Constructed in the early 1930’s the “Tucker Tunnel” was built by the Illinois Terminal Railroad to alleviate traffic issues with streetcars, automobiles and commercial goods transportation.  Over time the tunnel was used less and less for transportation and more for storage and utility routing.  Within the past few decades the walls of the tunnel have deteriorated becoming structurally unsound and threatening the stability of the tunnel, the street it supports and the multi-story building foundations along its route. Because an actual transportation tunnel was no longer needed engineers decided to remove the current roadway, Tucker Blvd, fill the tunnel and replace the street. 

Filling with traditional materials such as soil, rock or concrete presented additional challenges.  The lateral pressure exerted by the weight of these materials would push the walls of the tunnel out jeopardizing the foundations of those building along its route.  It was determined that a material must be found that was lightweight yet offered the compressive strength necessary to support roadway loads. 

Engineers searched for and found the ideal balance of strength and weight by using Expanded Polystyrene Foam.  Often mislabeled as “Styrofoam”, EPS is the white, beaded foam material often associated with “foam cups” or “ the packaging material surrounding TV’s and appliances.  Although most don’t realize it EPS can be molded in a variety of densities and sizes.  The majority of the material used for the Tucker Tunnel Job will be blocks measuring 3’x4’x16’ weighing approximately 300lbs each.  It is projected to take over 3000 of these blocks to fill the first phase of the tunnel restoration. Versa-Tech in Fredericktown is providing the materials.

INTRODUCTION

The City of St. Louis and HDR have developed plans to fill in the tunnel area under

Tucker Boulevard in the City of St. Louis, Missouri, as the tunnel has become unstable and has

started to collapse. An archival study of NRHP and NRHP eligible architectural resources along

the Tucker Boulevard study area was previously performed in May of 2009 (Kneller and

McLaughlin 2009). An architectural survey of these properties, along with those properties

constructed prior to 1959, was conducted by the Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis,

Inc. in late August of 2009. Although none of the architectural resources are going to be directly

effected by the proposed tunnel and roadway improvements, the architectural study recorded the

present condition of the NRHP and NRHP eligible architectural resources in the area.

Most of the tunnel and roadway improvements will affect only the area immediately

under Tucker Boulevard, where the soils were removed in 1932 to form a tunnel under the

roadway for the Illinois Terminal Railroad. In addition to the tunnel stabilization, however,

improvements to the roadway are also going to be made, connecting Tucker Boulevard with the

Cass and 11th Street intersection. These roadway improvements will affect the city blocks

bounded by Tucker Boulevard, Cass, O’Fallon, and 11th Street (Figures 1a and 1b). Previous

archaeological investigations performed in St. Louis City (Harl 2006; Harl, Hill, and Weil 2003;

Naglich and Harl 1995; and Fairchild 1979) revealed that cultural remains still exist within St.

Louis City, especially near the present project area, but these remains are often buried beneath

rubble left after the demolition of buildings. Thus, a normal archaeological surface survey of this

affected area was not practical. The only way to search for archaeological remains in this context

was through the use of a backhoe; three test trenches were excavated in order to search for any

historic or prehistoric archaeological remains that may still exist.

PREVIOUS ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS

A records and literature search was conducted at the Missouri Department of Natural

Resources, State Historic Preservation Office in order to identify any previously recorded

archaeological resources within or adjacent to the Tucker Boulevard project area. The search

revealed that there are no previously recorded sites within the current project boundaries, but

there are two previously recorded sites (23SL2229 & 23SL2274) adjacent to the current project

area.

Site 23SL2229, first recorded in May of 2005 by the Archaeological Research Center of

St. Louis, Inc., contained the remnants of densely packed tenements, flats and businesses that

once occupied city blocks 579, 580, 584, and 585 in the City of St. Louis, Missouri. Test

trenching and a Phase III mitigation of the site were performed in the spring and summer of

2005; this work was needed to mitigate the damage caused to the site by the construction of the

new Cochran Gardens Housing Development. Numerous privies, cisterns, and wells were

uncovered during the course of the investigations, and artifacts such as ceramics, bottles, utensils,

children’s toys, and smoking pipes were recovered (Harl et al 2005; Harl 2006).

Site 23SL2274, identified by Brianne Olson of MoDOT in March of 2008, represents the

remnants of several residences, businesses and a lumber yard located in City Block 602, which is

just to the northeast of the current project area. This site was said to have the potential for

numerous intact yard features, including privies, cisterns, and wells, although ground penetrating

radar and archaeological testing had not yet been performed when the site form was written. This

work was supposed to have taken place in the summer of 2008 (Olson 2008).

HISTORY

The project area is located within the St. Louis Prairie, which was the first common fields

associated with the French village of St. Louis laid out in 1766 (Figure 3). Common fields were

long, narrow strips of land, measuring either one or two arpents wide and forty arpents long (an

arpent is 192’ feet). The French settlers utilized the common fields only for agriculture, with

their homes clustered together within the village of St. Louis located just to the southeast

(Peterson 2001). After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, masses of Americans began to pour into

the community. Confirmation of original land claims in the St. Louis Prairie were immediately

secured by various French families, who later sold their tracts either to land speculators or new

settlers. The land speculators subdivided the property for new residential lots (Ekberg 1998).

