Better Divided - The Repugnant Past

The municipal borders of St. Louis have not only dragged down our economy but also perpetuated a tense and ugly history of inequity. Below are excerpts from the University of Iowa Professor Colin Gordon's Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City.

"This pattern of governance is greater St. Louis was accomplished quite purposefully; it was, in Terrence Jones's apt phrase, fragmented by design.' This fragmentation, in turn, facilitated and invited a prolonged pattern of local piracy as political units sought to maximize local wealth and tax bases while minimizing any claims that might be made on them. This pattern--enshrined in local realty, zoning taxes, and economic development policies--pitted municipality against municipality and (more generally and starkly) the suburbs against the older central city." Mapping Decline (45-46)

"Of 86 St. Louis County Municipalities in 1957, only 33 had more than one paid police officer, only 17 had full-time fire personnel, and only 2 (Clayton and University City) had their own health departments." Mapping Decline (43)

"Private real estate restrictions crowded some (in St. Louis largely African American) residents into a few older neighborhoods while effectively barring their escape to the suburban fringe. Municipal zoning replicated and reinforced this logic, creating a metropolitan centrifuge of exclusive land-use regulations that drew both private wealth and public tax capacity from the central city." Mapping Decline (9)

St. Louis Real Estate Exchange:
"Whereas it is to the mutual benefit and advantage of all parties of the First Part to preserve the character of said neighborhood as a desirable place of residence for persons of the Caucasion Race and to maintain the value of their respective properites...[and] whereas the St. Louis Real Estate organized to promote the interests of the property owners of the City of St. Louis and is, therefore, in thorough sympathy with such purpose and desires to cooperate in the establishment of said restrictions..." Mapping Decline (79)

Fundamentals of Real Estate Practice 1943:
“The prospective buyer might be a bootlegger who would cause considerable annoyance to his neighbors, a madam who had a number of Call Girls on her string, a gangster who wants a screen for his activities by living in a better neighborhood, a colored man of means who was giving his children a college education and thought they were entitled to live among whites….No matter what the motive or character of the would-be purchaser, if the deal would instigate a form of blight, then certainly the well-meaning broker must work against its consummation.” Mapping Decline (83)

St. Louis Real Estate Exchange:
"Our Board of Directors wishes to call your attention our rule that no Member of our Board may, directly or indirectly, sell to Negroes, or be a party to a sale to Negroes, or finance property for sale to or purchase by Negroes, in any block, unless there are three separate and distinct buildings in such block already occupied by Negroes...This rule is of long standing, and has our interpretation to be directly associated with Article 34 of the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Real Estate Boards." Mapping Decline (86)