How St. Louis’ History of Private Streets Led to a Gun-Brandishing Couple

A large and opulent mansion in an Italian Renaissance style is seen behind large stone and iron gates.The
1909 Edward A. Faust house, seen behind the gates of Portland Place
in St. Louis’s Central West End neighborhood. | Google Street
View

A Black Lives Matter march through a gated community highlighted
the decisions that divide the city.

If you were in St. Louis and wanted — hypothetically — to
eat the rich, 1 Portland Place would be a good place to start.

The limestone-and-marble palazzo found at that address looms
high above the hedge-fringed retaining walls lining Kingshighway, a
major north-south thoroughfare where cars stream by at all hours of
the day. But between the busy road and this street punctuated with
opulent homes is an imposing stone entranceway with wrought-iron
gates — one of many such structures St. Louis has built
throughout its history to divide its communities.

Designed in 1909, the 18,000-square-foot mansion was a wedding
present for Anna Busch, the daughter of beer magnate Adolphus
Busch, whose name adorns the city’s ballpark. The mansion was
purchased in 1988 by its current residents, Mark and Patricia
McCloskey, personal-injury attorneys whose office is located in

another mansion they own
a 15-minute walk away. In a splashy

St. Louis Magazine feature
, the McCloskeys detail their
“difficult” two-decade journey to restore 1 Portland Place’s
marble staircases and damask silk walls — some of which required
traveling to Italy to see the original Renaissance-era palaces that
the home was modeled after.

The surrounding Central West End neighborhood is known for its
lavish houses, well-groomed residents, and manicured landscaping.
But on Sunday evening, the occupants of 1 Portland Place were
pacing their front lawn in bare feet and mustard-stained shirts,
brandishing firearms which they pointed at hundreds of Black Lives
Matter protesters streaming down the sidewalk.

The protesters weren’t there to see the McCloskeys, they were
just cutting through Portland Place on the way to the home of St.
Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson who, on Friday,
publicly read a list of names and addresses
of constituents
wanting to defund the police department. (Krewson, a former
architect, owns a Central West End brownstone just a few blocks
away.) But taking this street became a symbolic moment in itself as
the protesters toppled the century-old roadblocks intended to keep
St. Louis’ white ruling class separated from the rest of the
city.

A St. Louis couple in front of
their home tonight as protesters marched past in the city’s
Central West End. (photos courtesy @ksdknews
partner @BILLGREENBLATT
/ UPI)
#StLouisprotest
#STL
pic.twitter.com/I7VlUBUhZ2

— Casey Nolen (@CaseyNolen)
June 29, 2020

Although videos show protesters walking
through an open gate
which appears undamaged, Mark McCloskey

told KMOV
that protesters “smashed through the historic
wrought iron gates of Portland Place, destroying them, rushed
toward my home where my family was having dinner outside and put us
in fear of our lives.”

“Private property, get out!” Mark McCloskey yelled at the
protesters in a
St. Louis Post-Dispatch video
, emerging from between two-story
white pillars and cradling an AR-15 assault rifle, as the crowd
began a call-and-response: “Whose streets? Our streets!”

“It’s a public street, asshole.”

“We’re on the sidewalk!”

“This is all private property,” said Mark McCloskey to KMOV.
“There are no public sidewalks or public streets. We were told
that we would be killed, our home burned and our dog killed. We
were all alone facing an angry mob.”

The same gates seen in the top photo are seen in a 1904 postcard that says The Louisiana Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, 1904.Missouri
Historical Society
The 1904 World’s Fair carved nearby Forest
Park out of a marsh on the city’s outskirts, ensuring the status
of Portland Place as one of the city’s premiere streets.

Private streets remain a stubborn relic of St. Louis’ Gilded
Age. Homeowners paid for the streets and sidewalks to be paved long
before the surrounding arteries were maintained by the city. In
doing so, they purportedly reserved the ability to decide who could
use them, which, according to an
1895 story in the St. Louis Republic
, was “a privilege, not a
right.” Whether they still functionally
or symbolically
shut people out, the ornate gates, guard
towers, and black powder-coated signs denoting “private street’
in gold-embossed serif type dot the St. Louis urban landscape as
reminders of these restrictions.

A revitalized movement to limit access to St. Louis streets
emerged during the 1970s and 1980s, when the population of the city
dwindled to half of what it had been in 1950, largely because white
families moved to the surrounding suburbs. By the time Mayor
Vincent Schoemehl left office in the mid-1980s,
285 streets
had been blocked or diverted, most by decidedly
less ornamental concrete bollards known as “Schoemehl pots.”
The program, entitled “Operation Safestreet,” was
praised at the time
for lowering crime rates, though the

long-term benefits have been less clear
. In recent years,

advocates have been trying to undo the closures
in an attempt
to knit the city back together, but some residents want to keep
their cul-de-sac streets, especially the ones concentrated in
high-wealth, predominately white areas like the Central West
End.

.@AttyMcCloskey
lookin real primitive out here pullin guns on protestors. They live
in a huge castle right off of the Delmar Divide. Feet away from
where the life expectancy drops by 20 yrs, inadequate prenatal care
increases by 22%, & an over 200k diff. in home value.
#LydasCrew
pic.twitter.com/hQXLFVVn2y

— brittany MPH, RN (@bdoulaoblongata)
June 29, 2020

There’s yet another another street-level delineation that
keeps the Central West End exclusive: Delmar Avenue, the east-west
artery just a few blocks to the north, creates a barrier known as
the
Delmar Divide
that slices through the city. Historically,
neighborhoods north of Delmar were redlined because they were home
to predominantly Black communities, while white families to the
south received federal loans to buy or improve properties —
funneling government capital directly to the renovation of those
mansions.

The economic disparities are firmly entrenched. On Portland
Place, a
1891 Queen Anne Victorian
is
on the market for $1.4 million
. A few blocks to the north, just
on the other side of Delmar, a six-bedroom home built four years
later is for sale for
$54,000
.

Source: FS – All – Architecture 10
How St. Louis’ History of Private Streets Led to a
Gun-Brandishing Couple