The African-American Heritage of St. Louis: A Guide

The Ville

Bounded on the north by St. Louis Avenue, on the east by Sarah Street, on the south by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (formerly Easton Avenue), and on the west by Taylor Avenue.

An historical neighborhood of St. Louis, now populated almost entirely by African Americans, the Ville was originally called Elleardsville, named after the estate and nursery of Charles Elleard. This area was annexed into the City of St. Louis in 1876. Although a number of black churches, schools, and businesses were located in the area in the 1880s, it remained racially mixed until after restrictive covenants and other segregating housing practices of the early 20th century prohibited African Americans from living in many other areas of the city.

The Ville was home to such important African American institutions as Sumner High School, Simmons School, Turner School, and Stowe Teachers College, Poro College, and the Annie Malone Children's Home and Homer G. Phillips Hospital. An almost self-contained enclave of middle-class blacks, the Ville contained the homes of community worker, educators, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. It developed neighborhood traditions, festivals and entertainments. The Annie Malone May Day Parade continues to exemplify the community spirit of the neighborhood. The area produced many prominent social activists, writers, educators, entertainers, and politicians.

Such organizations as the Greater Ville Historic Development Corporation, 4206 Kennerly, the Northside Preservation Commission, 5647 Delmar Boulevard, and other community organizations support the restoration and preservation of the area and represent the political and social interests of the community.

18.     Annie Malone Children's Home
        2612 Annie Malone Drive (formerly Goode Avenue)
The Annie Malone Children's Home was founded in 1888 as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home by Mrs. Sarah Newton, who aroused the interest of other black women in the community to create a home to care for orphans, half-orphans, neglected and dependent children. The Home at that time was located at 1427 North Twelfth Street. A new building for the home was constructed at its present site at Goode, Kennerly, and Cottage in 1922, with a gift of money and land from the self-made millionaire, Mrs. Annie Turnbo Pope Malone. The home was renamed in her honor in 1946.

At present the Annie Malone Home serves children who are abused, dependent or otherwise neglected. It also provides family therapy with the goal of reuniting broken households, provides therapeutic education for children with behavioral and learning disorders, and promotes adoption and foster care placement and support services. It is supported by the United Fund and by the Annie Malone May Day Parade, held on the last Sunday in May.

Expanded facilities at the Annie Malone Children's Home were dedicated in May 1991. After a $5-million renovation program, the five-story Nurse's Residence of the former Homer G. Phillips Hospital is being used to extend the facilities and services provided by the Anne Malone Children's Home.

19.     Antioch Baptist Church
        West North Market Street at Goode Avenue
Antioch Baptist Church, incorporated in 1884, moved to this location in The Ville in 1920. Under the direction of its pastor, the Reverend James E. Cook, who was also director of the Pine Street YMCA, the church was active in social, political, and economic programs during the post-World War II era and in the civil rights movement.
20.     Homer G. Phillips Hospital
        2601 Whittier Street
The hospital, established for the care of "the indigent sick of the Negro population," was named for attorney Homer G. Phillips, who first came to St. Louis in 1915 after graduating from Howard University Law School. Phillips was instrumental in gaining passage of the bond issue which included seed money for the proposed northside hospital. He did not live to see the completion of the new facility; he was shot to death in a never-solved murder which occurred on June 18, 1931.

Work on the hospital, designed by city architect Albert A. Osburg as an Art Deco brick complex, began September 14, 1932. The hospital's cornerstone was laid on November 30, 1933, by Mayor Bernard Dickmann. The finished hospital was dedicated on February 22, 1937, by Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. The dedication was witnessed by a crowd of approximately three thousand onlookers.

Homer G. Phillips Hospital trained a large number of black doctors and nurses who practiced throughout the country and helped make St. Louis a medical center of worldwide fame.

Other hospitals which served the African American population of St. Louis before integration were Provident Hospital, opened in 1894 (it became the People's Hospital in 1918); City Hospital No. 2, dedicated in 1918; and St. Mary's Infirmary, opened in 1933. Phillips replaced City Hospital No. 2. Black patients were also treated in segregated sections of other public and private hospitals.

Homer G. Phillips Hospital was closed on August 17, 1979.

21.     St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church
        4301 St. Ferdinand Avenue
St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1884 to serve African Americans who were moving into The Ville. The first church, a frame structure, was built at St. Ferdinand and Pendleton. The present structure was built in 1950-51. The church remains a center of social activity in the community.

The James House, the senior-citizen apartment complex sponsored by St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, is located across the street from the church at 4310 St. Ferdinand on a site of historic significance - the location of the former Poro College.

