History reclaimed!

The Old House Web
Story and photos by Lisa A. Johnston

Parts of this story: Introduction ~~ Historicalbeginnings ~~ The Great Cyclone of 1896 ~~ The age of blight ~~ Lafayette Square today ~~ Tour Lafayette Square

Lafayette Square
Like proud and victorious soldiers: Painted Ladies at 2110 and 2112 Lafayette Avenue.

The mansions of Lafayette Square stand in uniform rows, proud and tall, likevictorious soldiers back from battle. And well they should. In its 150-year-history, the St. Louisneighborhood has suffered a devastating tornado, withstood the threat of awrecking ball, and risen above crime, arson, and political and social turmoil.

Now in its third distinct era of rehabilitation, Lafayette Square is a model not only of historic restoration, but of urban living. During a time when manyAmericans are leaving urban centers for the ever-sprawling suburbs, LafayetteSquare has enjoyed a resurgence unparalleled in St. Louis, and perhaps even inthe country.

One by one, these historic homes are being restored through sheerdetermination and lots of elbow grease. The slate mansard roofs have beenre-shingled in original designs, while the ornate moldings, brackets and facadeshave been painted in color schemes of fashion and folly. The slender andelongated windows which characterize this period of architecture gleefullyreflect the sun.

Lafayette Avenue
1826-1834 Second Empire Row houses on Lafayette Avenue.

Park Avenue
Park Avenue Row of Second Empire Painted Ladies
(Click picture for larger view)

Three restored homes along Lafayette Avenue at Mississippi Avenue as viewed from the Park.

Park Avenue
2330 Park Avenue Painted Lady

(Click picture for larger view)

2102 Lafayette Avenue
2102 Lafayette Avenue before restoration
(Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, Lafayette Square Archives.)

2102 Lafayette Avenue
2102 Lafayette Avenue after restoration

The restoration of Lafayette Square is a story nearly as old as the150-year-old mansions which surround the 30-acre park. A reclaimed urbancommunity and National Historic District, the neighborhood which lies within twomiles of St. Louis's Gateway Arch, boasts 375 Victorian homes. Most are of theFrench Second Empire design; other styles include Romanesque Revival andFederalist.

Central to the latest efforts to restore the homes is the non-profitLafayette Square Restoration Committee, a group of urban pioneers whichorganized in 1970 with the ambitious goals of fostering community improvementand civic pride, encouraging restoration and preservation, and re-establishing Lafayette Park as a focal point of thecommunity.

Three decades later, the fruits of their enormous efforts may finally be realized.

Nearly 90% of the homes in Lafayette Square have been restored to their original beauty. Architecture magazine has featured the neighborhood, and Better Homes & Gardensnamed Lafayette Square "one of the ten most beautiful painted ladies neighborhoods in the nation."

The restoration committee continues its efforts to stabilize the neighborhood, to acquire property to further its goals, and to encourage and support legislation for preservation, restoration, and improvement of the area. A new urban plan is part of the long-range vision of thegroup.

<-Information on visiting Lafayette Square

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