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A St. Louis Statue to be Proud of: Frankie Freeman in Kiener Plaza

July 23, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on A St. Louis Statue to be Proud of: Frankie Freeman in Kiener Plaza

Recently there have been renewed calls for the removal of statues honoring confederates. Just yesterday:

On Wednesday, the House took a pivotal first step in an overwhelming vote to remove a bust of the fifth chief justice of the United States and Confederate statues from public display in the U.S. Capitol.

The final vote was 305-113. There were 72 Republicans who joined with Democrats in approving the measure. (ABC News)

Another target has been homicidal tyrant Christopher Columbus. Last month the St. Louis statue honoring him was removed.

A statue of Christopher Columbus that stood in a St. Louis park for 134 years was removed Tuesday amid a growing national outcry against monuments to the 15th century explorer.

The commissioners who oversee Tower Grove Park recently voted to remove the statue. It was loaded onto a truck Tuesday, but it wasn’t clear what will become of it. Park officials didn’t immediately reply to a phone message seeking comment. (AP/MSN)

The controversial statue of King Louis IX remains on Art Hill, for now.

Installed in 1906, the Apotheosis of St. Louis depicts the city’s namesake, Louis IX of France, riding astride an armored horse, his sword raised upside down to form a cross. It’s a portrayal befitting a ruler renowned for his military prowess. But the statue fails to address the canonized king’s darker legacy—the totality of his accomplishments—and now, amid a spate of protests against systemic racism in the United States, the St. Louis monument is one of many public works at the center of a major cultural reckoning. (Smithsonian Magazine)

Amid all this controversy I wanted to think about positive role models honored in bronze. The Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Fountain Park came to mind first. Then my mind turned to one of the newest statues in St. Louis, installed in November 2017:

The bronze figure depicts Freeman walking away from the Old Courthouse. It’s symbolic of her leaving after the 1954 landmark case “Davis et. al. v. the St. Louis Housing Authority,” which resulted in the end of legal racial discrimination in St. Louis public housing. Freeman was the lead attorney for the case.

A few days before her 101st birthday, Freeman sat next to the statue on Tuesday and greeted visitors who came to celebrate her, from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to former Washington University Chancellor Dr. William Danforth. (Post-Dispatch)

Freeman died the following January. Why does she have a statue in Kiener Plaza?

Freeman, also known as “Frankie Freedom,” was raised in a segregated town in Virginia. She knew she wanted to become a lawyer since she was young. Eventually, she became a civil rights attorney who fought to end segregated housing and promoted equal rights in St. Louis and nationwide during the civil rights movement.

She was also the lead attorney in the court case Davis v. St. Louis Housing Authority in 1952, which helped in ending racial segregation in public housing in St. Louis. “Frankie Freedom” became an assistant attorney general of Missouri and staff attorney for the St. Louis Land Clearance and Housing Authorities from 1956 to 1970.

Freeman became the first woman to join the U.S Civil Rights Commission in 1964, which investigates discrimination complaints, collects data on discrimination, and advises lawmakers and the president on equal protection and the issues of discrimination. She served on the commission for 16 years.

She was also an active member and longtime board member of the United Way and was part of the leadership of the Girl Scouts. (Newsweek)

Freeman spent her entire life working toward equality for all — we should be proud she made St. Louis her home.

Sculpture of civil rights attorney Frankie Freeman, May 2018
After the March 2017 reopening of Kiener Plaza I noted a spot left for a then-undisclosed sculpture.

Further reading see Davis et al. v. The St. Louis Housing Authority at Wikipedia and/or JUSTIA. Watch her on YouTube via Missouri Historical Society.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

New Park/Garden Under Construction Next To Eads Bridge

July 9, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Planning & Design Comments Off on New Park/Garden Under Construction Next To Eads Bridge

When Great Rivers Greenway announced six years ago they were going to build a park on the north side of the Eads Bridge many of us scratched our heads — there’s already huge park (90+ acres) on the south side of Eads Bridge — the Gateway Arch National Park. Why build a small park next to a big park?

