Beginning in the 1900s, local governments used zoning to regulate land use through racial zoning policies and restrictive covenants to prohibit African American’s from residing and, most cases, owning real property in many St. Louis neighborhoods. Ironically, the very policies that were intended to dissuade African American ownership interest, resulted in the Elleardsville neighborhood holding the distinct honor of housing the highest concentration of African American homeowners and residents in St. Louis history. The Elleardsville community, later referred to simply as, “The Ville”, forever shaped history and granted many African American families their first opportunity to experience home ownership.
In its heyday, The Ville was a well-established, delicately balanced African American community, described as both distinctively sophisticated and sustainable. The multifaceted, self-contained community offered a plethora of amenities, that were uncommon at the time for most non-white communities. The community was rich with churches, educational facilities, a nationally recognized training and trauma-level hospital, and several African American owned financial institutions. Residents could walk to work, attend church, and obtain a full education from grade school through college, all within a few blocks from the homes they owned.