Shelley House Rededicated By Realtors, Community Groups, Leaders

By on February 12, 2019

From St. Louis Public Radio:  When Mary Easterwood’s family moved into their home at 4600 Labadie St. about 60 years ago, the neighbors had tried to explain the history behind the house.

“But they couldn’t quite get the story together,” Easterwood said. “As we got older and we started to study, then we found out about the Shelley v Kraemer case,” decided in 1948.

Easterwood’s father, Lenton Morris, had bought the home from another African-American man, J.D. Shelley. When Shelley purchased the home, the title included a racially restrictive covenant – which was an agreement that prohibited the building’s owner from selling the home to anyone other than a Caucasian.

A neighbor sued to keep Shelley’s family from moving into the area. Shelley won the case, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state enforcement of racially restrictive covenants violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The Shelley House is now a National Historical Landmark.

“It could be argued that the Shelley House is the single most important and historic piece of architecture directly related to fair housing in the entire United States of America,” said 2018 St. Louis Realtors President Marc Levinson.

“Quite An Event”

On January 18, the St. Louis Realtors FoundationNorthside Community Housing and Rebuilding Together St. Louis held a rededication ceremony to replace the commemorative plaque that was stolen from the front of the home in 2018.

The first time the house was dedicated as a National Historical Landmark was on May 1, 1988, and Easterwood remembered it being quite an event.

“There was a big band, and people came from all over,” she said. “It was shoulder-to-shoulder all the way down the street.”

The ceremony on January 18 drew only about 20 people during a bitterly cold day. However, Easterwood said the house draws people who want to learn more about this civil rights history year-round.

“This is an exciting day for the Greater Ville Neighborhood, for the City of St. Louis, and for everyone who understands that teaching and treasuring our history matters,” U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis) said at the January 18 rededication ceremony.

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