ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo (KTVI) – Allenton, Missouri, used to be a small town near Eureka, Missouri. There was a general store, a post office, and a school there. Families settled in, and houses sprung up. The community was small, but, as is customary in small towns, everyone knew everyone.
It was a town until 2004, when plans for a strip mall development started, which led to the town being taken over by the government. When those ventures failed, there was nothing left.
Allenton was established in 1853, but it never grew beyond 70 frame homes, a post office, a schoolhouse, a church, a gas station, and a couple of bars.
Allenton residents convinced nearby Eureka to take over the town in 1985 in order to tackle serious water supply concerns. County health officials discovered that sewage from numerous septic tanks was flowing into the well water.
When Allenton was its own town, crossing a small, steep bridge was one of the two good ways to enter into it. The other route would take you many miles away from Eureka.
Due to its remote location, Allenton has remained rural. Four-wheel drive vehicles with high clearance can cross Fox Creek and access Allenton from the west through a farmer’s dirt road.
A railroad track separates Allenton from the rest of the county. Before the Civil War, James P. Kirkwood, the namesake of the adjacent town, built these railroads.
This was one of the first transcontinental railroads, and it helped America reach its “Manifest Destiny” goal of controlling the whole continent from sea to sea. Allenton grew up because of the railroad. It was a place for railroad workers to live and a place where crops from nearby fields could be loaded.
Now, Allenton is a ghost town, according to the St. Louis Paranormal Research Society, and no one lives there.
Fond memories of the past
Kristal Harris, a resident of Eureka, Missouri, today, recalled her time growing up in Allenton as part of an eight-person family.
“The Eureka school district, before it was known as Rockwood school, is the reason our parents moved from St. James, Missouri, in the ’60s,” Harris said. “Dad said he wanted us to have a proper education since he and mom were not that privileged. They raised the first three children in a two-room house and later bought a house kit, assembled it with family and community, and then the well went in in the ’70s.”
Harris remembered the supply store in town caught fire when she was about 3 years old. There was no longer a store in town after the disaster, only a post office.
Harris said she would spend her summer vacations at Six Flags.
“Our summer babysitter was Six Flags. There were several high school students who knew our parents from school, and we were being observed attentively while we spent the most of our time in the arcade.”
Six Flags was the neighborhood hotspot in the 1980s, and while the Coco Cabana Friday Night Dance in the Park only lasted one summer, Harris said she had the nicest time dancing and catching up with her classmates.
She also said that, at the time, Allenton kids could use the pool, pool tables, and sauna at the Ramada Inn.
“I do remember a barbershop at one time and two churches. Across the stone bridge entry to Allenton, to the right of our home, we watched a truck stop move in,” said Harris. “I also remember playing in old concrete pipes along the railroad tracks as our secret hideouts as children.”
Harris’ parents eventually sold the Allenton home to a married couple.
After Eureka annexed Allenton, the couple who bought her childhood home went through the process of being bought out.
So, what exactly happened?
The government used the eminent domain clause to evict several private property owners. Furthermore, the municipality was supported by tax increment financing. St. Louis County had declared the town blighted, therefore this TIF could be used for private purposes.
Residents were fed up with being stuck in limbo, so Eureka used its own funds to buy out a few property owners in 1999.
Then, in 2004, American Heritage Residences, Jones Berra Co., and a few other companies came up with the most ambitious plan yet: a shopping center with about 1,700 homes and a Lowe’s home improvement store at its center.
Allenton’s days were numbered in 2006, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. According to reports, the town was going to be demolished and replaced with a 1,000-acre housing complex and a big-box retail outlet.
A decade later, given Allenton’s proximity to Interstate 44, one developer after another attempted to put together deals for shopping developments, according to a 2010 St. Louis Post-Dispatch report.
That year, the city’s former mayor, Kevin Coffey, said that people have wanted a big store for a long time, and have complained about having to shop elsewhere. According to him, the development would have included sports fields, playgrounds and a recreation center.
He said that Allenton had a few nice homes, but the area was not at all charming. The siding on some trailers had come loose. Sewer lines were only present in a few dwellings. According to Coffey, some residents’ septic tanks were 75 years old and completely destroyed.
Allenton is no longer a thriving community. Main Street and a few other roads still have street signs, but they are in disrepair. Vacant lots are littered with the remains of old houses and fence posts. Along the now-abandoned streets, old mailboxes with their former house numbers are still visible.