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Columbus Sculpture Should Remain in Tower Grove Park, Namesake Holiday Renamed Indigenous Peoples’ Day

October 8, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks Comments Off on Columbus Sculpture Should Remain in Tower Grove Park, Namesake Holiday Renamed Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The late Henry Shaw (1800-1889) was an important part of St. Louis’ history, the Missouri Botanical Garden & Tower Grove Park are two of his creations.  He’s celebrated locally, but he was also a slave owner for nearly 30 years.

Maybe one thing people may not realize is for a time between 1828 and 1855, Shaw was a slave owner. When he came to St. Louis, he wrote back to family that he was against that practice, it had been outlawed in England. He was disgusted with the practice. We don’t really know what changed his mind … was it a manner of business? His ownership of slaves ends prior to his establishment of the Missouri Botanical Garden. (St. Louis Public Radio)

This labor likely helped him amass his fortune. Once retired he began to donate his fortune, founding the Missouri Botanical Garden at his country estate in 1859 and donating land for Tower Grove Park less than a decade later:

In 1866, a 66-year-old retired St. Louis merchant—Henry Shaw—approached St. Louis mayor James S. Thomas with a proposition. Shaw, who had already established the Missouri Botanical Garden on part of the estate surrounding his country villa, wanted to donate a still larger tract to the city of St. Louis as a pleasure ground for the citizenry. According to a contemporary, Shaw believed that parks were important “not only as ornaments to a great city, but as conducive to the health and happiness of its inhabitants and to the advancement of refinement and culture.”

Tower Grove Park was thus founded on October 20, 1868, as a gift from Shaw to the city of St. Louis. At that time, there were only 11 parks in the city. The only conditions Shaw imposed on his gift were 1) that it “shall be used as a park forever,” and 2) that an “annual appropriation” be made by the city “for its maintenance.” Today, as per Shaw’s estate, Tower Grove Park is the only public city park in the City of St. Louis to be managed by an independent Board of Commissioners and staff.  Shaw’s particular interest in the classics and European travel are reflected today in the Victorian architecture of the Park’s historical treasures. (Tower Grove Park)

Shaw was instrumental in how the land became the park we know today.

Looking West into Tower Grove Park from Grand

Near the end of his life he hired German-born artist Ferdinand von Miller II for three works:

His statue [of] Christopher Columbus was the last of three figures that Henry Shaw commissioned from von Miller for Tower Grove Park, and it was the first Columbus statue to be erected in the United States. The benefactor and the sculptor were both detail-oriented men and argued over whether Columbus would have worn a beard. Shaw insisted that the statue have one, even though the sculptor’s research indicated that Genoese sailors of that time were beardless. In the end both men got their way. Columbus is depicted with a full beard, but near his foot is an inscription added by the artist (in German): “It is not my fault that the head of Columbus is not true, but the wish of the client.” (Regional Arts Commission)

This may be the first Columbus statue, but there were obelisks/monuments around the country prior to 1884.

State of Christopher Columbus near East entrance to Tower Grove Park

We now know Columbus wasn’t someone to celebrate:

On his first day in the New World, he ordered six of the natives to be seized, writing in his journal that he believed they would be good servants. Throughout his years in the New World, Columbus enacted policies of forced labor in which natives were put to work for the sake of profits. Later, Columbus sent thousands of peaceful Taino “Indians” from the island of Hispaniola to Spain to be sold. Many died en route.

Those left behind were forced to search for gold in mines and work on plantations. Within 60 years after Columbus landed, only a few hundred of what may have been 250,000 Taino were left on their island.

As governor and viceroy of the Indies, Columbus imposed iron discipline on what is now the Caribbean country of Dominican Republic, according to documents discovered by Spanish historians in 2005. In response to native unrest and revolt, Columbus ordered a brutal crackdown in which many natives were killed; in an attempt to deter further rebellion, Columbus ordered their dismembered bodies to be paraded through the streets.

