History Lesson Research on Neighborhood Wins Awards for Students

Article excerpt

AS BULLDOZERS began to demolish Evans Place in Brentwood earlier this year, two teen-agers, Carrine "Nikki" Allen and Recardo Gibson, looked for a written history of their 90-year-old neighborhood.

They found none.

This neighborhood had been their home for nearly two decades. They had skated on Black Creek. They had played ball on empty lots. They had talked with friends outside until the street lights came on. Now, Nikki and Recardo and more than 200 other people had to move. Developers had bought more than 100 small, frame houses in the historic black neighborhood to make way for a $170 million shopping and office complex at the southeast corner of Highway 40 (Interstate 64) and Interstate 170. The project, called Promenade At Brentwood, is being built by ORIX Real Estate Equities Inc. of Chicago and Sansone Group of Clayton. "With the death of the community, the history would die as well," said Nikki and Recardo, both 17 and both juniors at Brentwood High School. So they compiled the history themselves. They photographed buildings, interviewed several dozen residents, copied newspaper articles and gathered census figuresa "As former residents, we felt it was our duty to tell the story of Evans Place, which was the predominant black influence on Brentwood," they wrote. "We wanted to show what could happen to any community." Their research won four prizesp in a Missouri History Day competition last month. They have qualified for the National History Day competition June 15-19 at the University of Maryland at College Park.w Nikki and Recardo did their work for a 20th-century world history class taught by Maryann Shephard. Four of Shephard's other students also won prizes in the state history competition for other research projects. Shephard said: "We were bowled over. We are very proud of them." Brick By Brick Nikki and Recardo turned to residents and city directories to learn the early history of the neighborhood. They found that Evans Place probably got its name from the Evens and Howard Fire Brick Co., a business listed in an 1880 city directory. They learned that the company had employed many residents of the Evans Place neighborhood, and many people had moved to Evans Place to work for the company. The brickyard workers would go to lunch at Mamma Dukes, a restaurant and confectionery that Ardella Dukes operated from a house on Rose Avenue. A relative also ran a beauty shop there. Evans Place had its own churches and a school, L'Ouverture School, which opened in 1925 but closed 33 years later because of integration. Nikki and Recardo visited the St. Louis County Government Center to examine St. Louis County neighborhood maps. At first, they were unable to find some streets on the Evans Place map. They turned a few pages and found the streets in a subdivision called Howard Place established in 1907. They found Evans Place had been two communities - Howard Place and Evans Place. …