There is a bend in the river – and that’s where they put the city of St. Louis.
St. Louis is fun – and here is a guide to finding your way around. Just remember the bend in the river.
Imagine a bow (as in bow and arrow) aimed to the east. The imaginary arrow slides right through the Gateway Arch overlooking the river. Just to the west, behind the levee, is the old downtown.
The St. Louis westernmost city limit parallels Skinker Blvd. That boundary mirrors the river just as the string mirrors the bow. The city is almond-shaped, with the river on the east and Skinker Blvd. to the west. These two arcs meet at the northern and southern points of town. This is a simplification: Skinker Blvd. goes by that name for only a short part of the arc, roughly where the arrow’s feathers would be. To the north it becomes Goodfellow Blvd., and to the south it turns into McCausland Ave., along with other names. But those are details – the main point is this: following Skinker (or its renamed equivalents) to the north will eventually get you to the river, and likewise, following it to the south will also lead you to the river.
And this is helpful: north-south streets in St. Louis form arcs parallel to Skinker that lead from river to river. Let’s call them arc streets. The inner-most such street is Parnell/Jefferson, followed by Grand Blvd. (that’s where St. Louis University is), Kingshighway Blvd., and then Skinker. To a first approximation, all of these streets parallel Skinker and intersect the river at points north and south of downtown.
Superimposed on this are streets that radiate from downtown. Two important ones are North Florissant Ave., and South Broadway. These directly parallel the river, and (this is important) will intersect all of the arc streets. Thus North Grand Blvd. intersects North Florissant at approximately right angles – try something like that in Chicago. But in St. Louis it makes perfect sense – Grand is an arc that will intersect the river, and Florissant is a radial that parallels the river. (S. Grand Ave. should also intersect S. Broadway, but doesn’t because the very southern part of the city doesn’t follow the rules. I’ve never been there, so I don’t know why.)
Starting with Florissant, the important radial streets are Natural Bridge, Martin Luther King, Page Blvd., Delmar, Olive/Lindell, Market/Forest Park, Chouteau, Gravois, and Broadway. These radiate fan-like from downtown, and all of them intersect the arc streets at approximately right angles. Of these, Lindell, Forest Park, and Chouteau are roughly east-west streets; the others head either northwest or southwest. (Quiz: which radial streets also intersect the river?)
St. Louis University is at Grand & Lindell. Washington University is at Skinker & Forest Parkway. The justly famous Forest Park stretches along Forest Parkway from Kingshighway to Skinker. The Arch is at the foot of Market St. The cultural heart of the city is along Lindell Blvd. near Vandeventer Ave. (which, if it went through, would be an arc street west of Grand).
Will you meet me in St. Louis? How about at a nice restaurant near the corner of Delmar and Skinker?
You do know where that is, don’t you?
Daniel Jelski is Dean of Science & Engineering State University of New York at New Paltz.