Posts Tagged ‘Suburban Decay’

In January, a motorist traveling at a high rate of speed killed a bicyclist in Carrollton. Why was someone doing 68 miles per hour in Carrollton? Because the airport cannot control the streets? Because this driver likely thought nobody would be in his way?

Tragic story of a cyclist who likely wanted to be somewhere free of traffic and a driver who felt like he could speed at will in an abandoned area.

Full article in the link below:


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I’m still going to save all the metaphors and prophetic speech I have saved up for a later post.   For right now, I really feel nothing but peace that it is finally over.

12679 Grandin came down around 2:00 this afternoon, Tues. February 10th.    Together with my good friends, I did in fact photograph and film the whole thing, just as I did my own house.  It was eerily almost exactly like how my own house was destroyed…  A clear day, I raced to get there on time, the feelings of elation as I watched every crushing thrash of the barrel tear through the structure reducing the home to toothpicks and pebbles, it was all the same.  At  the end, the final feelings of sadness that it actually happened after all the wait was a strange reminder of a sunny fall day in October of 2006.   It was also exactly the same time of day.

There are no more homes, but there are the streets with no names, the fading house numbers painted on the curbs, and the street lights illuminating for nobody past the closed gates.     The Chinese Air Shipping hub may be a real possibility for what was once my home, but nobody knows for sure.

All we know is that our homes are now mere memories, and nobody will vandalize them now.

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I went through Carrollton today and 4 of the remaining 5 homes have been torn down in the past week. There is one lone house remaing of the original 2,000.

It is 12679 Grandin. The asbestos has been removed as well as all of the materials that are used during the removal. It looks like the final chapter of Carrollton subdivision will take place with the teardown of the house on Monday. If you would like to pay your respects to the final home and to Carrollton as a whole, please do it today, Saturday, February 7, or on Sunday, February 8, 2009.  Here is where the home is.

If you cannot visit, please post your comments below. Thank you.

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“Our house didn’t have asbestos.”

“The asbestos is only in the floor tile, used for insulation from the radiant heat.”

“They only put those asbestos stickers on those houses to keep people out.”

“Those early asbestos testing crews are a joke.  They’re just getting paid to raid the houses.”

I heard it all, but it all sounded so reassuring… that there was little to no asbestos blowing around in Carrollton and I was fairly safe wandering around the homes of Carrollton taking pictures.

Then, work completely stopped in Carrollton from March 08 until late November 08.   When work began, they started a labor-intensive stripping down of the homes along Pont Ave. to the wood 2×4 studs.   This was done painstakingly slow, home by home, one at a time.   Only 6 houses were cleared down to the studs in this fashion eating much of the time in the last three weeks.  Houses were sealed in plastic and taped off in every possible air duct to the outside world.  Workers wore an incredible amount of protective gear.   The amount of plastic used made these homes appear scarier than the house at the end of E.T.

New asbestos abatement

The problem is, I went through every one of those houses without my own spacewoman suit, without any plastic coating and masks, taking my photos as they were.   I didn’t linger long inside any one place, but why didn’t Lambert do this kind of clean asbestos removal before if the problem is so bad?   None of the other houses had this kind of intense asbestos removal, but now that Lambert lost a lawsuit, they are suddenly concerned for the environment and people around the buildings?

So the two big questions now are:

  • Why were the houses left completely unlocked, open and vacant for years with so many people hanging out, playing around when there is a potential for danger?
  • So what is going to happen to all those demolition workers, the vandals, the curious onlookers like me who were near those houses in disrepair with no protection?

I stood outside my own home’s demolition and breathed in the dust of my bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and more.   Later, I photographed and filmed a number of demolitions in the neighborhood.  Is it going to kill me?   What about the workers?   What about my friends of Jones’ Demolition?   Those poor guys didn’t have much protection and they took down probably over a third of Carrollton.  Those gentlemen told me that Carrollton is where they spent the better part of their days for the past 15 years.  When they were taking down the houses, they were told to use water to keep the dust down.  I’m not exactly sure if they were told exactly what was in that dust that was needed to be watered down.  They didn’t wear respirators when I saw them working.   What will happen to them?   Why now is asbestos only now a major problem when EVERY home in Carrollton was built by Fischer and Frichtel at the same time with the same materials, and nothing was done to contain it for FIFTEEN YEARS? (more…)

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In a town where there is nothing around but empty streets and empty shops, those left will empty out… only empty people will fill back in.

