Street names fascinate me. In each of my house history reports, I include the origins of the street name on which the house sits – it makes for interesting conversation. In my neighborhood of Shaw, the main ‘business’ thoroughfare used to be called Vandeventer and now is called 39th Street. I’ve often wondered when the change was made and why. So I wandered around the Post-Dispatch archives a bit to find out.
Turns out in 1910, there was an effort to rename Vandeventer running from Manchester to Tower Grove Park and the city leaders were deep in debate. Names of politicians like Zeigenheim, Schutz, and Rombauer were bandied about but there was a strong shout from local residents to name the road “Myrtle Avenue”, after Shaw sweetheart Myrtle Andreas.
Myrtle (Andreas) was artistically gifted and was taken out of public school in the sixth grade to be placed in an art school. By the time she was 14, she had her own studio in the back of her father’s pharmacy at 39th & Shenandoah Avenues in south St. Louis, where she taught married ladies to draw and paint. She was almost 18 when she had some of her hand-painted china on display in the Industrial Arts Building at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
Myrtle traveled quite a bit, including a trip to Alaska in 1909, and trips to Cuba and Yellowstone National Park before she married.
In 1912 she married Richard Earl Goyer and settled into being a wife and mother of four children. They lived on a country estate near Overland, Missouri where they raised a cow, chickens, a pony and employed live-in help as Richard was a successful insurance salesman for Equitable Insurance Company.
In 1926 Myrtle divorced Richard for ‘chasing the skirts’. She and her children moved to University City, and after a few moves within the city, she bought a nice home on Gannon Avenue from a builder during the Depression. Myrtle took many jobs and painted everything that was commissioned to support her family. Easter eggs were very successful; one year she painted 144 gross eggs for various businesses. She would paint on flower delivery trucks, petticoats, neckties, walls, metal items, china & glassware…anything that could be painted.
She continued to paint and teach in her later years. One of her eager pupils was her granddaughter Beth who went on to have her own successful art career. Myrtle continued to paint until she was 96 years old, then had a series of strokes and died 6 months later. She is still remembered with love and admiration by friends and family.
— from Findagrave.com memorial, Richard Wesley, 16 Aug 2010
After several weeks of debate, the St. Louis City Assembly selected a name that had not been suggested in order to settle the issue. The street has been known as “39th Street” ever since! (But I think I’ll call it Myrtle to myself from now on)