Cover of "Streets and Streetcars of St. Louis"One of my goals in keeping this blog is to share resources I’m finding helpful as I research Wellston and St. Louis history (and soon I’ll be sharing resources related to the novel’s three target decades – the 1920s, 1950s, and 1970s). One resource I come back to again and again is Andrew D. Young’s marvelous book, Streets and Streetcars of St. Louis: A Sentimental Journey.

 

 

Streets and Streetcars of St. Louis is a treasure trove for anyone interested in streetcars and St. Louis street scenes. As the back cover description says,

The years 1946-1966 brought tremendous change to community life, especially in the inner ring of St. Louis suburbs originally created by the streetcar. This unusual collection of more than 300 photographs documents those changes as it records the line-by-line, suburb-by-suburb disappearance of the streetcar from St. Louis. Almost all the photographs are the work of St. Louisan Ray Gehl and most have never been published before. They are a unique record of a time well within living memory, yet utterly different from the way most folk live now.

Chock full of photographs, the 2002 book includes a 1945 listing of St. Louis streetcar and bus routes and 1941 and 1962 maps of the St. Louis Public Service Company tracks. Individual chapters focus on more than 20 specific streetcar routes, with an eight-page chapter on line 15 – Hodiamont.

The Hodiamont chapter includes a brief history of the line, from its start in 1875 as a narrow-gauge steam railroad to its ending run as St. Louis’s streetcar line on May 21, 1966. The chapter also features 16 photos of the Hodiamont streetcar, photos that date from 1951, 1963, and 1966 – including a photo of the final trips on the final day.

The photos include shorts of streetcars on Washington, Franklin, Enright, and the Hodiamont right-of-way and at the Wellston Loop and the Suburban Gardens loop. I especially love looking at the street scenes – the stores, cars, people – the cityscape that was St. Louis in the 1950s and 1960s. Stores pictured include Clothing Mart, Thomas Market, Biederman’s, Philips Furniture, Specialty Furniture and Appliance, Shaw’s Credit Clothing, Sam’s Good Luck Men’s Clothing, Crown Furniture, Stein’s Furniture, Veterans’ Thrift Store, Abe’s Walnut Tavern, Fine and Son Market, Bobbie’s Lounge, Hanenkamp Electric Co., Thrifty Maid Super Market, and of course Walgreen’s and Kresge.

The photos (and the text commentary) bring to life the wonderful world of the streetcars. Mark Goldfeder, who conducted the photo research for the book, says this in his foreword:

The enormous size of the cars, with the slick and attractive bright red and white paint job, the forceful ringing of the bell when turning the corner, followed by the unique popping and squealing of the wheels, trucks and other mechanical components, well, this was truly a symphony, something a little baby boomer could fall in love with.

Finally, I just have to share author Andrew D. Young’s suggestion for how to fully enjoy this wonderful book:

. . . treat these superb photographs as you would a fine liqueur: reflectively sipped and appreciatively savored, not gulped down without thought at a single sitting. . . . [F]irst locate your own neighborhood car line . . . , turn to it in the book, absorb it and then let the memories come flooding back. Only then expand your horizons by selectively dipping into other sections. That way, you’ll get the greatest enjoyment and satisfaction from your sentimental journey.

In a future post, I’ll share more of what Young has to say about the streetcar suburbs and the decline of mass transit.

If you’re interested in checking out this one-of-a-kind book, please consider entering the contest I’ll be running starting next Monday (April 4). To enter the contest, you simply need to post a comment in response to next week’s post – and your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a free copy of Streets and Streetcars of St. Louis. How cool is that?! (Deadline to submit a comment is Saturday, April 30.)

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5 Comments on Streets and Streetcars of St. Louis, Part 1

  1. I don’t know when this article was posted, but I just found it today. My grandfather, Louis H. Niewald, drove a streetcar in St. Louis for 50 years. He drove the very last trip to Creve Coeur Lake and had his picture next to his street car in the Post-Dispatch. After that he drove the Hodiamont Streetcar until he retired, I believe in the 50’s or 60’s. Will you please relate to me how I can obtain a copy of “Streets and Streetcars of St. Louis”? Thank you very much! — Pat “Niewald” Barton

  2. Tim Welsh says:

    I’ve never been to St. Louis, and I’m, just now, learning about the Hodiamont Streetcar Line. It appears to have run past the back yard of 5135 Kensington Ave. Sally Benson, who lived at 5135 Kensington Ave., mentions this streetcar line frequently in her book ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’, and anyone who has seen the film should know that this was the line that Tootie and Agnes put the dummy on one Halloween evening to try to make the car jump her tracks. Now, that’s my kind of history!

  3. Larry D. Owens, Jr says:

    I was born and raised in St. Louis, my dad was a cab driver. The streetcar was THE way to get around in the city and suburbs. As a young child I remember taking a trip downtown with an older gentlemen (the reason escapes me now) and I was fascinated by how the driver could remember all of those street names as they passed by. He would call out the cross street and people would reach up and pull the strap cord and the car would stop to let them off. I though tit was the coolest thing in the world.On the way back home I kept asking my friend, who seemed to know all of the streets too, to tell me what the next one was. As we approached, I would loudly call out the street name to the cackling of all of the passengers, and the “approval” of the motorman. At out designated stop (Sarah Street and Olive) we got off and I remember seeing a man selling papers on the corner, button holing the disembarking passengers. He wore large, silver sunglasses (ala the Bull in the movie “Cool Hand Luke”) and he had a ferocious looking black Shepard laying under the paper box,. We bought a paper and I noticed that the man was looking off in the distance as he handed us the change. Come to find out, he was blind and the dog was a service animal. When I turned 12 I made friends with this man (and his blind wife) as they took up residence in a house just a few doors down from us. I would go up to their apartment (made friends with the dog) and would help them cut out coupons from the news paper. I learned a lot about how people worked around a handicap. It was absolutely inspiring to see their cleverness. I also learned how he would handle paper money (folding it to make it identifiable later if he had to give out change) but he also shared the greed and stupidity of people as they would try to put one over on the blind paperman. A newspaper back then was a nickel. A streetcar token was a dime. Many people would get of the Streetcar and give him their unused paper transfer and he would resell it to a waiting passenger. Some people would hand him a token for the paper and would tell him it was a dime and wait for change. He would give them their nickel and calmly put the token in his pocket, reselling it for a dime later. For a nickel and a newspaper, he would make about 7 cents. Not high finance, but in 1960’s St. Louis, it would help out some.

    Darrow…for the Prosecution

  4. John Stevens says:

    I am trying to find out if Alexander Easton was involved in the construction of the first street railways in St. Louis. The similarity of the St. Louis track gauge to that in Totonto makes me suspect an Easton involvement. Thanks, John Stevens.

  5. I had a grandfather name George groeteke who was a street car conducter in 1920s do you have info and pictures relating