I was in the 7th grade when Northwest Plaza, directly across the street from our school on St. Charles Rock Road, reopened as a stylish, modern indoor shopping center.  When our family finally got a chance to go inside the fresh new mall, all I can remember from my 12 year old perspective is how crazy crowded it was.  We waited hours for our turn to play mini-golf in the Tilt.  I remember thinking how terrible the colors were, but I was no fan of pink and purple back then.   Everyone else seemed to like it, including my sister who couldn’t get enough of the place.

By the time I was in high school, my friends and I drove miles away to the Galleria to avoid the place.  Our families forbade us to enter that mall, and it was one rule we all loyally obeyed.

Shortly after Northwest Plaza opened, fights broke out and people were hurt.   Some were even killed.  Many St. Louisians swear it was a race issue, but those of us who lived close enough knew all races were involved in the scuffles and warfare in some fashion.   The decline of Northwest had more to do with demographics and bad management than race.   The middle class suburbs surrounding the mall was disappearing and deteriorating while the management did nothing to keep attractions while uncontrolled large groups kept coming to the mall.   In 20 years, the only updating done was the addition of gaudy, badly designed, sculpture-like eyesores which were supposed to be mall signs off Lindbergh and the Rock Road in 1996.   Even those were tossed out around 2002.   Nothing, not even a fresh coat of paint was added to the inside.   They never even bothered to change the very dated early 90s colors.   Stores continually shuttered, despite allowing anchor stores remain rent-free.  Now, two anchors are gone and the rest are threatening to leave.

Probably the most major contributing factor of the decline of NWP:  Just to the northwest of Northwest Plaza, the mall’s largest customer base of over 5,000 middle-class suburban residents during this exact time period were in ythe process of being forced out of their homes due to Lambert’s short-sighted runway expansion plan.   Well over half of Carrollton’s residents were gone by 1998, so it makes perfect sense that 10 years later, the area mall is in serious enough trouble to finally catch some media attention.  Problem is, the mall was in serious trouble back in 1998.  Denial is a big problem in general in the Lou…  just ask what our friends over at Lambert told us after TWA folded.   You guys still need a great giant runway with some houses in the way despite no hub?  No problem!

Many still believe St. Ann, Bridgeton’s neighbor to the east and the home for NWP, is still very much a safe, mild suburban homestead as it was just maybe a dozen or so years ago.  I really do wish that were true, but I have seen enough otherwise.   Since the late 1960s, my grandparents lived within walking distance from the mall.  A few months before my grandmother’s death in 1996, she was robbed at gunpoint at a store in St. Ann.   After stealing from her and the store, the robber shoved her frail body into the ground, causing great injury.  All this during broad daylight in the middle of the week.   I still have the watch she wore that day, with deep gouges in the face from where her body was thrown into the concrete ground.  My grandfather had taken up a job at the Wal-Mart between their house and the mall to keep himself busy after her death.   While at the Wal-mart, he helped to stop a $2000 crack deal.   He had many, many other issues with drug-related incidents near his home in his last days.  Do I trust the city of St. Ann?  No.   Do I trust that they should rebuild the mall, with Wal-Mart attached?  No.  Sorry St. Ann, you have far worse problems to take care of than to give a $96 million TIF project to rebuild Northwest Plaza.   The good people who just want to shop are gone.   What is left has become a wasteland.  You can thank Lambert in part for your troubles.

Munincipalities whose neighbors are in trouble over shaky deals or bad planning, WILL come back and affect them in some shape or form.    I hope that this is a lesson in community leadership and neighborhood cooperation.   It is important to pay attention to what happens behind the fence in your backyard.  You never know when something might come out and bite you.   St. Ann too has been rerouted, inconvienced, and now has no major destination within for its people.  That once quaint little municipality now has streets filled with Payday loan stores, trashy lingere, porn, pawn shops, rental shops and gun stores.  I would hate, absolutely hate to see Bridgeton turn into the new Jennings with its own Northland Shopping Center problems.  I will soon probably not drive through as much.  I already avoid my hometown at night.

One last little thing…  a few months ago,  I decided to poke around and photograph the area around the Lemp brewery, with all its grand desolation and decay.   It was shortly after the In-Bev buyout, and a friend made a comment about how, perhaps in 20 years, we’d be poking around an abandoned Anheiseur-Busch factory in this same way.   It seemed like such a far cry I laughed him off… how could AB, the staple of STL close down?

