top of page

THE VILLE: Then, Now & Tomorrow

Just listen.........

Just beautiful.

"Get stuff poppin'!"

(INTRO VIDEO by Hien Luu-University of Notre Dame. Music by Andrew Bird/YouTube)

 

The Ville is bounded by St. Louis Avenue, Sarah Street, Taylor Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive.

The Ville, in St. Louis, was once the heart of the African American community in St. Louis. At a time when Black Wall Street was becoming reknowned in major cities like Tulsa, Buxton and Harlem, The Ville was thriving in its own right.

“Institutions like the Annie Malone beauty factory,

Homer Phillips Hospital and Harris Stowe, the 1st African American college,

ensured that the Ville would be an elite African American community in St. Louis

and one of the most prosperous black neighborhoods in the nation.

Not surprisingly the Ville was also the center of

African American cultural life in St. Louis through the 1950s.” (Wartts)

After housing discrimination was deemed unconstitutional, white residents decided to bypass the Supreme Court decision by creating informal agreements with neighbors, property owners and real estate agencies. The Ville became the residential and business district for African Americans in St. Louis when these restrictive covenants were placed on families trying to buy homes in the city. However, as a result of this segregation the community was strengthened. With everything they needed within access, parents were able to raise confident children partially sheltered from the explicit racism on the outside.

 

Prior to becoming known as "The Ville", it was Elleardsville. In the early nineteenth century the first permanent white settlers arrived in The Ville area, most of them from Virginia and Kentucky. The streets are named after many of them: Kennerly; Wash (now Whittier); Goode (now Annie Malone Drive); and Taylor. Charles Elleard, a horticulturist from California, came to St. Louis in the 1860s and established his nursery on Goode Avenue. After the Civil War ended in 1865, St. Louisans escaping the congestion of the city moved into the Ville. In the 1870s, when the German and Irish St. Louisans began to move into Elleardsville, only a few African American families were “allowed” to live in the area. The families that could afford to live there opened The Elleardsville Colored School No. 8 (later renamed Simmons School) in 1873 for their children.

By the 1880s, after more African Americans started moving into the area, the community experienced a period of “white flight”. The neighborhood became affectionately known by the remaining residents as “The Ville.”

Excerpt above from "The Ville, St. Louis, Missouri (Black America Series) by John A. Wright"

In 1910, Sumner High School, named after the Massachusetts abolitionist and Senator, opened to the teens of the Ville after black parents petitioned the St. Louis school board to relocate the current school away from the pool rooms, saloons and prostitution downtown.