In addition to the controversy over enslavement and violent rule, the “Age of Exploration” that Columbus helped lead had the additional consequence of bringing new diseases to the New World which would, over time, devastate the native populations of many New World islands and communities. (history.com)

His exploration led to the colonization of many countries, and the brutal treatment of many native inhabitants.

In May 2017 I argued, unsuccessfully, the Confederate memorial in Forest Park should remain — accompanied with information on slavery, Jim Crow laws, and racial segregation in St. Louis.  See: Confederate Memorial in Forest Park Built During A period of High Racial Tensions in St. Louis.

Tower Grove Park is studying the controversy surrounding having a statue to such a brutal figure.

The park is taking a very deliberate effort to study what to do next:

No decisions have been made about the statue other than to assure its protection while the Columbus Statue Commission’s work is underway. They will work during the fall to consider the proper role and future of the statue in the Park. They will consider all issues and points of view related to the statue, its history, what it represents to various communities, its place in the Park’s historic design and national landmark status, and how the various perspectives within the neighborhood and larger St. Louis community can best be represented.

The Statue Commission will actively seek and consider all points of view from citizens, community groups, Park constituents, public officials, experts and others about the statue. In the tradition of the Park’s welcoming role in the community, we intend that there be opportunities for all with views or information about the statue to have their voices heard.

The Statue Commission will make long-term recommendations to the Tower Grove Park Board of Commissioners. (Tower Grove Park)

You can submit feedback here.

Like the now-removed Confederate memorial, I think this statue should remain. Unlike the Confederate memorial, this is one of three statues commissioned by the park’s visionary founder, not added later by a group trying to rewrite history. It has a prominent location, has for over a century. I don’t think we should remove it. I also don’t think it should remain without something telling of the atrocities he committed, and how those were largely unknown/ignored in Shaw’s time.

If it is removed, a new sculpture should take its place. Can’t think of an appropriate person.  Regardless of this statue, Columbus shouldn’t be celebrated with a national holiday.

— Steve Patterson

 

Entrance To Gateway Arch Should Have Faced Downtown From The Start

July 2, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Entrance To Gateway Arch Should Have Faced Downtown From The Start

On Thursday morning last week I made my first visit to the Arch since the new downtown-facing entrance opened recently. Before we get into the nw entry I need to take you back to how it was for decades.

At the base pf each leg of the Arch the walkway would slope down to the entrance was an entry/exit to the underground visitor’s center. These remain.
When security was added it was just inside the door — so the line was outside in the cold, rain, or heat.
Looking out fro the old entry/exit points. These will now be exit-only. But first you had to get here.
For many visitors that meant driving to the 1980s parking garage that was located on the North end of the grounds, then walking to the North Arch entry.
Others coming from Laclede’s Landing North of Eads Bridge or MetroLink got to walk through the 80s garage.
For those already downtown this 2010 photo showsthe highway separating downtown (left) from the Arch grounds (right). When the Arch was first planned this was the at-grade 3rd St Parkway, but it became a high speed interstate “depressed” below grade. Depressing indeed.
Construction on the “lid” over the highway, July 2014
By October 8, 2015 the entire area was closed for major construction.
Same day, same camera location, looking more tossed the Arch/river
A year later Luther Ely Smith Square was finished but work on the new Arch entry continued.
The accessible platform allows to peak over the concrete barrier & chain link fence

For so long it was just a big dirty hole, but slowly it began to take shape. Recently the entry was opened for visitors, but last week was my first visit to this entrance.

