Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2024

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author's Department

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Illustration & Visual Culture

Degree Type



Locust Street was once a vibrant banking and commercial district in downtown St. Louis. Today, it is an untidy collection of new, old, dilapidated, semi-intact, restored, and vacant buildings punctuated by crumbling parking lots and garages threatening imminent collapse. To understand why, we must reassemble Locust Street. As St. Louis watched its wealthy, white population flock to the suburbs at mid-century, the revitalization of the decaying urban center became one of the city’s primary preoccupations. Beginning in the early 1950s, a calculated and conscious physical transformation of the central business district began, lasting through the 1960s. This essay, which integrates my personal experience walking and exploring downtown with archival research, reconstructs the fierce modernization arms race that consumed the street’s large financial institutions, the competition between small commercial businesses for the most modern storefront, and the drama surrounding the construction of a contested parking garage. These events have shaped the subsequent development and current preservation agenda of the street, both of which have contributed to the street’s indecipherability. Understanding the impetus for and enactment of Locust Street’s architectural transformation helps newcomers to St. Louis, visitors, and long-time residents alike empathize with a city that has been poked and prodded, built and rebuilt, by city planners, boosters, and elected officials for more than a century.



Program Chair

John Hendrix