Groth Guide to Boulevard Heights

Boulevard Heights is located in south St. Louis roughly bound by Gravois on the west, the city limits to the south and Holly Hills/Loughborough on the north and I-55 and Grand to the east. In full disclosure, I’ve lived in this neighborhood for nearly 5 years.

It’s an oddly shaped neighborhood that does not include Carondelet Park nor the Loughborough Commons shopping center. I always thought the River Des Peres was the dividing line between the city and the county, but the map above from the city website shows the city limits extending south of River Des Peres to Weber road. The neighborhood has some areas that are typical of south city, a la Holly Hills, Princeton Heights, Southampton, etc. Other parts of the neighborhood are more suburban with cul de sacs and no sidewalks, etc.

The BH website claims to be the safest residential neighborhood in the entire city. I think this is generally true. We’ve had no problems living here, and people look out for each other. There is somewhat of an identity crisis in BH, not unlike the Patch:Carondelet situation, many in BH think they live in Holly Hills. In fact the Holly Hills Improvement Association represents part of Boulevard Heights. Notice in the photos how many Holly Hills signs and flags are present in BH.

BH lost 5% of its population from 1990 to 2000.  Census data counted 8,503 residents in 2000, 95% of which were white, 2% Hispanic/Latino, 2% Asian and 1% black. There were 3,939 total households, 57% of which are “family households”-78% are married. That’s a very high marriage rate. Of the 4,093 total housing units, 96% were occupied.  85% by owner, 15% rental.

This neighborhood is home to much greenspace, several large cemeteries, mixed architecture, quality necessary services, some cool independent businesses. This is also a very socially conservative part of town.  Not that that’s a bad thing, I’m just sayin’. Many cops and firemen and city employees live here. I think it’s one of the neighborhoods that people that HAVE to live in the city due to residency requirements choose because it’s the most reminiscent of the county or a mid-century suburb, and again it’s a very safe and quiet neighborhood. Don’t just take my word for it, read the “NO LOUD MUSIC” sign!

For what ever reason, this sign cracks me up. What is this sign attempting to accomplish?  Beware all you drivers with the booming systems…all you air horn holders, keep em securely tucked away in the glove box when you pass through BH….they’ll track your honkin’ ass down. Makes me want to lay on the horn as I drive by.  I mean, what is loud, what is too loud, what’s up with the range in the monetary fine? What constitutes a $500 fine? Is someone supposed to see this sign and turn down their radio? Why did we spend tax dollars on this?

Wow, I’ve digressed, enough on the sign already. Anyhow, if you are a walker, runner or bicyclist, you’d love it here due to the fantastic Great Rivers Greenway trail that goes right through BH as well as the marked bike lanes along Christy and Holly Hills heading toward Carondelet Park. Carondelet Park recently installed a jogging path that is extremely popular and adds a lot of activity and vibrance to the park.

I can’t tell you how much the pedestrian/bike trail has improved BH. Before it existed, Christy Park/Frank Leisure Park/St. Marcus Park between Holly Hills and the River Des Peres was just a swath of unused ground that the city mowed (infrequently). Nobody, I mean nobody was seen in the park. There were homeless people living in several areas of St. Marcus Park complete with mattresses and cardboard walls.  The new path changed everything, it’s made the neighborhood safer in that I trust my kids to run around by themselves more now that there are extra eyes on the street so to speak.  Here’s a before picture:

Since the GRG project was completed, there are now hundreds of trees, tons of bikers, dog walkers, joggers, etc enjoying the paths and adding vibrancy and life to a once boring stretch of unused land. Bravo to Great Rivers Greenway and the city of St. Louis park’s dept. for kicking it up a notch and really staying on top of park maintenance now that the parks are actually used.

I’d like to see St. Marcus Park, a former cemetery rededicated as a park in honor of veterans of all wars, see some improvement as many of the monuments that were left have been vandalized or simply knocked over.  Here’s a couple of the sights at St. Marcus Park:

Some of the gravestones were constructed into a series of walls:

Most of the veterans are from World War I, but some date back to the nineteenth century.

