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Monica Mulica



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The Ville is a historic African American neighborhood located in North St. Louis City with a rich heritage of Black education, business, entertainment, and culture. Prior to the United States civil rights movement, the use of de jure and de facto segregation prevented African Americans from finding housing in most areas of the city. As a result, the African American population of St. Louis was heavily concentrated in and around The Ville. Thus, the neighborhood became home to a number of cultural and educational institutions central to the life of the Black community, including Sumner High School, Poro College, Stowe Teachers College, and Homer G. Phillips Hospital, among others. Additionally, The Ville became home to many notable Black activists, artists, and innovators who have contributed significantly to social and civil rights advancements not only at a local level but globally.

Years of neglect and disinvestment, racial restrictive covenants, redlining, zoning, and racist real estate practices were followed by depopulation and hyper-vacancy as desegregation allowed those that could afford it to move out of the neighborhood. The subsequent deterioration of the physical historical fabric is only one aspect of the damage to a once vibrant and thriving Black community. After desegregation, many African American institutions within the neighborhood were integrated and subsequently relocated into white neighborhoods. An example of this includes Stowe Teachers College, which after the desegregation of public schools, was merged with Harris College to form Harris-Stowe. Upon the merger, Harris-Stowe was relocated to Midtown where much of the historic connection to The Ville was lost. Most recently, in a highly contested move, a planned “three-bed hospital” located near the NGA site, has been proposed to be named Homer G. Phillips; an insensitive attempt to remove and dislocate the historical connection to the original 777-bed hospital renovated as a senior facility.

Today, The Ville continues to experience erasure. In the last two decades, the community has lost 17 percent of its population. As population declines, shifts in demographic composition show an increase of renter-occupied units and a decrease in ownership. As a result, the community is at risk, as many of the story-keepers of The Ville’s oral history are aging and/or have left the neighborhood.

In an effort to address this new challenge and to preserve the history of the neighborhood, 4theVille was founded in 2017. The organization seeks to restore pride in the legacy and revitalize community ownership of The Ville, through community-based tourism and arts.

Using 4theVille’s Cultural Boulevard Project as a point of departure Reclaiming Historic Assets to Transform Communities (RHATC) was a multi-phased collaborative project that aimed to empower transient and permanent community members with the neighborhood history to bolster engagement and improve the public domain.

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Washington University in St. Louis


Saint Louis


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AFNA. Leveraging Historic Assets to Transform Communities: The Ville.
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