stork inn

Dutchtown Wanderings

Sunday’s ride was way less of a struggle. Something happened on Saturday night that got me excited and I hope it’s something that comes to fruition. I don’t want to really say much about it yet though. So I was actually excited about going bike riding. I just had to get some sleep first and hopefully wake up early. I don’t set an alarm. Yeah, I know that may be strange but I tend to get up around the same time each day cause I keep a regular sleep schedule all week – not just weekdays.

The first thing was I wanted to go closer to the river and spotted on Google Maps, that Potomac will take you down to 1st Street and you’d be right by the river and to the right would be some rocky bluffs. I had never been down there so I wanted to see for myself. Once I got to Gasconade I would be in the Dutchtown/Mt. Pleasant area. So a good place to start would be around the Lemp Brewery. That was my plan and from there I’d just wander and see where my wheels take me.

Flash forward to Sunday morning, instead of waking up at 6am as usually I overslept until 7am. So not much waking up time where I can lounge and eat breakfast and relax. I wanted to get out. It was also a bit colder than Saturday. Plans are plans and I have the penchant for forcing myself to stick to plans and to force myself to do things I don’t want to do. I do everything according to plan – start at Lemp, hang a left at Broadway and then almost immediately make a right down Potomac. Potomac is all downhill and is great except it’s cold. I’ll warm up though.

firststreet-south1st Street is mostly industry along the river. The reality is I can’t even see the river even though I’m almost right next to it. There are giant white storage tanks. There is not much happening. It is early Sunday morning and it’s Easter. I come upon the rocky bluffs which I start to suspect was actually an old quarry. The rock seems cut and it’s just a small area that is rocky. Go south and north and it’s just a overgrown hill. I do realize though on top of those bluffs is I-55. I can hear the cars and there are billboards planted. I am below the highway. I take some pictures and then head further south. Just more industrial sites and some municipal maintenance related sites. There wasn’t too much to see.

I get to Gasconade and my ride was going to be a living hell for a little bit. While Potomac was downhill, Gasconade is uphill. As I ride around St. Louis, the city is more hilly than many people imagine. If you’re in a car it’s harder to notice. I have a mishap in which my chain dislodges itself. I repair and crank slowly. Breathing or at least trying to. At the top of the hill is a stoplight where I get to rest and catch my breath. Now the wandering begins.

Wandering is typical. That’s what I do. There is no particular route and what I come up upon is surprise. Sometimes I don’t feel like going up a hill, sometimes I see a building that looks promising, maybe I see a soccer game going on at a park, maybe I see a situation I don’t want to go through so I change my route. There are many reasons why I go where I go but many times there just isn’t a pattern. I somewhat loop but it’s a jagged, zig-zag loop. I don’t like out and back.

south-broadwayWhat I always enjoy about the south side is the variety of architecture which changes by neighborhood. Of course some styles you find through many parts of the city. Some neighborhoods are more opulent and others are more simplistic with small less ornament. The thing that ties many together is the use of brick – in the older sections it’s red brick. I rode a lot near South Broadway in the Marine Villa neighborhood, some in Gravois Park and Mt. Pleasant. I’m focusing mostly on Dutchtown even though there were some interesting sights in Marine Villa. Dutchtown isn’t really an area of many Second Empire or victorian styled houses. I find the houses to be more restrained and more of function and smaller. The area used to be a enclave of people from Germany. It’s called Dutchtown not cause Dutch people settled here, it’s cause it a mispronunciation of Deutsch. It should be called Deutschtown. Oh well. I heard the people here used to be called the “Scrubby Dutch” cause the scrubbed their houses – scrubbed the brick and kept their places immaculate. It’s a bit more grimy these days and other than the architecture it’s not really a German neighborhood. However I sense it as a neighborhood of deep German roots and history. It’s a neighborhood of mostly dwellings unlike Marine Villa that has a lot of industry from (former)beer brewing of the Lemp Brewery to operations that depend on the river.

Probably the most significant pieces of architecture on this ride was the Stork Inn on Virginia Ave, Cleveland High School. There were a few random homes that stood out in the area too.

stork innStork Inn wasn’t a random building I happened upon. I knew it was there and since I was near, I thought I’d check it out. The Stork Inn was built in 1910 by Anheuser-Busch as a tavern/restaurant to change the notion of what a tavern was. It was to change the image of taverns from seedy places of drunks to places that were seen as classy places in the time leading up to prohibition. The Stork Inn is a Tudor Revival structure on a triangular wedge of property. It features green glazed brick pilasters where the entrance was, stucco and timber on the second level, and a tower on the northern side (above the entrance). This gives the building the look of old German folk buildings and biergartens. It is quite a focal point in the neighborhood. You can find out almost everything you need to know about this building here.

cleveland-highNot too far away is the old Cleveland High School. It opened in 1915 and was one of the many schools designed by William B. Ittner. It is another focal point in the Dutchtown neighborhood. People describe it as a castle and it does look like a castle with its crenelated towers that serve as a focal point. It features intricate brick patterns, colorful glazed terra cotta panels illustrating various vocations that look medieval. Recently I watched a short feature on the school produced by KETC’s Living St. Louis. If you want to learn more about the school, click to watch.

I rode by Marquette Park and there were men playing a pick-up game of soccer but the area was generally quiet probably because it was a Sunday morning and it was Easter. Unlike most people who were either still sleeping or in Church for Easter activities, I was riding my bike. I was doing the thing that helps fuel my soul, lets me learn history, and inspires my art. In a way it’s like a religion to me.

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