The City’s Preservation Board has endorsed an application to the State of Missouri for a federal grant that might help preserve important elements of our African American heritage — and will certainly make life safer for residents in some neighborhoods. The Board voted unanimously to instruct the Cultural Resources Office to ask for a grant to help pay for a high quality survey of properties in the Ville and Greater Ville neighborhoods which might eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Ville and parts of the Greater Ville neighborhoods were the locations where African-American residents of St. Louis were able to live and also purchase property during the worst years of legal racial segregation in Missouri, between 1918 and 1948. Many of the most culturally or architecturally significant buildings in those neighborhoods are already protected by a Local Historic District; some are not. Identifying the significant but unprotected properties makes them eligible for both federal and state tax credits, which makes it more likely that they will be revitalized and less likely that they will be demolished and their histories lost. (Conversely, identifying the good buildings will also point out the ones that are not significant or have lost their significance, making it easier for neighbors, aldermen, and public safety officials to make their cases to demolish dangerous eyesores.)
These are tough economic times, and the selection process for this grant funding is very competitive. I lend my own endorsement to our application.