Tag Archives: history

1929 Springfield Streetcar Map

29 Jun

The Greene County Public Library has a wide selection of historic maps of the city and county available, all preserved in good condition. One of those maps is a 1929 map of the city that was intended for visitors, with a map on one side and a city directory on the other. The map is a valuable resource for this streetcar project, as it clearly shows the extent of the Springfield Traction Company’s lines in 1929.

The present day site of the Expo Center is on the right of this image.

While the map shows that the section of St. Louis Street in front of the Expo Center never had a streetcar line historically, present day development patterns along this section from Jefferson to National, including the Expo Center, Hammonds Field, the Shrine Mosque, and historic Route 66 commercial locations, justifies the construction of a streetcar line, connecting back to the square. The square itself was a hive of activity in 1929, with streetcar lines radiating in all directions and direct connections north along Boonville Avenue to the Commercial Street district. The map reveals that the busiest area of the city was from Jefferson on the east to Campbell on the west, and St. Louis and College on the south, north to Commercial street. This historic core is still mostly intact, but lacks anything to tie it together like a streetcar line would. The existence of many important nodes, like City Hall, the historic Commercial Street district, and Drury University within this area will inform the development of a new streetcar plan for the city.

The historic 1929 map, on which the streetcar lines have been highlighted in red, can be found as a PDF download on the Maps page.

Springfield Streetcar: The Future of the Past

10 Jun

Spingfield, Missouri was once home to an extensive streetcar network that in 1929 covered the entire city with access to public transportation. Park Central Square was a beehive of activity, with streetcar lines from four directions meeting in a grand circular junction of rails and wires. In 1936, the Springfield Traction Company announced that the beloved streetcars would be replaced by gasoline powered buses, because it seemed “the modern thing to do.” After the final “streetcar parade” in August of 1937, the streetcars, like so many others across the country, faded into history. Succumbing to the forces of improved roads and increased private automobile ownership, the streetcars that created the American city on their characteristic patterns of development went from being the most modern transportation system in the world to nothing but a quaint memory in the hearts of romantics.

Today, streetcars are being proven in city after city across the country as a successful means of spurring development in downtown areas, from Portland, Oregon to Tampa, Florida. And while some streetcar systems can be expensive, building an effective streetcar link is far cheaper than many in local governments around the area may realize. Kenosha, Wisconsin spent $6 million on a streetcar loop that covered their entire downtown district, and in return got $150 million worth of downtown, brownfield, and lakefront development. Streetcar tracks bring development, and that is what downtown Springfield needs. With the recent report that the Expo Center will need $53 million in private investment in the surrounding area to make it truly competitive, and an additional $24 to $55 million in public subsidies, the comparatively low costs of streetcar development become eye-opening.

Springfield Streetcar will be developing a plan for implementing streetcars in downtown Springfield, Missouri, hoping to generate interest among citizens, businesses, and government in the benefits of rail-based public transportation in the areas of tourism, economics, and sustainability.

Join us and come ride the streetcar!