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Curious Louis

Credit Adanma Ojukwu | St. Louis Public Radio

  

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A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Public Radio newsroom has been fielding a wide range of questions from listeners the past few weeks concerning Better Together’s recently unveiled proposal for a reunification of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh and several STLPR journalists provided answers to a number of those Curious Louis queries that haven’t already been answered – and took additional questions from listeners as well.

After nearly 150 years of separation, will St. Louis and St. Louis County reunite in 2020?

If Better Together has its way, the answer will be yes. The group has released a formal proposal to merge the city and county governments and police departments and plans to gather enough signatures to put the issue on the Missouri ballot.

Engagement producer Lindsay Toler (at left) and reporter/newscaster Shahla Farzan joined Friday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh led a discussion looking back on this year’s Curious Louis feature series produced by members of the St. Louis Public Radio newsroom.

Joining the discussion were reporter and weekend newscaster Shahla Farzan and engagement producer Lindsay Toler.

Listen to the conversation:

Paul McKee on March 28, 2018.
File Photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Paul McKee’s $8 billion vision for north St. Louis has been controversial since its announcement in 2009, but a new set of legal battles have plagued the project this year.

A drone photo taken November 14, 2018 of the two north city water towers. The Grand Avenue Water Tower is shown in the forefront and the Bissell Street Water Tower is in the background.
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

Hilary Sedovic used to drive past a peculiar structure on East Grand Avenue during her commute.

Each time, she wondered: What’s that massive white column doing in the middle of the traffic circle?

"Did it used to hold up a building and something happened to that, but they kept it as a memorial of some sort?” Sedovic asked.

Ask Curious Louis

Nov 14, 2018
Adanma Ojukwu | St. Louis Public Radio

What do you wonder about St. Louis and its people that you want our reporters to investigate? Ask your question here.

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Developer Paul McKee owns much of the land in this picture, looking north from the intersection of Cass and Jefferson avenues. After nearly 10 years, the city of St. Louis wants to cut ties with McKee and his NorthSide Regeneration initiative.
File Photo | Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

After years of legal fights, millions of dollars in tax credits and little to show for it, St. Louis is trying to sever its decade-long relationship with developer Paul McKee over revitalizing neighborhoods in north city — a task made more complicated by spotty oversight and accountability monitoring.

Ralph Toenjes carries game-used baseballs during an Aug. 16 game from the Cardinals' dugout to the Authentics Shop in the right field concourse of Busch Stadium.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

What happens to all those used baseballs the umpires toss out of games at Busch Stadium?

After Keith Duncan of St. Louis submitted that question to our Curious Louis feature, we went to the Aug. 16 game between the Cardinals and Washington Nationals to find out.

That’s where we found Ralph Toenjes hard at work, happily greeting fans at the Authentics Shop, located behind center field. Toenjes sells memorabilia, including used baseballs, fresh from the field. During games, it’s his job to fetch baseballs from the Cardinals dugout every two or three innings.

Business owners in Jeffrey Plaza on Olive Boulevard say they have not been receiving updates about a proposed development that would displace them.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis once had a thriving hub for Chinese immigrants moving to the city. Historical records show in 1894 there were about 1,000 people of Chinese heritage living in St. Louis, many of whom had moved to the region from California in the middle part of the century.

A St. Louis Public Radio listener wanted to know how so many Chinese businesses came to exist at Olive Boulevard near Interstate 170 in University City. The listener also wanted to know why hasn’t there been more expansion of Asian businesses there. 

Curious Louis question-asker Rachel Duncan, left, and St. Louis Public Radio reporter Shahla Farzan, center, speak with Bill Houston of the Saint Louis Zoo.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Rachel Duncan doesn’t remember the first time she visted the St. Louis Zoo, but she’s pretty sure she was an infant.

“There’s not a summer in my life that I have not come to visit the St. Louis Zoo and enjoyed what it has to offer,” said Duncan. “It’s a part of my entire life.”

Like many St. Louisans, she feels personally connected to the animals at the zoo. That prompted her to ask our Curious Louis reporting series: What happens when an animal passes away at the zoo? Do they have a funeral? And how does it impact the workers?


