Most often when people think of adventures and tales they think of far away places. Majestic mountaintops, wide oceans, or other worlds. They believe that in order to achieve a true level of fascination with the world you have to get out of your comfort zone. And while I certainly love the sight of a snow covered mountain top, the smell of fresh sea air, and experiencing other cultures, I personally believe that this mentality is far sighted causing people to be discontent with the amazing stories right in their own back yard!
You of course are no stranger to our philosophy. You read this blog twice a week. Right? Right??? But you may have noticed we have yet to put our money where our mouth is and tell you about the fascinating tales of our neighborhood. I seek to remedy that today. This of course won’t be an exhaustive look at the history of the Princeton Heights and Southampton Neighborhoods but it will give you a glimpse of why Kezia, the boys and I love going on walks right here in South St. Louis.
Our Neighborhood is one of the westernmost in the whole of St. Louis and as recently as 100 years ago was considered frontier. A man named David Roland Francis owned a large dairy farm within walking distance from where our house now sits and was one of the more influential figures in Missouri History. He served as Mayor of St. Louis, Governor of Missouri, US Secretary of the Interior, and eventually US Ambassador to Russia, but perhaps most importantly for our purposes he served as the President of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World’s Fair). As president he attempted to make his property the site of the World’s Fair. This attempt failed because his property was considered too difficult to travel to and Forest Park was chosen instead. Just imagine how different our neighborhood would look if that had been the case! But upon leaving for Russia he donated his property to the city which has commemorated him by naming the park “Francis Park.”
Francis park is now one of our favorite places to go because in it sits one of Clarence’s favorite playgrounds, tennis courts, racquetball and handball courts, large fields for shattering your nose bone in a game of ultimate Frisbee (that happened to Aaron, not our three-year-old), and even a coffee shop. All this is within a short walk down Eichelberger.
While taking care of one of the older members of our Congregation, Hope Lutheran Church (which has a fascinating story itself and will certainly be a topic of a later post) we learned that over the years our neighborhood has drastically changed. Eichelberger which is now simply one of the few two way streets in the neighborhood used to be Produce Row all owned by a man named Eichelberger. Eichelberger built houses and hired dozens of farmers to come and grow produce. When the produce was ready for harvest it would all be loaded up into trucks and driven up and down the alley ways. Just like children run outside at the sound of the ice cream truck, house wives would run outside at the sound of the produce truck to fill their cellars with good, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables. (We’ve often had conversations about the irony of the current “locally grown food” obsession and how our neighborhood has been doing that since before it was cool.) Now of course, Eichelberger is no longer the farming center of the community, but Macklind has provided a new business hub.
Thanks to local efforts to revitalize the area Macklind has attracted several trendy restaurants, corner stores, and cafes, as well as an Art Exhibit and a community Garden. We haven’t tried all of the restaurants on Macklind but we have fallen in love with Russell’s which is an upscale brunch and coffee house in the morning and a fancy restaurant in the evenings. Russell’s is perfect for a warm cup of coffee and a baked treat after church or a fine date for a happy couple. Sometimes on our walks we’ll stop by just for a cup of their Kaldi’s coffee and other times we’ll go next door to Macklind Deli to grab a beer and a sandwich on their patio. Maybe there will even be live music! They’re coming up on their 10th anniversary, and are obviously a favorite with the locals. But just because Macklind is at the center of Southampton business doesn’t mean it is the only Southampton business.
A walk down the alley ways show all sorts of enterprises including the Rhodes’s Avenue Woodsmith. Whenever we drive past his workshop he is making some of the most beautiful doors we have ever seen. Many of the door frames on our street have a unique round top design and he is one of the few places that specializes in making those doors. A closer neighbor of ours, Kevin, is a life long mechanic and seemingly works around the clock making all types of repairs on the neighborhood cars. He tells me that he’s always been fascinated with cars and learned how to fix them at a very young age. When it was his time to go out and pick a career, there wasn’t much opportunity for him so he decided to continue doing it as a lucrative hobby. I’ve often thought about asking him to teach me how to do some basic maintenance on Juanita.
I could go on and on about all of the restaurants, businesses, entrepreneurs and even stories of our neighbors but I’ll save that for another post.
You don’t even have to get in your car to experience an adventure. There really is a story down EVERY SINGLE ROAD. And you’re likely to miss it if you don’t live the Driving on Sunday way of life!
Until next time, thanks for [walking] with us. And be sure to like, comment, share, and subscribe to our newsletter so that you don’t miss a single mile.