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Name:    Darst, Joseph M.
Profession:  Mayor
Category:  Planning and Development    (Number 37)
Term as Mayor:    1949-1953
Born/Started:     Mar. 18, 1889
Died/Ended:     Jun. 08, 1953
Description:    Joseph Darst was the 37th mayor of St. Louis, serving from 1949 to 1953. A real estate man, Mayor Darst´s greatest accomplishments were in the field of public housing, for which he received national acclaim. During his four years in office, 704 public housing family units were completed, 17,000 more were under construction, and another 4,000 were in the planning stages. He ignored Realtor opposition and labored for slum clearance and low-cost public housing. The John Cochran Apartments, the City´s first post-war public housing project, was completed under his direction. Construction in the DeSoto-Carr area was in process on the Pruitt homes.

In 1950 and 1951 the first headway was made in preparation for land clearance and redevelopment of blighted areas. The first project agreed on was the Plaza Area, extending from Fifteenth to Eighteenth and Olive to Market Streets. Under this program the areas were developed with private capital. Before his election he had opposed the Earnings Tax, but he came to believe it was necessary as a source of revenue to bolster the fiscal position of the City. He led the campaign to urge the Missouri Legislature to pass an enabling act making the tax lawful.

Mayor Darst was born in St. Louis and attendied Barat Hall, a boys school, St. Louis University High School, Christian Brothers College and Saint Louis University. In 1910 he went into the real estate business with his father. In 1930 he married Miss Lucile Rose.

He became interested in politics early in life. He campaigned in support of Democrat William H. Igoe for Mayor in 1925, for Al Smith’s presidential campaign in 1928, and for Bernard F. Dickmann’s mayoral campaign in 1933. He was appointed director of Public Welfare under Mayor Dickmann and oversaw the construction of Bliss Psychopathic, Homer G. Phillips and the State Training School hospitals.

Mr. Darst served as director of the Federal Housing Administration for the eastern district of Missouri for almost one year during 1947 and 1948. In April of 1949 Mr. Darst was elected Mayor by an 18,000 vote margin. His health was poor during the last year of his administration and he spent many days in the hospital. He died June 8, 1953, just two months after his term as mayor was completed. Interment was at Calvary Cemetery.

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