Kinloch is the oldest African-American community to be incorporated in the state of Missouri and was home to a vibrant and flourishing black community for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and is the hometown of California Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
People often wonder how the all-black community in northwest St. Louis County came to have the name, Kinloch. The name is Scottish in origin and means “at the head of the lake.” Some sources indicate that Major Henry Smith Turner named the area after his ancestral family name. Other sources state that the Scots settler, Major Richard Graham, who arrived in the area in 1807, named part of his land “Kinloch” after his holdings in Virginia. The area remained sparsely settled up to the end of the 19th century. A small number of blacks had land in the locality.
Kinloch Park was developed in the 1890s as a commuter suburb. The establishment of the Wabash Railroad from downtown St. Louis through the Kinloch area sparked development by whites. A small area of land was reserved for purchase by blacks, many of whom where house servants for Kinloch’s new homeowners. When a white land-owner sold to a black family a small parcel in an area of Kinloch restricted to whites, many whites sold their lots and moved, thus further opening the market to blacks.
The majority of blacks arrived in Kinloch during the 1920s. Many of them were black soldiers returning from service in World War I. Restrictive housing practices in St. Louis City made moving outside the city and away from the pressures of racial prejudice appealing to many blacks. The East St. Louis race riots in 1917 brought many Illinois residents to the area. Additional black settlement was abetted by the northern migration of blacks from the South.
The initial black church in Kinloch was the First Missionary Baptist Church, now at 5844 Monroe Avenue, dating from 1901. Other churches followed: First United Methodist Church in 1904; Second Missionary Baptist Church at 5508 Lyons in 1914; Kinloch Church of God in Christ, now Tabernacle of Faith and Deliverance, in 1914; and Our Lady of the Angels (originally Holy Angels) in the early 1920s.
Although the one-room frame Vernon School opened for black children in 1885, it closed a few months later. Black children in the Kinloch area traveled to Normandy to attend the school opened at Lucas and Hunt [electronic editor’s note: “Lucas and Hunt” is the name of a single street.] in 1886. The Vernon School, which moved to a number of locations in the area, served black children until the formation of the Kinloch School District in 1902, and its building remained in use as an all-black school in the Ferguson District until it was closed in 1967. When whites in the area split to form a separate school district in 1902, the Scudder Avenue School became Kinloch’s elementary school. A second elementary school, Dunbar, was opened in 1914. High school students attended Sumner in St. Louis City until Kinloch High School opened in 1937. In the mid-1970s, to further integrate education, both the Kinloch and the white Berkeley school districts were annexed into the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Kinloch students were also served by Holy Angels (now Our Lady of the Angels) Elementary School which opened in 1931.
In 1948 Kinloch was incorporated as Missouri’s first fourth-class, all-black city
In the 1980’s, the City of St. Louis began to buy out property in Kinloch as part of the expansion of Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport, dramatically reducing Kinloch’s size. Eventually the airport took the vast majority of private homes in Kinloch. Between 1990 and 2000, Kinloch lost more than 75 percent of its population. The social and economic effects of this buyout were disastrous for the community and contributed more than anything else to its population decline.
In recent years, there have been valiant efforts to rebuild the city. The City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, Kinloch, Berkeley and Ferguson reached an agreement on a redevelopment plan for 600 acres of land on the northeast corner of I-70 and I-170, along the eastern edge of the airport. Years ago, this land was part of the airport buyout. The redevelopment will offer office, retail, and industrial space and is expected to create about 12,000 jobs, along with tax revenue to be split among the municipalities. The developers, NorthPark Partners, intend to make improvements in Kinloch and donate a new civic center to Kinloch.
Kinloch had a recorded population of 298 at the 2010 census bureau with a median age of 34.4 years.
Note: Some of this information is from the printed guide produced by the St. Louis Public Library in 1992 and may be copyrighted by the original publisher.