Mini-Flood 6: Cinco de Mayo on Cherokee Street

Cherokee 14

photograph by Jeni Kulka

Cherokee Street is the proud host to St. Louis’ most eclectic celebration. The Cinco de Mayo Festival celebrates Mexican heritage, but also places on display the multiplicity of creative people living, working, and playing along this historic street. At this outdoor event, a throng of thousands sample delectable fare (emphasis on antojitos, Mexican street food like tacos, tamales, and tortas) from local restaurants, food trucks, and food tents, while listening to live music on three stages, and browsing through exhibits by so-called “Cherokee People” (the artists and entrepreneurs who live and/or work in the neighborhood).

Cherokee 20

photograph by Jeni Kulka

Cherokee 07

photograph by Jason Gray

Cherokee 17

photograph by Mandi Gray

Cherokee 13

photograph by Patrick Gioia

Cherokee 18

photograph by Jeni Kulka

Cherokee Street began as a business district in the late 1880’s, due largely to the convergence of two popular street car lines upon its thoroughfare. Being a point of easy access for most residents of south St. Louis, the district experienced rapid commercial growth. The diversity of businesses ranged from dry-goods purveyors and barber shops to nickelodeons and photo studios. St. Louis-based Globe Drugs had an important location on Cherokee Street, and Wehrenberg Theatres (the oldest and largest family-owned movie theater chain in the United States) got its start here.

After 1960, rust-belt decay and white flight contributed to the significant decline which continues to impact the street even to this day. However, the infrastructure provided by the area’s initial meteoric growth, as well as its historic reputation, meant that interest never fully waned for the district’s latent commercial promise. The Cherokee-Lemp Historic District was formed in 1980 to protect the street’s eastern apogee. This reinvestment attracted a large coalition of antiques dealers to the area, and the Cherokee-Lemp Antique Row was formed. Eventually, a new generation of creatives and St. Louis revivalists focused efforts on converting some of the inexpensive or abandoned storefronts elsewhere along the street into cafes and art spaces. Boots Contemporary Art Space, an artist-run gallery led by Juan Chavez, drew significant national (and international) attention to the area, lighting a torch for those businesses that followed.

Cherokee 03

photograph by Ann Aurbach

Cherokee 09

photograph by Jeni Kulka

Cherokee 05

photograph by Jason Gray

Cherokee 01

photograph by Ann Aurbach

Today, revitalization and commercial growth extends both east and west of Jefferson, but the Cinco de Mayo Festival is primarily a celebration of the broad collective of businesses nestled between Pennsylvania and Indiana. This area, known as the Cherokee Station Business District possesses a character distinct from the antique row to its east. Cherokee Station encompasses the area’s historic “downtown”, and includes the metropolitan area’s largest concentration of hispanic-owned businesses (thus the Festival). Arts organizations like The Luminary Center for the Arts, 2720 Cherokee, and Los Caminos continue the innovative programming introduced by Chavez, while exciting outposts like STL-Style, Apop Records, Whiskey Ring, and La Vallesana continue to color the experience of living, working, or playing inside this historic corridor.

Cherokee 06

photograph by Jason Gray

Cherokee 12

photograph by Jeni Kulka

Cherokee 04

photograph by Patrick Gioia

Cherokee 08

photograph by Patrick Gioia

Cherokee 19

photograph by Ann Aurbach

Cherokee 11

photograph by Jason Gray

Cherokee 10

photograph by Patrick Gioia

Cherokee 15

photograph by Jeni Kulka

Cherokee 16

photograph by Ann Aurbach

Cherokee 02

photograph by Jason Gray

Map:
miniflood6

4 Comments
  1. […] Our end point is not as pictured on the map. We had to make a last minute revision on where to meet-up afterward, and decided on the fabulous Melt in the Ivory Triangle. The Melt is a cozy neighborhood cafe with a wide-range of waffle options (our samplings were quite good). It’s an excellent place to hang with friends on a lazy Saturday… (Note: The Melt has since relocated to Cherokee Street) […]

  2. […] that which was occurring in other places nearby, like Lafayette Square. The antique district along Cherokee Street was among the first truly successful and lasting revitalization projects in St. Louis. In the […]

  3. […] previous success of Lafayette Square as a redevelopment project to the current re-envisioning of Cherokee Street as a creative district, many of the city’s grassroots, revitalization efforts have started to […]

  4. […] revitalization started to occur in areas of South St. Louis like Lafayette Square, Soulard, and Cherokee Street (all nearby Soulard Farmers Market), interest in buying things “the old way” rekindled. […]

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