Blog Post 1: Skinker Debaliviere

Hello grads! My name is Andrea (she/her/hers), I’m a fourth year PhD student in Earth and Planetary Sciences living in the Skinker-Debaliviere neighborhood. I was interested in living in the Skinker-Debaliviere neighborhood when I first moved to St. Louis because of its location: the neighborhood is just a 15-20 minute walk to the Danforth campus where I take my classes and do my labwork; I felt strongly against a driving commute and I wasn’t totally sold on the reliability and practicality of using the city’s public transit. I’ve chosen to stay in the Skinker-Debaliviere neighborhood for the past few years, though, because of the neighborhood’s quirky character and strong community.

Map showing extent of Skinker Debaliviere area in red

The Skinker-Debaliviere neighborhood was established shortly after the 1904 World’s Fair (digression: if you haven’t heard enough about the 1904 World’s Fair that you feel like a veritable expert, I don’t believe you have lived in St. Louis). At the time, Lindell Boulevard was the fashionable place to live because it was the main drag of the World’s Fair, located immediately across the street from Forest Park (the main fairgrounds); the beautiful, giant houses still on Lindell today are clear artifacts of this time. Skinker-Debaliviere was converted into a residential neighborhood from farmland in order to provide more options for people who wanted to live close to the fairgrounds. The neighborhood’s proximity to Forest Park still cannot be beat! It’s really nice to be easily within walking distance of the St. Louis Art and History Museums and the St. Louis Zoo (all free entry!) not to mention really nice walking and running paths within the park. I love walking around the Skinker-Debaliviere neighborhood too, if not just to stare at the houses. A lot of the houses that were built around the time of the neighborhood’s establishment are still around and add a really fun architectural character. Most of houses in Skinker-Debaliviere are brick (makes sense, since in its heyday St Louis was one of the major brick producers in the country) and charming, painted different colors with stained glass windows, huge porches, and lovely gardens (there’s a garden tour that happens every year where people get to show off their creations and it’s a lot of fun). One of my favorite places in the neighborhood is Joe’s Café, the studio of a local sculpture artist that moonlights as a quirky, intimate concert venue on Thursdays.

Beautiful fall foliage on my walk home

One aspect of the neighborhood that I really appreciate is the strong community. The neighborhood is almost exclusively residential (notable food exceptions: Snarf’s Sandwiches, Kaldi’s Coffee, and Nami Ramen) and is a mix of old and young families and college students. I’ve gotten to meet my neighbors at events hosted by the neighborhood council. One of my favorite events is Porch Fest, a day where neighbors offer up their porches as stages for local musicians and you can wander around listening to a huge variety of music with friends. Free concert series throughout the summer also attract large crowds; community members come together to make and sell fresh barbeque, the smell of which permeates around the neighborhood all day and increases excitement for the night’s events! In the winter, the neighborhood hosts a Wintermarkt featuring local artisans, mulled wine, and holiday music/cheer. Even though I’m only a student with a limited time living in St Louis, I feel at home in this community. I’d recommend it to graduate students of all kinds not only for the location but also for the neighborly feeling that you might not get everywhere.

The backyard of Joe’s featuring giant robot
Me at Porchfest 2019

Blog post 2: Maplewood

Here I am enjoying coffee and THE BEST CHEESY SCONE BRUNCH at the Living Room

Hi, everyone! My name is Marleigh (she/her/hers), and I’m a fourth year PhD student in the Classics department. I’m from the St. Louis area and have lived all over the place during my time at WashU, but I’ll be writing about Maplewood because I think it is one of the cutest neighborhoods in St. Louis and it has been my favorite place to live.