After today’s layoff of 1,000 of the 6,000 the St. Louis A-B workers, I see it very possible.  My heart goes out to you folks for such a terrible loss of your livelihood and the city’s livelihood.  Right before the holidays is such a callous move… I wish  I could slap the faces of every AB sell-out stockholder who is responsible for the possible economic collapse of St. Louis.  We’re on our way of becoming the next Detroit.   Bridgeton is just a microcosm of what is happening.  BTW St. Louisians… Why the **** are we not rioting in the streets over this yet?!?  Are we that broken already that we can’t get our **** together and start knocking down the A-B boardroom doors demanding answers?   Or, did we already send the Clydesdales off to the glue factory?

This collapse is going to be extremely detrimental to STL.  Don’t believe me, then Google how many organizations rely on A-B donations and grants to survive.  Belgium doesn’t give a rats ass what happens in our corner of the world, and they proved it today.

Start drinking Schlafly.

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Shortly after my last post, I wandered around Carrollton, and discovered that, back in the far reaches of the subdivision the blackened concrete foundation of 4217 Manteca was nothing more than a freshly buried mound of dirt.  Nothing more is left to indicate that a grand two story house once existed on that very spot.

A short walk down the street, and I also noticed that the burned out remains of 12893 Bittick was also finally laid to rest under its own graded dirt pile.   I can’t say enough that its about time the demolition work has started.  In some cases the houses remained as dangerous blackened shells for 8 months.

Since my walk that Saturday, all of the remaining burned houses have been cleared completely away.

12713 Asherton was destroyed and graded soon after the Manteca and Bittick houses.

12736 Woodford Way was cleaned up around November 14th.  12752 Lonsdale was cleared probably the same time.

4232 and 4245 Manteca were both cleared on November 18th.

4245 and 4247 Brampton were both cleared sometime last week around the 20th.

12634 and 4111 Weskan were cleared on November 24th.  4050 Chartley was also cleared.

Finally, a favorite of mine, 4219 Chartley was destroyed just yesterday or even this morning, November 26th, 2008.   It was not previously a burned up house… that is, until this past weekend.   On Sunday, Nov. 23rd, I noticed that it was burned down to its foundation.   By Wednesday, all that remained of the last house on Chartley was cleared away to nothing more than dirt.   I’m even working on a painting right now that incorporates this house and I was hoping to perhaps get a couple more so I can finish the work.

What is interesting to me is how this house was cleaned out to begin the complex and expensive asbestos work.   Days after the house was prepped, it burned down to its foundation.  (Which is standard now -the fire department simply allows for these vacant houses to burn completely down since there is nothing around anymore).   Its been months since any arson, so why now all of a sudden is very strange.   Rather than having to undergo complicated asbestos removal, which includes stripping the entire interior down to the 2×4 studs, the arsonists did the airport a favor.   I’m not pointing fingers nor do I want to even give the illusion that I am accusing anyone of anything.  However, I do think the fires have saved the cash-strapped airport a few dollars.  Its also interesting how they are doing the asbestos work first on the houses in the high profile area near Pont, and seem to be saving the ones in the back of the subdivision for later.

All 6 houses in the Pont/Gladwyn area has undergone a total asbestos stripping, and the remaining 7 on the other side are being prepared for the process as well.   This is due in part to the lawsuit the aiport lost by the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center representing former Carrollton residents.   The residents were concerned that the wet method being used by the airport was not adequately keeping asbestos out of the air and surrounding environment.   As it is to be expected by anything that deals with the judicial system, it  took so long for the case to close that the last residents left over a year ago.  Yet, the lawsuit now will call for the remaining material to be removed in the safest way possible.  How much asbestos was in any of the homes seems to be the biggest and most worrisome mystery of all. The downside to the lawsuit is that the area may now be considered contaminated… which means seeing Carrollton become a park is becoming more impossible and a permanent closure of the land may be the reality.

I’ll explain more about the asbestos issues in my next post, which I plan to write later this week.

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In the past month, I have seen more gates go up and my hopes grow ever more sour regarding the remaining homes being demolished in the proper manner in a timely fashion.

Lambert, thank you for finally starting work again, even if it has been 8 months and dragged out for too many years.

