Steve Sailer’s latest Taki column about Colin Quinn brings up the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope.
Park Slope seems to be very comparable to Lafayette Square in several ways. They both were born for the same reason, rose for the same reason, fell for the same reason, then were reborn and gentrified for the same reason. Both are situated adjacent to relatively large public parks, in the case of PS, Prospect Park, which also has some notable Brooklyn cultural attractions, in the case of LS, Lafayette Park, which was St. Louis’s very first public park. At their first wave peaks, PS was the richest neighborhood in the country, LS was St. Louis’s no doubt about it uptown, where any St. Louisan who was truly anybody had to live. The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 fueled the first wave growth of PS, while the general overall growth of St. Louis after the WBTS and the growing fortunes from St. Louis-based industrial and commercial interests, and the extension of horse drawn streetcars to the area around the city’s first park, fueled LS.
From there, that’s where the differences start to present.
LS’s decline was precipitated by an event that only lasted a few minutes, the May 27, 1896 tornado. A good chunk of LS houses were either total losses or greatly damaged. Most of them were rebuilt exactly or almost exactly the same as they were before the tornado, but almost to no avail — It was close to the dawn of the twentieth century, and horse drawn street cars were about to become electric street cars, and horses were about to become horseless carriages. After the tornado year, “uptown” moved west, 1904 drew the attention of St. Louisans to Forest Park, and by the 1920s, uptown was north of Forest Park, not around Lafayette Park.
PS’s decline seemed to be the general suburbanization of cities and metropolitan areas after WWII. The decline of PS was very fast and and very severe. First, the people that made PS the richest neighborhood in the country left, leaving the area for rough working class ethnic whites, mainly Irish and Italian. Then as quick as you could blink your eye, blacks and Puerto Ricans drove out the working class white ethnics. And PS would be a ghetto and barrio from about the time of JFK’s assassination on through to the David Dinkins years. In contrast, LS’s decline was slow and gentle, starting at the tornado year through the start of WWII. LS never fell as far as PS, it never fell to the black undertow, at worst, LS was a hoosiery neighborhood from around WWII to about 1970. Low and working class white, but not really ethnospecific. That LS’s nadir was hoosiery and not the ghetto would be what would save it in the long term, because almost all St. Louis City gentrification has happened in neighborhoods that never went any lower than the hoosiers; there has been very little success in trying to gentrify ghetto neighborhoods. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn and New York in general, because of the city’s importance, there actually has been the reversal of ghettos, Park Slope included.
The rebirth of LS was around 1970, and fueled by middle aged white people who liked old big historically significant houses. By 1990, LS was back on solid ground as a livable neighborhood, though it had some peripheral work to do which it got done in the 1990s, and it was helped greatly by the abandonment and the eventual tearing down of the Darst-Webbe high rise housing projects one neighborhood, and a very short walk, to the east, in the ’90s, and its replacement with far less problematic mixed used low rise projects, the King Louis Square, in the late ’90s and early aughts. The Clinton-Peabody projects, in the same neighborhood as the old Darst-Webbe and the current King Louis Square, and again, in very short walking distance of LS, low rise projects, is still there, and still shows up in the local crime blotter from time to time, and really still needs to go, but it’s far less of a problem now than it was when C-P residents had D-W residents to help them turbocharge their thuggery.
The rebirth of PS was a 1980s-1990s thing, as New York became the media and financial and banking center of the country, demonstrated by the beginning of the very long DJIA surge starting in 1982, and helped greatly by Giuliani’s unleashing of the NYPD on the vibrant class, and the overall reduction of crime rates due to longer prison sentences and the winding down of the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic.
Today, a typical resident of gentrified Lafayette Square is a white middle aged, 40s/50s, professional small to medium sized business owner in pre-internet sorts of businesses, mixed between intact nuclear families, empty nesters, divorce/es, and a few LGBTQetc. Park Slope is mainly thirtysomething creative class types, dotcommers, internet startups, trust fund brats, mainly singles and cohabitators.
Architecturally, PS is mostly conjoined row houses made of brownstone, while LS is majority standalone brick row houses with various materials used as front facades, generally of Franco-Anglo-Germanic inspiration, in contrast to the more purely Germanic styles of St. Louis’s other oldest neighborhoods.
Another huge difference: Park Slope, five long blocks wide by 20-30 blocks tall varying. About one square mile, population 65,000. Lafayette Square, about two-tenths of a square mile, population 2,100.