The Phantom Subdivision

On the way to Tom and Julee's wedding this past weekend, I took the bus (a.k.a. Southwest Airlines)--because getting to Minneapolis for $10 ain't such a bad deal (frequent flyer miles). However, the routing to get there was BOS-STL-MSP (and MSP-MDW-BOS on the way home).

Anyway, on approach to land at STL, I saw a rather strange sight out my window. There were a set of streets, like a usual suburb, but no houses. Just grass and trees. And as you look closer, you can see grass growing in through the pavement cracks.

Whoah. Weird. I was wondering if this was a case of, "We're expanding the airport, so you people really don't want to live here now, right?" Or some eminent domain buyout.

First, I started exploring on Google Earth (once again, they can organize my world's information, baby). After some poking around, I found this subdivision on the west side of the airport.

And hey... check out a bit closer... there's actually one house left. Hey--it has a tennis court and a swimming pool, I think!

Hrm. A rather green and slimy swimming pool, though.

Anyway, it took a while to find out what the actual story is--it turns out that somebody else had the same question--with the following answers--it's the Carrollton subdivision in Bridgeton:

I'm a former resident, grew up there, lived there, and watched it get taken away. When i was a kid i remember the yellow ribbon campaign which had us to putting ribbons on our trees, doors, overhangs, etc to show our unity against what was called F4, the taking of Bridgeton for airport expansion. During the very late 90's and early 2000's the push came through and the airport finally bought the homes in the carollton subdivision. Very sad for all those who lived there, and even worse for those who DIDN'T get bought out, but were stuck in their unsellable homes.

Even more interesting... a former residence put up a blog documenting the demolition of the neighborhood:

This place was once a subdivision called Carrollton, located in Bridgeton, MO. It was one of the first planned communities in the U.S. that made sure to include green space, parks, schools, churches, and a community center in its development. Lambert International Airport made a proposal to the city of St. Louis to expand beyond its boundaries and build a new runway. This was pushed because, at the time, St. Louis was a hub for TWA. Despite the fledgling airline industry, the cause for eminent domain was issued in the direction of Bridgeton, including much of the city and all of the Carrollton subdivision. Although fought hard by community residents who formed a group called, “The Bridgeton Air Defense” and a number of legal battles that stretched decades, Lambert ultimately won and started taking homes as early as 1992. 2,000 structures, 2,000 parcels of land have become or will be soon property of Lambert International.

By the time I was old enough to realize that the concrete was creeping in to the edge of the subdivision where we lived… it was too late to care. Or, so I thought, until last year. Watching my own house go down, I realized that the remaining homes needed to be documented too. So, for the past year, I have been watching and photographing what little remains of the original 2,000. As of today, October 9th, 2007… only 56 houses are left.

Ah well. A sad story behind that one.


At 1:05 AM, Blogger Darius said...

nice post!

At 1:27 AM, Blogger Katie said...

It is the saddest that I've ever read. I hope that our village won't end like that. It's not nice when a home is taken away from you, much worst when it is the whole community. How would you look back with your childhood friends if memories are already torn into pieces? The community is the foundation of our maturity and of our whole being. I and my childhood friends always see each other every summer in our favorite place in Tulsa Oklahoma. Houses for sale may give us this great feeling of foreseeing new friendship on who ever would buy the house. I'd rather see signs like those than see the whole community being torn down little by little.

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Desy said...

Hi, I'm Desy, author of the blog you linked to! (www.56housesleft.com). Thanks for your excellent post and photos! As a fellow geek and someone who is interested in all things passed by most people, I enjoy your blog!

I'm writing a book about my experiences living under the threat of eminent domain and the history behind the doomed runway expansion project. The entire project turned out to be a costly mistake as the runway was not needed. However, it did drive a large portion of urban sprawl further away from the city core. The city is still in debt for the entire price tag of the project.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks, and I look forward to be being a continuing subscriber of your blog!

-Desy Schoenewies


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