It was announced a park was planned for the north side of the Eads Bridge, on the other side of the trucks parked in the alley. March 2014
Another March 2014 view, taken from Lucas Ave & Commercial alley.

Here is their initial press release:

Feb. 27, 2014 (St. Louis) – With the transformation of the Riverfront and Gateway Arch grounds underway, the Great Rivers Greenway District is pleased to announce the purchase of a historic property that will provide a safer and more accessible connection between Laclede’s Landing and the revitalized Riverfront.

The lot is situated directly north of the Eads Bridge between First and Second streets on Laclede’s Landing. It is the site of the former Switzer Licorice Building, which was demolished in 2007.

“We are very pleased to have acquired this property,” says Susan Trautman, Executive Director of Great Rivers Greenway District. “Not only will it provide a universally accessible connection to the Arch grounds, it has the potential to create larger connections across the region and spur future development.”

The District aims to transform the property into a park or other compatible development offering food, restrooms, or other services to enhance the visitor experience while providing a seamless transition between the revitalized Gateway Arch grounds and Laclede’s Landing.

“The site offers endless possibilities for connection,” says Trautman. “It is steps away from the Eads Bridge Metrolink station, four blocks south of the North Riverfront Trail, and around the corner from the new trails being built on the Arch Grounds and along the Riverfront. It is fitting that the ‘front door’ of this property is a soaring arch beneath the historic Eads Bridge.”

The District purchased the property from St. John’s Bank for $350,000. The property’s appraised value was $390,000. 

I didn’t catch this six years ago, but the site isn’t actually “between First and Second streets” — it’s between First and Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd (originally Warf).

What we often get in press releases about planned projects is statements meant to reduce possible objections to a decision. Who’d have a problem with safer and more accessible, right? Keep reading.

The 1st Street opening in the approach, the park site id on the other side of both the approach and 1st St.
The Commercial Alley opening, currently closed while workers on the park use the covered/shaded space.

The Missouri approach to the 1874 Eads Bridge is brick & stone, but has five openings to allow people and vehicles to easily reach the other side:  Warf, First, Second, at two alleys in between the streets. They knew in the 19th century that closing off parts of the street grid wouldn’t be a good idea so they make sure every street & alley could continue unimpeded.

Stairs from 1st Street up to the MetroLink platform
From 2nd Street you can use the elector or stairs.

For anyone arriving at Laclede’s Landing via MetroLink light rail can exit to either First or Second streets — assuming they’re physically able to do so as only the Second Street exit has an elevator. Due to elevation changes, the Second Street exit also has significantly fewer steps than the First Street exit.

Surface parking across 1st Street from new park. The buildings in the background face 2nd Street.

Second Street is the primary street in Laclede’s Landing, it has the most restaurants and such. First Street is ok a block further North, but right at the bridge it’s desolate — mostly surface parking and a old flood-prone parking structure down the hill.

View of new park site from 1st Street MetroLink station opening

The west side of this new park is bounded by First Street, therefore adjacent to the First Street entry/exit for MetroLink. As a wheelchair user I can’t use the First Street exit. This park may prove popular, perhaps especially with cyclists and those looking for restrooms.

The land between Commercial alley and Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd is still privately owned, but Gateway Greening hopes this is a phase 2.

I personally would’ve liked to have seen new buildings, rather than more open space. That’s a big part of the problem with Laclede’s Landing — too few buildings, far too much open space. Sure, this will be green open space instead of asphalt open space. Hopefully the parking to the North & West can get replaced with new buildings — this would give this park nice walls.

The Katherine Ward Burg Garden is currently under construction

The new park is not named after the building that occupied the site for decades, Switzer licorice.  No, follow the money out to Ladue.

