Urban wandering is my preferred manner of bike riding. I like to explore and get lost and then find my way again. Riding around the South Side, you see some pretty cool things that are tucked away in the neighborhoods that have been bypassed by interstates and made less accessible by one-way and dead-end schemes. Today I went for such a ride. Here are some highlights.
Most people are familiar with the newer face of St. Elizabeth's, a high school for girls that was founded in 1882. This part of the school building faces Arsenal:
But the old entrance to the school is at Crittenden and Tennessee. This part of Crittenden is closed to Grand, where it would otherwise empty out, so it's essentially a cul-de-sac now, very quiet and untraveled, ending with this lovely view:
I turned down Louisiana, heading past Roosevelt High School, another venerable and quite beautiful educational institution whose future may be in doubt. As I approached Connecticut, I noticed a pungent smell. It turned out to be a car on fire. There was a man on the sidewalk alongside the school grounds, yelling at a woman to move her car, which was directly behind the burning vehicle. In this picture you can see her heeding his advice:
I took Louisiana down to Osage and turned there at Marquette Park, another little treasure that's tucked away in a somewhat forgotten neighborhood. There's an outdoor pool there, which costs $2 to swim in for adults, $1 for kids. (I asked.)
If you ride around to the front of this complex, on Minnesota, you can see evidence of St. Louis's old public spirit in this fine pool building.
This section of Minnesota, incidentally, is still constructed of brick, so it feels like a time warp back to an earlier era.
Also part of this complex is something called the Thomas Dunn Learning Center, a more recent edifice that is not without its own charm:
I took Gasconade up to Laclede Park, where I noticed this sign on the back of Meramec Elementary School:
I rode toward Broadway, past St. Alexian Hospital, then across Broadway. This spooky-looking abandoned house was on Illinois, between Osage and Keokuk:
I like this house, at Marine and Miami, though I imagine it'd be worth a lot more if it were located somewhere else:
The old Lemp brewery complex, another dramatic and sadly beautiful reminder of St. Louis's past—and perhaps, one fears, a harbinger of the future should InBev decide to close the Anheuser-Busch brewery.
I seem to recall going to this dairy on Cherokee for ice cream with my uncle and cousins when I was about 15, but I might be mistaken. In any case, it's a cool sign:
My friend Ben edited a documentary about this place, which is an assisted-living facility for adults. It's at Utah and Texas, an intersection that is the inspiration for its southwestern theme and name, Silver Spur. I had completely forgotten about this place and was delighted to come upon it unexpectedly.
This leaning house, further west on Utah, looks to be in desperate need of piering:
Even further west on Utah, just past Grand, the homeowners seem to have more resources at their disposal:
I've always loved this urbane little spot on Spring Avenue:
So that was today's hour-long ramble through the south side of St. Louis. Is there any other place in the metro area that features such a richness of architectural beauty, historical evocativeness, decaying grandeur, neighborhood revitilization, and ethnic, racial, and economic diversity?