Cheesy scone brunch at the Living room

The “downtown” area of Maplewood, centered around Manchester Road, has the best shops, restaurants, and small businesses. Practically all of my hobbies involve eating and drinking, so my favorite part of living in Maplewood is being able to walk to so many cool spots. You can get a great bite to eat at the Blue Duck and follow it up with donuts from Strange Donuts or waffle ice cream sandwiches from Boardwalk Waffles and Ice Cream (or both, I don’t judge). Some of my favorite spots in Maplewood are the places where you can get something a little stronger: Side Project Brewing has a very aesthetically pleasing cellar and makes some of the best beer in the region, if not the country (no, really, look it up – people all over the world are obsessed with their stuff!); Schlafly makes great beer and has a giant covered patio for the mild-weather days; Chateau Maplewood is a cute wine shop where you can try wine flights at a great price; Boogaloo has SWINGS at their bar (and a stellar tapas menu). When I want a coffee buzz, I love Living Room, Foundation Grounds, and C. Oliver Coffee + Flower Bar. To me, all of these small businesses are the heartbeat of Maplewood and make it feel like home.

If you have a dog or are into walking, there are several small parks in the area, and all of the sidewalks make it a great place to walk the pup (or yourself). My dog, Maggie, loves walking around Maplewood, hanging out on patios, and being greeted by all the friendly people on the street! And I have always felt safe walking here, even when alone as a young woman.

Maggie the piano-pup about to regale her friends at Sutton Loop Park

This is perhaps a boring point, but I also appreciate the proximity to grocery stores and other convenience stores. For groceries, Maplewood has a Schnucks on Manchester right by all of the businesses I mentioned above (and if you aren’t from the area/haven’t heard of Schnucks, it will become your best friend – they are everywhere around here!). Trader Joe’s is a short drive away in Brentwood (conveniently next to a Target). Maplewood also has a Walmart and Lowe’s near each other. These weren’t necessarily things that I considered when I decided to live in Maplewood, but it’s nice having stores like this so close.

Here’s my caveat: if you have no interest in driving or taking public transit to campus, then Maplewood isn’t for you. I chose to shell out the money for a parking pass and drive about 10 minutes to campus each day. Even though parking on campus is expensive, this was the best decision for me because I am basically always running late, to a fault… I knew that parking in Forest Park and walking to campus would make me late all the time, and I knew that I would often miss public transit! If you are less messy of a human than I am, and you want to live in Maplewood but don’t want to drive to campus, I highly recommend checking the bus routes before you choose an apartment or house. Making sure that there is a convenient bus stop near your place will make your life a lot easier!

I wouldn’t say that Maplewood is a place where a lot of graduate students live, but for me it has felt like an escape from campus (without actually being far from campus). Maplewood has all sorts of residents—the houses surrounding mine include everyone from young professionals to families with several kids to elderly people who have lived in Maplewood their whole lives. My neighbors all look out for each other and treat each other kindly. This friendly community (plus the aforementioned food, dessert, beer, wine, coffee, etc…) is what makes Maplewood a great place to live.

Blog Post 3: University City (UCity) by Marc Blanc

When you ask a graduate student about affordable neighborhoods in St. Louis, odds are the first place that the grad student will suggest is University City. If you’re anything like me, however, you are suspicious of following the first suggestion you hear. You may think to yourself, “Sure, U-City might be the easiest neighborhood for a WashU graduate student to live, but is it really the best?” I thought this at one point, but I was completely wrong. University City is indeed one of the most affordable and convenient sections of St. Louis for grad students, but it is also so much more: a welcoming suburb filled with diversity, leisure, and beauty.

City Hall is an example of the architectural beauty present in even mundane buildings and apartments in UCity

Firstly: Yes, housing prices in this area are relatively low. Most one-bedroom apartments run from $600-$800. Considering U-City’s close proximity to campus and all the activities that the area offers, these prices are a fantastic deal. U-City directly borders WashU to the north and west, so you could live right across the street from campus or slightly farther out in the more residential areas, which is where mainly families and other full-time residents call home. Even most of these more settled parts of U-City are no more than a thirty-minute walk to campus, and metro buses and WashU shuttles offer abundant routes throughout U-City that can get you to campus, too.

