Clifton Heights has a rich history, houses of varying architectural styles, including some Victorians and numerous Arts and Crafts homes. Portions of Clifton Heights are among the earliest developed areas in southwest St. Louis. Moreover, there is a more varied topography throughout the neighborhood than in adjoining areas to the east and south. Relative to most of the City of St. Louis, there are noteworthy hills and prominent natural valleys. This combination of natural topography and history gives much of Clifton Heights a look and feel that distinguishes it from elsewhere in St. Louis.
The entire area covers a large hill that naturally slopes north and west toward the ancient valley of the River Des Peres, long since channelized, and shared by the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway and Interstate 44. On this hill is a natural "dimple" or mini-valley. This bowl is the setting for Clifton Park and its small lake. There are also slopes east toward Hampton, as well as along Watson, on either side of Arsenal. Hampton itself dips around Watson.
The neighborhood is bounded on the north and west by Interstate 44, on the east by Hampton Avenue, and on the south by Arsenal Street.
The Clifton Area was included in the early Charles Gratiot colonial land grant called Gratiot League Square. There was some agricultural use of the area both prior and subsequent to the extension of the then Pacific Railroad line along the River Des Peres during the 1850s. The old Frisco Railway added its tracks in the 1880s. Gradually, industrial uses gravitated to sites along the railroads and the River Des Peres during this period.
Residential development ensued above this curving valley. Portions of Clifton Heights were platted as early as the mid 1880s and there was considerable development between 1890 and World War I. The pace accelerated during the 1900s with most of the neighborhood being filled in by World War II, with the exception of the large Clifton Hills subdivision, north of Southwest Avenue and west of Tamm Avenue. This area slopes steeply down to the River Des Peres and was not platted until 1953-1955. Today, its relatively small mid 1950s homes represent the largest concentration of newer housing in the area.
It is significant that Clifton Heights has a much higher percentage, 75.6 percent, of single-family housing units than most St. Louis neighborhoods. Generally, older and larger homes are arranged around Clifton Park. The corridor along Hampton Avenue has evolved into a mix of commercial and institutional uses. Commercial nodes occur along Arsenal, Watson, and Southwest at and near key intersections.
Most of Clifton Heights was developed for middle-income people of the times-with the exception of the area around Clifton Park, which was skewed upward. Some older, more modest "working-class" housing did exist closer to the railroad tracks west of Hampton Avenue, but demolition and construction for Interstate 44, which began service in 1972, destroyed or isolated most of these homes. In any case, Interstate 44 now constitutes both a physical and psychological border for Clifton Heights.
The Clifton Heights Neighborhood Association (CHNA) is the local neighborhood association. It has been active for many years, and promotes the welfare, upkeep, and good name of the neighborhood.
<googlemap lat="38.614221" lon="-90.291953" zoom="14" width="700" controls="large">38.613637, -90.291864, Clifton Heights</googlemap>