60 Years - The Interstate Highway System & St. Louis

Happy Birthday The Interstate Highway System turns sixty in 2016. To paraphrase Indiana Jones - "it's not the years, its the mileage." Neither years nor mileage have been kind to the city of Saint Louis, MO, which turned 250 in 2014. This photography project attempts to document the impact of a late twentieth century transportation network on an older American city. The City of Saint Louis, MO is comprised of approximately 80 residential neighborhoods. Forty-one of these districts are bounded, sliced, and buried under the concrete and rebar of one or more of the four interstate highways slashing through the Gateway City. Initially conceived as a vital element of the nation's defense, the federal highway system may have inadvertently weakened national security by increasing oil dependence via urban sprawl. Historical Background The confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers is also the confluence of the celebrated Route 66 and the venerable National Road. These became part of the largest public works project in America - the Interstate Highway System. Mapped and discussed as early as 1916, the interstate highway system finally found its champion in Dwight D. Eisenhower. "Ike" recognized the tactical failings of the nation's existing coast to coast road and bridge network while on a cross country military convoy in 1919. The trip's sixty-two day duration made a lasting impression on the young tactician. He envisioned a national defense network that would allow the rapid deployment of troops and ordnance to any point in the country over a paved two lane highway with reliable bridges. Later, his WWII experience broadened the vision from two lanes into an expansive, multi-lane transit corridor similar to Germany's autobahn. President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 into law on June 29. Saint Louis and the Interstate Highway System Interstates 44, 55, 64 and 70 converge in downtown St. Louis as part of a nearly 48,000 mile transportation network. Also, the I-270 beltway crosses the Mississippi River at the Riverview neighborhood in the city. No use crying over spilled gasoline, but while engaged in this project I could not help ask the question "what if the interstate highways had bypassed the urban core instead of blowing through the center of town?" Mission Statement Conjecture and speculation regarding "what if" are not the purpose of this project. The purpose is to create a visual document that might provoke meaningful discussion on the impact of the automobile on American cities. This photo documentary attempts to show the visual legacy of a highway system on a great American city. Some people only glimpse Saint Louis as a blur through a windshield or a diminishing view in a rear view mirror. This story is not unique to Saint Louis. Neighborhoods in many American cities struggled after the interstates blew through on their way to somewhere else. Hundreds of thousands of city residents in Saint Louis alone followed the easy path out of town created by the modern highways. I encourage photographers to take the opportunity to document the impact of the Interstate Highway System on their towns during the road's anniversary year. Maybe someone with vision, influence and resources will be moved to action by an image. Saint Louis and the nation recently benefited from the capping of a short but critical section of the Interstate. The block in question divided the Gateway Arch grounds from the Old Courthouse on the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. A cap over the highway creates a pedestrian-friendly link over a busy section of interstate. Organization of Images This project is a collection of images, not a narrative. The 60 Photos are organized in the following order: The first 12 images are placed chronologically by known date of landmarks. Then next 10 images cover I-70 from east to west. The following 6 images follow I-55 from north to south. The next 4 images explore the scope of the 1-44/55 interchange. Fourteen images follow I-44 in a southwesterly direction from downtown Saint Louis. I-64 is charted from east to west in the next 12 pictures. The last two photos in the series are stand alone images. The I-270 beltway bypasses the urban core on a loop around the edge of Saint Louis County. The final image shows the new cap over a block of 1-44 that now links the Gateway Arch to the Old Courthouse. Sources An online map of Saint Louis neighborhoods at stlouis-mo.gov provided the guide to neighborhoods Caption information that refers to an estimated construction date for specific houses or blocks is copied from a parcel map of the City of St. Louis provided by the Saint Louis Post Dispatch on 2/12/14. Wikipedia provided the dates of landmarks and structures Photography was done without digital compositing of elements. Happy Birthday to Us ! Like the Interstate Highway System, I was also created in 1956. This project is a challenge I gave myself to mark my 60th year. I completed it on the eve of my birthday with the photograph of lightning over the Clayton Ave. overpass in the Hi-Pointe neighborhood. I would like to thank the spirit of Thomas Easterly - an inspirational St. Louis photographer from the nineteenth century - for the lightning. Please explore the other projects posted on this portfolio site by clicking on the "Projects" link at the top of the page. Another original portfolio of Saint Louis images posted here: http://defilippo.photoshelter.com/portfolio/G0000LIm0r8nreE4 MD - 8/28/16 Media Coverage http://www.ai-ap.com/publications/article/19184/photographer-profile-michael-defilippo-theres.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/photo-series-st-louis-freeways_us_57c09eb8e4b04193420f22fd http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/st-louis-photographer-documents-th-year-of-u-s-interstates/article_88acc07a-8702-503c-8b64-02bf40864cc5.html https://www.fastcoexist.com/3063115/these-desolate-photos-show-how-highways-ruined-st-louis-neighborhoods https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/highways-cities-urban-renewal-st-louis-design

