I own an old house in the Shaw Neighborhood of the City of St. Louis, a gorgeous historic neighborhood. The houses are works of art–unique works of stone and brick. My house is especially old, built in 1894. A few days ago, I wondered what is was like to live in Shaw at about the time my house was first built. I posted my thought on a neighborhood list, and received more than a few suggestions. One of those included this link to a page that shows when every house in the St. Louis area was built. Using this page, I can see that when my house was built it was surrounded by large tracts of undeveloped land.
Other people suggested I take a look at drawings by Dry and Compton. I hadn’t heard of this work before, but it was exactly what I was looking for. In 1875, a company called Dry and Compton sent balloonists sailing into the sky with map experts who somehow divided the city into a big grid and then made precise comprehensive drawings of each of section of this grid. The individual drawings can be found in a large old book. I went to the Mercantile Library (at the University of Missouri) last night to take photos of some of the drawings, focusing on my own neighborhood. I then created the attached composite photos of the Shaw Neighborhood, as best I could given that the grids don’t fit together perfectly. The resulting collection of images gave me a very good idea of what the Shaw neighborhood looked like in 1875.
For those familiar with the area, the above image focuses on the Shaw Neighborhood itself, with Tower Grove Park located at the bottom right of the image. To get one’s bearings, note the location of the Compton Heights Reservoir along Grand (with the Water Tower, which would not be built until 1898.
The image below focuses on Tower Grove Park and the area to the south of the park. I love that these resources are available to enable this trip through time. Click on either of these images for much greater detail.