This weekend, the evidence is ripe that demolition work is going to begin again.  The familiar orange sewer cap stickers were placed on a few homes with front yards freshly dug up.   The word “clear” has been freshly spray painted on the driveways from the various residential utility companies in the area.  A fire hydrant use permit for my friends at Jones Excavating and Demolition Co. is wrapped around a hydrant on Pont.  The asbestos removal trucks have removed all unwanted debris and thoroughly cleared out any asbestos containing insulation and tiling out of a couple of the houses on Pont.

I walked around Carrollton for hours this past fine weekend, and I am glad that, finally, in the beauty of the fall colors, its starting to look like maybe there will be an end for the homes in the near future.   It was a bittersweet weekend, and I have to admit how much I wish all of this was a non-issue and Carrollton was just a normal suburban neighborhood with magestic large red, orange and yellow trees.   Empty of its residents, nature can and already has in many aspects settle in and reclaim.   If you were to drive through Carrollton now and take in the perfection of the colors from this season from the tall and magnificant trees left by the residents, you too would want to see this place converted into a park for the enjoyment of all.

I will write more later about my weekend observations, but the important thing for you to do is to a) go vote tomorrow, b) go and take a drive through Carrollton during the peak color time, and c) demand that beautiful places be returned to the people and to nature.

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…30 down and 26 left to go.

Its been an immensely fascinating year for me to deeply observe the last fragments of my dying neighborhood.   I’ve watched its last residents move on, and then come back to visit in tears.  I watched as abandoned homes were torched to blackened holes.   I’ve befriended the demolition crews who took my own home and learned of the human side of some of the Lambert officials.  I’ve stopped and talked to former residents who scavenge the plots of their beloved homeland.  I’ve been chased out by fast cars of wicked people up to no good.  I’ve been followed around by yellow Lambert trucks who think I am up to no good.   I’ve been waved at and begged to for directions on how to get out of this scary, desolate place they accidentially wandered into.  I’ve helped a carload of teenagers try and fix a tire in the night.  I’ve yelled at a man digging up a beautiful maple tree in the backyard of one of my favorite homes.   I’ve driven through in a hurry ‘just to see.’   I’ve sat for hours on the grassy hillsides listening to the eerie silence in the minutes between the hallowed sounds of jets turbines close overhead.    After all this, I am still inexplicably drawn to the area.

I’ve also been surprised and humbled by the large numbers of visitors to this modest site.  At first, I figured this would be just a place to keep notes about my time in Carrollton’s last years.  Instead it has become a calling to the residents to learn whats new and whats left in Carrollton.  Its inspired me to not just keep a blog but to write a book about this particular place and the effects of eminent domain on families and communities in general.   I have learned so much about the community already and I have so much more to learn about the fascinating and humble history of the area.  I cannot thank enough all the people who have read this site, written to me, commented, and contributed their own stories and images of life growing up in this unique town.

Access to the majority of the neighborhood will soon be cut off.    The gates, the band-aid on this gushing wound, are going up on more streets than I had predicted.   In the past couple weeks, I found it amusing how I could drive around and lazily end up on the backside of one of their two-screw aluminum traps.  We joked about the stupidity of the gate’s placements.  For example, they put a gate on Turon Court-  A street that was only 1/16th of a mile at most, both ends intersecting into Celburne.  It had maybe 5 houses on the whole street, yet they gated both ends of this tiny loop.  In the coming days, however, the only streets that will remain open are Woodford Way, part of Celburne, Brampton, and Hemet for access to O’Connor Park.   My own street of Brumley now has poles, ready for its set of gates.

They are going to leave the remaining houses to rot away behind the gates.   Hide it from the public and it all will go away.   The argument could be made that it is Lambert’s land and if they choose to close off the streets, it is their business.  In fact, I truly do understand and support that notion.  I would completely be ready for the street closures if Lambert were to do one thing… finish this and demolish all the remaining homes first.   Behind the gates, some of them could sit for years without notice.   What a sad and demoralizing fate for the owners of those homes who already went through so much to lose them in the first place.   Once again, Lambert fails to do the respectful and honorable thing for the residents they threw out.   Just like the new runway itself, Lambert’s gates on the streets of Carrollton are a short-sighted plan guaranteed to create more problems in the end.

My postings to this site will probably be more erradic given that access will be extremely limited and the grinding halt of any other activity in the area.  It doesn’t feel like there is a conclusion to this story yet, not at least while there are still houses standing.  We only know snippets of the possible fate of Carrollton as a Chinese air-shipping yard, but even that can change given this fretful economy.

