Carmen and Eddie Gamble have a lifetime of experiences in other cities around the U.S. and overseas, yet this forward-thinking couple decided to build their retirement dream home in the College Hill neighborhood. Their beautiful home is a vivid visual connection to the fond childhood memories that Carmen has of the neighborhood and serves as an example of how a memorable past can be an inspiration to build the future.
What prompted you to come back to St. Louis after various military and Federal Government contractor assignments that took you all over the world?
Carmen: We decided to return to the College Hill neighborhood in 1998 and my parents were instrumental in this decision. In 1998, my parents purchased the land across the street from their home in the College Hill neighborhood. My husband and I were stationed in Atlanta, Georgia at that time and we were many years from retirement, but we are forward thinkers and we decided to start preparing for our tomorrows. We also wanted to give back to College Hill by building a home that would bring life back into a forgotten community. My parents sold the land to us and we were able to acquire the adjacent property. After moving back to St. Louis we began the process of building our dream retirement home which we completed in 2002. Every decision we made from that point was always focused on returning to the street where I grew up and building a house that would enable us to live our dream.
Eddie: I knew I wanted to retire in, or nearby a big city, and, initially, I thought it would be Atlanta. Carmen is a native St. Louisan and she wanted to come back to her hometown. So we compromised and custom-built a home here in St. Louis that reflects Atlanta features. While we were stationed at Fort McPherson, Ga. we would venture out on the weekends with the kids and visit new construction sites. We studied home-design architectural features and took the best of what we liked and added it to the dream home that we designed on our personal computer. These plans were used by the custom builder we selected to build our St. Louis home that has a distinctive Atlanta flair.
What are some of your personal feelings about living directly across the same street where you grew up?
Carmen: College Hill represented closeness, generations of families living, people growing up and passing homes on to their next generation. The College Hill neighborhood where I grew up was vibrant and filled with many cultural events like Quinceañera celebrations that were held by some of our neighbors. This neighborhood was a safe place and our parents never worried about their kids playing outside. My father was active in local politics and was a talented event organizer. We had many memorable functions at our home welcoming individuals like the former Mayor of St. Louis, to the actor and comedian Redd Foxx from the 70's sitcom Sanford and Son. Looking back on how it once was around here is what motivated me to come back to my childhood neighborhood.
Eddie what's your perspective on building a house in a neighborhood that obviously has a strong emotional attachment for your spouse?
For me it was important that Carmen could be closer to her family. As they say, "Happy Wife ― Happy Life." I grew up in the small town of Texarkana, Ark., where everybody knew everybody. We had one high school, one mall, and no sports teams. Throughout my 24-year military career l experienced living near major cities. Having been stationed in St. Louis during my military career, I know the value of having a diverse and abundant list of activities to enjoy.
What are your thoughts regarding the on-going effort to revitalize north city and what do you think the impact of Next NGA West will be in the neighborhoods around St. Louis Place?
Carmen: The revitalization of North St. Louis neighborhoods is long overdue and welcomed. I remain hopeful that NGA will reinvigorate life back into our forgotten North St. Louis city area. It amazes me how the values of one's livelihood are not valued by others. It's sad to say that it depends on who you are and where you live that determines the financial support that is necessary to ensure neighborhoods survive and thrive.
Eddie: When Carmen and I decided that we were going to make our home across the street from where she grew up we thought that, if you have the money, that you could build the home of your dream wherever you wanted to build it. We were initially deterred from building a home of this magnitude because it did not fit in the College Hill neighborhood. We refused to accept that premise and had to fight hard to be able to build our home in College Hill. The barriers we had to break through were a big step in the revitalization of College Hill area homes. We are proud of those who have followed what we did and continue to capitalize on our breakthrough revitalization of College Hill that started as an idea back in 1998 and became a reality in January in 2002.
You chose to build a beautiful new home in the same neighborhood where you grew up. What were some of the challenges of building new over modernizing an existing older home?
Carmen: We definitely had our share of challenges since we built our home from the ground up on vacant land, but we wanted to make sure our home reflected our unique thumb print as a way of revitalizing this neighborhood. Our home is located directly across the street from my parent's home, which is the historic ‘Kulage House,' that is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Homes. It is also listed as one of St Louis city's landmarks. Building a new home across street from my childhood home required that we adhere to many building and design requirements to preserve the history of the area. We also had difficulties finding a builder who would build a home of this magnitude. Financing this construction was also a frustrating challenge.
What are some of the best aspects of living in the College Hill neighborhood that you think others would be surprised to learn?
Carmen: College Hill is conveniently positioned for quick access to highway 70, downtown and within 15 minutes of the airport. The neighbors are friendly, respectful and invested. There is a large percentage of homeowners vs. renters. There is opportunity for additional homeownership within College Hill through the Lutheran Church's Campaign for College Hill new home initiative.
The views presented are those of the participant interviewed and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or NGA, or any of their components. No endorsement is expressed or implied.
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