The Delmar Divide refers to Delmar Boulevard and its role as a racial dividing line in Saint Louis. North of Delmar is predominately black, while south of Delmar is mostly white. Today, we participated in Trailnet’s community bicycle ride, “People, Public Space and Progress Bicycle Tour”. Our guide was Sarah Witt. We biked down to Aloe Plaza, across Market from Union Station, where the ride proper began. Unfortunately, the fountain wasn’t running. There were about twenty of us and for the record, we were all white. Our tour included, but was not limited to Mill Creek Valley, the Ville and the Greater Ville, the Shelly House, Fairgrounds Park, Crown Candy Kitchen and Old North Saint Louis and Pruitt–Igoe.
The residents along the way were friendly, frequently waving of calling out a greeting. One woman walked away with the quote of the day, when she called out to us from her passing car, “You do know that you are in North Saint Louis?” At times, I felt like a voyeur, but as Sarah pointed out later, we were always in public spaces and the only alternative would have been not to go, which would have been worse.
Certainly the most interesting and disturbing sight was Pruitt–Igoe. This was a public housing project that has come to be immortalized by the video of its implosion. Much of the original site has been repurposed, but 33 acres remain unused. In the fifty years since its demolition and clearing, the land has returned to nature and a forest has grown up in it. We walked into it. It is an eerie, scary place and I was glad to be rid of it. I’m sure that it is haunted.
It was back to Aloe Plaza then and the end of the official ride. Afterwards, seven of us, including Sarah, adjourned to Schlafly’s Tap Room for a little refreshment. The cinnamon-vanilla stout was fantastic. Anne and I toddled home after that. This last year has been filled with racial tensions here in Saint Louis. I don’t think that our little bike ride helped very much, but it didn’t hurt.