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Mon, 09.15.1980

Lewis Place, (St. Louis) Becomes a Historic Landmark

*On this date in 1980, Lewis Place was positioned on America’s National Register of Historic Landmarks.

Lewis Place is the oldest black private street in St. Louis.  Lewis Place was laid out in 1890 and was privately owned and developed by the family of William J. Lewis. Lewis Place is a three-block street with a center parkway lined on both sides, with beautiful homes built between 1890 and 1928. The housing stock reflects the ambiance of housing along the beautiful Euclid-Central West End area. St. Louis has a rich history in the struggle of Blacks for social and civil rights.  Lewis Place played an important part in the struggle for fair housing.

Like many other neighborhoods in St. Louis from 1910 to 1945, Lewis Place barred blacks from certain streets using restrictive covenants. The covenants were agreements between white homeowners to exclude the sale of their homes to black prospective buyers. In the 1940s, a group of determined Blacks led by Attorney Robert Witherspoon, husband of the famed social activist Dr. Fredda Witherspoon, decided to fight the Lewis Place restrictive covenant.  They persuaded fair-skinned blacks, who could pass for white, to purchase several homes in Lewis Place. Once the purchases were completed, they transferred the deeds to the actual properties, who voted down the restrictive covenant governing the sales of the housing in Lewis Place.

This movement led to the legal thrust that catapulted St. Louis, the landmark case of Shelly v. Kraemer, into the Supreme Court and decided on May 3, 1948. This landmark case struck down restrictive covenants across the entire United States of America.  Following the Shelly v. Kraemer case, Blacks slowly began to gain the right to purchase homes in any neighborhood of their choice. The historic design of Lewis Place by the architectural firm of Barnett and Haynes recognizes the architectural significance of housing around the turn of the 20th Century.

Lewis Place is located in a community with St. Louis University, Washington University, and Ranken Technical College, all within a three-mile radius. Lewis Place has pride, history, and beauty. It is a great place to live, with many affordable opportunities.

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