The Katherine Ward Burg Garden is the first step in this long-term plan to redevelop the St. Louis Riverfront north of the Eads Bridge and Gateway Arch. Situated adjacent to the Eads Bridge, the half-acre plaza will be a welcoming spot once people exit the MetroLink at the Laclede’s Landing stop.  It is bordered by North 1st street on the east, Lucas Avenue on the northern edge, the Mississippi Greenway (Commercial Alley) on the east and the Eads Bridge to the south.

Thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of  Katherine Ward Burg, the garden has been designed to create a flexible and welcoming open space which attracts visitors north from the Arch grounds to explore Laclede’s Landing or to the Arch grounds from the Landing. It incorporates an iconic trellis, stepped terraces and curving seatwalls offering a comfortable spot for respite, a meeting place to start an adventure and a site that can be adapted for special events and programs. The gently sloped landscape allows for accessible ramp access from First Street down to Commercial Street, a way for all people to move down toward the river, eventually connecting to the Mississippi Greenway.

Construction is underway and expected to be complete in Spring 2021. (Great Rivers Greenway)

If you were looking for a post with uncritical approval with artists renderings you’ve come to the wrong blog. Hopefully my skepticism will prove unfounded, the garden will become a huge success.

We’ll find out how it looks and functions next year and if it’s a success after a few more years.

— Steve Patterson

 

Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, Home of the Gateway Geyser, Dedicated 15 Years Ago Today

June 18, 2020 Featured, Metro East, Parks Comments Off on Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, Home of the Gateway Geyser, Dedicated 15 Years Ago Today

It was 15 years ago today that the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park was formally dedicated.

The park overlook on December 10, 2010. Click image to see live webcam view.

The park is dedicated to the man who pushed for the creation of the Gateway Geyser more than 25 years ago:

The tallest water fountain in the United States and third tallest in the world, capable of rising to 630 feet, the Gateway Geyser began operating on May 27, 1995, helping to fulfill Malcolm W. Martin’s vision of creating a landmark along the Illinois riverfront that would complement the Gateway Arch. The Gateway Geyser was established with the help of the Gateway Center of Metropolitan St. Louis, a non-profit group founded by Malcolm, whose members raised $4 million in private donations to construct the geyser. (The park with a view)

Source: Metro East Park and Recreation District
June 2015

It used to operate multiple times per day, but now only at noon — weather permitting, of course. The equipment is aging.

The Gateway Geyser is typically accompanied by four smaller fountains around the perimeter of the pond. These fountains are not expected to come back online until the 2020 season. Why? The pump is being rebuilt. This repair does not affect the operation of the Gateway Geyser. Sorry for any inconvenience.

This park is one of my favorite spaces in the the region, a reason why my husband and I got married here just over 6 years ago this month.

I’m the shorter one on the left, photo taken while our friend Dionna Raedeke sang ‘The Very Thought of You’

Another reason we picked this park, located in East St. Louis Illinois, for our wedding is we still couldn’t legally get married in Missouri — but Missouri is in all our photos anyway!

Now that wheelchair access to the west end of the Eads Bridge has been fixed, I can visit this park more often.

— Steve Patterson

 

Aloe Plaza Nudes Unveiled Eight Decades Ago, MLS Coming

May 11, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Planning & Design Comments Off on Aloe Plaza Nudes Unveiled Eight Decades Ago, MLS Coming

Eighty years ago today the nude sculptures in the Aloe Plaza fountain across Market Street from St. Louis Union Station were formally unveiled. The other figures in the fountain were unveiled the previous night.

Carl Milles’ ‘Meeting of the Waters’ is the focal point of Aloe Plaza

Artist Carl Milles attended,  Edith Aloe (1875-1956) did the unveiling.

Edith Aloe, 64, was the widow of the man who two decades earlier pushed to raze buildings across from St. Louis Union Station — former president of the Board of Aldermen Louis P. Aloe (1867-1929). Mrs. Aloe was instrumental in Milles being selected to create the fountain.

