Buildings in Affton, Missouri, October 2012
Location of Affton, Missouri
|• Total||4.6 sq mi (11.9 km2)|
|• Land||4.6 sq mi (11.9 km2)|
|• Water||0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)|
|Elevation||617 ft (188 m)|
|• Density||4,400/sq mi (1,700/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (Central (CST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0755674|
Affton is located at 38°33'4" North, 90°19'25" West (38.551052, -90.323614).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the community has a total area of 4.6 square miles (12 km2), all land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 20,535 people, 8,892 households, and 5,655 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 4,480.1 people per square mile (1,731.1/km²). There were 9,128 housing units at an average density of 1,991.5/sq mi (769.5/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 97.62% White, 0.06% Black, 0.01% American Indian, 1.30% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.28% from other races, and 1.13% from two or more races. 1.01% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 8,892 households out of which 26.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.1% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.4% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the CDP, the population was spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 21.4% from 45 to 64, and 19.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.0 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $43,327, and the median income for a family was $54,881. Males had a median income of $38,141 versus $28,397 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $22,059. 3.6% of the population and 2.1% of families were below the poverty line. 3.9% of those under the age of 18 and 4.1% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
The 19th century
The early settlers
In 1803 the United States of America negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France. At that time the western boundary of the United States was the Mississippi River. However, even at that early date there were many Americans who were residents of the Louisiana Country, a vast, roughly triangular-shaped area which extended from New Orleans to the Canada–United States border. St. Louis was already a thriving river city. The Chouteaus, the Lacledes, and other early settlers had already established a profitable fur trade with the Indians who roamed the rich fur country along the Missouri River.
Many of the early settlers around St. Louis had already been granted vast areas of land by the Spanish king, who ruled this section of North America through an appointed governor who had his headquarters in the city of New Orleans. One of the men who had gained one of these grants from the Spanish king was a Frenchman by the name of Gregoire Sarpy. Sarpy had a tract of about 6,000 acres (24 km2) located just southwest of St. Louis in a section known as Carondelet (named after a Governor-General of New Orleans). Sarpy was a partner of another Frenchman, Chouteau, in a very profitable fur trade business. The tract of land that Sarpy owned extended from what is now the city of Webster Groves to a stream the Spaniards called Rio de los Padres and the French called Riviere des Peres ("River of the Fathers") after the early Jesuit missionaries who had a settlement at its mouth.
During the 1820s a Scotsman by the name of Kenneth MacKenzie had immigrated to America, made quite a fortune in the fur trade, and decided to settle down to the life of a farmer. He purchased from Gregoire Sarpy a tract of about 3,000 acres (12 km2), the eastern half of the Sarpy lands, and established a great plantation. MacKenzie's property included all the land between what is now Hazel Avenue to the north, Gravois Road to the south, Laclede Station Road to the west, and River des Peres to the east. This is much of what is Affton today and explains how part of Shrewsbury came to be included in the Affton School District.
MacKenzie lands divided
In 1842 MacKenzie had his lands surveyed and divided into 40-acre (16 ha) tracts which he put up for sale. During the period from 1835 to 1870 there was much political disturbance in western Europe, particularly Germany, and many of the German immigrants came to this section of St. Louis County to live. Many of the contributors to this story have in their possession the documents, signed by Kenneth MacKenzie, which deeded the 40-acre tracts to their ancestors.
A large tract of this ground was sold in the 1850s to Louis Auguste Benoist, a successful St. Louis banker. He purchased 485 acres (1.96 km2) and established a huge plantation which he called "Oakland". In the spring of 1853, Benoist commissioned George Ingham Barnett, the first European-trained designer in St. Louis, to fashion his country mansion. Barnett was born in Nottingham, England, and studied in London. He came to America in 1839 at the age of 24, and after apprenticing in New York for a short time, he journeyed to St. Louis to establish a practice of his own. Barnett's 50 years of architectural accomplishments would later include the Southern and Lindell hotels, the water tower on North Grand, the Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City, many lavish houses in Lafayette Square, and #7 Vandeventer Place, a body of work that led him to be called "the dean of Western architects". Benoist built a large mansion, barns, slave quarters, cottages, smokehouses, and springhouses. About one-third of the original Benoist estate now comprises the Lakewood Park Cemetery and is one of the most interesting and historical areas in Affton. The mansion, Oakland House, was purchased by the Affton Historical Society in 1976 and underwent extensive restoration. It is a showplace in the Affton community and is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Henry A. W. Wagener home
The Henry A. W. Wagener home at 9935 MacKenzie is one that has seen a lot of history and change. The trim, well-kept home that one sees today is really much older than it appears. Wagener's mother, Anna Rothenbuecher Wagener, lived in that home as a child. The home was built in 1843, and underneath its present covering is the original log cabin.