The Basilica of Saint Louis, King of Saint Louis, commonly known as the Old Cathedral, is the oldest cathedral west of the Mississippi River. A succession of log churches stood on the spot known as the Cathedral Block from about 1770 until construction began on the Greek Revival-style structure in 1831. The landmark escaped the inferno of the Fire of 1849, the land clearance of 82 acres for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and a brush with the Interstate Highway System in the Downtown neighborhood.
St. Mary of Victories, built in 1843, is the second oldest church in St. Louis. Located in the LaSalle Park neighborhood, it ducked the on ramp to I-44 by a few feet. 
St. Mary of Victories Church, 1843 - 3rd St,, LaSalle Park neighborhood  I-44
 St. Vincent de Paul Church, 1844, LaSalle Park neighborhood, I-44 overpass
Chatillon-DeMenil House, 1848, Benton Park neighborhood,  I-55 
St.Agatha's Church, 1885, Kosciusko neighborhood, I-55
Bissell Water Tower, 1886, College Hill neighborhood, I-70 and North Grand ramp
Compton Hill Water Tower, 1898, Compton Heights neighborhood, I-44
 
 
Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 1899, Hyde Park neighborhood, I-70
Dewey School, 1917, Hi Pointe neighborhood, I-64
Built as a warehouse for JC Penny Company in 1928, this building is currently a hotel. The trompe l'oell mural was designed in 1983 by artist Richard Haas. I -64, Downtown West neighborhood. 
A skater grinds under the new I-70 bridge in the Near North Riverfront neighborhood. The Bissinger's Chocolate factory in the background occupies a former railroad depot built in 1910.

This row house on N.10th St. at Saint Louis Avenue, in the Old North Saint Louis neighborhood, was constructed between 1872-1895. It now faces I-70.

North Market pedestrian bridge at 11th St., I-70
Construction of the red building at 11th St.at Destrehan in the Hyde Park neighborhood is dated between 1872 -1895 . It sits next to an access road to I-70
North Broadway at the Carrie Ave. ramp to I-70 in the North Riverfront neighborhood resembles an open road truck stop more than an inner city street. 
Benny vends assorted used goods from this lot on North Broadway. Interstate 70 forms the boundary between the North Riverfront neighborhood and O'Fallon Park. 
The building at the corner of North Broadway at Withers in the North Riverfront neighborhood dates from sometime between 1848-1871. Tourists hauling mobile homes in a variety of makes and models pass through the ghosts of city homes each day. 
Opened in 1962, the Penrose Park Velodrome is one of 27 velodromes in the US. Interstate 70 creates a boundary between Penrose Park and the Mark Twain neighborhood to the north.  
Interstate 70 divides the Penrose neighborhood on the south from the Mark Twain neighborhood on the north. This view is looking north at Euclid & Bircher from the Penrose neighborhood. 
The New Life Missionary Baptist Church at Plover & Bircher Blvd., Walnut Park East neighborhood was one of seven predominately African American churches in the Saint Louis area that were struck by arson in 2015. It sits on the edge of I-70. 
Saloma Ave. on ramp, Walnut Park West neighborhood,  I-70
Marine Villa neighborhood, I-55
These houses at the dead end of Osceola St., at I-55 in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood were constructed between 1896-1919. 
This house at 4420 Ohio Ave. in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood sits on top of Sugarloaf Mound, the last remaining Indian mound in the City of Saint Louis. Referred to as as the Mound City throughout much of the 19th Century, Saint Louis once had over forty earthen structures built by the Mississippian Culture between 1000 - 1400 AD. Interstate 55 arrived in the area much later. 

I-55 divides the Carondelet neighborhood, 
These houses on Idaho Ave at Loughborough Ave. in the Carondelet neighborhood  were constructed between 1896-1919. They face I-55.
River Des Peres, Boulevard Heights neighborhood, I-55 traffic jam
The interchange for Interstates 55 and 44 gobbled up portions of several neighborhoods for its construction. This is the first of a series of four photos illustrating the impact of this interchange on the City of Saint Louis.
The interchange for 1-44/55 from Lafayette Square toward the Soulard neighborhood. Two of four. 
The off ramp from I-44 S at Tucker Blvd nibbles at the edge of Lafayette Square and obliterates the old Bohemian Hill neighborhood. Here it intersects with Historic US 66, which is Tucker Blvd. to the north and Gravois Ave. to the south. Three of four. 
A view from the Soulard neighborhood at Tucker Blvd to Lafayette Square across the vast expanse of the interchange for I-44 & I-55. Four of four. 

