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Driving down South Grand through Dutchtown, you may have noticed the long-dormant pay phone stand in front of the hulking house at 4018 South Grand, just south of Merb’s Candies. With pay phones having gone nearly extinct, it certainly catches the eye of anyone who still remembers what a pay phone was.

Dutchtown Volunteers Benjamin Thomas and Terri Zeman prepare the old pay phone stand for conversion to a free little library.

Dutchtown resident Ben Cohen saw an opportunity to repurpose the nostalgic nook into something that preserves the relic while also providing value to the community. Cohen set out to turn the old pay phone enclosure into a free little library. Benjamin Thomas and a handful of other neighborhood volunteers teamed up with Cohen on a recent Friday evening to rehabilitate the phone stand and give it a new lease on life.

Thomas salvaged wood and acquired a clear plastic colander and old telephone handset from Goodwill to create a windowed door for the enclosure. The team assembled the door and added a fresh coat of paint.

An anonymous landscaper arrived later to clear the weeds and other overgrowth around the phone and the front of the house, which has been vacant since at least 2015. City records indicate that building and electrical permits have been recently issued at 4018 South Grand, so hopefully more than just the pay phone will see a makeover at this address.

The free little library pay phone stand at 4018 South Grand Boulevard in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

For now, the little library is stocked with books free for the taking. Cohen also hopes to stock the box with non-perishable snacks and other items for neighbors in need and attach a weather-proof resource guide to help people find services. There is even talk of installing a table, chairs, and a wi-fi hot spot to provide connectivity for those with limited access.

The free little library pay phone stand at 4018 South Grand Boulevard in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

More Free Little Libraries

This isn’t the first free little library in Dutchtown. Thomas, a Dutchtown resident of about four years, has also worked on three other libraries in the neighborhood: one at the south end of Laclede Park, one at the intersection of Chippewa, Broadway and Jefferson near South Broadway Art Project, and one near the southbound bus stop at Grand and Bates Street. “I’m just trying to make the neighborhood a little better,” says Thomas, who regularly restocks the libraries with books for kids and adults, as well as coloring books, crayons, and other art supplies.

The free little library at Minnie Wood Memorial Square, along South Broadway near Gasconade Street in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Additionally, there are libraries at Minnie Wood Memorial Square at Broadway and Meramec, and also at the VAL Garden on Virginia Avenue. The VAL Garden also features a “free little pantry” where neighbors can share food and other items free for the taking.

Thomas wants to see more of the pantries pop up, and he’s hoping to help build one next to the pay phone library. With some additional interest and regular donations, he would like to see the pantry regularly stocked with personal care items for those who need them.

Cohen and Thomas are hoping to expand the utility of the little libraries by growing a network of volunteers to keep them stocked and maintained. “Several people who maintain libraries have indicated that they have difficult time keeping them stocked,” says Cohen, “and I think that fostering a volunteer network in this way could help ease that burden and augment existing mutual aid supports.” If you’re interested in donating time or resources, contact us so we can connect you with Cohen, Thomas, and other volunteers.

Part of a Broader Mission: FreeSource

Cohen’s has plenty of other experience providing accessible resources for his neighbors. He is the founder of FreeSource, a non-profit with a mission to empower people with low or no incomes to connect with vocational and community resource opportunities. FreeSource also offers a variety of programs to increase access to technology for those in need.

Tech Support Café

FreeSource brings Tech Support Café to Thomas Dunn Learning Center on a regular basis. Tech Support Café holds open hours in which people can get help troubleshooting technical problems, learn more about how to use their devices, and gain knowledge about inclusive and responsible technology use. The program is intended to provide peer-to-peer support, but you’ll also likely find Cohen there sharing his vast technical support expertise.

Project Applecart

Project Applecart is another FreeSource venture that aims to provide internet access and other mobile services to unhoused neighbors. As part of FreeSource’s mission to meet people where they are at—physically, technologically, and circumstantially—Project Applecart will repurpose carts to include a wi-fi hot spot, charging station, and other supplies and resources that can be brought to where people in need congregate.

Cohen hopes to bring the carts to free little library locations such as the pay phone stand on South Grand. “Passersby could sit and charge their phones and just read a book,” suggests Cohen, “and people from disparate walks of life could have an opportunity to get to know one another.” If you’re interested in participating from either a technical or outreach standpoint, join the Project Applecart Facebook group.

