The Hill, St. Louis
Location of The Hill within St. Louis
|• Total||0.97 sq mi (2.5 km2)|
|• Density||2,500/sq mi (970/km2)|
Part of 63110
The Hill is a neighborhood within St. Louis, Missouri, located on high ground south of Forest Park. The official boundaries of the area are Manchester Avenue (Route 100) on the north, Columbia and Southwest Avenues on the south, South Kingshighway Boulevard on the east, and Hampton Avenue on the west.
The Hill began with immigrants from Northern Italy resulting in an Italian American majority population during the early part of the 20th century. It is currently home to over 30 Italian-American restaurants and Italian-American businesses. In recent years, the character of The Hill has not lost the feeling of a small town community within a big city which makes its housing eagerly sought after.
Its name is due to its proximity to the highest point of the city, formerly named St. Louis Hill, which is a few blocks south, at the intersection of Arsenal Street and Sublette Avenue. The intersection borders Sublette Park, the former site of the Saint Louis Social Evil Hospital built there in 1873, where Josephine Baker was later born. Adjacent to the building of the former St. Louis County Lunatic Asylum built in 1864, now a rehabilitation center.
Italians, mainly from the north and especially from the northern Italian region of Lombardy, immigrated and settled in the area starting in the late 19th century, attracted by jobs in nearby plants established to exploit deposits of clay discovered by immigrants in the 1830s.
With the growth of Italian immigration came the growth in the influence of the Roman Catholic Church such that the Parish of Our Lady, Help of Christian was founded in the downtown area of St. Louis in 1900 to serve primarily recent Sicilian immigrants, while the Parish of St. Ambrose was founded by members of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish  in what later came to be known as the Hill in 1903 to serve primarily the recent Lombard immigrants. After the wooden St. Ambrose burned in 1924, a new brick St. Ambrose was built in 1926. And, the Parish had already been a force in the area for over 20 years. The structure, designed by architect Angelo Corrubia, is modeled after Sant'Ambrogio Church in Milan, in a Lombard Romanesque Revival style of brick and terra cotta. Hill residents took such pride in their parish, every resident donated funds for the new church. It became a territorial parish church for the area in 1955, after 30 years of focusing primarily on Italian migrants when it was simply an ethnic church. Our Lady, Help of Christians Parish closed in 1975, and St. Ambrose welcomed their membership. While The Hill's population included Sicilians since before the 1950s, the community came to terms with the increasing Sicilian residents as well as Northern and Southern cultural differences through church membership.
Baseball greats Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola, Sr. grew up on the Hill; their boyhood homes are across the street from each other on Elizabeth Avenue. Four of the five St. Louisans on the US soccer team that defeated England in the 1950 FIFA World Cup came from The Hill, a story that is told in The Game of Their Lives, a book (ISBN 0-8050-3875-2) and 2005 film of the same title (released on DVD as The Miracle Match).
According to Garagiola's book Baseball Is a Funny Game, during his youth, the Hill was called "Dago Hill." This term was well known to African-Americans as well, for during the era of Prohibition and bootlegging, the area had an African-American enclave, and a number of blues songs of that time period referenced The Hill. Other talent from The Hill includes Toni Carroll who made a singing career in New York in the 1950s and 60s, appearing on Broadway and at the Copacabana. She appeared as a guest on "The Tonight Show" guest hosted by Garagiola and with special guest Yogi Berra. Hill native Ben Pucci played with the Cleveland Browns in the 1960s.
- In 1926, the blues singer Luella Miller recorded "Dago Hill Blues" about the area.
- In 1929, the pseudonymous blues singer Freezone recorded "Indian Squaw Blues" in which he sang, "I'm gonna buy me a mansion, I'm gonna live on Dago's Hill / So I can get my whiskey, honey, right from the still."
- In 1932, Tampa Red and Georgia Tom Dorsey sang of the Hill and its connection to illegal liquor in "You Can't Get That Stuff No More" -- "stuff" being a reference to alcohol.
- In 1934, Charlie Patton mentioned the Hill in his single "Love My Stuff," a song in which "stuff" again means liquor.
- In 1935, the North Carolina blues musician Blind Boy Fuller made reference to the Hill in his song "Log Cabin Blues".
In 2010 The Hill's racial makeup was 92.7% White, 4.4% Black, 0.2% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 1.4% Two or More Races, and 0.3% Some Other Race. 1.3% of the people were of Hispanic or Latino origin.
Italians in St Louis today
As of 2019 there are around 2,000 native born Italians living in St Louis. Though few native born live in The Hill neighborhood, they instead live throughout the St Louis metropolitan region. The Hill maintains its Italian and Sicilian traditions through family. Dozens of families who still reside on The Hill trace their ancestry through five or even six generations. Through the early 2000s, young families with young children who can trace their lineage directly back to the family village in Italy are returning to The Hill to continue familial traditions learned from their immigrant grand-parents and great grand-parents.
There are several civic organizations that serve both The Hill specifically and the city-wide Italian and Sicilian communities.
The Hill 2000 Neighborhood Association serves Hill residents by addressing neighborhood issues ranging from street quality, lighting and safety, and community building. Hill 2000's Neighborhood Center is a resource for visitors to The Hill, and houses displays of Hill history and events.
Hill 2000 organizes an Italian Heritage Parade and Festa, as well as Christmas on The Hill.
The Hill Business Association organizes an annual Soap Box Derby and vintage car show, and an annual Wine Walk.
CIAO-St Louis serves to promote Italian and Sicilian culture and history throughout the St Louis region. They air a Facebook podcast every Saturday in English and Italian, playing Italian music, interviewing guests, and promoting events such as an annual Italian night at the Cardinals with nearly 100 participants.
The Federation of Italian-American Organizations (FIAO) acts as an umbrella organization for the many Italian associations in the St Louis region. They sponsor adult Italian language classes in the Fall and Spring semesters, held at St. Ambrose.
- Ozark Highlands AVA, winemaking region in Missouri started by Italian immigrants
- St. Louis cuisine
- Toasted ravioli, a local dish made from fried Italian ravioli
- "Census Summary By Neighborhoods". Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
- "Preserving St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church - Preservation Research Office". preservationresearch.com. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
- Mormino, Gary Ross (2002). Immigrants on the Hill: Italian-Americans in St. Louis, 1882-1982. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 9780826214058.
- "Honey, Where You Been So Long?". prewarblues.org. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
- Robert Springer, Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From: Lyrics and History. Univ of Mississippi Press, p.65
- "Census". dynamic.stlouis-mo.gov. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
- Italian organizations in St. Louis (bilingual)
- The City of St. Louis Hill neighborhood website
- Hill2000.org | The Website of the Hill Neighborhood Association
- St. Ambrose Parish