Columbus Square neighborhood looking toward Downtown and Gateway Arch, I-44
This pedestrian bridge links the Soulard and LaSalle Park neighborhoods over I-44 at Carroll Street. 
These houses on Waverley Place in the McKinley Heights neighborhood were constructed between 1872 -1895. Interstate 44 forms the boundary between McKinley Heights and Lafayette Square. They were photographed from Waverley Place in the Lafayette Square neighborhood. 
New  townhouse construction near the interstate highway is rare, but not unknown. This dead end on Oregon at Lafayette in the Gate District neighborhood is a sign of renewal along the perimeter of I-44. The original row houses on the block were constructed between 1872-1895.
One person's vacant lot is another person's green space. A view of the Gate District neighborhood across I-44 from a lot at the corner of California and Geyer in the Fox Park neighborhood. 
Interstate 44 marks the southern border of the Tiffany neighborhood. These houses on Lafayette Ave. just west of Grand Ave. were constructed between 1896-1919.
Interstate 44  cuts through the Shaw neighborhood west of Grand Ave. 

Ornamental roadblocks on Thurman Ave. restrict the underpass of I-44 to pedestrian traffic, linking the Shaw and Botanical Heights neighborhoods. 
Interstate 44 forms the northern border of the Southwest Garden Neighborhood from Tower Grove Ave. to Kingshighway. This lot at Vandeventer and Shaw handles overflow parking for the Missouri Botanical Garden. 
Marconi pedestrian overpass, Hill neighborhood, I-44
I-44 cuts through the Hill neighborhood. View from Marconi overpass between Pattison Ave. and Shaw Ave. 

These houses on McCune & Ivanhoe in the Lindenwood Park neighborhood, were constructed between 1896 and 1919.Interstate 44 splits the block. 
The yellow house on the other side of the interstate is featured in the photo below. 
This house in the Ellendale neighborhood on McCune at the Ivanhoe cut off was constructed between 1872-1895. The continuation of McCune is shown in the photo above. 
This retaining wall of the I-44 underpass at Southwest Ave in the Clifton Heights neighborhood shows buckling from water damage. 
On ramp to I-64 East at 20th.St on left, I-64 on right,  Downtown West neighborhood. 

The Armory occupies the entire block between Prospect and Spring St. on Market St. in the Midtown neighborhood. Estimated date of construction between 1896-1919. It abuts I-64. 
Developers announced a $340 million commercial and residential project in a shuttered foundry along I-64 in the Midtown neighborhood.
Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, I-64
Rico works nearby in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. He likes to relax after work under the overpass of I-64. 
 Forest Park Southeast links to the Central West End via this pedestrian overpass above I-64.
Sylvia Meriwether waits at a bus stop on Oakland Ave. in the Kings Oak neighborhood while traffic on I-64 whizzes by behind her. The green space was once the southern edge of Forest Park before the highway carved a two-mile swath through it. 
This view of a ball field in Forest Park was shot from the Cheltenham neighborhood across I-64. 
Turtle Park, Clayton-Tamm neighborhood, I-64
The apartment buildings in the Clayton-Tamm neighborhood were constructed between 1920-1943, when St. Louis was still a streetcar city. Turtle Park, a creation of sculptor Bob Cassilly, was created in 1996 on a strip of park cut off from the main body of Forest Park by US 40, which eventually became I-64.

The Clayton Ave. overpass is one of the links the Hi=Pointe neighborhood uses to bridge I-64.
 The interchange for I-64 truncates Wise Ave. at McCausland at the city limits as the road heads west - like much of the population. This portion of the street is now a drainage basin on the south side of the interstate. It once held families and memories on its lap. Now it channels run-off from the highway. The homes on Berthold Place that survived the highway were constructed between 1896-1919. 
 Saint Louis City juts north along the river into an odd peninsula shape on Riverview Blvd to the city limits north of I-270. This beltway crosses the Mississippi and creates a fifty-mile outer road around a significant portion of Saint Louis County, merging with I-55 in Mehlville in South St. Louis County. 
The construction of a cap over a one block stretch of I55/70 links the Gateway Arch to the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. This is a baby step in the right direction of repairing the damage the Interstate Highway system has done to one of America's great cities. 
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