On Sunday, the German American Heritage Society of Saint Louis dedicated two honorary street signs noting the original German names of two city street that were renamed during the anti-German hysteria of World War I. The dedication for Cecil Place, noting the original name of Habsburger Avenue, at Cecil and Gravois Avenue, and Gresham Avenue, noting the original name of Kaiser Street, at Gresham and Kingshighway Boulevard. The official names will stay Gresham Avenue and Cecil Place.
The purpose of the signs is both to acknowledge what patriotic German-Americans went through during World War I and to make a statement that it could happen again. It happened with the Japanese-Americans, and it’s happening again with Muslims. That makes it especially topical right now. This project is an outgrowth of Jim Merkel’s 2012 book Beer, Brats, and Baseball: German-Americans in St. Louis. In 2013, he teamed up with the German-American Heritage Society of Saint Louis to work on it with them. In November 2014, an honorary street sign was dedicated on Providence Place noting the original name of Knapstein Place. That street was originally named for Frank Knapstein, a German immigrant builder who laid out the street.
These same problems occurred all over the U.S.! Fortunately St. Louis did not see this happen as much as other large cities – probably because we had so many residents with German heritage.
Missouri Germans is a supporter of such happenings! Eventually, we’d like to see the same kind of marker for Pershing Place (originally Berlin Avenue); Enright Avenue (originally Von Versen Avenue); and the former Fourth Street in Soulard (originally Bismarck Street.)