Righting a Wrong

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I’m overjoyed to report this one. The dedication of a sign giving Providence Place in the Dutchtown neighborhood the honorary designation of Knapstein Place will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, November 15. A sign in German colors will be placed just below the Providence Place street sign at Michigan Avenue and Providence Place, just east of the historic German St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church.

Knapstein Place was a one-block street named for Frank Knapstein, a German immigrant and local contractor who erected a number of homes on the South Side, along with St. George Catholic Church in Affton. Somehow, some “patriots” decided a German name like Knapstein wasn’t right during the anti-German hysteria of World War I. So they got the Board of Aldermen to pass a bill changing the name of the street to the less offensive Providence Place.

german-street-sign-2That would have been the end of it, if it hadn’t been for the campaign we’ve been waging with the German-American Heritage Society of Saint Louis to give an honorary designation or marker to each of the six streets with German names that were renamed during World War I.

Twentieth Ward Alderman Craig Schmid agreed to introduce a bill making the honorary designation. The Board of Aldermen recently passed it, and Mayor Francis Slay will sign it on Thursday. Officially, the name will be “Providence Place.” But the honorary designation will serve as a reminder of the original name.

Among those who will attend the signing by the mayor on Thursday is George Knapstein, Frank Knapstein’s grandson. He tells me a bunch of his relatives are coming to the dedication, including one from the Philadelphia area.

We expect to have fun at the ceremony on November 15 and then go back to work to get recognition for the other five streets whose names were changed.German street sign 3



Published by Jim Merkel

Reedy Press published four of my books, Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis's South Side, 2010; Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans, 2012; The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch; and the Second Edition of Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis's South Side, 2014. They're available in bookstores and online. For an autographed copy, send a check for $21.50 made out to Jim Merkel, to Jim Merkel, 4216 Osceola St., St. Louis, MO 63116.

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