Traditionally and Irish neighborhood in St. Louis, Dogtown is located in the Southwestern part of the city of St. Louis and is on the Southern border of Forest Park by the zoo. The area is popular for it’s fantastic St. Patrick’s Day parade and celebration each year.
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History of the Dogtown Area in St. Louis
The Dogtown Area in St. Louis stands out as an area, rather than one of St. Louis’s 79 neighborhoods, and got its name in the early days of the area’s mining history. Today, the Dogtown area is home to a rich cultural background, a famous St. Patrick’s Day parade and several very popular local bars. While much of the area is not a huge draw for tourists, the area provides several interesting local activities as well as a unique history representing much of the mining culture of early St. Louis. Today the area is mostly popular for its restaurants and nightlife, but the history of the area and its neighborhoods goes back much further.
Beginning: In the early 1800s, the Dogtown Area was settled by miners establishing shacks and huts around their mines. The small clay and coal mines that dotted the area gave rise to several local neighborhoods and towns, including the abutting The Hill neighborhood. Most of the area was then known as the small town of Cheltenham, which was located in the current neighborhoods of Cheltenham and Forest Park.
Name: While some believe that the Dogtown area was first named at the 1904 World Fair, the earliest known reference of the name Dogtown in reference to the area was in a 1889 print of the “Missouri Republican” newspaper, which was issued to alert the area of a lost 5-year old boy who came from the “classic precincts of Dogtown and Cheltenham”
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The name Dogtown is actually a classic mining term, used to describe small towns and groups of houses that were typically erected near or close to mines. Because the term ‘dog’ was commonly used in mining culture to refer to almost anything hastily erected, referring to a mine, or put up by a miner the terminology is quite common, leading to multiple “dogtown’s” around the United States.
One theory suggests that when, in 1876, the City of St. Louis acquired the property that was then part of Cheltenham, coal mining families where asked to leave. They then packed up and moved to what is now Dogtown, and erected small houses right around the entrance to the mines, or what is now the corner of Park and Graham. This theory suggests that the name ‘dogtown’ comes from the dogs these miners purchased to protect their homes, but this theory, like others, is not confirmed.
History: Dogtown built up around local clay and coal mines but quickly became a populous area filled with immigrants, primarily from Ireland. As the town built up, it slowly merged into the greater St. Louis area, known primarily for the Clayton/Tamn and Cheltenham areas, which are it’s largest neighborhoods. Much of the area is centered by the ST. James the Greater Catholic Church, which was constructed in 1902 by the Domincan Sisters of Sparkhill N.Y., and has concentrated on education since the early days of its founding.
Over time, the area expanded from Cheltenham and Clayton Tamm into Franz Park, Hi-Pointe, and some parts of Ellendale. Boundaries are recognized as Oakland Avenue, Macklind Avenue, McCausland Avenue, and Manchester Avenue to Interstate 44.
Today:While primarily Irish, the area supports a thriving cultural scene with diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, thanks to it’s immigrant culture and closeness with the Italian community The Hill. Forest Park is nearby as well, just across the Tamm Avenue Bridge. The area supports dozens of shops, bakeries and eateries, including restaurants. The area supports a mix of urban professionals and a strong Irish community, which is represented not only in the nightlife, which still attracts visitors from around ST. Louis, but also their annual parade. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade hosted by the Ancient Order of Hibernians attracts thousands of visitors on a yearly basis, making it a noteworthy tourist attraction.
Cheltenham, the oldest neighborhood in the Dogtown area, supports the most restaurants per capita in most of the U.S., giving you plenty of places to look for food in the area. With an astonishing 267 restaurants per capita available, there are eateries everywhere.
While not well known as a tourist attraction, Dogtown represents one of the best places to live in St. Louis, and was named as such in 2014 by a local vote. The area’s mix of culture, restaurants and nightlife, combined with a wide variety of housing and apartment opportunities with affordable rental rates make it a popular place for almost everyone. Plus, it’s location is just a 15 minute drive from almost everywhere else in St. Louis, making it suitable if you work downtown as well.
For more information about the history of Dogtown, click here