Lindbergh Links: A Long Boulevard, a Lengthy History
One of the longest roads in St. Louis used to be the most dangerous.
The longest road in the St. Louis area, Lindbergh Boulevard runs roughly 30 miles through north, central and south county, touching nine of our Patch sites. On this anniversary of namesake Charles Lindbergh's death, we wanted to take a look at this road from our nine different perspectives. Each Patch editor has a different take on how Lindbergh touches that community. Drive along with us through our Lindbergh Links — and we hope you'll add your own observations along the way.
A Pioneer's Path
Samuel Denny came to St. Louis when only 2,000 people lived here. It was 1815 and the first brick house had just been built in the village.
After several years, the farmer owned 800 acres, according to an April 1931 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article. When that large a road was being graded and extended through most of that land, Denny donated what was needed for the right-of-way.
His son, Andrew Jackson Denney, built the thoroughfare and it was named in the pioneer's honor until 1930.
A Controversial New Boulevard
Lindbergh Boulevard, as we know it today, was stitched together from many roads that already existed through St. Louis County.
Most of this new boulevard was made up of Denny Road, so the plan to replace the early settler's name with that of the famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh, met resistance since Lindbergh wasn't an area native.
Property owners were also reluctant to give up the additional land needed for the road's larger size.
Albert Wehmeyer, a county judge, spoke at the road's dedication and is quoted in a 1930 University City Advocate article. He remembers the argument of a land owner's attorney against the road's construction.
The attorney, the judge remembered, told a jury the county was building a "tin can" boulevard that gangsters would use to toss away the bodies of their victims.
Land owners gave up the land for the project eventually and the protests over the name didn't keep the road from being dedicated in December 1930.
The day began with a parade from each end of the road and there were several speakers, although Lindbergh himself wasn't able to make it.
Another man, E. E. Cramer, pointed out in his address that people in the 1920s wanted to travel through the heart of a city, but with more traffic, roads like Lindbergh were needed.
"The modern traveler seeks a route that carries him around the large cities," Cramer, secretary of the state's highway commission said. "Speed is the desire of the moment."
'Racetrack of Death'
That desire would turn Lindbergh deadly by 1960s. County coroner Raymond Harris and a group of traffic experts said if nothing was changed, a fifth of the county's accidents would happen on the road during the same decade.
"The people who reside in the subdivisions with arteries into Lindbergh are daily courting death in going to and from their homes," Harris said.
This group, in a report about Lindbergh's safety, seriously recommended the road's name be changed to "Racetrack of Death." And in 1966 civic leaders declared the road the region's No. 1 problem.
In one 18-month period in the early 1960s, more than 800 people were injured on the road and 22 died, according to a St. Louis Globe-Democrat story.
Changes were made to the road. One section, known as Dead Man's Stretch, was gradually made safer and received double guard rails in 1966.
Other changes were made or proposed for the entire highway. These included dividers, increased traffic enforcement and widened lanes.
Ultimately, though, Interstate 270 was seen as the best way to make the road safer, by diverting Lindbergh's traffic to a new north-south artery.