Saturday, April 2, 2011

Where the Sidewalk Ends

File this under South Side Curiosities. Seeking to enjoy today's lovely weather, I took a bike ride over to the intersection of Oregon and Miami, where there's a strange rupture in the continuity of the street—of Oregon, that is.

I don't understand why the street does this. Did it originally end up where the wall is, and then later get extended? But if so, why didn't they just continue the street itself, putting in some dirt to make a smooth transition down the hill?

A couple of neighborhood kids came up to me while I was taking pictures. I explained why I found this street odd.

One kid solemnly told me that it had been like this as long as he could remember.

The other kid said, "One part is a high street, the other is a low street."

Here are some views from the upper part, looking to the south.

What is the purpose of the fence and the gates?

If anyone knows the story of this rupture in the street, please fill me in.


framiko said...

Via Facebook, my friend Blaine offers this intriguing possibility:

Could it be a sealed cave entrance? "Lost Caves of St. Louis" by Hubert and Charlotte Rother mentions a few in the vicinity.

framiko said...

My colleague Jim R. speculates that this spot is an old streetcar turnaround.

framiko said...

I think Jim may be on to something. If you zoom in on this map, there's a break in streetcar line 43, in between Jefferson and Grand, near the southern end of both streets. It seems like it's right where this break in Oregon is. It looks like the earlier green line, circa 1925-1941, headed north on the "high" part of Oregon, and the later red line, circa 1941-1951, headed south on the "low" part. (Though I suppose you could ride the cars in either direction.)

Joe Hodes said...

I forget the reason for the drop off. It may be something as simple as a rock formation that was too costly to blast/remove.

That upper block of Oregon (the 3500 block, I think) was one of the most dangerous in the city for several years. Due to the multi-families (many abandoned at the time) and absentee landlords, most of the block was wholly in the sway of local gangs/criminals. Due to the narrow street and abrupt end, emergency vehicles could not turn around and (after an ambulance was ambushed there) soon refused to respond to calls on that street. This must have been 10 years ago at this point. A lot of the derelict buildings have been torn down and the remaining ones are doing a better job of playing ball with authorities.

The detectives who gave me the tour gave quite a hair-raising account of the street's bloody heyday. Too bad the above is the best I can do to recreate.

framiko said...

Joe, thanks for the perspective and information. I can imagine that this short and tight block could be scary for ambulance drivers who felt threatened. It did occur to me that maybe the fence was part of an attempt (apparently abandoned or no longer deemed necessary, given the unlocked gates) to disrupt the free flow of criminals from one part of the block to the next.

The block is indeed mostly if not entirely four-family flats. There may have been an empty lot or two on the block, but as I recall it was fairly intact. So evidently they didn't do much demolition. Or maybe I'm misremembering.

As for the drop-off, I'm convinced that Jim R. is right and that this is a remnant of the streetcar system. The map I link to above seem to indicate a split in the line at this location, doesn't it?

I'm curious: In what context were detectives giving you a tour of this neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

Why not follow this ridge in the road parallel to the ridge to see if there are any areas nearby that would make sense as to the large variation in heights to the roads? I also agree that this may be an attempt to conceal an old cave entrance. South City, especially this area is known for it's many cave systems.