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Proposed: Delmar Divide
4 May 2015
Published To

Delmar Boulevard, a street that runs east-west through St. Louis, is famous for a number of reasons. It is hailed as one of the “Top Ten Streets in America” for its number of shops, restaurants, bars, and movie theatres. It is, however, also infamous across the world for what is known as the Delmar Divide. Directly south of Delmar one finds a number of beautiful, stately mansions, with a white population of 70% and 67% of the adult population holding bachelor’s degrees. Directly north of Delmar is where worried parents tell their kids not to go--there are broken and rusted street signs, abandoned businesses, and vacant houses. Here the population is 99% black with only 1 in 20 having a college degree.

This stark stratification is a result of a long history of racism, both overt and illegal. There was a time when black families could not buy a home south of Delmar. When that was deemed illegal by the United States Supreme Court in 1917, real estate agents and banks pushed African Americans and white families into certain neighborhoods. Racially restrictive covenants were made, too, that prohibited the sale of homes in certain neighborhoods to African American families.

This divide is an aspect of St. Louis that cannot be shrugged off. This is one of the best examples of segregation in the world, right in our own backyard. In an article for the Washington Post, a resident pointed out that, “‘It’s life in St. Louis,’ said Lawrence McKnight, a custodian at Centennial Christian Church in Fountain Park. ‘Some factions have it harder than others.’” Much like the City/County Divide, there can not be a single location on Delmar that has a cake, but Delmar should have a metaphorical cake for all that this Divide means to St. Louis. St. Louis is an incredibly segregated city, and Delmar is the prime example. A cake for the Cakeway to the West project would remind revelers that, although there are so many wonderful things about St. Louis--as is evidenced through the locations originally chosen for the project--there is still much progress to be made in terms of race relations and segregation in our city.


Left: Straub's Market at Kingshighway and Marlyand, 4 blocks south of Delmar

Right: King's Market at Kingshighway and Cabanne, 4 blocks north of Delmar

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