Ulysses S. Grant's cabin
Perhaps the most treasured landmark of the community is Grant's log cabin which now stands in the Busch estate on Gravois Road. The cabin was originally built in 1848 by Ulysses S. Grant on an 80-acre (32 ha) tract given to him by his father-in-law, Col. Frederick Dent. This tract of ground is just west of the area where Laclede Station and Rock Hill intersect. The cabin was built in the general vicinity of what is now the St. Paul Cemetery entrance.
In 1890, the old Grant Cabin was moved from the farm to Old Orchard (near Webster Groves) where Justin E. Joy, a real estate dealer, used to attract attention to a subdivision he was promoting. The cabin was next used in the World Fair Grounds in St. Louis in 1904 to advertise a special brand of coffee. The cabin was finally brought back to Affton when August Anheuser Busch, Sr. obtained it and located it on the present site on Gravois Road. Busch restored it to its original condition and today the cabin remains a point of great interest.
Ten Mile House
According to Charles Scheidt, who lived in Affton from 1882 until he died, the old Affton he remembered was an area of truck gardens. He told of the farmers starting out before dawn to take their produce to the market in horse-drawn wagons. One of the principal markets for the farmers of this area was located in St. Louis, at the wide V where Gravois meets Grand Avenue. There, twice a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays, the farmers would back their wagons to the curb for the day and sell the produce of their fields direct to the residents of South St. Louis who would walk there to do their buying. Other farmers would continue on down Gravois to the old French Market, Soulard or Biddle Markets. One of the last truck gardens was that of George and Marie Sanders. They were located on S Laclede Station Rd. at the current location of Gotsch Intermediate School 8348 S. Laclede Station RD. In the 1950s and early 1960s George worked his land with two mules. The Sanders were well known for the fresh and mostly home grown vegetables and hot house plants sold through their little market located on their property. George trucked the excess to the Soulard Market.
The "Ten Mile House" which had been located at Gravois and Tesson Ferry was a well-known landmark. The name itself had much significance. In the days of the horse and carriage, there were not many road markers as we know them today. Instead, travelers were guided by different buildings along the way. They devised the scale that any building one mile (1.6 km) from the Court House in St. Louis (now the Gateway Arch National Park) would be called the "One Mile House", meaning one mile (1.6 km) from the Court House.
Thus you will still find today a "Ten Mile House" or an "Eleven Mile House" by going out the older by-ways such as Manchester or Gravois. The building at Gravois and Tesson Ferry was the building 10 miles (16 km) out Gravois Road from the courthouse. The building was originally built by the Detjen family and called Detjen Grove. The original building has been replaced by a mostly empty building that currently houses National Check Cashier.
Johann Aff began a general store at the "Ten Mile House" in 1872. Besides owning a truck garden and operating the general store, he also served as the first postmaster of the area. Thus it was that for mailing purposes the area began being referred to as Aff's town and eventually Affton. Johann Aff is buried near Affton, just inside the St. Louis city limits.
The story of early Affton would certainly be incomplete without mention of another post office in the area, that of Nursery, Missouri. The Weber Nursery, located approximately on what is now Coral Drive, in the Gravois Gardens subdivision, is described in early history books as one of the most complete nurseries west of the Mississippi River. The nursery did such a tremendous mail-order business that it had its own post office; thus the name Nursery, Mo.
Although Affton is generally thought of as a German community, a large settlement of English families made their home here. In fact, the oldest church in Affton is the Episcopal Church, built in 1882. The group met first in the McKenzie School building. In 1882 the congregation built the frame church costing $1,200 on the corner of New Hampshire and Aliceton.
The Affton as it was known prior to 1900 is described as having been a good place to live, quiet and beautiful. In the 1890s there was still much timber and game was plentiful. Most of the residents still spoke German, and a stranger coming down MacKenzie Road would attract much attention, but the people of Affton were always friendly.
The turn of the 20th century found the little community "out by the Gravois" developing all the signs of a little town. The further development can be traced to the prominence of Gravois Road. The earliest recorded data on Gravois Road is dated 1804, according to Mr. B. Cordell Stevens, a resident of Clayton and president of the St. Louis Historical Society. On an old map this principal thoroughfare of Affton is described as the "Road that led to the Salt Spring of Clamorgan in a wagon." James Clamorgan was the name of an early Irish settler who came to Jefferson County and built a home south and east of what is now Fenton. The words "Salt Spring" refer to the saline spring, common in that region, located near this early homesite.
