Remember back in high school, maybe your biology class, when you learned about ‘entropy’? Don’t remember? Ugh, I know. Refresher: entropy is a fancy scientific word describing when a thing/system/compound is not fully organized/not balanced/becoming increasingly disordered. For example, I think we can all agree that our national political discourse displays increasing entropy. Yikes, now I’ve done it, hide from the trolls!
Hours after the bars close, and while most residents are still sleeping, a team of six gather their supplies and sets off to tidy the streets of Soulard. They’re the Soulard Clean Team, a group of men from Peter and Paul Community Services’ Homeless Shelter. Three times per week they wake up early and, led by their coordinator Andre Cole, pick up bags of litter and trash, consistently improving the look and cleanliness of their historic neighborhood, all before 7:30am.
Soulard Farmer's Market Plaza will again play host to the rockin’-est gathering on the Soulard calendar. The Soulard Summer Concert Series is held on one special Saturday of each month from May to August. For this event, the Plaza is transformed from a gathering spot for shoppers into a music festival grounds, welcoming neighbors and visitors alike—for free! The series is in its 8th year of showcasing St. Louis’ best talent, with fans flanking the stage in camping chairs sampling picnic fare. Feel free to bring your own snacks—or pick some up at a Soulard restaurant or grocery. Drag your cooler or purchase beer and wine from a Soulard non-profit partner, like the American Legion BKZ Post. We thank the multiple sponsors who put on this event—especially the Soulard Business Association and Mardi Gras, Inc. We give a special nod to Cathy Weldon who shepherded this project for its first half-decade. The series is produced by the Soulard Restoration Group’s Concert Crew, which is a subcommittee of the Fundraising Committee, and is led by Christopher Schwarz.
Earlier this spring (April 22nd), the world celebrated Earth Day. I hope you took time to enjoy some of this year’s Earth Day events in the Saint Louis area!
In Soulard, one can explore a variety of gardens from elegant manicured gardens to small rain gardens, native planting, or colorful eclectic rock gardens. You will also find spaces in need of tender loving care. There are many areas in the neighborhood that have been derelict for years, whether due to bad weather, poor land or a variety of other reasons.
If you’ve come across this article, there’s a good chance you live, work, or play in Soulard. What do you love about it that has brought you here, or keeps bringing you back?
Our neighborhood has proudly built its diversity since the 19th Century, when Julia Soulard donated land to the city of St. Louis and immigrants from Germany, Austria and Bohemia began to settle in the area. Other ethnic groups followed, including Syrians, Hungarians, Croatians, Italians and Serbians. Today, Soulard thrives as a richly diverse neighborhood where everyone is welcome.
Would you like to make Soulard even better? One way you could do that is by joining Soulard’s neighborhood association, which is called the Soulard Restoration Group (SRG). I asked a few Soulard neighbors what they like about being involved in the SRG, and the following is what they shared with me.
On Sunday April 28, the Soulard Restoration Group’s Residential Promotion and Beautification Committees – along with dozens of neighbors - gathered in Pontiac Square Park to celebrate new additions to the public space. Two Cassilly lion benches (designed and created by Bob Cassilly, the same artist and entrepreneur who created City Museum), as well as two large fleur de lis planters, were dedicated. All four pieces were generously donated to Soulard by Luke Reynolds, owner of 808 Maison and Molly’s, who was presented with a Proclamation by Alderman Jack Coatar on behalf of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Once again, Soulard is celebrating summer by showcasing some of the neighborhood’s most beautiful, private gardens. On Saturday, June 22 from 9am to 3pm, Soulard Restoration Group will host its annual “Art in the Garden” self-guided walking tour. Homeowner “garden hosts” will open their gates and share the history, inspiration and vision behind their “hidden gems.” Each garden will host an artist and his/her custom artwork will later be sold to support further beautification efforts.
There was a time when walking in Soulard meant walking a dirt path, stepping over a few bricks, then another patch of dirt, and more bricks in a herringbone pattern. There was a time when it was safer to walk in the street rather than on the sidewalk.
There was a time when walking in Soulard was very quiet. There were no trees, no birds, no squirrels, no butterflies, no shade, no rustling wind through the leaves.
As we enjoy the more than 1,000 historic buildings that make up Soulard, it is easy to forget about how many more houses there used to be, since lost. The 1800 block of South 7th Street is a good such illustration. In that block, only three of the houses that stood in 1875 still stand today.
Since 1779, 42 years before Missouri became a state, the Soulard Farmer’s Market has remained a cornerstone of the St. Louis community. The market- place is located in St. Louis’ historic Soulard district, which is named after Antoine Soulard, a surveyor who first developed the land after taking refuge from the French Revolution.
Mardi Gras doesn’t happen overnight. To pull off a Mardi Gras full of whimsy and magic takes many hands and many groups.
Krewes remain the grassroots part of Soulard’s Mardi Gras festivities. Soulard has two active Krewes, one longstanding over 26 years and one entering its sec- ond Mardi Gras season, but both made up of neighbors who come together dur- ing Mardi Gras. The wonderful thing about the Banana Bike Brigade and the Soulard Super Troupers is that both Krewes are formed around three main ideas: 1) an annual outlet for creativity, 2)aloveofwhimsyand3)afunwayto bring neighbors together with a limited time commitment.
The Residential Promotion Committee of the Soulard Restoration Group is working to install a series of signs throughout Soulard on historically and/ or architecturally significant buildings. The goal is to recognize and celebrate the history of the neighborhood, the oldest surviving residential neighborhood in the City of St. Louis.
Although Soulard’s Mardi Gras has been celebrated but a few years, this festival has inherited a legacy of celebration and merrymaking in Frenchtown. Frenchtown was the longtime name of most of the area now generally known as the “near south side.” The present boundries of this former group of neighborhoods are more or less Busch Stadium to the north, the DeMenil mansion to the south, the Mississippi River to the east, and 14th Street to the west. Within these bounds lived the most wealthy set in early St. Louis, the handful of aristocratic French families whose lavish and frequent entertaining earned them the premiere place in St. Louis society. Today’s Mardi Gras stands as a legacy to those festive, carefree days of Frenchtown.