Poro College was established in 1917 by Mrs. Annie Turnbo Pope Malone to train beauticians in the proper application of the Poro System of cosmetics and hair products for African American women and to instruct salespersons in the marketing of the line. The Poro system was known not only in the United States, but had international operations in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Philippines. Mrs. Malone employed over 150 persons in her business. The college was also used as a community location for professional and social gatherings. Malone also established a finance company which offered home mortgages and loans for businesses.

In 1930 Malone relocated to Chicago where she continued her successful business enterprises. The Poro College was sold and became a hotel in 1931. In 1937 the site was leased to the Lincoln Law School to train blacks denied admission to the University of Missouri Law School. In 1965, St. James purchased the Poro building. Poro College was razed and today is the site of James House.

The James House was a project started in the 1960s under a "turnkey project" sponsored by the Office of Housing and Urban Development of the federal government. St. James AME Church raised $45,000 toward the construction cost $2,700,000. The James House, which is administered by the St. Louis Housing Authority, provides residences for the self-sufficient elderly. The James House was officially opened on September 19, 1971.

22.     Simmons School
        4318 St. Louis Avenue
Tax-supported public education was only extended to African American children in St. Louis after the Civil War in 1866. In 1873 a two-room frame school was established for black children on Claggett Avenue, on the present site of Simmons School, which was at that time in St. Louis County. after the city boundaries were extended in 1876, the school became City School #8. The enlarged school was renamed in 1891 in honor of Dr. William J. Simmons, a Baptist clergyman, educator, and author of "Men of Mark". A new building replaced the tow-room structure in 1899.

The current building was designed by architect William B Ittner. The original east wing was built in 1898, with the central portion added in 1911 and the west wing in 1929-30.

23.     Sumner High School
        4248 West Cottage Avenue
Sumner, opened in 1875, was the first high school for black students west of the Mississippi. At that time only 76 of its 411 students were at the high school level. Originally at Eleventh and Spruce streets, the school was also housed in a larger building at 15th and Walnut streets in 1895 before it moved to the Cottage Street address in 1910. The first black students to graduate from Sumner in 1885 were John Pope and Emma Vashon. Well-known Sumner graduates include opera star Grace Bumbry; local TV anchor and author Julius Hunter; comedian Dick Gregory; and tennis great Arthur Ashe, Jr. [1943-1993].

Sumner is named for Charles Sumner, a United States senator from Massachusetts. In 1861 Senator Sumner was the first prominent politician to urge full emancipation. Sumner died in 1874, the year before Sumner High School opened.

The school's Georgian Revival building was designed by St. Louis architect William B. Ittner.

24.     Tandy Park
        Located between Newstead and Goode, Cottage and St. Ferdinand

Tandy Park is named for Captain Charlton Hunt Tandy (1836-1919), a black
Civil War veteran, who became captain of "Tandy's Saint Louis Guard," a
state militia composed of black volunteers recruited by Tandy.  After
the Civil War, Tandy used his prominent position to increase the rights
and opportunities for African Americans.  He was instrumental in
establishing the high school for blacks in Jefferson City that later
became Lincoln University; in getting the appointment of black teachers
and principals in St. Louis public schools; and in assisting poor black
emigrants from the South who came to St. Louis.  Tandy spent his last
days as the Republican committeeman for the city's Tenth Ward.

In 1866 Tandy worked to enforce the court order allowing blacks to ride inside public transportation vehicles. He prevented drivers from passing waiting black passengers by grabbing the reins and holding the horse until black and white passengers alike were allowed to board. Tandy was arrested for this action, but supported by Erastus Wells, the streetcar line owner, who paid his fine and said that blacks should be permitted to sit anywhere on the street cars.

The Tandy Recreational Center at 4206 Kennerly Avenue is named in his honor.

25.     Turner Middle School
        2615 Billups Avenue
The present Turner Middle School is the site of the former Stowe Teachers College, a teacher training institution for black female students. Originally established as the Normal Department in 1890, Stowe was an adjunct of Sumner High School. In 1924 its curriculum was increased to a four-year degree program. In 1929 the school was renamed for abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

In 1931 Stowe allowed young men and women to take courses offered to college freshmen and sophomores. This program was continued as the junior college division of Jefferson City's Lincoln University.

A new building was opened at Cottage, Pendleton, and Kennerly, opposite Tandy Park, in 1939-40. When the Supreme Court decision ended segregated education in 1954, Stowe merged with Harris Teachers College, which later moved to 3026 Laclede Avenue. In 1977, in response to alumni request, the name of Stowe was added to Harris. Harris-Stowe became a state college in 1979.

The present Turner School building was designed by architect George W. Sanger. The Turner School was named for Charles Henry Turner, an educator and scientist.

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