Title: Renaissance: A History of the Central West End
Author: Candace O’Connor
Size: 11 x 9
Description: Just as stately trees in Forest Park were coming down to make way for the 1904 World’s Fair, elegant homes—designed by the city’s best architects and occupied by its elite—were springing up on surrounding streets, as a vast building boom began. And that was the start of the St. Louis neighborhood called the Central West End, which quickly grew from a sleepy rural outpost to an address for fashionable people and shops, fine cultural institutions and congregations, high-class hotels and hospitals. That halcyon period did not last, however. Through the years, various factors — the growth of the suburbs, white flight, the cost of maintaining huge homes, the rise of rooming houses, the disheartening effect of smoke and urban smells—drove some of the well-to-do farther west, and the Central West End foundered. Though residents, religious groups, and some politicians tried to stop the slide, fine homes disappeared and hospitals fled. At this point, the Washington University Medical Center also faced a choice: stay or go? They decided to hold their ground and mounted a revitalization effort that succeeded, with the support of the resilient community. Today, the Central West End is again undergoing a boom as condominiums go up, businesses come to life, and historic streets find new vitality. To the east, an exciting biotechnology district, Cortex Innovation Community, is building upon its success. Renaissance: A History of the Central West End traces the Central West End’s cycle over the past century and more: from its stylish start through its dangerous days to its present strength—an urban renewal significant enough that it has earned the name “renaissance.”
Candace O’Connor is a St. Louis author who has written 12 books on regional history and on Washington University and its affiliated hospitals, along with an award-winning documentary that aired on PBS nationally. One forthcoming book is A Legacy of Caring: The History of Barnes Jewish Hospital.