Future in doubt for historic African-American community in Chesterfield

Rising home prices in suburban Chesterfield have led to increased property taxes for residents of Westland Acres, an enclave in the St. Louis suburb founded by a freed slave. | Courtesy of Paul Knittel/Flickr
Rising home prices elsewhere in Chesterfield (above) have led to increased property taxes for residents of Westland Acres. | Courtesy of Paul Knittel/Flickr

The 133 acres that remain of Westland Acres, a community in suburban St. Louis founded in the late 19th century by a freed slave, may undergo redevelopment as the area dwindles in population and the real estate around it continues to appreciate.

William West bought the plot of land, located in what today is Chesterfield, for a rumored $5 an acre in 1879. West raised a family on his land, which became home to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Today, Westland Acres is home to just 28 residents, many of whom are older adults. That aging population, coupled with rising property taxes due to increases in the assessed value of land elsewhere in Chesterfield, has led to growing concern that an area of cultural significance may soon give way to suburban sprawl.

Many with ties to the area say that, whatever the fate of the land, the historic African-American roots that Westland Acres was built on will not be forgotten.

Read more from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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