I have nothing to note that has gotten particularly worse in my neighborhood in the last 5 years.  The main improvements have been the shuttered 7-11 at Gravois and Loughborough was renovated and now has a Papa John’s in it.  This was a net gain over the shuttered convenience store, but it resulted in the closing of the Papa John’s just up the street in Princeton Heights.

The old Aamco Transmission property is now a QT, the shuttered BP/Amoco station at Germania/Gravois is now a CVS pharmacy; the first CVS to enter the St. Louis market (Olivette and SoCo are not St. Louis).  The former Goodwill (which I miss) on Morganford was handsomly renovated into a Plumbers Supply and Dollar Tree.  Yes, I understand these are auto-centric developments, but they are upgrades over what was there before.  In some cases incremental change is better than nothing at all. The site of the former city greenhouses was converted to a new housing area called Boulevard Heights.

Here are some more unique businesses, bars, restaurants worth trying if you are in Boulevard Heights:

Gyro Company on Gravois and Allemania:

Apollonia at Gravois and Loughborough; home of great hamburgers, mousaka, chicken gyro salad, lamb slouvlaki, pasticco, dalmades and spanakopita.

The Haven at 6625 Morganford recently re-opened. I haven’t been there yet, but the sign is undeniably cool:

Garavaglia’s Hilltop Inn is one of my favorite beer guzzling joints and their burgers are pretty good. This place in many ways epitomized the southside bar. I like the Bud signs too:

The Sno-Cone stand at Morgan Ford and Loughborough is a popular gathering place for summer refreshment (home of extremely nice owners, homemade syrup flavors and best sno-cone in town):

A violin maker and hair salon occupy some handsome retail spaces on Loughborough at Morganford:

There are also some notably attractive building along Gravois between Kingshighway and Loughborough:

I’ll also try to give you a feel of some of the varied housing styles available in Boulevard Heights. Some homes on the north and north western side of BH are more like typical south side neighborhood like Holly Hills, Princeton Heights, Southampton and North Hampton. Check out these timeless beauties:

I love the corner windows on this next home:

Here are some more sights along Morganford. This firehouse is home to some of the nicest firemen around. They have let my sons gawk at the trucks and are great with the kids:

The south side of Boulevard Heights near the county border is a little more reminiscent of Affton, Lemay, Mehlville and other South St. Louis County suburban municipalities. There are post war frame houses, typically wood sided and some ranch homes:

The closer you get to the city limits, the more suburban the neighborhood settings become:

Here’s an all metal (roof, walls, etc.) Lustron home along Germania:

If you are looking for a safe and quiet neighborhood, with many convenient services near by and are a lover of pedestrian paths, check out Boulevard Heights! It’s also a couple miles from the Shrewsbury Metrolink stop!

***In February, 2020 I revisited the neighborhood and the following includes updated commentary and photos.***

Misses On Original Tour

I’ll admit, a few of the homes I had in the original post are not within the current city-defined neighborhood boundaries. I will keep them here, as they are a reminder of my continuous learning. Further, I was reluctant to oversell this neighborhood in the original post because I lived there for ~five years and I didn’t want that to influence my post. Now that I’ve been in Fox Park for nearly ten years, I’m okay with acknowledging the fact that I have great memories here and it’s a wonderful neighborhood.

How did I not mention Concordia Turners? That place had not hit our radar yet when our kids were just babies. Now I know that place, and will speak to it proper.

This place is insanely dense. Home after home, so tight and cozy, so well-cared for.

I didn’t speak to the benefit of smaller ranch homes. As my folks get older and as I think of the familiarity for suburban-upbringings, ranches have a distinct appeal. They are prevalent here, and that’s a rarity for the older parts of St. Louis, almost all of St. Louis, with few exceptions. In fact, if you want a ranch and like the privacy of cul-de-sacs, this is a neighborhood for you.

