The Roaring Twenties made a stop in Brentwood, earning them an unsavory reputation as the place to go to drink and gamble. In 1929, they elected their first mayor, James (Tex) Willingham, who promised to clean up the town—and he did. He also signed a sweeping ordinance which, among other things, established the City of Brentwood, its boundaries, identified wards and ward officers, and set up a structure for governing.
As the years went on, Brentwood grew into a respectable community, with churches being built, small businesses cropping up, and the school system expanding. In 1927, they established Brentwood High School and the L’Overture School for African-American students. Subdivisions became popular, offering homes to new families. City Hall was dedicated in 1935, and the public library was organized in 1936. Brentwood was now indeed a self-sustaining city, with a very bright future.
With the dawn of the 40s and World War II, Brentwood supported the troops by sending many courageous young men and women to serve the country. In 1942, they helped support the local population by opening Brentwood Theatre, which offered entertainment, but also important news about the war through newsreels and films.
After the War, when all the Johnnies came marching home they found there was a housing shortage. To help solve the problem, Audubon Park, an apartment community with over 1,000 garden units of one, two and three bedrooms was constructed in the early 50s. Sporting such colorful street names as Bobolink, Thrush Terrace, and Wrenwood Lane, it was lovingly nicknamed “Birdland” and for decades provided moderately priced housing for thousands of St. Louisans.
The 60’s and 70s brought with them social turmoil and another war, but Brentwood continued to see progress. The population had reached over 12,000. The Board of Education outlawed segregation, and the L’Overture School was closed. A private community swimming pool was built in 1962. As the 60s were coming to an end, the City approached its 50th anniversary with plans for a big celebration, and a new slogan “City of Warmth,” was selected.
The end of the 70s brought us the first Maddenfest, a community-wide celebration which continues today as Brentwood Days. It also brought the first in a series of impactful changes in the Brentwood business world, the Hanley Industrial Court which was mostly built in the 60's. Opened in 1977, its central county location helped it become, and remain, a thriving suburban hub for manufacturers and other non-retail businesses.
More significant development and redevelopment occurred throughout the City in the 80s and 90s.
Audubon Park was converted to condominiums and renamed “Brentwood Forest.” It took several years and required completely gutting buildings, reconfiguring floor plans, and constructing some new buildings. It now consists of 1,425 one- and two-story condos.
New multi-storey office buildings went up, as did new shopping centers. Restaurants expanded from just a few to dozens, featuring everything from fast food to elegant cuisine. Still, Brentwood retains old favorites, like Carl’s Drive-In, which loyal residents think has the best burgers and root beer around.
By the start of the 21st century, the City of Brentwood had become a diverse, small city that offered a terrific lifestyle, affordable cost-of-living, and a superior school system. Academically, Brentwood Schools have won numerous awards, several times being ranked “Blue Ribbon” Schools. The athletic programs for both boys and girls are excellent. In 2017, the boys’ track team brought home two state championships.
Since 1919, Brentwood, Missouri has managed to grow and thrive, and keep up with the ever-changing challenges of modern life without losing their spirit of independence. They remain a close-knit community as they prepare to celebrate their first one hundred years and forge plans to make the next century even better.
They will be delighted to have the entire community join in the planning and the festivities.