Wednesday, February 1, 2023

St. Louis’ Lafayette Square History

Julius Pitzman was a famous designer of many famous private streets in St. Louis. He started with Benton Place in Lafayette Square. He also surveyed large swathes of St. Louis, leaving his marks on more than just a few neighborhoods. Over the course of many decades, Pitzman worked at Lafayette Square until the beginning of the 20th century. Many of his surveys and the laying of semi-private streets along the south side, just off Lafayette Avenue, have been lost. This is due to the destruction caused by Interstate 44’s construction in the second half 20th century. Although they were not private streets, they had restrictions on building types and uses that were similar to those of their more restrictive counterparts.

The original Preston Place was originally the Lafayette Addition. It was owned by Charles Gibson and laid out by Julius Pitzman. Published in Plat Book 5, page 67, April 28, 1859. It was not technically considered a private street even though it looked like it when Pitzman designed the street. He started with Benton Place at the north end of Lafayette Square in 1868. The street was granted to the City of St. Louis. However, the plat stipulated that the public right of way be reverted to its owners if Preston Place was extended to Geyer Avenue to the south or if there was a “highway” across the land. The question is whether the addition of Interstate 44 to the area voids the agreement.

Charles Gibson’s concerns were legitimate. Solomon Smith, the owner of St. Louis Theater, laid Park Place to the west just south of Mississippi Avenue in 1865. Smith, Noah M. Ludlow, and Smith owned the theater that could hold 1,600 people since 1837. Smith felt St. Louis’ audiences were too conservative and opened the theater. He also diversified his primary business by investing in real estate with Park Place, as many businessmen do. The street was eventually opened to Geyer and it is now Mississippi Avenue, with an overpass that crosses Interstate 44. Only a few houses remain from the previous attempt to create a quiet enclave.

Parade Place is another private subdivision that may have been around for a very short time and may not have actually existed. It was the division of property owned by John C. Rust who operated a hardware store in the city. Obear Auctions published nine ads in the Daily Missouri Republican between April and May 1866. However, after that date, there is no record of any more houses being built or lots being sold. These would have been very small lots. The subdivision would have been the back yards of the houses.

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