‘Inner St. Louis’

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A century ago, the Commission on Comity of the St. Louis Church Federation surveyed “Inner St. Louis,” the area east of Grand.

This portion of the city, the Protestant ministerial group found, accounted for “half the population, three-fifths of the saloons and four-fifths of the crime.”

The “East End” held the city’s “foreign colonies” and “most of the factories and factory workers.”

The survey, the Post-Dispatch reported on Sept. 25, 1917, found conditions that tend to “weaken the family relationship: Bad housing, many divorces, common-law marriages and other marital irregularities, desertion, nonsupport. Of 15,000 births in the district within a year, 750 were out of wedlock.” 

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The Post-Dispatch, in an editorial on Sept. 26, 1917, pointed out the committee had discovered what was already “a well-known fact” ( — the point of Daniel R. Fitzpatrick’s editorial cartoon on Sept. 27). Noting the survey’s finding that just one-third of the city’s churches were located in “Inner St. Louis,” the editorialist said: “It does seem amazing that the representatives of the Master who preached the gospel of the poor and instructed His followers to preach it to all sorts and conditions of men should concentrate their churches in the district where the well-to-do live and neglect the poor and the heavy-laden.”

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But more than “religious teaching and moral training,” the Post-Dispatch said “Inner St. Louis” needed better housing, increased park and playground space and clean streets and alleys. “The foundation of sound morals and the first step to spiritualization are wholesome physical conditions and decent environment. How can we expect industry and thrift and cleanliness, which are cardinal virtues upon which character is built and religion grows, in filthy shacks, insanitary, packed tenements and dirty streets?”