Groth Guide to Franz Park

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Franz Park is a south St. Louis neighborhood roughly bound by Dale to the north and east, Manchester to the south and the city limits to the west. The 2000 census data counted 2,621 residents (down 10% from 1990’s count) of whom 11% were black, 85% white, 1% Asian and 2% Hispanic/Latino. There were 1,318 housing units counted, 92% occupied (67%/33% owner/renter split). I like the high occupancy rate.

This is one of 3 neighborhoods collectively referred to as Dogtown, including Hi-Point and Clayton-Tamm. Like Clayton-Tamm and Ellendale, Franz Park judiciously marks its territory with street light flags.

Here’s a little background from the City of St. Louis website:

Franz Park grew with the other “Dogtown” neighborhoods in the mid-1800s, when clay mining moved into the area. The railroads further increased the speed at which residents began to move into the area. Many immigrants from places such as Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Poland came to work in the mines. St. Louis fire brick was a growing industry that was employing most of the residents, who built homes around the industrial locations.

By the end of World War II, the mines had closed, and subdivisions had been built upon the old sites. As a result of the erratic way in which the houses in the neighborhood were built, a variety of architectural styles exist within the area. Despite the fact that the jobs created by fire brick were gone, the strong working class communities remained. In fact, with the World’s Fair in 1904, even more people had been enticed to move into the neighborhood, as did the Sulphur Springs Spa, for a few years.

And the neighborhood takes it’s name to the gentleman that donated the park to the city:

Originally given to the city by E. D. Franz in 1915, it continues to host local sports activities. It has baseball diamonds and lighted tennis courts. It also hosts summer programs run by the Parks Department. The park is close to Roe Elementary School, home to a preschool through grade five program. Along with strong language arts programs, it also serves ESL (English as a Second Language) students. The preschool has two sessions, morning and afternoon.

So what does Franz Park look like? The three neighborhoods of Dogtown are surprisingly hilly. The streets are packed with cars on both sides, evidence of the high residential occupancy rate. Overall, this neighborhood really doesn’t remind me of any other St. Louis neighborhood I’ve seen so far…maybe a well cared for Walnut Park East would be the best comparison. It’s a real mixed bag; and as per the entry above “…the erratic way in which the houses in the neighborhood were built, a variety of architectural styles exist within the area…” That description couldn’t be more accurate. If there is a prevailing type or style of home, I’d say it was the small frame homes from post WWII:

There are many typical brick homes that can be seen in other parts of the city:

And there are some harder to categorize, unique places that remind me a lot of the inner ring suburb town of Maplewood:

But the real surprise was the amount of new construction. I have to say….against all odds….I really like a lot of the contemporary infill in Franz Park, more so than any other neighborhood I’ve visited thus far:

There is a large public school directly west of Franz Park (the park) on Prather called Roe Elementary School. It was designed by architect R. M. Milligan and was named for a well-known St. Louis steamboat captain and was finished in 1922, with an addition in 1927.

I didn’t notice any intra-neighborhood businesses in Franz Park. The businesses are concentrated along Manchester and McCausland. There are several bars and restaurants as well as larger employers and many used car lots:

I mentioned the former Scullin Steel Co. in my Ellendale post:

I’ve never patronized any of these places in Franz Park, so I can’t speak to the quality of these joints. However, I have both purchased and repaired vacuums at Discount Vac on McCausland just south of Olympia Taverna who recently tore down some homes for more surface parking. But back to Discount Vac…this place is a St. Louis treasure. You have to check it out and talk to the guy that owns/runs the place. He’s a total gentlemen and a true original. You won’t be disappointed.

Alright, I’ve covered Franz Park and Clayton-Tamm…on to Hi-Pointe to complete the Dogtown trifecta!

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