Since then the plaza has largely remained unchanged. A wheelchair ramp was added years age to access the plaza from Market Street and a decade ago awful spot lights were installed. Why awful? The resulting light from overhead is so bright it overpowers the lighting within the fountain — prison yards likely have similar lighting schemes. Incredibly uninviting.

Aloe Plaza across from Union Station cleared away “undesirable” buildings, followed by decades more demolition creating the largely failed Gateway Mall

The view above is looking West from 18th Street in June 2013. Right now the new Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium is being built on the West side of 20th Street.

Looking West from Aloe Plaza as crews remove the old highway interchange and begin work on the stadium. April 24, 2020

The stadium will give the Gateway Mall a proper terminus, but will Aloe Plaza remain unused, unchanged?

We should begin thinking & talking about a major renovation of the 2-block long plaza. The fountain & sculpture are sacred, in my view. Everything else is negotiable.

Why?

Union Station has made major investments in replacing the failed train shed mall, uh, festival marketplace with an indoor aquarium & outdoor Farris wheel. The MLS stadium is an even bigger investment. Both will draw huge crowds. Aloe Plaza is located between them.

Aloe Plaza was designed as a tranquil passive space in a growing city of 800k plus. 2011 photo

The first question is if the space should remain passive or if it needs activity areas?

Obviously I think it needs a redesign with opportunities for programmed activity.  But what activities? Would programming & activities compliment or distract from the fountain?

Too bad the Gateway Mall Advisory Board was disbanded.

— Steve Patterson

SOURCE: May 11, 1940 (page 3 of 16). (1940, May 11). St.Louis Post-Dispatch (1923-2003) Retrieved from link.

PS: The 1940 census shows 64-year old widow Edith Aloe living in the Park Royal Apartments, 4605 Lindell Blvd. — apartment 414. Her rent was $125/month. Her 24-year old single maid Evelyn Iffrig also lived there. Evelyn married in 1946, so Edith would’ve needed a new maid. Evelyn died in 1995, her husband lived until 2006.

 

A Trip To The Nearest Park

March 27, 2020 Featured, Parks Comments Off on A Trip To The Nearest Park

On Wednesday I went outside, the temperature was nice and I’d been in our apartment for three full weeks — 21 days! I was going stir-crazy.

I decided that rather than just walk a few feet outdoors I’d take my power wheelchair to the closest public park. On the way there a man was sitting on his front porch. I said “Hello” and he replied the same. He was at least 10 feet away, no social distancing violation. He was the first person besides my husband I’d spoken with in person in three weeks.

The main entrance to Fr. Filipiak Park off the SW corner of 10th & O’Fallon. Patrick Henry Elementary is seen on the left.

Here’s the short text from the city’s page on this park:

In 1979, the Rev. Edward Filipiak, for whom the park is named, was a one-man pastorate on a mission to save his church, built in 1844, from demolition. Archdiocese leaders planned a new building nearby but backed off after some former parishioners organized the Friends of St. Joseph, and the National Register of Historic Places designated the twin-spire structure a landmark.

What you’ll see at this park is a grassy knoll of rolling berms and a few shade trees complete with benches and plaques in honor of Fr. Filipiak and those who’ve lost their lives in the line of work. https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/parks/parks/browse-parks/view-park.cfm?parkID=41&parkName=Father%20Filipiak%20Park

What’s not mentioned is Father Filipiak was brutally murdered in September 1979. His findagrave entry has his photo and a few more details. His murder saved the church, but the 19th century houses that faced 10th Street and backed up to the side of the church weren’t so lucky.

Looking North. A father was playing ball with his two kids. We spoke briefly and from a distance. 
Looking North & slightly East
A plaque honoring Father Filipiak

I think about him and his fight to save the church. If he hadn’t been murdered would the church still be here today?  Or the houses that occupied the land where this park exists — would they still exist.  Anyway, it was just very nice going outside and speaking to other human beings.

Today I’ll be out again but I have to worry about touching stuff and then not touching my face.

— Steve Patterson

 

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