From The Pacer, neighborhood newsletter since 1997, articles describing the streets and sidewalks, sights and sounds, of Parkview Gardens.
The Layout and Character of the Neighborhood
Healthy in the Loop
Recently the Associated Press reported a new study that seeks ways to counter the problem of obesity. 64% of American adults are overweight, and recent studies have found that people living in urban sprawl areas are more likely to have weight problems and high blood pressure. They’re not getting enough exercise, because they go everywhere by car. “Community design and limited transportation choices often prevent people from leading physically active lives,” Richard Killingsworth of Active Living by Design told the AP, as he launched the $2.8 million, five-year study.
We predict that when they get done, they’ll propose a radical new community design: a neighborhood of walk-up apartment buildings, where neighborhood facilities and mass transit hubs are in walking distance, where there is a main street with a lively sidewalk scene, and where many partially closed-off streets make for sparse vehicle traffic and safer cycling. A neighborhood just like Parkview Gardens, in fact.
I read a Reuters article about the “naked roads” movement. It’s all the craze among European traffic safety experts, apparently. These folks think that signals and stop signs and other roadside warnings have multiplied to the point that they’ve become counterproductive. They distract drivers or lull them into a false sense of security. People might be better off on their own. Several European countries have tested the idea, taking down all the signs along certain roads, and early results suggest that motorists do a better job of watching where they’re going and staying alert to hazards. Accidents have not become more frequent. Drivers are more considerate of each other, too.
The article made me think that we have our own “naked roads” area in Parkview Gardens. From Ackert Park to Kingsland, we have what must be one of the largest groups of intersections without four-way stop-signs in the entire, stop-sign-loving St. Louis area. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m grateful. We savvy residents seem to be able to figure out that you don’t go blasting into blind corners, even without a stop sign. Visitors seem to catch on, too. At least, in years of living around here, I haven’t seen an accident at any of these intersections.
The Wreath Index
There are many indicators to measure change in an urban neighborhood like Parkview Gardens. Much has been said about the rising value of buildings, for instance, or the falling crime rates. But PGA President Mike Giger believes that The Wreath Index should be borne in mind.
For 20 years now, Giger has been going out every December to Christmas Tree Valley in Pacific, Mo to buy wreaths, which he hangs on the doors of his buildings. The first few years, they were all stolen. Immediately. But he persevered, and noticed a slow but steady rise in the survival rate through the mid-eighties. Later in the decade, they started disappearing again. In the nineties, survival rates have increased dramatically. In the years 1993-1996, 100% of his wreaths made it through the holiday season. In 1997, he put wreaths on his own and the newly renovated PGA-owned buildings, for a total of 41, more wreaths than he ever had put up before. He lost one. Watchers of economic benchmarks and neighborhood sociologists, take note.
[Note: Mike Giger continues to hang wreaths, and it has been years since any were stolen.]
German Street Names
One of the most deplorable and puzzling episodes in St. Louis history was the wave of anti-German prejudice that swept the city during and after World War I. It was puzzling because German-Americans were such a large, well-established minority, making so many valuable contributions to the city. Some German street names were changed to more “patriotic” ones. Bill McClellan wrote in his Oct. 6 St. Louis Post-Dispatch column that Jim Merkel of the German-American Heritage Society had addressed the St. Louis Board of Alderman about placing signs commemorating the old names of the streets. (He did not call for changing the names back.) One of these streets extends into Parkview Gardens. It was originally named for Maximillian Von Versen, a Prussian nobleman and general who married Alice Clemens, whose family had owned the land before development. The name was changed to Enright to honor one of the first American casualties in World War I. A commemorative sign on the University City stretch of Enright would probably require a Merkel appeal to our City Council.
Bells of All Saints
“From time to time complaints are made about the ringing of church bells. It seems strange that a generation which tolerates the uproar of the internal combustion engine and the wailing of the jazz band should be so sensitive to the one loud noise that is made to the glory of God.”–Dorothy L. Sayers.
Our generation puts up with a lot more noise than Sayers’ did, but there were a couple of complaints last year when All Saints Church repaired its bells and began to ring them. By now, though, the bell that tells the time has been accepted as one of the more pleasant and useful backgrounds sounds of the neighborhood, reports Fr. Heier, the pastor. It tolls the hours and half-hours from 7 am to 8 pm. “Our bells call the faithful to worship, and let people know we’re still here,” Heier said.
