Racist neighborhood covenant discovered in Kirkwood

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by John Knicely / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on June 12, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 12 at 9:17 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- A racist issue could come to a head Tuesday night in Kirkwood. A local neighborhood bi-law  was discovered that says certain races can’t enter any building unless they’re a servant. 

A viewer alerted News 4 of an old covenant in the Osage Hills neighborhood. After an investigation, it was revealed that a 1926 agreement between the original neighbors blocked certain races from occupying homes.

“No building shall at any time be occupied by negroes or malays, except in capacity of bona fide servants or employees,” the covenant read.

“The city has no control over it, it’s an agreement written by the original homeowners when they established the subdivision,” said Kirkwood spokeswoman Beth Von Behren,

The Kirkwood Civil Rights Commission is prepared to hear complaints Tuesday night at the 6:30 p.m. meeting, but the covenant has been illegal since the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

“It does get people’s attention and it is ridiculous.  Both state and federal law anti-discrimination laws overrule it in any event,” said Von Behren. “The neighborhood has been trying to change the covenant for years.”

Resident Kate Vonder Brugge says the covenant is a non-issue, and it doesn’t reflect her current neighborhood.

“You have different races that live in this neighborhood. Absolutely,” she said. “We have a multi-racial family that lives right there, another family right up the street. And they’re all friends, they’re friends of ours. We have block parties. It’s just not an issue.” 

But changing a covenant is no simple fix. Costs are involved, and every home would have to re-record the deed with the county.

Still, residents feel it could be worth the hassle. With the covenant on paper, meaningless as it is, there’s still a cloud over a peaceful neighborhood.

At the meeting of the Kirkwood Civil Rights Commission Tuesday night, the issue did not come up.

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