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Hillcrest Neighborhood Celebrates 100 Years in Clayton, St. Louis City

The Clayton Board of Aldermen recognized the area at its April 24 meeting.

Marguerite Garrick's family has lived in the 100-year-old Hillcrest neighborhood since 1962, so she's familiar with the changes that have happened there over time.

But she also sees constants.

"Here's what hasn't changed," said Garrick, a Clayton resident. "It's still a wonderful, secure family neighborhood."

100 years of community, education

The Hillcrest neighborhood, which lies both in Clayton and St. Louis city, celebrated its centennial April 24. It received recognition that day from the Clayton Board of Aldermen. More than 200 homeowners call the area home, and most of them live within Clayton's borders.

The neighborhood is named for its elevated location and began as mostly "undeveloped farmland," Mayor said. It now includes or borders , , , , Washington University, , and the Forest Park-DeMun retail district.

Garrick hasn't lived in the neighborhood full-time since the 1960s, but she came back to visit yearly even when she lived in Washington, D.C.

"When we first moved here, it's because my dad (Marlin Perkins) became the director of the Saint Louis Zoo that year," she said. "And so he wanted a house close to the zoo so he could be there in 5 minutes if there was an emergency and also in a neighborhood with good schools."

Hillcrest fit the bill then, and it still does, she said. The quality of education at Captain has "done nothing but improve" over the years and a new Wydown Middle School is slated to open in the near future.

While the neighborhood used to feature a drugstore and market, it now adjoins restaurants such as , , , and the playground at .

Houses have grown with additions and trees have been replaced. But the look and character of the area is the same as it was previously, she said, "and that's a good thing." More young families are moving into the neighborhood, and it encourages Garrick to hear children playing together outdoors.

Public-private partnership yields benefits

Stan Mulvihill has served as one of three Hillcrest trustees for the last 12 years. He moved into the neighborhood in December 1991.

One thing that sets the area apart is its public-private partnership. In the mid-1990s, the private neighborhood started participating in a bond program with the City of Clayton. That enabled the city to maintain streets and sidewalks located within St. Louis County, Mulvihill said. It also let trustees use revenues from an annual subdivision assessment paid by homeowners to preserve the still-private city section that faces Skinker Boulevard.

Another factor that makes the neighborhood special is existence of two longstanding entities—the trustees and the Hillcrest Homeowners Association, which formed in the 1950s.

The homeowners association is a voluntary, dues-funded organization helps maintain public spaces and allocates resources for the neighborhood's social functions, newsletters and other projects.

"That's been a good partnership for many years," Mulvihill said.

He described Hillcrest as a neighborhood that values diversity and its surrounding cultural institutions.

Traditions include celebrations for Fourth of July, Halloween

Hillcrest is famous for its annual Fourth of July celebration, which includes a parade. Check out photos from the 2008 parade on Clayton resident Diane Meyer's respublica blog.

It's also a great place for families on Halloween, said Garrick, the longtime Hillcrest resident. Kids can feel safe, neighbors are kind and participate, and many people come to trick-or-treat from other neighborhoods. A family friendly Halloween party is a new tradition that succeeded an annual fall party for adults at Fontbonne.

Looking to the future

Hillcrest is one of the few Clayton neighborhoods that isn't classified as a historical district, Garrick said. She is hopeful the centennial recognition will spur new interest in achieving that designation.

Mulvihill, one of the trustees, said its real estate market is "healthy without being crazy, and I think that is reflective of a very good future."

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