Support FreeSource

If you’d like to support the work of Cohen and FreeSource, you can make a donation here, whether it be monetary or in the form of new or used technology. With more projects in the works, your time, money, and supplies can help further FreeSource’s mission of bringing technology and resources to our neighbors with limited access.

There’s one term that always comes to mind when discussing Dutchtown’s historic housing stock: variety. Dutchtown has something for everyone—spacious two story homes, an array of bungalows big and small, shotgun cottages, two and four family flats, and everything in between.

Today, we’ll take a look at some of the more modestly scaled homes currently on the market in Dutchtown. Whether you seek a starter home, you’re looking to right-size, or you just prefer cozier confines, Dutchtown has a lot to offer in little packages.

5457 Alabama

Exterior of 5457 Alabama.

This two bedroom, one bath bungalow weighs in at around 800 square feet. Exposed brick walls bring home the rustic, urban feel of this 112 year old home at the southern end of the Dutchtown neighborhood.

$92,500 · View on Zillow

Interior of 5457 Alabama.
Kitchen at 5457 Alabama.

3425 Keokuk

Exterior of 3425 Keokuk.

Conveniently located near Chippewa and South Grand, 3425 Keokuk’s Second Empire-style mansard roof stands out from the crowd on this block. Featuring two bedrooms and both a full and half bath, the home was very recently rehabbed and features new stainless steel appliances, 42-inch cabinets, and designer countertops.

$125,000 · View on Zillow

Interior of 3425 Keokuk.
Kitchen at 3425 Keokuk.

3425 Montana

Exterior of 3425 Montana.

If you want a little house with a big yard, 3425 Montana is for you. At around 700 square feet, this 1890 cottage is still plenty spacious, offering up three bedrooms, a single bath, and an eat-in kitchen. The fenced double lot leaves plenty of room for gardening, entertaining, or letting your pups run wild. And if that’s not enough green space for you, Marquette Park is located just a few doors down the street.

$120,000 · View on Zillow

Interior of 3425 Montana.
Kitchen at 3425 Montana.

4031 Pennsylvania

Exterior of 4031 Pennsylvania.

Also located just a short walk from Marquette Park, this three bedroom/one bath home on Pennsylvania Avenue features a fantastic new kitchen with stone countertops, stainless steel appliances, and a subway tile backsplash. You’ll also find exposed brick walls, a decorative fireplace, and other unique architectural features inside this otherwise unassuming home.

$100,000 · View on Zillow

Kitchen at 4031 Pennsylvania.
Interior of 4031 Pennsylvania.

3225 Mount Pleasant

Exterior of 3225 Mount Pleasant.

Looking to roll up your sleeves and make your mini-home your own? This two bedroom, one bath, 900 square foot home on Mount Pleasant is affordably priced, move-in ready, and awaiting your finishing touches. You’ll be just around the corner from Shay’s Donuts, and you can walk off your morning long john with a stroll around nearby Mount Pleasant Park.

$70,000 · View on Zillow

Kitchen at 3225 Mount Pleasant.
Interior of 3225 Mount Pleasant.

Listing prices are accurate as of the time of publication. Descriptions are based on facts and figures provided by listing agents via Zillow. The above listings are provided for informational purposes only. We at are not real estate professionals—make sure to contact an agent for the full details of these listings.

The fourth annual Marquette Community Day was another huge success! Dutchtown neighbors, led by MCD founders Ben Robinson and Markus Haskins, gave out backpacks and school supplies for children in the Dutchtown neighborhood, along with sharing local community resources and providing a fun day out to create a unique, community-oriented celebration in Marquette Park.

With the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic hitting low-income families disproportionately hard, Marquette Community Day distributed more than 500 backpacks filled with school supplies to help local families bridge the financial gap as they prepare their children for the start of the school year. MCD also partnered with the St. Louis Health Department to provide vaccines to event attendees.

Crowds line up for backpacks and school supplies at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Marquette Community Day’s 2021 Comeback

After taking a one-year hiatus due to pandemic constraints in 2020, nothing was going to stop organizers this year from getting the event back to the community they loved. “This is a grass-roots organized event dreamt up by two people from the community, for the community,” said Marquette Community Day co-founder Ben Robinson, Jr. “Raising funds this year has been especially challenging with the pandemic, but we keep fielding questions from community members regarding Marquette Community Day this year. The need for this event has not gone away, it has only become greater.”