Noticeable Changes

People are investing in their homes here. New roofs, sustainable/no-mow landscaping, new siding, tuck pointing, the little things. This is what it takes to maintain the neighborhoods built insanely dense with 2 bedroom homes, sided and brick. This is a post-war neighborhood. Many GI bill homes. Dignity and home care continues in these parts. That is comforting to me.

There are now much less Bosnian-Americans in the last ten years. They continue to move to the south county burbs. It’s palpable. I used to walk these streets nightly for >1 hour walks. I knew it so well. It’s changed. The Eastern European vibe is largely gone. It’s trending younger couples now. I see lots of M/F white couples walking dogs and strollers. That wasn’t as noticeable ten years ago. I talked to some of them who said they’d lived there less than 5 years. They like it.

I’m hopeful this part of town will remain stable and real for another generation.

What Are The Future Needs?

I’m surprised to say this, as I remember speaking up at several neighborhood association meetings when I lived here. I was spieling about the need to slow traffic on Holly Hills and people looked at me like I was speaking Latin. I remember thinking about the need for crosswalks and more street trees to help pedestrians feel safe. You gotta understand, I grew up in the burbs walking in the streets. When I moved here and could walk miles on sidewalks, walking became part of my routine. I knew where I was safe and not (from cars/drivers). I KNEW where you had to remove the headphones and look around in certain spots, or you will get hit by a car.

Two of these dangerous pedestrian areas have been rectified with crosswalks and traffic calming. New plantings of street trees are prevalent, even on Gravois.

The large cemetery along Gravois recently built a new fence showing investment and dignity.

There are signs of home investment and care, new no-mow landscaping popping up.

It would be good to see the “Boulevard Heights” new home development on the former city greenhouse property be filled in. Vatterott homes continues to fill in but at a very slow pace. There are a few signs of infill in other spots, but it is rare. There just aren’t a lot of empty lots.

Just like most neighborhoods, BH could use some more intra-neighborhood businesses and establishments.

Boulevard Heights looks great and has improved in the last ten years.

Additional St. Louis City Talk Reading

Boulevard Heights New Homes – March, 2008

Boulevard Heights Progress – July, 2008

River Des Peres Extension Park – July, 2014

St. Marcus Commemorative Park – July, 2014

Here are some updated photos from February, 2020:

Rows and rows of houses, densely built:

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Many homes have stained glass and those pastel mosaic tiles on front porches that can be found all over the city:

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Ranch homes exist all over the neighborhood.

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The fantastic Great Rivers Greenway pedestrian/bike trails have matured in the last ten years, and you can now ride from Carondelet Park to River City Casino in South County. Soon you’ll be able to connect to Grant’s Trail. This is a major selling point for Boulevard Heights. Many homes and streets abut the greenspace and trails.

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A couple personal favorites:

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The homes on Loughborough that overlook Carondelet Park are beautiful:

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There are opportunities for planting street trees to shade and provide additional safety and overall curb appeal.

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There is some infill and opportunity for new builds in the “Boulevard Heights” development from Vatterott.

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Opportunities for intra-neighborhood business exists, check out this one at French and Eugene:

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The post-WWII smaller frame homes are in good shape.

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Along Gravois, you have the Concordia Turners Hall, a great family place for gymnastics, summer camps, swimming pool and gathering space. This place is a South City gem.

The St. Peter and Paul Cemetery, built by German Catholics, has been around since 1865 and looks well cared for, with a new fence and street trees recently planted. There are some great metal and neon and other signs that will catch your eye. The St. Louis southern border with the South County suburban area (Affton, MO) is along Hamburg Ave. The signs are easy to spot, the asphalt is different, the sidewalks from the suburbs end in St. Louis and the trash cans are different in the city vs. the suburbs.

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So there you have it, ten years of Boulevard Heights, next update will be when the 2020 US Census data is released.