Photo Flood 17: Riverview

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photograph by Theresa Harter

Riverview is one of the quirkiest neighborhoods in St. Louis.  Of all 79, it lies furthest north, with its long sliver of territory compressed between St. Louis County and the Mississippi River.  Route 66 originally crossed through Riverview by way of its most distinguished feature, the Chain of Rocks Bridge (an engineering marvel with a a built-in 30 degree turn!).  Also unique to the area is the largest water treatment facility in the city, and what remains of Cementland, Bob Cassilly’s incomplete magnum opus.

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photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis

Riverview001

photograph by Jason Gray

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photograph by Ann Aurbach

Riverview009

photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis

Riverview017

photograph by Theresa Harter

Manufacturing came to Riverview early, an extension of the bustling industrial district to its south.  For years afterward, this would summate the neighborhood’s gradual expansion.  Over time,  homes were etched out of the limestone bluffs overlooking the river, with some distance between neighbors.  In 1894, the Chain of Rocks Water Treatment Plant (named after a rocky shoal nearby) opened alongside the river.  Designed by Minard Holman, the plant sent site-distilled water south via aquaduct to the Bissells Point facility for distribution throughout the city.  At the time of its construction, the Chain of Rocks Plant eased a major strain on clean water for St. Louis.  Gradually, the facility expanded, and in 1915, the then largest filtration system in the world was added.  Also in 1915, the second of two intake towers was constructed within the river nearby the plant.  The first, built in 1893 and resembling a medieval castle, became quickly obselete in meeting the water demands of the growing city.  The second tower was positioned further out in the channel in order to collect initially clearer water.  A shore-based intake eventually supplanted both towers, although they continue to operate at a low draw capacity.  In 1958, the Bissells Point Plant was closed, and Chain of Rocks took over all aspects of processing and distribution.

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photograph by James Palmour

Riverview012

photograph by Jeni Kulka

Riverview008

photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis

Riverview003

photograph by Jason Gray

Riverview018

photograph by Theresa Harter

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Chain of Rocks Bridge with Chain of Rocks Amusement Park in foreground

In the 1920’s, two attractions bloomed on the horizon for Riverview, each of which would imprint the neighborhood in the minds of generations of visitors.  In 1927, Chain of Rocks Amusement Park opened upon the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.  Photo Flood member, Theresa Harter, joyfully recalled visiting the site in her youth, and remembered a ride called the Swooper, which careened riders in small cars dangerously close to the bluff’s edge.  “It felt like you were going to fly off the cliff and into the river,” she said.  A serious of calamitous fires and waning ticket sales (partially because of a new Six Flags in Eureka, Missouri) contributed to the much beloved park’s eventual closure.  In 1929, the mile-long, Chain of Rocks Bridge opened, and brought with it the iconic Route 66.  The bridge, which is owned and operated by Madison, Illinois, was originally designed to be straight, but arguments from riverboat operators convinced engineers that this would have made navigating both the bridge and water intake towers, along with the chain of rocks shoal, dangerous.  The final design features a 30 degree turn, making it legendary among bridges over large waterways.  Madison operated Chain of Rocks as a toll bridge, much to the chagrin of Missourians.  In 1966, the State successfully litigated to end the practice, and in the same year, constructed an alternate bridge, with a span for each direction of traffic.  The new Chain of Rocks Bridge (nicknamed, I-270 Bridge) replaced the older structure, which was originally slated for demolition.  Fortunately, the market for scrap metal at the time made the project unfeasible, and so the hulking bridge remained, looming in decay and neglect until Trailnet initiated a project to clean and restore the bridge for pedestrian traffic in the 1980’s.  The bridge officially reopened to the public in 1999, and today, it connects to a riverfront trail extending to downtown St. Louis and beyond.

Riverview011

photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis

Riverview019

photograph by Amanda Miller

Riverview002

photograph by Jason Gray

Riverview013

photograph by Jeni Kulka

In the 1940’s, Riverview experienced its largest period of residential growth.  Subdivions sprouted out on top of the bluffs, connecting the neighborhood to communities across the boundary with St. Louis County.  North St. Louis (both city and county) at this time was bustling. Modernist ideas prevailed, with the nearby Top of the Towers rotating restaurant and lounge acting as a swanky nucleus for nightlife in the 1960’s. However, beginning in the late 1970’s, population decline and the loss of manufacturing jobs suffered the neighborhood tremendous blows, and by the 1990’s, Riverview had turned over from a middle class enclave to becoming largely impoverished.

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photograph by Theresa Harter

Riverview007

photograph by James Palmour

Today, the neighborhood’s demographic remains mostly unchanged, but at least crime (terrible in the late 1990’s-mid 2000’s) appears to have subsided somewhat. Groups like the Chain of Rocks Community Organization are working to revitalize the area and inform outsiders of its historical significance. In the early 2000’s, Bob Cassilly, the founder and creator of the inimitable City Museum, purchased a large swath of property in Riverview, and began construction on an outdoor amusement complex, called Cementland. Unfortunately, Cassilly’s premature death in 2011 has left the project in limbo. Still, the neighborhood is well worth a visit, whether just to cruise the meandering trails along the riverfont on two wheels or to spot the occasional Bald Eagle from a viewpoint on the Chain of Rocks Bridge.

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photograph by Rock Harris

Riverview004

photograph by Ann Aurbach

Riverview014

photograph by Jeni Kulka

Map:
Photo Flood 17

Our endpoint was a bit outside of the neighborhood, and well worth the venture. Down Home Elegance is a soul food restaurant with a whole lot of soul. Breakfast was delicious, but we arrived before the buffet, which is reported to be even better. PFSTL definitely recommends checking this place out.

Riverview021

photograph by Jason Gray

1 Comment
  1. […] moonlight canoe trip with Big Muddy Adventures, an adventure tour operator located adjacent to the Riverview neighborhood of St. Louis.  The business’ founder and primary guide is “Big […]

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