The project area only began to be subdivided ca. 1840s (Wayman 1995).

Between 1830 and 1840 the population of the city grew from 5,852 to 16,469. This rapid

expansion was in part fueled by the influx of European immigrants, primarily from Germany and

Ireland, who poured into the city in search for opportunities in an expanding economy. The new

arrivals swelled the ranks of the local Catholic church, necessitating the construction of eight new churches, which ostensibly served German and Irish parishes (Primm 1981).

In 1843, St. Joseph Church, located at 1220 N 11th Street, was founded to serve the

German Catholic working class population living within the neighborhood (Unknown Author

2009). The project area was composed primarily of families of German immigrants or their

descendants between the 1840s to 1880s. The residents held mostly unskilled or low

paying skilled professions (United States Census 1840-1880). To accommodate the children of

the neighborhood, the Catholic church opened a school in 1862. St. Joseph’s School, located

within the project area at 1223 N 11th Street, was staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame (Unknown

Author 2009). Specifically a school for the German Catholic residents, the census records

indicate that nuns who taught at the church were mostly German immigrants or those of German

descent (United States Census 1870-1930).

Although St. Louis suffered economic hardship during the Civil War, the area recovered

exceptionally well in the post-war period. Many citizens equated emancipation with economic

progress; without the moral quandary of slavery, both Northern and Southern people, as well as

resources, poured into Missouri (Parrish 1973, III:198). Following the end of the war, European

immigrants began arriving in Missouri and St. Louis once more (Parrish 1973, III:198). The

renewal of steamboat traffic and the railroad’s expansion further helped the economic growth and

development of St. Louis as the raw materials for factories and agricultural products could once

again be imported.

The economy of St. Louis grew throughout the nineteenth century. Among the top one

hundred manufacturing cities in the United States in 1880, St. Louis ranked sixth in gross

product, seventh in net product and wages paid, and eighth in number of employees (Culmer

1938:498). During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, St. Louis grew significantly in

population and wealth (Primm 1981:345).

In the 1890s, St. Louis’ economic fortunes changed rapidly, and its industrial growth

came to a near halt (Primm 1981:345-346). One reason for the decline was that the well

developed railway system allowed capitalists to move their industries from St. Louis to other

regions, where raw materials and labor were cheaper. Another factor was the depression of

1893-97, which heavily affected the region's agricultural industry (Primm 1981:346). As a result

of the decline in some of its older industries, St. Louis experienced a shift to industries

characteristic of older cities with large populations. These included dress manufacturing,

furniture-making, book publishing, boots and shoes, lumber products, and newspaper and

periodical publishing (Primm 1981:349).

This depression became evident in the residential makeup of the project area. Around the

turn of the century, the neighborhood became predominately Polish immigrants and those of

Polish descent (United States Census 1900-1930). Residents still held unskilled or low paying

skilled jobs in book binding, clothing and shoe manufacturing

 (United States Census 1850-

1930).

The traffic problem between automobiles and streetcars. Construction drawings for the

subway were developed by St. Louis Electric Terminal Railway Co. by the consulting engineer

James A. Hooke. In July of 1929, permits for the demolition of the existing buildings, at 12th and

O’Fallon in the project area, were issued so the opening for the tunnel, now known as Tucker

tunnel, could be built (Hooke 1932:Box 4).

In the 1970s, a parking lot for a National grocery store, later a Schnuck’s grocery store,

was constructed between N 11th and N 12th Street in the project area. This construction destroyed

what was left of the flats and school in the project area. Schnuck’s closed in the 1990s, but the 

building and parking lot still remain.

Versa-Tech Inc.

located in Fredericktown Missouri, was formed in March of 2000 as a partnership between Jeff Geile, John Moorman and Patrick Rosener.  Although relatively young as a corporation, the ownership (brought together) over 60 years of collective experience within the EPS industry. ...All three owners remain as full-time employees and are active in all aspects of the daily operations.  (Versa-Tech) wants our philosophy of quality, attention to customer service and care of employees evident through our involvement and leadership. 

Please feel free to contact us at any time.  Our doors are always open to employees, customers and the community. 

Versa-Tech operates a state of the art molding and fabrication facility.  The manufacturing facility is composed of 65,000 square feet.  Outfitted with the latest in molding, curing, fabrication and packaging equipment, our capabilities run the gamut from high speed sheet production to intricate OEM thermal components.  Our primary markets are commercial construction applications, marine buoyancy, OEM appliance components, lamination cores and protective packaging.  Versa-Tech has built our business thus far with a simple focus on providing customers with high quality products coupled with unmatched customer service and competitive pricing.  Whether it is innovation in design, cost reduction initiatives or a rush delivery, we stand ready to support your business. 

The future is bright for Versa-Tech.  Reinvestment in personnel, facilities and equipment has set the stage for continued growth.  The past five years has been highlighted with two major building additions, the purchase of several large pieces of equipment and employment numbers at times reaching into the 50's.  We have truly built a world class EPS manufacturing facility.  More importantly, we continue to improve the lives of our workforce and have a positive impact on our community. 

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