Activities at Marquette Community Day centered around the entire family. Besides receiving backpacks, school supplies, healthcare services, and haircuts, kids also got a chance to just be kids with horse rides, a bounce house and slide, foam archery, and tons of other fun activities.

“Our goal was to outdo what we have done over the past few years with more backpacks and supplies for area children, more entertainment for families, more positive energy, and more community building,” said Markus Haskins, co-founder of Marquette Community Day. 

Crowds line up for backpacks and school supplies at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
Crowds line up for backpacks and school supplies at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
DJ Prospect Out Hrr at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

More About Marquette Community Day

Marquette Community Day founders Ben Robinson and Markus Haskins.
MCD founders Ben Robinson and Markus Haskins.

Started in 2017, Marquette Community Day was created to address the unique needs, concerns, and burdens that Dutchtown families, local businesses, and community organizations face on the South Side. The back-to-school celebration serves as a positive launching point for neighborhood kids to get excited about returning to school, prepared with backpacks, supplies, fresh haircuts and styles, and fun stories of what they got to do with their families at MCD.

Organizers Markus Haskins and Ben Robinson both grew up in the neighborhood and graduated from Roosevelt High School. Haskins and Robinson team up with Marquette Park Recreation Center, local small businesses, and other community organizations to provide the activities, supplies, and services available at the event. Marquette Community Day is an entirely grassroots event without a single large corporate benefactor or non-profit sponsor. 

Cure Violence at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
The St. Louis Fire Department at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
Free food and drinks for attendees at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Thank You to the Participants and Sponsors!

This year not only saw the number of youth and families grow, but also saw growth in the amount of community partners involved. Participating organizations and sponsors included the Cross Grand, Cure Violence, Dutchtown Main Streets, Dutchtown Market, Dutchtown South Community Corporation, Employment Connection, Flowers and Weeds, Logan’s Kids Resale, One Silverstar Foundation, South City Hospital, South Side Spaces, Stars on a Mission, St. Joseph Housing Initiative, St. Louis Community College, St. Louis Health Department, St. Louis Parks and Recreation, STL Style, Thomas Dunn Learning Center, Youth in Need, and many more.

Children at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
Crowds line up for backpacks and school supplies at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
A child playing with bubbles at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Did you get a chance to check out Marquette Community Day? Send us your thoughts and ideas for the park at and visit to find out more about what’s happening at Marquette Park.

Photos courtesy of Ben Robinson, Kayla Colwell, Chip Smith, and Nick Findley. Find more photos from Marquette Community Day on the DutchtownSTL Flickr page.

The Wink!, a new shared-space retail incubator concept, opens this Saturday, August 14th. Join us in Downtown Dutchtown for a soft opening celebration! Arrive at 10am for a tarp drop reveal. The Wink! and other neighborhood businesses will be open until 6pm.

Products available at The Wink! in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO. Offerings include jewelry, housewares, beauty products, art, and more.

At The Wink!, you’ll find an ever-changing, curated collection of locally sourced goods from small businesses and start-up shops including greeting cards, household goods fashioned from vintage fabrics, bath and body products, custom jewelry, original art and gifts, and much more.

Located in the Historic Winkelmann Building

The Wink! is located at 3302 Meramec Street on the first floor of the Winkelmann Building. The three story building at the corner of Meramec and Virginia is home to fourth generation Winkelmann Sons Drug, established 1913, as well as additional storefronts, plus apartments on the second and third floors.

Winkelmann Drug at the corner of Meramec Street and Virginia Avenue in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Forget Me Not Boutique and Creative Expressions Custom Designs are also tenants at the Winkelmann Building, occupying the storefronts around the corner facing Virginia. Both businesses also opened their doors in Dutchtown in 2021.

Meramec Street during the Spring Sidewalk Sale in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Come to Downtown Dutchtown for Special Deals, Tasty Treats, and Rare Finds!

In addition to the new and unique offerings at The Wink, Downtown Dutchtown will be bustling on Saturday with special sales and more all along Meramec Street. A number of Dutchtown businesses will be holding a sidewalk sale as they clear out summer merchandise to make way for fall fashions. Find new, used, and vintage clothing, home decor and furnishings, beauty products, gifts, and more!

Callisto Comics and Stories at 4219 Virginia.

On top of that, it’s Free Comic Book Day, and Dutchtown’s own Callisto Comics on Virginia has you covered! Head in to grab your free book and other giveaways, browse their entire selection of comics and graphic novels, and register to win a free year of comic books!