Imagine this: On your short walk home from campus after a long day of classes, you pass through the Delmar Loop where you meet your friends at one of the many bars for a well-deserved drink. Or maybe you’ve spent Friday night at a concert, and you’re relieved to remember that you don’t have to drive home because your apartment is a five-minute walk from the venue. This is life for many grad students who live in U-City, especially near the Loop area. Conveniently positioned between campus and apartment neighborhoods, the Loop hosts fun bars like the famous Blueberry Hill, lovely cafés like Meshuggah and Blueprint, and a litany of delicious international restaurants. At these establishments, you will encounter a friendly community of fellow graduate students and U-City locals, all in your own neighborhood.

The UCity public library

While many students populate the Loop area, University City is not entirely a “college town.” There are plenty of opportunities for peace and quiet here. The public library is a wonderful place to study off campus and be around community members. In the warmer months, I relax by tending my plot in one of my neighborhood’s many community gardens, which have become favorite gathering places among grad students and families to socialize, play, and exchange vegetables during the summer. I have even fostered a network of friends outside the confines of school through my neighborhood church, just one of numerous places of worship and community throughout U-City.

Sunset over the community vegetable garden in the Parkview Gardens neighborhood of UCity

Taking a stroll through a U-City neighborhood, you will find vibrant gardens, historic apartment buildings, gorgeous family homes crafted from possibly the most beautiful brickwork in the country. The residents come from all walks of life, including students and settled families of a wide variety of nations, ethnicities, and creeds, making the suburb perfect for anyone who wishes to live in a more diverse setting without moving too far away from campus. Featuring both vibrant nightlife and peaceful pockets, student apartments and family homes, U-City offers something for everyone. University City is a universal city. 

Blog Post 4: Richmond Heights

Hey there! My name is Keenan (he/him/his) and I am a fourth-year graduate student in the French section of the Romance Languages and Literatures Department. While I spent my first two years at WashU living in the Skinker-DeBalivière neighborhood, I moved to Richmond Heights two years ago and I absolutely love it! It is a bit further from campus than some other neighborhoods, but it only takes me 7 minutes to get to go from home to school by bus and about 25 minutes walking. Richmond Heights is south of the Danforth Campus and southwest of Forest Park and in my opinion, is perfect for anyone looking to be close – but not too close – to WashU. I think Richmond Heights has an ideal location; it’s not too far from campus, the Loop, or Forest Park and it’s near other great neighborhoods like Maplewood and Dogtown as well.

Richmond Heights has a wonderful mix of commercial and residential areas and tons of great restaurants, shops, and even two movie theaters. Here are a few of my favorite places to grab a bite to eat: Mai Lee, the very first Vietnamese restaurant in the Saint Louis area; Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium, which is perfect for carry-out; Hank’s Cheesecakes; Olympia Kabob House and Taverna for wonderful Greek food; Hi-Pointe Drive-In for some of the best burgers in the region. In addition to lots of great restaurants and several smaller shops, Richmond Heights is home to the Saint Louis Galleria if you’re more into going to the mall or stopping by several shops at once. The Heights, Richmond Heights’ community center, is another gem of the area. With a pool, large gym, municipal library, and even a lazy river, it’s a great place to relax, work out, or meet other members of the community.

Gladys and I enjoying a walk in our neighborhood

My neighborhood is pretty quiet and my dog Gladys and I both love going for walks in A. B. Green Park and Highland Park. The residential areas of Richmond Heights are largely home to families and young professionals as well as elderly people who are long-time residents of the area. It’s not uncommon to see people walking their dogs, going for runs, or simply enjoying the weather in my neighborhood. Though there aren’t tons of WashU grad students that live in Richmond Heights, for me, it’s the perfect distance from campus: far enough to put some distance between my student life and personal life, but not so far that the commute is unmanageable or that I feel disconnected from the rest of the WashU community. My only caveat about living in Richmond Heights is that while I am able to get to campus relatively easily by bus, having a car makes things a lot easier. If you don’t have a car, make sure that you plan to live near a bus stop! That said, Richmond Heights is a friendly community and truly a great place to live.

The Heights: Richmond Heights’ community center