Meanwhile, I will continue to organize the information I have gathered, and wait and see what will happen. One last thing I’ve been sitting on for a while.  There is one last landowner in Carrollton, a family friend of ours.   When he bought property in Carrollton for Fischer & Frichtel to build, he neglected to build on one strip of land he purchased.  That particular bit of land has its own address separate from his adjacent home address, which was destroyed last winter.   Evidentially, Lambert was unaware of this land deed, and he did not go out of his way to make mention of it until demo crews attempted to remove some of his property.  As far as I know he still has the title to this bit.  I think gating off his street might be a tad bit illegal since he technically still owns his land.   Beautiful indeed.

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Today I was looking at the St. Louis Beacon website, which had an interesting article about the past and future of Lambert, including finances and future planning.

From the article, I found some eye-opening statements from Lambert’s current director, Richard Hrabko.

This is a statement from the article quoting Mr. Hrabko, enthusiastically discussing the possibility of a St. Louis-China air shipping hub.

“Just imagine a trail of 747s coming in and out of here, hauling freight from China,” he said. “We have the capacity to do it. No question. And we think we have much better capacity than any place else in the U.S., including Chicago, which is really the main competition.”

Also from the article,

He said Lambert also has “several thousand acres” on which to build distribution facilities and other supporting infrastructure for a cargo hub.

Could the ‘several thousand acres of land’ be the airport’s vacant land on the I-170 side of the airport, or could this statement be in reference to the former Carrrollton subdivision?  Where exactly do they expect to build this shipping hub?   How will daily air shipments of Chinese goods really benefit our local economy?

Another damning quote from the article.

Hrabko said of the new runway,”Obviously was something that we wouldn’t build today.”

This should have been obvious in 2001, when they barely started the project and the whole airline industry tanked.

The article also mentions that the airport, in general is financially stable, but does have long-term obligations to pay off the runway expansion and that they could be in better shape.

Obviously.  They can’t even tear down 26 houses.

Of course, the best thing to do with the empty space that was once my home is a temporary resting hold for cheap Chinese goods.  Crates of disposable plastic bouncy balls bound for Wal-Mart might one day be stacked where my bedroom once was.  What an odd and sad thought.

I want to start a petition to turn Carrollton into a state park much like the former Times Beach subdivision was turned into a state park.

Here’s a link to the full article on the St. Louis Beacon’s website. Thank you to the Beacon for your in-depth report.

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First, the goat. Yes. A goat. We found her (she had udders) living in the only house on Manteca.  The reaction: “Holy Sh*t, there’s a goat!” Of course, I did not believe it when my eyes met the white and brown spotted creature staring blankly out the front door. I swore it was a statue. Until, she moved… and walked around the house. I kept taking photo after photo at this beyond-strange anomaly, completely baffled about how a goat wound up living at 4228 Manteca. Did it stray from a farm off Missouri Bottom Road? Was it abandoned, left here to fend for itself off of Carrollton’s vastly mowed acreage? The udders made me most worried about it… where was her kid? How long ago did she have it? She also had some bands around her legs which were also of great concern for her past conditions, where ever she came from. She was no stranger to humans, but she didn’t trust us enough to get within arms’ reach. She watched us for a long time, then turned and went into the basement.

So I left our new friend, but not without leaving a message with the Missouri Humane Society to let them know about a stray goat in an abandoned subdivision. I decided to take my usual exit route through Asherton. Once again my eyes were lost in the vast blankness of the area until my eyes rested at the shiny silver gates that blocked our exit from Asherton onto Brampton.

“When did this get here?”

“How did we get on the wrong side of the gate?”

“I don’t know….”

“Did we pass any others?”

“There were no others… we came in off of Natural Bridge!”

Yup, directly in front of us was a gate that, once I got out and inspected the sign facing Brampton, it said, “Road Closed. No Trespassing. Property of City of St. Louis.” They must have put up late in the first week of September. The odd thing is, we were on the wrong side of this gate, and we certainly did not see or go through any other gates until this very point. So I did the only thing legally I thought I should- take the car over the grass and go around it to the correct side. I stopped and took some shots. There were gates on the next street, Lyford, both ends of Marburn Ct., then posts on Chartley and open gates on Woodford Way at Weskan. As I drove around more, we saw gate posts at Ellisnore, Celburne at Allenhurst, and both sides of Chartley from Celburne. So more gates are coming and soon there will be more areas in which we can no longer access. (more…)

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