After the defeat of Nazi Germany, and Hirohito's Japan in World War II, America the worlds supreme super power, would find itself caught in a new conflict of radical social change. For along with the emergence of the cold war with a formal ally, the Soviet Union, the Korean conflict, and the unconstitutional behavior of the House of UnAmerican Activities Committee, the United States was now confronting a questioning of its traditional majority values in art, literature, and political self expression.
The American landscape, before the wrenching cultural movement of the 60's, was a simmering cauldron, slowly boiling over in a sudden renaissance of a quiet, seething social rebellion. Writers, Jack Kerouac and Alen Ginsberg and others now propelled this under current not just across the USA, but around the world. It was a time before orbiting satellites, the internet, cell phones, and mass electronic media. It was a time of primitive television, and the written word, as lyrics and prose and poetry and the painter's galleries were on the frontlines of this proactive, subterranean Beatnik revolution.
And like New York's Greenwich Village, a central hub of the Beat Generation, Gaslight Square in St. Louis supported, and helped construct this important alternative American scene.
For Gaslight Square, one long urgan city block running east and west, became the geographical focus of an amazing series of art, entertainment, restaurants, and after hours coffeehouse discussions still remembered in the new millennium.
During these grand, high times, Gaslight Square, lined with over one hundred period gaslights, was known across the planet, from New York City, Paris, Moscow and beyond. Air, train, and car travelers going coast to coast would make that deliberate stop in St. Louis to witness Gaslight Square, to see and hear the greats--Lenny Bruce, Miles Davis, the Smothers Brothers, and Barbra Striesand, and many, many others.
Gaslight Square was "it." This focal point synthesized into a phenomenom that burned brightly for just a few years, and then allowed by the lack of political will, police protection, and public apathy to fade, to dim, and to die.
The transformation from its sophisticated, glittering moments, into what is now a virtual replica aftermath of an aerial bombardment. An almost bare two streets, lined with numerous patches of city grass growing where the internationally known theatres, nightclubs, jazz clubs, and a five star restaurant once opened their doors to a waiting world, and the loss is still questioned. Where were the politicians, the mayor, the police chief, the aldermen, and why didn't the citizens of St. Louis treasure and protect this once astonishing place---Gaslight Square?
-from the documentary, "Gaslight Square The Forgotten Landmark"
Time Magazine wrote a great insight
to the life and energy of Gaslight Square in a 1962 article,
"No Squares on the Square"
Click on photo.