All Saints is the oldest parish in U City. It was founded in 1901. The current church buildings dates from 1938.) Archbishop Justin Rigali will celebrate mass Nov. 4 to mark the 100th anniversary.
On June 13, nine life-size fiberglass lions decorated by local artists went on display around U. City. Our lion, “Reflection of the Arts,” on the Clemens median at Kingsland, was created by Byron Rogers and sponsored by the Parkview Gardens Association. The lions will be in place until September, when they will be auctioned off as part of the festivities celebrating the 100th birthday of the Lion Gates on Delmar. Info: lionbsbirthdaybash.org
Signs of Changing Times
Here it is, May–that all to brief interval between the season of storm windows and the season of air conditioners. You want to throw open your windows to the balmy breezes and the scent of flowers–and you get the bleats of car horns.
Honkers are one of the worst pests of the neighborhood. If you’re a typical Parkview Gardens resident, you’re probably willing to tolerate a few discreet taps on the horn. In any area of apartment buildings with locked front doors, you’re going to have a certain amount of that. But what drives you nuts are the honkers who want the entire block to share their impatience. These are important people whose time is precious and they resent having to wait. So they start honking before they even reach the building, and keep slamming down their fists every few seconds until the person they’re waiting for comes out–or, as seems to happen surprisingly frequently no one shows and they give up and drive off What can you do about this, aside from covering your ears? You can call the police; honking unrelated to traffic is a violation of U City law.
[Note: Today honking is seldom heard in Parkview Gardens. The reasons for this welcome improvement are probably less carpooling, more bicycles and pedestrians, and more cell phones.]
In November, neighborhood resident Paul Zuckerman reported to the Pacer that the mailboxes in front of the Seltzer Building on Westgate and Pete’s Shur-Sav on Vernon had been taken away. You would think that these would be busy, much needed boxes. Not so, said Mr. Hughes, manager of the U. City Post Office. “A survey was taken, and they simply weren’t generating enough mail to keep them out there,” he said, apologizing for any inconvenience caused.
If it’s any consolation, Parkview Gardens is not alone. A quick survey of the area north of us showed that mailboxes on Olive, Corbitt, and Bartmer have also disappeared. Second Ward City Council Member Michael Glickert said that across the metro area, the U.S. Postal Service is taking out less-used collection boxes, as they’re officially called, and that citizens probably have no recourse.
The Postal Service reduction drive isn’t limited to the St. Louis area. On the internet, citizens are questioning and complaining from Oakland to Philadelphia. In fact, the city of brotherly love has lost 13 percent of its boxes. That statistic comes from a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer; reporter Daniel Rubin looked into the matter in an Oct. 8 piece. The Postal Service informed him that they have been surveying collection boxes nationwide and taking out those that receive less than 25 letters daily. Rubin also spoke to a Post Office critic named Christopher Shaw, who said that the Postal Service was more interested in handling profitable bulk mail than in serving the public.
The west side of Parkview Gardens continues to be well-served, with mailboxes at Clemens/Heman, Leland/Loop North, and Leland/Delmar. But for eastern Parkview Gardens, the situation is bleak. There are no mailboxes at all in the neighborhood east of Ackert Park, and none on Olive Blvd. east of Kingsland. The only option, really, is the R2D2 box [Note: Now just an ordinary mailbox] on Delmar at Westgate. The East Loop doesn’t do very well, either, with no boxes on Delmar between Skinker and the MetroLink station.
The way area traffic signals are now, steady green in the left-turn light means you can turn but must yield to oncoming traffic. That’s going to change, slowly, in the St. Louis Area, the Post-Dispatch reported on Aug. 17. The Missouri Department of Transportation has been experimenting with a new light in West County, a flashing yellow arrow. Satisfied with the results, MoDOT will begin changing signals next month. Of course, MoDOT admits that at first the signals will cause confusion and maybe even a few accidents, but in the long run, the flashing arrow gives “a clearer message” to motorists.
It’s always a difficult decision to change what people are used to, even if the new way is an improvement. At times, various traffic authorities have pointed out that it’s unfortunate both car taillights and stoplights are red. One means keep going and the other means stop, so it’s kind of confusing. But any change-over would be so expensive, and jarring to our settled ways, that it’ll probably never happen.