Wellston Loop Pavillion (1909)
Iver Bernstein

Wellston Loop Pavillion (1909). Photo 2006 by Gary R. Tetley, “Eleven Most Endangered Places, 2007,” Landmarks Association of St. Louis: http://www.landmarks-stl.org/enhanced_and_endangered/eleven_most_endangered_places_2007, accessed on February 26, 2017.  Note that there is no commercial use of this structure at the present time (2.26.17).

The Politics of Limbo :  This project considers the Wellston Loop Pavilion (1909) the linchpin of a world that is both dead and very much still lives, a stop on no one’s 21st century grand tour, and a ruin that no contemporary Americans visit in search of a mirror to know themselves.    Its mysteries hide in plain sight and announce a visible and invisible history of modern segregation that opens up new questions in the past, present, and future of St. Louis as a city par excellence of the racialized imperial border.   The one-and-a-half story building in the Arts & Crafts style at 6111 Martin Luther King Drive sits disintegrating and unused, its sightless gabled dormer windows looking out at a commercial district in similar disarray. According to the Landmarks Association of St. Louis, the structure “awaits adaptive re-use”; a hopeful characterization of the year 2007 that remains true as of this writing a decade later.   

The long history of Wellston provides a crucial context, and in some ways reflects the familiar themes of 20th-century urban segregation—the departure of capital through industrial relocation (with devastating environmental impacts) and shuttering of retail stores; the departure of people through white flight and black flight; the marooning of the African American population through the elimination of North-South public transportation, particularly the 1966 closing of the Hodiamont streetcar line that terminated at the Loop Pavilion; racialized real estate profiteering (especially in the wake of the demolition of Mill Creek Valley, some of whose residents relocated to Wellston); recent efforts to revitalize through the creation of an “enterprise zone” and "brownfield development"; and courageous acts of community-building by the African American residents of Wellston,  who, long after electing the city's first black mayor in the late 1970s, continue to struggle to exercise control over the economic and political decision-making that affects their lives.* These acts of community-building often take place at the level of the individual alley, lot, intersection, and block, and proceed block-by-block.

But Wellston has always been distinctive in the way it straddles the boundary of St. Louis City and St. Louis County.  That historic boundary, an artifact of the Civil War era  that continues to define inequality in the region, lies just feet west of the Loop Pavilion Building.  I give special attention to Wellston’s long history as a boundary-straddling unincorporated  urban suburban place—it was incorporated as a city in 1909, dissolved in 1912, and re-incorporated in 1949, only under the threat of annexation by its more prosperous neighbor University City, with which it continues to jostle in the current moment of UCity’s Loop Revitalization/Delmar Trolley project.  As a 1961 Globe-Democrat article titled “Wellston is a State of Mind” put it, Wellston's boundaries have always been ambiguous:  “It’s hard to say just where Wellston begins, and where it ends. . . . Once past Hamilton, you have left St. Louis behind, though you are still within its official bounds.  Stopping finally at the loop, there is no mistaking the feeling that you are in the heart of that indefinable thing called Wellston [italics are mine].”   So, unincorporated status has lingered into the era of incorporation as a structural dimension, that places Wellston/Wells Goodfellow in an indeterminate political zone that bequeaths to future generations conditions such as a weak tax base, inadequate funding for municipal services such as police, and disappearing schools.  My research has focused on limbo--on this condition of orchestrated ambiguity and historic uncertainty, in law, in space, and in time--considering the Loop Pavilion site and Wellston, founded by transportation entrepreneurs Erastus and Rolla Wells, as a case study in the politics of limbo.  

In the end, this project engages the Loop Pavilion and its Wellston site as a way to explore the space in-between.   How, it asks, can we imagine a history of the human needs and desires that have flowed through and become embodied in such spaces?  What is the history of the freedom and unfreedom of movement--of people, of capital, and of commercialized and otherwise embodied forms of desire, more broadly, across geopolitical, legal, and racialized boundaries in such overlooked spaces in-between?  The conjecture here is that such is a history of exploitation and creative struggle at the border that is the history of the ebb and flow of our common life together.

*an observation that historian Andrew Hurley made twenty years ago that remains true today, see Andrew Hurley, "Fiasco at Wagner Electric:  Environmental Justice and Urban Geography in St. Louis," Environmental History, Vol. 2, No 4 (Oct. 1997), 460-481, and esp. 469.

