From Ordinance 59836 (B.B. No. 479)
Section 2(a): Historical Signicicance
October 3, 1985


It was during the 1890's that Cherokee Street began to assume commercial importance, largely due to the convenience of the new electric streetcar lines. Two branch lines of the Union Depot, Railroad Company crossed at Cherokee and California Avenue, thereby creating an assembly point for transferring streetcar passengers. This ready-made group of potential shoppers attracted merchants to establish stores nearby, marking the beginning of the Cherokee Street business district.


Before the transit consolidation of September, 1899, the Union Depot Railroad was the largest independent transit firm in the City, with its network of car lines serving most of south St. Louis. Its connection with the Cherokee Street district began in 1883, when it extended its house car line southward on California Avenue. In the early 1890's this line was electrified and in 1894, the Union Depot Railroad built and electric streetcar line of Cherokee Street, where no house car line had ever operated. Another transit line which influenced the development of the Cherokee Street business district was the one on Jefferson Avenue. This line was originally built by the South St. Louis Railway Company as a house car route about 1877. In January, 1893, this line became a part of the Southern Electric Railroad Company, which subsequently rebuilt it as an electric trolley car line. It, too, became a part of the United Railways Company in 1899. The Cherokee car line was replaced by buses in the late 1930's, and during the late 1940's the Bellefontaine line on California Avenue was motorized. The Jefferson car line held out against the trend to buses until October, 1958.


By 1912, the present commercial district, between 2300 and 2900 on Cherokee Street had become well established. A count of the types of businesses there showed a predominance of dry goods stores, with a total of six. Next in order numerically, of which there were three of each, were saloons, groceries, barber shops, shoe stores, cleaners, tailors, druggists, and dentists. There was then a wide range of miscellaneous merchants and services including, jewelers, photo studios, confectioneries, butchers and millinery shops. By blocks, there were twelve businesses in the 2300 block, twenty in the 2600 block, twelve in the 2700, and twenty-one in the 2800 blocks on Cherokee Street.


Among the early businessmen on Cherokee was Fred Wehrenberg, who opened his first theatre at 1953 Cherokee Street in 1906. In 1912 and 1920 the Cherokee theatre is listed at 2708-10 Cherokee Street. Another early entrant in the amusement field in the district was the Cinderella Theatre at 2735 Cherokee, which opened in 1915. It was part of a complex, which also included a dance hall and a skating rink, operated by Eugene and Harry Freund. They also operated the Cinderella Airdome Theatre at 2727 Cherokee in the early 1920's. About 1940, the Casa Loma Ballroom at 3352 Iowa Avenue was opened, prior to 1940 it was the Show Boat Dance Hall. Earliest of the variety "five and ten cent" stores in the area was that of F.W. Woolworth, which opened at 2743 Cherokee in 1919. It was followed by S.S. Kresge and Neisner Brothers during the 1920's. J.C. Penney opened their store on Cherokee Street in 1936. The Ziegenhein Brothers Livery and Undertaking Company was located at 2621 Cherokee from 1901 until about 1940. Some other old-line merchants in the district were the Dau Furniture Company, the Western Auto Supply Company and Walgreen's Drug Store.


A weekly community newspaper that was long identified with the Cherokee Street area was the South Side Journal, which was founded by Frank x. Bick in 1932. While the Cherokee Street shopping district has been subject to economic fluctuations over the years, it has managed to survive better than some other urban shopping areas in St. Louis. In an effort to adjust to the need for more parking facilities, induced by the increased use of automobiles by shoppers, off-street parking lots were built to the rear of some of the stores in the area in the early 1960Ís. With an established tributary residential area surrounding it, Cherokee Street has continued as a busy district for shoppers, especially attracting those who do not care to drive long distances to suburban shopping centers.