Protesters linked arms on Sept. 15, 2017 in downtown St. Louis on Tucker St.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Sept. 15, St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson ruled that former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith.

The verdict immediately touched off protests in downtown St. Louis, which spread throughout the city, St. Louis County and to St. Charles County. The protests have continued almost daily

As you are making sense of what's happening in the region, what questions do you have about the ongoing protests? Share them here and we may consider your question in our reporting. 

Men outside of Lynch’s slave pen, 1850s. One of these men might be Lynch himself, but there are no known photos of him.
(Courtesy: Missouri History Museum)

Before the Civil War, Bernard Lynch owned the largest slave market in St. Louis. His operation included an office at 104 Locust Street, and a holding pen for slaves at 5th and Myrtle, present-day Broadway and Clark.

After the war, Lynch’s slave pen became a storage building for the Meyer Brothers Drug company, and in 1963, it was demolished to build Busch Stadium II.

Listener Anne Walker wrote to Curious Louis wondering whether any artifacts from the pen remain.

 

The report on the wealth gap relies on data from the Federal Reserve Board from 1983 through 2016.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Amazon began capturing state sales tax for purchases in Missouri this year.

The voluntary move preceded the online retailer’s announcement in July that it would open a distribution center in Hazelwood. Without a physical presence in the state, many online retailers don’t charge a state tax to Missouri customers.

Instead, the onus is put on consumers.

A pond inside the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest in Forest Park. July 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Ecologist Amy Witt of Forest Park Forever was leading a nature walk through the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest, a wooded habitat on the park’s southwestern edge. There are trees here that are older than the 1,300-acre park, which the city of St. Louis opened in 1876.

“They’re awesome. Right? We have some really old trees. We have some really young trees. That’s the natural regeneration of a forest and of a habitat,’’ Witt said. “We are called Forest Park for a reason.’’

Under the new law, registered voters can bring one of four IDs to the polling place: a state-issued driver's license, a state-issued non-driver's license, a U.S. passport or a military ID.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

 

There’s an election around the corner, so it’s time to double-check that you have what you need to vote under Missouri’s new voter ID law. The law took effect June 1, 2017 and it's not without controversy

Find out if you have what you need to vote in the next election right here.

Under the new law, registered voters can bring one of four IDs to the polling place: a state-issued driver's license, a state-issued non-driver's license, a U.S. passport or a military ID.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

June’s arrival heralded a new era for elections in Missouri, one in which voters are expected to show identification before filling out a ballot.

Any new law stirs up questions — especially when similar measures in other states make headlines again and again.

House Republicans talk during the last day of the legislative session. May 17, 2017
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Mike Meinkoth vividly remembers how term limits were sold to Missourians in 1992: By limiting lawmakers to eight years in the House and eight years in the Senate, proponents contended the General Assembly would become more responsive — and consistently get new members with fresh ideas.

More than 25 years after voters approved the constitutional amendment, Meinkoth wanted to know if those promises were kept. He asked Curious Louis: “It's been 25 years since term limits went into effect for state legislators. Has there been a study to determine the effect of these limits?”

Voter ID will be here soon. What do you want to know?

May 24, 2017

Starting June 1, Missouri residents who want to vote will need to show a photo ID or do one of two other things — sign a statement and show approved types of documents (for registered voters only) or vote a provisional ballot. 

Missouri isn't the first state to enact voter ID law like this — several states, including North Carolina and Texas, have it, too. But such laws haven't been without controversy.

What questions do you have about the new photo ID law? Ask Curious Louis and a St. Louis Public Radio reporter may follow up on your question. 

6 North in the Central West End.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Jane Jones was overwhelmed when she first visited the 6 North Apartments building in the Central West End.

Built in 2004, it’s the nation’s first building constructed entirely under the universal design concept, which incorporates features that allow people with disabilities to live in the space. It can be defined as "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design."

Jones, who is blind, moved there in 2012. She couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Curious Louis: What does the mayor of St. Louis actually do?

Apr 18, 2017
Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time in 16 years, St. Louis is welcoming a new mayor into office.