That early trail bore little resemblance to Gravois Road of today. In fact very few, if any, of the original roads in St. Louis County can be recognized as the early trails and turnpikes laid out and traveled by the pioneers who settled this region and picked from the solid wilderness a few traffic routes which later developed into highways and boulevards. In most cases our modern highways, built to meet the needs of fast motor transportation, do not follow exactly the earlier routes which were determined largely by accommodation to the natural terrain. Modern road-building machinery and materials have solved many of the problems with which the early settlers were unable to cope.
However, this early "big road" (it could accommodate a wagon) rapidly became a much-used thoroughfare. This is attested to by the fact that on December 20, 1804, a John Boli was granted a license to operate a ferry across the Meramec River two miles (3 km) below what is now the site of Fenton.
Plans for rerouting began with a petition, dated May 23, 1818, addressed to the Circuit Court, asking for a road from Reaszin Sappington's mill to the mill belonging to Wilson P. Hunt whose property was located on the River des Peres. From this point the road was to proceed to the town of St. Louis. Of special interest are the names of some of the signatories of this petition: Wilson Hunt, Theodore Hunt, Joseph Wells, John Sappington, Wm. L. Long, August Chouteau, Antoine Soulard, Bernard Pratte, Sylvester Labadie and many other pioneers around whom the history of St. Louis and St. Louis County is written.
Fourteen years later (1832) this "Road to Fenton" was established and declared a public road. (It was a common practice at that time for individuals to be granted the right to charge a "toll" on vehicles using a road if these individuals would maintain and keep in repair the roadway near their homes. This practice was common in Western Europe, and the idea was brought over by our early settlers.) According to the records, this new road began at the "Three-Mile Post", where Gravois Avenue now intersects Arsenal Street.
By an act of the Missouri State Legislature, passed February 11, 1839, Gravois Road became a state road. All the roads of those days were of dirt corduroy (logs laid side by side), or of planks, which made for the smoothest riding.
In 1845, the Missouri Assembly appropriated a sum not to exceed $7,000 to be apportioned to each township along the route for the macadamizing (a mixture of gravel and tar, a new type of road surface developed by John Loudon McAdam in Scotland) of Gravois Road within the limits of each township.
The use of the name of Gravois Road came into being about this time. The name "Gravois" came from the combination of French words meaning "gravelly creek", referring to the small gravelly creek that runs through the area.
In 1847, the General Assembly authorized the County Court to borrow $50,000 to macadamize all of Gravois Road. However, the general practice in road building until the Civil War period continued to be the "plank" type of roadway. In some ways this type of road was superior to the newly developed macadam surface, which was of rather soft construction (the steamroller had not yet been invented), the hope being that travel would tramp the gravel and tar to a hard surface. However, the carriage wheels would cut deep ruts into the roadway, and there soon appeared to one side of the right-of-way what in those days was referred to as a "summer road", a dirt road which was passable only in the summer months.
Gravois Road was the first road in the county to be treated with a concrete surface. The experiment was made over a 6,000-foot (1,800 m) length, extending from the St. Louis city limits at Gardenville, to Grant's Farm, then owned by the late August A. Busch who paid half the cost of construction. The concrete roadway, 16 feet (4.9 m) wide, was laid in 1914. All work was done with horse-drawn equipment.
Except for the state-regulated Gravois Road, all the local county roads used the "toll-gate" system. We have already seen that earlier roads were maintained by the farm residents along the route for the privilege of collecting money from those traveling along the road. To enforce payment, a log, on a pivot, was swung across the road to prevent passage until the toll was collected. However, such a practice was so distasteful to travelers that as the roads became used more and more, pressure was exerted on the county governments to maintain these roads at county (tax) expense. In 1868, a county order was announced that the "toll gates on the St. Charles Road, and all those roads designated as county roads, be removed as far as the county line, as their location constituted an injustice to countians."
Other roads began to take on the names we know them by today. Tesson Ferry got its name from a settler named Tesson who operated a ferry on the Meramec River. Rock Hill Road received its name from a quarry in a "rock-hill". MacKenzie of course was taken from the first subdivider when he had his land divided and sold in 40 acre (162,000 m²) tracts. Weber Road was the road going between the Weber Nursery Office and nursery grounds. After MacKenzie Road was paved in 1939 other subdivisions came into being, and the streets often took the names of the farmers who had sold the tract of land. Thus the names of early settlers have become permanent landmarkers: Darlow, Shepperd, Neier, Vasel, Stafford, and Ashwell, to mention only a few.
