Entrepreneur Joe Edwards helps make St. Louis vibrant again
By restoring buildings and activity to a historic St. Louis neighborhood Joe Edwards has become a powerful force for civic good.
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Some of Edwards's genius, McClellan says, was simply in seeing what everyone else seemed to miss. Drawing on a cultural heritage that St. Louis itself did little to publicize, in the 1980s Edwards created the St. Louis Walk of Fame, a stretch of The Loop that honors Tennessee Williams, Miles Davis, Charles Lindbergh, and 120 or so other celebrated St. Louisans.Skip to next paragraph
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And when the rest of the world seemed to have forgotten that Chuck Berry was a devoted St. Louis resident, Edwards brought that fact to the fore and began hosting monthly concerts by Mr. Berry at Blueberry Hill. Those intimate sessions are a particular pleasure that only St. Louis can offer, McClellan points out. (He confesses that when he hears Berry sing "Roll Over Beethoven" he's apt to get tears in his eyes.)
Edwards has received honors and awards over the years from the St. Louis mayor's office, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, three St. Louis-based universities, most of the local press, and the Missouri House of Representatives. In 2007, he was delighted when the American Planning Association in Washington, D.C., named The Loop one of "10 Great Streets in America." "St. Louis didn't have that kind of street before Edwards," McClellan points out.
From Edwards's point of view, his greatest success may have been the return of his daughters. Both left St. Louis for college and ended up settling in New York City and Washington, D.C. But in recent years, both have returned to St. Louis and now find that they can have the kind of interesting urban life there that they once sought in other cities.
"This is what I hope for St. Louis," Edwards says. "We're now the kind of city our kids can eventually decide to come home to. But I hope we're on the way to becoming the kind of city that they never have to leave."
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