Basketball Court, St. Louis Place Park
John Early

Markings on one of the four poles at the basketball court in St. Louis Place Park. October 31, 2016. Photo by John Early.

Christ the King UCC, Florissant
Laurie Maffly-Kipp

Christ the King UCC. Photo by Maffley-Kipp.

Confederate Memorial
David Cunningham
Nicole Fox
Christina Simko

The Confederate Memorial in Forest Park, defaced
as an act of protest following the Charleston church shootings in
June 2015. Image from https://www.rt.com/usa/269527-confederate-black-lives-matter/

Confederate Memorial in Forest Park
Matthew Fox-Amato

Forest Park Confederate Memorial, 2016. Photo by Matthew Fox-Amato.

Cook Avenue
Joshua Aiken

4004 and 4008 Cook Avenue,

December 24th, 2016, Photo by Joshua Aiken.

Delmar Boulevard
Eric Sandweiss

5500 block of Delmar, c. 1930; Swekosky Notre Dame College Collection, Missouri Historical Society: http://collections.mohistory.org/resource/143130.html

Eads Bridge
Jonathan Karp

Black East St. Louisans attempt to cross the Eads Bridge during the 1987 Veiled Prophet Fair. 

“4 Jul 1987, Page 5 - St. Louis Post-Dispatch at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com. Accessed January 16, 2017. http://www.newspapers.com/image/142332505/?terms=eads.

Fairground Park Pool, O'Fallon
Michael Allen

African-American and Caucasian Children at Fairground Swimming Pool, June 21, 1949 Source: Missouri Digital Heritage (http://cdm16795.contentdm.oclc...)

Jasmine Mahmoud

Panel at Critical Conversations: Art and the Black Body at Contemporary Art Museum, September 2016. Photo by Jasmine Mahmoud.

LaClede Town
Benjamin Looker

Two boys at the LaClede Town housing complex, in a Post-Dispatch photo taken in 1968.

Image found at  https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/141859001/

McRee town
Patty Heyda

3968-70 McRee Ave, McRee Town/ St. Louis. Photo credit Jim Roos (2001).

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Redevelopment District, Northside
Heidi Kolk

“St. Louis Wins!,” public mailer sent by the Washington D.C. Office of Congressman William Lacy Clay to St. Louisans in June of 2016. 

The copy reads: “Selected For New Western NGA Headquarters | Largest Federal Investment in the History of The City of St. Louis | North St. Louis selected as preferred site for the new $1.7 billion western headquarters of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency!”

On the reverse side of the mailer, which also includes conceptual drawings of the NGA site and a photograph of city officials at a press conference in which the big news was announced, Clay explains the decision to located the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new western office as an “unprecedented, transformational opportunity to focus $1.7 billion, the largest federal investment in the history of the City of St. Louis, within the core of [the city’s] new designed HUD Promise Zone to advance my long-standing congressional priroities of bringing jobs, new federal resources and technological innovation to distressed urban neighborhoods in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District.”

Powell Hall
Patrick Burke

Grand Foyer of St. Louis Theater (now Powell Hall), 1925. Courtesy of Missouri Historical Society http://collections.mohistory.org/resource/145282.html

The “Love Bank” Basketball Court and Gentrification on Cherokee Street
Douglas Flowe

Love Bank Basketball Court on Cherokee Street. Photo by Douglas Flowe.

Washington Park Cemetery
Denise Ward-Brown

Headstones of Friends Rebecca Edward & William Maul at Washington Park Cemetery. This is a video still from Home Going, Denise Ward-Brown, 2016. Large clean-up jobs, like this fallen tree, go left undone as volunteers continue to clear and maintain the grounds of Washington Park Cemetery. Photo credit: Denise Ward-Brown (2016).

Wellston Loop Pavillion (1909)
Iver Bernstein

Wellston Loop Pavillion (1909). Photo 2006 by Gary R. Tetley, “Eleven Most Endangered Places, 2007,” Landmarks Association of St. Louis: http://www.landmarks-stl.org/enhanced_and_endangered/eleven_most_endangered_places_2007, accessed on February 26, 2017.  Note that there is no commercial use of this structure at the present time (2.26.17).