MILL CREEK VALLEY



During the 1950s, Saint Louis found itself in a fervor over urban deterioration and renewal. Following Mayor Joseph Darst's 1953 slum clearance in the Chestnut Valley area, Mayor Raymond Tucker initiated a similar project in the adjacent Mill Creek Valley. This area - bounded by 20th Street, Grand Avenue, Olive Street and Scott Avenue - housed a large African-American population, and was at one time the home to such famous African-Americans as Scott Joplin and Josephine Baker. At the start of the 1950s, the Mill Creek Valley housed 20,000 inhabitants (95% African-American) and included over 800 businesses and institutions. Everything the residents needed - from grocery, clothing and hardware stores to restaurants, schools and churches - was within walking distance of their homes. The area was also home to the prominent African-American newspaper, The St. Louis Argus. However, many of these residences and institutions were considered unsanitary and in need of repair.

In 1951, Missouri Governor Forrest Smith signed the Municipal Land Clearance for Redevelopment Law, which brought state aid to the urban renewal efforts of Missouri's cities. The law also created the St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, whose job it was to oversee urban renewal in Saint Louis and manage its funding. Under the 1954 Federal Housing Act - which provided federal aid for renewal projects - and the passage in 1955 of a $110 million bond issue, Mayor Tucker and the City of St. Louis began the clearance and demolition of slums in Mill Creek Valley. The most of the bond revenue went towards construction of new expressways, some of which cut through parts of Mill Creek. Roughly $10 million was utilized for slum clearance. The clearance of the area would involve the relocation of many residents and businesses; most residents would never return and many businesses would cease operations. Acquisition of buildings, like the Pine Street Hotel and the Peoples Finance Building, began in August of 1958, with actual demolition starting the following year. Redevelopment of the area would include new residential, commercial and industrial zones, with the majority of land going towards new industry. Certain industries that met zoning requirements, like Sealtest Foods, would not face demolition and were allowed to stay. Redevelopment of the entire area was scheduled for completion in 1968.