Photo Flood 54: Gravois Park

gravoispark_3

photo by Ann Aurbach

Oh, Gravois Park. It’s got a bad reputation that is largely deserved. But, it’s also got one of the most vibrant sections of the Cherokee Street Business District, and some of the best buildings in South City. Much like Dutchtown to the south, Gravois Park has nearly unrivaled potential.

gravoispark_7

photo by Jason Gray

gravoispark_24

photo by Ryan Stanley

gravoispark_2

photo by Dan Henrichs

gravoispark_23

photo by Isaac Richardson

The history of Gravois Park is shared with that of Dutchtown and Benton Park West, both of which it was considered a part of at varying times until fairly recently.  It is no surprise then that the first settlers of Gravois Park (then Dutchtown) were German, who immigrated to St. Louis in massive numbers throughout the 1800’s.

gravoispark_22

photo by Ryan Stanley

gravoispark_4

photo by Jason Gray

gravoispark_19

photo by Dan Henrichs

gravoispark_20

photo by Ryan Stanley

gravoispark_13

photo by Theresa Harter

Though a small neighborhood, Gravois Park has as its borders, four historically significant commercial corridors for South City: Cherokee Street, Jefferson Avenue, Grand Avenue, and Chippewa Street.  This proximity has ensured a steady population for the neighborhood, despite a pronounced period of decline and abandonment beginning in the late 1970’s and extending through today.  As a kid there in the early 1980’s, I remember walking with my mother along Iowa to Cherokee Street, where we would shop at Globe Drugs or in one of the other stores nearby.  I recall the neighborhood being pretty vibrant then, though my parents had reservations about crime nearby.  Still, I was allowed to strike up a conversation with strangers that we happened upon (not that my parents likely could have done much to stop me from being obnoxiously chatty).

gravoispark_16

photo by Isaac Richardson

gravoispark_6

photo by Ann Aurbach

gravoispark_5

photo by Ann Aurbach

Looking back, this perception of theirs was likely due to the changing dynamics of Gravois Park and Dutchtown at this time, in terms of both economic class and race.  “White flight”, as it is well known in St. Louis, is the mass movement of white people from the city to the suburbs (or further), often driven by a sense of racial insecurity or even outright racism, and it came later to Gravois Park then to most other areas of the city.  There are some who speculate that an influx of crack and other drugs in the mid- to late 1980’s were the primary factors behind the population change in this neighborhood, but I’m not fully convinced of that.  No matter what their motivation was, my parents have sadly, never again lived in ANY city- though I don’t think one can or should blame Gravois Park for that.

gravoispark_21

someone apparently keeping warm by stoking a fire on their porch… photo by Ryan Stanley

gravoispark_8

photo by Isaac Richardson

gravoispark_12

photo by Dan Henrichs

Today, Gravois Park is sort of a “Tale of Two Cities” neighborhood.  On one hand, there is Cherokee Street, and all of the boundless energy and potential that it represents, while on the other hand, there are countless tales of violence on the streets of the neighborhood.  Several prominent local periodicals have blamed roving bands of lawless teenagers for the most recent incidences, and while I don’t doubt that teens have a talent for getting into trouble (most everywhere they congregate) the “roving packs” that we encountered on our visit were friendly, inquisitive, and generally good-natured, all of the things you might hope for from American youth.  I don’t discount that bad things have happened, but rather I’d warn that Gravois Park, like many other neighborhoods in St. Louis cannot be defined as either safe or dangerous.  Instead, it is both, and neither.

gravoispark_17

photo by Dan Henrichs

gravoispark_9

photo by Theresa Harter

gravoispark_11

photo by Isaac Richardson

gravoispark_15

photo by Dan Henrichs

Map is available here.

Our endpoint for Photo Flood 54 was the amazing Sump Coffee.  If you are looking for the perfect cup of joe (literally, they make it a science here), then look no further.

gravoispark_1

photo by Dan Henrichs

gravoispark_18

photo by Jason Gray

0 Comments

Leave a reply

©2019 Photo Flood Saint Louis

Log in with your credentials

or    

Forgot your details?

Create Account