Urban Renewal Church Provides Solid Foundation for Rebirth of Hyde Park

By Patricia Rice Post-Dispatch Religion | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

Urban Renewal Church Provides Solid Foundation for Rebirth of Hyde Park


Patricia Rice Post-Dispatch Religion, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Pink, white and red hollyhocks bob in the summer breeze in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood, an area of tree-lined streets and red-brick, three-story town houses. About 150 years ago, the Mallinckrodts, Angelrods, Herders, Kleins and other German immigrants settled there around Most Holy Trinity Church.

Now, many of their solidly built houses are boarded up, but others are comfortable. Polish-Americans, African-Americans, English-Americans, Mexican-Americans and a handful of German-Americans live side by side in the quiet neighborhood.

And boards are coming off windows of 11 vacant buildings this summer. Two St. Louis County parishes have provided seed money, about $125,000 in cash and pledges, to a developer. By fall, the developer will open the d oors to about 45 low-income families, in apartments or single-family houses. "It's safe to live here . . . It's good they are fixing it up," said 15-year neighborhood resident Mary Pritchard, 52, as she waited for a bus in front of Gus' Market on Blair Street. This summer by 7 a.m. along Mallinckrodt and Destrehan streets, carpenters' power saws and power screwdrivers buzz. They are dividing the high-ceiling rooms to provide modern bathrooms and kitchens. The Episcopal Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton and St. Anselm Catholic Parish in Creve Coeur have promised to provide seed money for a second phase, another 45 family units in 11 additional buildings within a year. There's talk of a third phase. "It's more than housing - it's about making a community," said G. Carroll Stribling Jr., who heads the Episcopal parish's 10-year-old low-income housing program, St. Michael's House. His church gave $80,000 and pledged another $23,000 for the effort. The Clayton parish holds an annual fund drive for the program. St. Michael's joined the Hyde Park effort this winter while completing support of a Tiffany neighborhood housing project. Over the past decade St. Michael's House has given more than $750,000 in seed money for low-income county and city housing. They learned the "domino theory" of building around a stable core, he said. The lesson came the hard way. A couple of single buildings they developed failed because of a scattering of drug houses around them. Several area congregations have combined collection plate offerings and members' sweat equity to build or fix up a single house and seen it deteriorate because it had no neighborhood support. "One trouble with building one house is that it serves so few people, when a whole neighborhood needs a variety of support: education, job training, safety, parish nurses," said the Rev. Michael Vosler, co-pastor of Epiphany United Church of Christ in the Benton Park neighborhood. "Housing is just one part." Last fall, Susan Murray, the developer on the Tiffany project, told Stribling's committee about houses available near some houses charted for redevelopment by St. …

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