The shift in power from Francis Slay to Lyda Krewson led Curious Louis participant and St. Louis native, Whitney Panneton to ask St. Louis Public Radio: What exactly does the mayor do?

Dear St. Louis mayor, I have a question ...

Mar 19, 2017
St louis skyline riverboat curious louis logo
Susannah Lohr

St. Louis mayoral forums like this one have been packed. So, we know you have questions for St. Louis' next mayor.

What are they? 

Curious Louis wants to know what you want to know.

Curious Louis: The oldest person in St. Louis, take two!

Mar 17, 2017
Dorothy Hunter, 109, sits in her apartment at an assisted living facility in Ballwin. Hunter, a retired teacher, has lived in St. Louis her whole life.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When a listener asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we were convinced we had found her — 109-year-old Lucy Hamm

But it wasn’t long before we started getting calls and emails about someone else we should meet — Dorothy Hunter of Ballwin.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

If you look at a map of the Normandy area, three large splotches of green space stand out amid the patchwork of small municipalities that make up this chunk of north St. Louis County.

They’re golf courses, and they date back to the early 1900s.

Curious Louis: Where the sidewalk ends

Feb 20, 2017
A sidewalk along Bellefontaine Road in Bellefontaine Neighbors doesn't quite make it to the Metro bus stop.
Joseph Leahy | St. Louis Public Radio

Liane Constantine and her 6-year-old son, Ashton, live about half a mile from where he takes taekwondo classes in a small strip mall in Kirkwood. It would be easy enough to walk there, if only they could safely cross Manchester Road.

“ … I’d have to grab him by the hand and say ‘run when we don’t see any cars’,” she said, standing on the unpaved street corner that doesn’t have a crosswalk. Instead, they’re forced to drive, unnecessary as it seems.

The difficulty in traveling even short distances without a car prompted Constantine to ask our Curious Louis project why sidewalks are often so few and far between in St. Louis County.

Curious Louis: Who is the oldest person in St. Louis?

Feb 17, 2017
Longtime St. Louis resident Lucy Hamm celebrates her 109th birthday with her retirement community in Chesterfield. Hamm was born on Jan. 30, 1908.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

It might be harder than you think to find the oldest person in town.

Local governments don’t formally track the data, and voting records are often manually entered, and can contain errors. So when a listener named Sally asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we started looking.

After calls to county election boards and senior service nonprofits came up short, employees in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay introduced us to someone who might just be the winner: 109-year-old Lucy Hamm.

AA Roads

If you’ve ever wondered where in the world the “natural bridge” in Natural Bridge Road comes from, you’re not alone. The answer is tied to Missouri's abundance of caves and the underground world of St. Louis.

It’s a question Joe Light, vice president of the Meramec Valley Grotto and member of the Missouri Speleological Survey, gets asked all the time. Several Curious Louis questioners have wondered the same thing.

St. Louis Outlet Mall
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

Erica Holliam used to love shopping at the St. Louis Outlet Mall, or what used to be called the Mills Mall.

That was before all of her favorite stores closed.

“This was my row,” she said pointing to a line of empty stores, tastefully hidden behind colorful curtains. “I used to shop at the Banana Republic and then on the other side there was another store. But obviously I can’t do that anymore.”

Curious Louis: How do newsrooms decide the news?

Jan 19, 2017

What makes something news? It’s a question journalists ask themselves every day.

Whether it’s a breaking story or a scheduled event, news editors and managers have to decide whether or not to cover it.

After months and months of election coverage, Don Crozier was frustrated by what he saw as sensationalism and bias in the media. He worried that news had become too focused on entertainment or shock in the hunt for clicks and shares.

Crozier wanted to learn more about how news directors make decisions, so he turned to St. Louis Public Radio’s Curious Louis.

Benton Park resident Alexis Forman didn't know what a flounder house was before she bought her rehabbed home four years ago.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

This is a re-posting of an article that originally published in Sept. 2016. It's part of a year-end celebration of some of our most popular work. 

Alexis Forman’s rehabbed Benton Park home has everything a typical house has: a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms.

But every now and then, she’ll find strangers out on the street, staring up at the exterior of her brick house — and its dramatically sloping roof.

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