Like any urban neighborhood, Dutchtown has seen drastic demographic shifts over the last 150 years. Let’s take a look at the demographics of Dutchtown from its days as a rural outpost to the present.

One of the older homes found along South Broadway in Dutchtown. This is a modern photo made to look old. Sorry.
One of the older homes found along South Broadway in Dutchtown.

Early History

Before it was known as Dutchtown, the area was part of the common fields of St. Louis to the north and Carondelet to the south. Very little development had taken place between the two towns prior to the Civil War. Carondelet Road, now South Broadway, connected St. Louis and Carondelet by way of Dutchtown.

The parish of St. Anthony of Padua was established in 1860. Prior to building their first church on Meramec Street in 1864, parishioners held services at the House of Refuge, an orphanage on the land that would become Marquette Park. The congregation in the early 1860s was composed of 70 German-speaking families and 25 English-speaking families, with 117 school-aged children between them.

Chippewa Street in 1875, from Compton & Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis.

Rapid Growth

St. Louis extended its borders with the annexation of Carondelet (and everything in between) in 1870. The common fields were divided and platted for development. Soon, German immigrants began to flock to the newly opened southeast sections of the expanded city. The Germans, or Deutsche, planted roots and thrived in the area for many decades. The name “Dutchtown” comes from the word Deutsche.

Meramec Street at California Avenue in 1887.
Meramec Street looking west from California Avenue in 1887.

Between 1880 and 1920, Dutchtown grew quite rapidly. The neighborhood quickly shed its rural character as sturdy brick homes and shops popped up around newly built streetcar lines. Most of the buildings still standing in Dutchtown today were built during this period.

The neighborhood continued to grow and flourish through the 1950s. Unfortunately, things would soon begin to take a turn in Dutchtown, St. Louis as a whole, and in urban centers across America.

Meramec Street looking west from Virginia Avenue in the 1950s.
Meramec looking east from Virginia Avenue in the 1950s.

Mid-Century Changes

The post-World War II era brought massive changes to the way Americans lived, and Dutchtown was certainly touched by those changes.

After the war, young men returned home looking to start families. The G.I. Bill incentivized young families to purchase homes in newly developing suburbs on the outskirts of the city. The suburbs grew at a breakneck pace.

Redlining map from the Home Owners' Loan Corporation.
Redlining map from the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. Yellow areas were noted as “definitely declining” and red areas were considered “hazardous” for loan officers. From Mapping Inequality.

If the incentives weren’t enough, mortgage redlining by banks made it difficult for those who wanted to stay. Bankers hesitated to issue loans on homes in the neighborhood, particularly in the older eastern sections of the neighborhood.

Demographic changes in the St. Louis metro area, 1950–1960. Maps from Mapping Decline by Colin Gordon.

The construction of the Interstate Highway system accelerated the flight to the suburbs. In the 1960s Interstate 55 slashed indiscriminately through the eastern portion of Dutchtown, demolishing homes, uprooting neighbors, and disconnecting east and west. Auto-centric development wrested business from neighborhood commercial districts along streetcar lines, and soon the streetcars themselves disappeared.

Demographic changes in the St. Louis metro area, 1960–1970.

The South Side Diversifies

Following the fights for civil rights in the 1960s, people of color had more options as to where to live in the city. Previously relegated to the near North Side or the Mill Creek Valley area, African-Americans began to spread out into other parts of the city (though not always by choice, but rather through displacement by so-called urban renewal).

Demographic changes in the St. Louis metro area, 1970–1980.

The South Side had been solidly white for most of its history, but in the 1970s and 1980s, African-Americans began to move into neighborhoods on the near South Side, partially filling the vacuum as whites continued to move to the ever-expanding suburbs.

Further south, Dutchtown continued to remain overwhelmingly white. In 1980, of the approximately 18,000 residents of Dutchtown proper, only about 100 were black. Some say that Chippewa Street was the dividing line where black intracity migration was halted.

Demographic changes in the St. Louis metro area, 1980–1990.

Change Brings Stability

The 1990s and 2000s brought the demographic shifts seen elsewhere on the South Side to Dutchtown. As some areas of the near South Side began to redevelop and gentrify, those displaced residents found themselves in Dutchtown’s affordable, sturdy, and dense housing stock.

Demographic changes in the St. Louis metro area, 1990–2000.

Between 1990 and the 2010, Dutchtown shifted from 90% white to a nearly equal proportion of blacks and whites. People of color now make up a majority of Dutchtown’s population.

Demographic changes in the St. Louis metro area, 2000–2010.

The influx of African-Americans, along with immigrants from across the globe, has helped to stabilize Dutchtown’s population compared with the rest of the city. St. Louis lost two thirds of its residents from its peak in the 1950s.

While neighborhoods like Forest Park Southeast and Shaw hemorrhaged residents, showing population declines of nearly 70% since the 1950s, Dutchtown proper lost only about a third of its population since 1950. This population stability has helped stave off the abandonment, amongst other issues, that has been seen in other city neighborhoods.

Although FPSE and Shaw have seen significant revitalization in recent years, that new development is far less dense than what was one there. Meanwhile, Dutchtown remains one of the most densely populated areas in St. Louis, housing approximately 10,000 residents per square mile.

Crowds gather at the 2017 Common Sound Festival in Marquette Park in Dutchtown, St. Louis.
Dutchtown neighbors at the inaugural Common Sound Festival in Marquette Park.

Dutchtown Today

As of 2017, Dutchtown proper has over 16,000 residents, making it the largest neighborhood in the city by population. With approximately 11,300 residents per square mile, Dutchtown is also one of the densest neighborhoods in the city. Median household income is around $26,000 a year, placing Dutchtown in the bottom third of neighborhoods. The population of Dutchtown is very young, with about a third of its residents under 18 years of age.

Dutchtown is 51.2% black, 26.3% white, 11.5% Hispanic, 8.2% Asian, 2.3% mixed race, and 0.6% of another background. Diversity indices, the likelihood that any two random people in a population are of a different race, are very high in Dutchtown.

Strength in Diversity

A diverse and dynamic population has emerged from what was originally predominantly German immigrants. Dutchtown remains a place where neighbors come together to live, pray, study, work, shop, and connect.

Diversity is one of Dutchtown’s many strengths. With community engagement, effort, and strategic partnerships we can build a thriving, equitable, inclusive neighborhood together.

Notes

Greater Dutchtown population numbers are derived from census tracts that cover significant portions of Dutchtown, Gravois Park, Marine Villa, and Mount Pleasant, but in some cases go outside of those boundaries. The tracts included are 1153–1157, 1163.02 and 1164, 1241, 1243, and 1246. Prior to 1990, tract 1163.02 was part of a larger tract, 1163, that covered area mostly outside of the greater Dutchtown area; as such, pre-1990 total population figures are slightly inflated.