Located just outside the St. Louis City Limits, University City is located north west of Forest Park and just outside the campus of Washington University. Residents and visitors alike love the Loop neighborhood for shopping, live music and delicious restaurants.
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For locals and visitors alike, the Delmar Loop around University City is a 6-block paradise of shopping, restaurants, eateries, and fun, and has become a destination street in the city. While most know that the Delmar Loop got it’s name from an old streetcar that ‘looped’ around the area, few know of the exciting cultural history of the shopping district, how it grew out of the Delmar Boulevard, or how the Loop became the place to be in the area. The history of the U City is long, but more than interesting for anyone who wants to visit.
A History of the University City Loop Neighborhood in St Louis
Early History: While the history of the University City Loop does not point out to it being a shopping district, the area itself dates back to the 1800s. Delmar was previously known as Morgan Street, and predates the construction of the trolley, which was not constructed until after the Civil War.
The 1950s and the Rise of the Loop: In the early 1950s, the Loop became popular with teenagers, who frequented the Varsity Theater and Tivoli Theater, both of which showed first-run movies. Joe’s Billiards, which opened up near the university, also attracted students, who would take the streetcar up to Enright Avenue, where drug stores with soda fountains and restaurants were another draw. Delmar and Kingsland was another part of this early formation of the Loop as we know it, and also featured a drugstore with a soda fountain. Other restaurants dotted the streetcar loop, drawing in teenagers as well as passerby’s looking for entertainment and food. The local record store, and various tobacco shops known as head shops, dominated the area, catering primarily to teenagers from the University. The streetcar was closed down in 1951, but the area did not decline in popularity.
The 1970s: By the early 1970s, the Delmar Loop had slowed down as attraction for teenagers, but still featured theaters, and restaurants. The city encouraged local growth by creating new city legislations making it easier for cafes, shops, and boutiques to open up around the city. One of the most famous of the revival buildings is the Blueberry Hill Pub and Restaurant, which some consider to be essential to the then revival of the Loop. The area soon flourished with a surplice of outdoor cafes, shops, and galleries, drawing in shoppers from around the area. When later in the 70s, the St. Louis Walk of Fame was added to the area, it became a novelty stop for tourists as well.
Early 2000s: In the early 2000’s, the Delmar Loop began to expand into the St. Louis area. While it is primarily still based around Delmar Boulevard, the area now runs from North Price Road to North Tucker Boulevard and 12’th Street, running into Convention Center Plaza, and at the St. Louis City Boundary becomes Barrack Obama Boulevard, and is one of the only streets to have been renamed for a U.S. president. In 2007, the American Planning Association named the Loop “One of the 10 Great Streets in America”, and the area continue to thrive.
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