April 27, 2022

Our Very Incomplete Guide to North County [PHOTOS]

Bounded by the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers, north county is where the deciduous forest of the eastern U.S. meets the western prairie. It is home to rolling native grasslands and dense woods. Yet, with nearly 40 separate municipalities, it’s particularly prone to dysfunction. That came to the fore following the 2014 killing of Michael Brown and a 2015 Department of Justice report detailed north county police forces’ use of racist tactics and petty fines to extract wealth from the poorest citizens. In addition, sweeping demographic changes in recent decades have created upheaval, with old traditions battling new ones. Yet through it all, north county remains unique, boasting a beauty and vibrancy unmatched almost anywhere else.
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Bellefontaine Neighbors
South of I-270 and just west of the Mississippi, Bellefontaine Neighbors is nearly 200 years old and comprised of Spanish, French and American land grants dating to the 1800s. The General Daniel Bissell House was part of a farm that used slave labor and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Recently, the city has made headlines with its ongoing rancor between the mayor and the board of aldermen. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about this city is the uniquely Missouri pronunciation of its first word: “Bell Fountain.”
PHOTO CREDIT: screengrab via Google Maps
Bellefontaine Neighbors

South of I-270 and just west of the Mississippi, Bellefontaine Neighbors is nearly 200 years old and comprised of Spanish, French and American land grants dating to the 1800s. The General Daniel Bissell House was part of a farm that used slave labor and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Recently, the city has made headlines with its ongoing rancor between the mayor and the board of aldermen. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about this city is the uniquely Missouri pronunciation of its first word: “Bell Fountain.”
Bellerive Acres
Formerly Bellerive, this village of 200 sums up the sad racial history of St. Louis. It began as home to the ultra-exclusive Bellerive Country Club, which hosted the prestigious PGA Golf Championship until the country club decamped to west county in 1959, along with most of its members. The University of Missouri–St. Louis was established on its grounds in 1963. The municipality still has some majestic, century-old homes, but given the surrounding Normandy School District’s long-term decline and 2014 accreditation loss and state takeover, few homeowners have invested in their properties, giving Bellerive Acres the feel of an aging dowager clinging to the remnants of her fortune.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ben Westhoff
Bellerive Acres

Formerly Bellerive, this village of 200 sums up the sad racial history of St. Louis. It began as home to the ultra-exclusive Bellerive Country Club, which hosted the prestigious PGA Golf Championship until the country club decamped to west county in 1959, along with most of its members. The University of Missouri–St. Louis was established on its grounds in 1963. The municipality still has some majestic, century-old homes, but given the surrounding Normandy School District’s long-term decline and 2014 accreditation loss and state takeover, few homeowners have invested in their properties, giving Bellerive Acres the feel of an aging dowager clinging to the remnants of her fortune.
Bel-Nor
An adorable, almost idyllic little town, Bel-Nor lacks the grandeur of its neighbor across Natural Bridge Road, Bellerive Acres, but has its own charm. It’s close to fifty-fifty Black-white — how many municipalities can say that? Unlike most of north county, it has retained a stable racial mix for decades.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ben Westhoff
Bel-Nor

An adorable, almost idyllic little town, Bel-Nor lacks the grandeur of its neighbor across Natural Bridge Road, Bellerive Acres, but has its own charm. It’s close to fifty-fifty Black-white — how many municipalities can say that? Unlike most of north county, it has retained a stable racial mix for decades.
Bel-Ridge
Bel-Ridge has about 2,000 people. Established in 1947, it encompasses less than one square mile of land at the intersection of Natural Bridge Road and I-170. Endicott Park and Hoods Discount Home Center are among the city’s notable attractions. Last year, the city eliminated its police force and signed an enforcement contract with Normandy as a cost-saving measure.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ben Westhoff
Bel-Ridge

Bel-Ridge has about 2,000 people. Established in 1947, it encompasses less than one square mile of land at the intersection of Natural Bridge Road and I-170. Endicott Park and Hoods Discount Home Center are among the city’s notable attractions. Last year, the city eliminated its police force and signed an enforcement contract with Normandy as a cost-saving measure.
Berkeley
After Kinloch elected Missouri’s first Black school board member in 1937, the white population broke away and incorporated the northern part as an independent city — Berkeley. There, they could have their own school district, one entirely free of Blacks. Despite the racist beginning, Berkeley is racially mixed today and is home to Washington Park cemetery, an important Black cemetery and an oasis of natural beauty.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ben Westhoff
Berkeley

