborhoods adjacent. While there, it was clear that St Louis's core, while lacking the vibrancy of KC's core, has a larger and better preserved built environment. The following pictures are of a potentially forlorn part of the core adjacent to SLU. Nice buildings - anything going on around this area?

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The Zoo. Haven't visited since I was a kid....lot's of deja vu moments as the core of the zoo from that time is still intact. I was pretty interested in the penguins as KC is getting such an exhibit next summer (?).

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Walking to the Zoo to the Forest Park station is a pretty long walk. We broke it up by stopping at the Art Museum and the Missouri History Museum.

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Finally - visit to the Arch. We visited the Arch on the same evening that the Royals played the Cards - saw lots of Royal's jerseys at the park - just prior to the game. Up until that time, we had been pretty much the only white people on the Metro Link through 2 days of heavy use (although we did usually avoid travelling at rush hour). I was wondering how heavily the Link was used by commuters and if St Louis suburbanites had the same aversion to public transport as Kansas Citians. On the way back from the Arch to our hotel, the Metro Link was absolutely packed with Card's fans decked out in red. Since we boarded at Laclede landing, I suspected the bulk of these were coming from Illinois and headed to the ballpark. Anyway, the standing room only space on the link and partisan colors reminded me of travelling on subways in Europe with fans headed to a football match.

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Some advice about the Arch. Huge time sink. And unless one feels compelled to make the trip to the top, I would say it's pretty much underwhelming. The views are OK but the space on top is so constricted and claustrophopic that one has to contort themselves in the crowd to even get their camera into the window. The line took over an hour and the ride to the top is really not anything memorable. And it's not cheap. Our time would have better been served walking around Laclede's Landing or downtown.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby Roanoker » Mon Oct 15, 2012 6:34 am

Wonderful pictures, Highlander. Especially the first one of the Arch. Very dramatic. For our sake, I'm glad you endured the ride to the top to get some memorable shots.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby Highlander » Wed Oct 17, 2012 8:34 pm

Roanoker wrote:Wonderful pictures, Highlander. Especially the first one of the Arch. Very dramatic. For our sake, I'm glad you endured the ride to the top to get some memorable shots.


I do not want to dissuade anyone, if not too crowded, it's worth the trip.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby brewcrew1000 » Thu Oct 18, 2012 10:34 am

You know if the Arch didn't exist in St Louis, that city would probably have one of the most pathetic skylines for a fairly large metro area

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Re: St. Louis

Postby Roanoker » Thu Oct 18, 2012 10:44 am

brewcrew1000 wrote:You know if the Arch didn't exist in St Louis, that city would probably have one of the most pathetic skylines for a fairly large metro area


But it does. :D

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Re: St. Louis

Postby IraGlacialis » Thu Oct 18, 2012 8:47 pm

Nice write up. One thing to your post.
SWFan wrote:We drove straight to Forest Park. We were going to hit the zoo, but the temps were just a little too cold for us, so we went to the Art Museum instead. I'm not much of an art person, and I definitely don't get the surreal or modernism stuff. Overall it was a nice way to spend time. Oddly though the Art Museum has what I consider to be more historical stuff and not art. For instance there is a room with old body armor and weapons. I don't really consider that art. It was a little weird.

You can say the same thing about any "encyclopaedic art gallery" (this includes the Nelson, Met, and British Museum). Other than the the usual European and modern/contemporary pieces, the good chunk of stuff you find in art galleries is cultural/historical. For example in the Nelson, note that a good chunk of the pieces in the American Indian and Chinese furniture galleries weren't stuff made for the sake of art but were practical items. If anything, such museums usually have two sides: the artistic one and the anthropological one.

In any case, the STL art gallery is one place I usually find a place to fit into my schedule for at least 30 min; the arms and armaments room is actually probably my favorite place there. A thing that I found is that it actually seems to complement the Nelson quite well from the architecture (STL's ornate classical World's Fair look to the Nelson's monumental Egyptian Revival look) to the collections (KC's strong Asian, American Indian, and Photography collection to STL's Oceanic, pre-Columbian, and Islamic set).

The only thing I don't care for is that the STL gallery tends to be a bit more draconian with the way it treats its guests: with visible tape (that is about 18" from the pieces) to tell you where to stand/lean and docents that will flat-out yell at you if they think you are getting to close (ie: your face passing the tape line). While I above all understand the need to preserve, it makes the place seem too stuffy. I suspect that it would be such an issue with me if it weren't so inconsistently enforced; while the Western paintings and contemporary art have tape and docents everywhere, the weapon and decorative arts rooms usually have nobody there.

Still, besides all of that, I really enjoy that gallery and can't wait to visit when the expansion is complete. I especially hope they put that Mississippi River scroll on display.

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Re: St. Louis

Postby chaglang » Thu Oct 18, 2012 9:40 pm

I liked the look of SLU and they took a huge interest in my daughter. But, she was kind of intimidated by the overwhelming urban nature of the location and some of the downtrodden neighborhoods adjacent. While there, it was clear that St Louis's core, while lacking the vibrancy of KC's core, has a larger and better preserved built environment. The following pictures are of a potentially forlorn part of the core adjacent to SLU. Nice buildings - anything going on around this area?


Heh, she should have been there in the early 90's. There was an abandoned public housing complex in the center of campus where the clock tower is now, and another one on the east end where the athletic fields are. I'm a little surprised that it still seemed dead, because the university has invested an extraordinary amount of money into the area. Mostly, in buying every price of property they can get their hands on. I guess that's why tuition is north of $30k a year.

The large brick building across from the College Church was the Jesuit Residence Hall. I think that was also the Jesuit retirement home, because several priests I knew from Rockhurst retired to there. Behind that is the "Superman Building" which, in pre-internet days was the subject of an unprovable rumor that the b-roll for the tv series was shot there. I've heard that it's either been fixed up or is falling apart.

Further down Lindell is the Scottish Rite Temple, which was actually featured in Escape from New York. Snake Pliskin!

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Re: St. Louis

Postby warwickland » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:17 am

I love hearing honest impressions of St. Louis, particularly about midtown. Hopefully over the next few years SLU cooperates with piecing midtown back together in an urban fashion. Historically they have been a little bit one step forward, one step back in their relationship with the "neighborhood."

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Re: St. Louis

Postby chaglang » Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:12 pm

We were at SLU a couple weeks ago and I was appalled with what the university has done. They've ripped down a considerable number of buildings in the last 15+ years. Vandeventer always had a lot of vacant lots, but SLU has only added to that. I think their entire frontage from Forest Park Pkwy to Lindell is now parking or green space. There are also new (to me) vacant lots on Laclede. But the absolute worst was the pond that they put in place of Scholar's House. That was a huge WTF moment for me. Scholar's was a 1880's townhouse that had been used first as a dorm and later as the Humanities offices. From what I understand (and correct me if I'm wrong), it was torn down because it sullied the view of Cupples House. And don't get me started on that ridiculous sculpture garden they put across from the College Church. They tore down two buildings to put that in. What a complete waste.

Off-campus, I was underwhelmed with the development in the area. It looks like there is something going on near Grand & Olive, but the areas directly around campus look about the way I left them in 1995. The CWE/Forest Park area are light years better than they were then. The development of Euclid south of Laclede is amazing. I was a little sad to see that West End Wax is now a yoga studio. That was a reliable place to get Pixies singles back in the day.

I covered a lot of this over in the St Louis Recommendations thread.


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