THE VILLE is a historic African-American neighborhood located in St. Louis, Missouri with a rich history of African-American education, business, entertainment and culture. The neighborhood is bounded by St. Louis Avenue on the North, Martin Luther King drive on the South, Sarah on the East and Taylor on the West.
The Ville originally belonged to Charles M. Elleard, a florist and horticulturist who maintained a conservatory and greenhouses on the tract of land. During Elleard’s twenty years at his property on Goode and St. Charles Rock Road, the area became known as Elleardsville. Elleardsville was formally incorporated into the city of St. Louis in 1876 following the passage of the city’s new charter separating it from St. Louis County. In the late nineteenth century, the neighborhood attracted German and Irish immigrants, along with some African Americans. The neighborhood’s first black institution, Elleardsville Colored School No. 8 (later renamed Simmons School), opened in 1873.
Prior to the United States Civil Rights movement, the use of restrictive covenants and other legal restrictions prevented African-Americans from finding housing in many areas of the city. As a result, the African American population of St. Louis became heavily concentrated in and around the Ville. Between 1920 and 1930, The Ville went from being 8% to 86% African American. The neighborhood quickly became the cradle of African-American culture and home to many black professionals, businessmen and entertainers. Through the subsequent 50 years, the Ville nurtured a rich heritage for the black population of the City of St. Louis and was home to a number of important black institutions, including Simmons Elementay, Sumner High School, the first high school for black students west of the Mississippi River, Poro College, Lincoln University Law School, Stowe Teachers College, Tandy Recreation Center, Annie Malone Children’s Home and Homer G. Phillips Hospital, which, at the time, was responsible for training more black doctors than any othr hospital in the world. The Ville is a testament of the resilience of African Americans in the United States and St. Louis. Though the less than half a square-mile community was formed out of the racism, restrictions, and exclusionary policies of the St. Louis region, it grew to influence the development of black history far outside of the neighborhood’s confines and across the United States developing black doctors, entrepreneurs, educators, and entertainers. Check out more resources about the Ville below.