After Kinloch elected Missouri’s first Black school board member in 1937, the white population broke away and incorporated the northern part as an independent city — Berkeley. There, they could have their own school district, one entirely free of Blacks. Despite the racist beginning, Berkeley is racially mixed today and is home to Washington Park cemetery, an important Black cemetery and an oasis of natural beauty.
Beverly Hills
Does Beverly Hills conjure up images of Rodeo Drive? It shouldn’t. With 13 cops on the force — one for each of the town’s 13 blocks — this Beverly Hills uses motorists traveling along the town’s main thoroughfare, Natural Bridge Road, as an ATM to fund town services. With its city hall and police station housed in the same building as a payday loan shop, the city needs all the revenue it can get.
PHOTO CREDIT: screengrab via Google Maps
Beverly Hills

Does Beverly Hills conjure up images of Rodeo Drive? It shouldn’t. With 13 cops on the force — one for each of the town’s 13 blocks — this Beverly Hills uses motorists traveling along the town’s main thoroughfare, Natural Bridge Road, as an ATM to fund town services. With its city hall and police station housed in the same building as a payday loan shop, the city needs all the revenue it can get.
Black Jack
Black Jack is most famous for a 1974 United States Court of Appeals decision that the city could not squelch a racially mixed apartment complex. The ruling became an important precedent in housing-discrimination cases nationally. But the city also has one of the best St. Louis County names, stemming from its blackjack oak trees.
PHOTO CREDIT: Flickr / @pasa
Black Jack

Black Jack is most famous for a 1974 United States Court of Appeals decision that the city could not squelch a racially mixed apartment complex. The ruling became an important precedent in housing-discrimination cases nationally. But the city also has one of the best St. Louis County names, stemming from its blackjack oak trees.
Bridgeton
Originally founded in French colonial days as Marais des Liards, the “Cottonwood Marsh,” Bridgeton takes its name from the bridge that linked St. Louis and St. Charles counties. In the early 21st century, Bridgeton’s proximity to another mode of transportation, the airplane, saw it devastated when Carollton, a subdivision that held a substantial portion of the city’s population, was bought out and demolished by the City of St. Louis for a new runway for Lambert Airport. It’s also home to the Bridgeton Landfill, which has had an active, underground fire since 2010 that grows ever closer to radioactive waste dumped in the now-closed West Lake Landfill.
PHOTO CREDIT: screengrab via Google Maps
Bridgeton

Originally founded in French colonial days as Marais des Liards, the “Cottonwood Marsh,” Bridgeton takes its name from the bridge that linked St. Louis and St. Charles counties. In the early 21st century, Bridgeton’s proximity to another mode of transportation, the airplane, saw it devastated when Carollton, a subdivision that held a substantial portion of the city’s population, was bought out and demolished by the City of St. Louis for a new runway for Lambert Airport. It’s also home to the Bridgeton Landfill, which has had an active, underground fire since 2010 that grows ever closer to radioactive waste dumped in the now-closed West Lake Landfill.
Calverton Park
This north county municipality has beautiful houses, a nearly 50/50 Black-white ratio, and a mayor who will defend the city (not village) against any naysayers and wrong reporters. Previously, we said that the city gets the lion’s share of its revenue from traffic fines and that it was largely impoverished. We got that information from an old Washington Post article and sincerely regret the error. Turns out that the city, which neighbors Ferguson, has never gotten that much revenue from traffic fines and houses can cost upwards of $400,000. Thanks for setting us straight, Mayor Paunovich.
PHOTO CREDIT: screengrab via Google Maps
Calverton Park

This north county municipality has beautiful houses, a nearly 50/50 Black-white ratio, and a mayor who will defend the city (not village) against any naysayers and wrong reporters. Previously, we said that the city gets the lion’s share of its revenue from traffic fines and that it was largely impoverished. We got that information from an old Washington Post article and sincerely regret the error. Turns out that the city, which neighbors Ferguson, has never gotten that much revenue from traffic fines and houses can cost upwards of $400,000. Thanks for setting us straight, Mayor Paunovich.
Castle Point
In July 1928, a developer announced it would be breaking ground on a new subdivision called Castle Point. It didn’t actually happen until 1953. Despite their touted  durability, the homes proved otherwise. The 1960s-era residents hung protest signs like, “If you think we’re cracked you should see the basement.” In the 1970s, Castle Point saw cross burnings and a car bombing. A small group of American Nazis operated there. At the 2020 census, more than 90 percent of the population was Black.
PHOTO CREDIT: screengrab via Google Maps
Castle Point

In July 1928, a developer announced it would be breaking ground on a new subdivision called Castle Point. It didn’t actually happen until 1953. Despite their touted durability, the homes proved otherwise. The 1960s-era residents hung protest signs like, “If you think we’re cracked you should see the basement.” In the 1970s, Castle Point saw cross burnings and a car bombing. A small group of American Nazis operated there. At the 2020 census, more than 90 percent of the population was Black.