Urban Eats, 3301 Meramec Street at Virginia Avenue in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Fuel your shopping spree with lunch from the Urban Eats Neighborhood FoodHall. Renowned purveyors of birria-style tacos and quesadillas, Tacos la Jefa, operate along side Sugoi Sushi, Crepes and Treats, and All Rolled Up, a brand new addition to the Urban Eats lineup featuring a selection of both sweet and savory egg rolls. There’s also a new walkup bar window at Urban Eats where you can treat yourself to a beer or a glass of wine and enjoy the sidewalk seating at Meramec and Virginia.

More About the Wink!

The Wink’s shared retail concept offers unique opportunities for small retail businesses to get off the ground in the brick-and-mortar market. By using technology, sharing overhead expenses, and offering multiple engaging options for shoppers, costs are reduced, slim margins can be improved, and customers can enjoy a more robust shopping experience. The model seeks to activate the urban environment with benefits for the businesses, the building owner, and the community.

The Wink! is owned and operated by Caya Aufiero and John Chen, longtime Dutchtown residents, proprietors of neighborhood mainstay Urban Eats, and owners of SolutionWorks, a real estate development and management company.

The Dutchtown Community Improvement District and Dutchtown Main Streets are excited to announce the start of a new community-oriented Neighborhood Beautification Service Program in partnership with employer and training vendor Employment Connection. The program, funded by the Dutchtown CID, is designed to keep Dutchtown’s main thoroughfares clean while recirculating taxpayer money back into the community. Services are expected to start in August 2021.

“After getting our feet wet with standard trash porter services when the Dutchtown Community Improvement District got up and running, we really challenged ourselves as a community to envision a model that could have additional benefits to make this use of our tax dollars stretch even further,” said Joel Silliman, Chair of the Dutchtown Main Streets Design Committee. “What we are putting into place here in Dutchtown is a program that helps keep our streets clean, provides job opportunities for people who live here, and pays a fair entry-level wage.”

The scope of the Dutchtown Neighborhood Beautification Service Program was crafted by neighborhood volunteers serving on the Dutchtown Main Streets Design Committee. The new services will allow for the routine emptying of trash cans and litter removal along the Dutchtown CID footprint covering Virginia Avenue, Meramec Street, and South Grand Boulevard within the Dutchtown neighborhood.

The program aims to employ beautification workers locally from the Dutchtown neighborhood with a starting hourly wage of $15. This community-oriented model fosters clean streets while directly employing people from the community and paying them a fair wage.

Selecting a vendor for the Neighborhood Beautification Service Program followed a request for quote process with Employment Connection being awarded the contract. Employment Connection has existing ties to the Dutchtown community as the City of St. Louis’s chosen facilitator of the Cure Violence program in Dutchtown and a longstanding history of connecting local residents with employment opportunities and other services. Employment Connection will hire, train, and supervise the Dutchtown beautification workers.

Along with funding from the Dutchtown Community Improvement District, US Bank is providing financial support through its US Bank Foundation Rebuild and Transform Fund grant awarded to Employment Connection last Fall to support job training in targeted neighborhoods like Dutchtown. Habitat for Humanity, which has its St. Louis headquarters in Dutchtown, has also joined forces with Employment Connection to provide a utility vehicle for trash removal along the designated service footprint.  

“We have a lot of exciting momentum in Dutchtown and growing grassroots community engagement. The goal is to use our momentum to implement more projects and services that have equitable benefits for Dutchtown similar to what was accomplished with this local neighborhood beautification program,” said Nate Lindsey, President of Dutchtown Main Streets.

Now Hiring for the Neighborhood Beautification Team!

Are you or someone you know looking for rewarding part-time work? Join Employment Connection’s Neighborhood Beautification Team! Supervisor positions start at $17 per hour, and beautification workers start at $15 per hour. The jobs offer 15 to 20 hours per week beginning in August. Employment Connection especially seeks to hire from within the Dutchtown neighborhood.

The Neighborhood Beautification Team gives workers the opportunity to foster change within their community and play a key role in building a stronger and better Dutchtown for all. Take pride when you see tangible results as the Neighborhood Beautification Service Program helps to transform Dutchtown into a cleaner and safer neighborhood for residents, business owners, and visitors.

To apply, send a resume or letter of interest to If you have more questions about the positions, you can call (314) 333-5622. Employment Connection is a background-friendly equal opportunity employer.