As Gravois Road became more traveled, more settlers came into the area of rich truck farms, and the need for more local businesses was evident. About 1915 Affton had several small businesses, according to Kenneth Keller who has done quite a bit of research on early Affton. Tony Bauer operated a blacksmith shop on the northeast corner of Gravois Road and the Frisco Railroad tracks. August Mehl operated another smithy near Consul Avenue. Affton had three groceries, belonging to the Hummelsheims, the Schneebergers, and Wohlschlaegers. In the Wohlschlaeger's Store was located the second U.S. post office in Affton. Meyer's meat market was also a favorite source of food.
Affton also claimed a feed store at the corner of New Hampshire and Gravois (the old building was torn down just a few years ago). A telegraph exchange was operated by Louis J. Keller on Gravois Road between Brenda and MacKenzie. Affton also had a lumber yard, a dry goods and a hardware store, a coalyard, and even an ice cream parlor.
By 1915 Affton also claimed more churches: Eden Evangelical, Salem Lutheran, and St. George's Roman Catholic Church. Church services at Eden were conducted regularly in German and only occasionally in English.
As recently as 1931 Affton had only about 800 people. There were many small stores and the community was developing, but the Affton area still claimed a very small number of people, mostly truck farmers. With the paving of more streets by the county, subdivision after subdivision began to replace the truck farms. With the development of a more urban population there came the desire for an urban type of government. In the early 1930s there developed a movement to incorporate the area. As a result of the recognized need, Affton became incorporated as a village and employed a policeman and an assistant. However, the little city was doomed almost before it got started due to its inability to meet the financial responsibilities attached to the maintenance of police, court, sanitation and the other agencies of government. Thus, in 1935 the people of Affton voted to disincorporate, and the area has remained without a local government ever since. Small areas within Affton have incorporated since for the purpose of protecting their own immediate sections. The greater part of Affton remains under the direct supervision of St. Louis County.
In spite of the failure to meet the needs of incorporation, the citizens recognized the need for community action for fire protection. The Affton Civic League and the Westbrook Fire Protective Association joined forces to canvass the area to raise the necessary funds for fire protection.
Through carnivals, dances and subscriptions the group was able to raise enough money to organize and maintain the Affton Fire Association. In April 1946 the people of Affton took a further step when they elected to establish a fire protective district as set forth under the laws of Missouri. Thanks to the work of this small but dedicated group who recognized the need and worked toward its realization, we today have the fine Affton Fire District.
With the disappearance of the farms, the growth of the Affton area since 1945 is hard for anyone to visualize. It has just sprung up all over. Now in the 21st century most of the few remaining farms and landmarks of the Affton of yesteryear have disappeared. The ice cream cone that once stood in front of Velvet Freeze at Weber and Gravois was restored by the Affton Fire Department and now stands in front of Mesnier Primary School. But even though the visible signs of their existence may be gone, the standard and habits they have set for us and for those of the future will shine to keep Affton the community we have all grown to love. The Federhofer's Bakery sign and the Phil's BBQ sign are both recognized by St. Louis County as historic signs.
Since 1998, when façade improvement money was available to businesses to make improvements with the money spent by the business being matched with grant money, many businesses along Gravois have made improvements such as the recent remodeling of the local library. In 2003 Commerce Bank built a new building, and in 2004 there was a noticeable increase in new buildings, as Pioneer Bank and Kenrick's Meat & Catering both put up new buildings. With a TIF (tax increment financing), renovations were started in Grasso Plaza with a St. Louis Bread Company opening in September and a Walgreens to open at year end. With a $1 million donation by Bill and Nancy Thompson, graduates of the Affton School District, a new Commons Building was added next to the existing cafeteria, and through wise investing of the funds from a previous tax increase, the school district was able to renovate the athletic fields and add lights to the football field, giving the community a place to meet on Friday nights. Residents are able to use the field when the school is not using it. After 9/11, the residents voted a tax increase for the Affton Fire District so they could build two new buildings, and they were completed in 2004.
- John Goodman, actor, born and raised in Affton, attended Affton High School
- Kristeen Young, musician, raised in Affton
- Derek Blasberg, fashion writer, attended Affton High School
- Markus Golden, Arizona Cardinals football player, attended Affton High School
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Affton CDP, Missouri". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING (1790-2010)". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 17, 2010.