The approach to the new Arch entry feels so natural, it’s a shame it wasn’t like this 50 years ago.
Approaching from the North or South the new dug into the hill entry gradually appears.
A small plaza with water feature is in the center, forcing you to either side
Going around the center plaza will take you down to its level or go further to the outside of the circle fore the wide ramps leading to the entrance.
The center plaza
Looking back West from the center plaza
Both outside ramps lead down to the entrance — with revolving door. power operated doors tex to it for strollers, wheelchairs, etc.
From the center just inside.
Looking West from inside, very inviting! You can see ramps going off to each entry.
To the left (North) is restrooms & tickets for the trams, movies, etc. Admission to the museum is free.
To the right (south) is the entrance to take you down to the museum. This is like airport security. Unlike the old entry, this line is indoors!

The lower level was open, though the museum wasn’t — it opens tomorrow. The lower level also has the gift shop, a new restaurant, a movie theater, etc. I decided to wait so my husband could help me get through security, help with bags, wallet, etc. I’m excited by the new entrance, it’s clear to me downtown has not capitalized on the millions who’ve visited over the last half century.

Local journalist/author Jm Merkel is out with a 2nd edition of his book The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch.

With his fourth book from Reedy Press, The Making of an Icon, Jim Merkel captured the spirit behind the conception and construction of one of America’s most distinctive and beloved national monuments. More than two million visitors stand in awe at the Gateway Arch each year, and the stories behind it were unearthed in breathless detail in the first edition. Back with even more lore and the addition of beautiful color images, Merkel brings new information on the Arch grounds and museum to this updated and revised second edition. Now expanded, his book includes more stories compiled from interviews with the visionaries, finaglers, protesters, and intrepid workers who built the arch while one misstep away from a fatal fall. Merkel’s book will help us appreciate the relentless pursuit, innovation, and toil that raised the Arch to the sky. (Reedy Press)

As beautiful as the Arch is, I still think razing 40 city blocks was a huge blunder that we’re still suffering from today.

— Steve PattersonT

 

Technical Issues Yesterday; One Year Anniversary of Kiener Plaza This Coming Saturday

May 14, 2018 Featured, Parks, Site Info Comments Off on Technical Issues Yesterday; One Year Anniversary of Kiener Plaza This Coming Saturday

Yesterday something went haywire, crashing the site. When it did work the poll didn’t appear. I’ve pulled yesterday’s post since only two readers were able to vote.

I’ll have a new post on Friday, my usual on new Board Bills being introduced at the Board of Aldermen. If all goes well I’ll attempt to have yesterday’s poll question on Sunday the 20th.

In the meantime, this coming Saturday is the one year anniversary since Kiener Plaza reopened. I’ve been a few times, I need to return and photograph areas to see how the trees have matured.

Here’s a couple of posts from May 2017:

Have a great week!

— Steve Patterson

 

Design for Lucas Park Unveiled 110 Years Ago Today

March 26, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks Comments Off on Design for Lucas Park Unveiled 110 Years Ago Today

It was one hundred ten years ago that St. Louis first saw plans for the Lucas Park sunken garden that sorta remains today: From STL250:

This Day in St. Louis History, March 26, 1908:
Plans unveiled for Lucas Park

North of the proposed Central Public Library, plans were unveiled for a “sunken garden” of rich green foliage. The site, along with the site of the Central Library, had formerly been occupied by the massive St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall, which was the premiere space for large scale events in St. Louis from 1883-1907. It had hosted the St. Louis Symphony, three national nominating conventions, and was one of he first buildings in the United States to have electric lights. When it was razed, the entire site had been left below ground and the idea for a sunken park space was developed. Lucas Park still occupies this space, just north of the Central Library at Olive Street between 13th and 14th Streets.

“This photo shows Lucas Park as seen in 1920, with Christ Church Cathedral and the rear of the St. Louis Public Library to the right. The large sign that says “Velvet” is now the site of the curving Shell Building. Missouri History Museum Archives. Swekosky Collection.”

 

The 1908 plans were not the first public park on the site, from an old city website I saved:

Lucas Garden was the site of a brick house built by Judge Lucas in 1820 facing the present St. Charles Street or King’s Road, as it was called. There is still a flowing spring in the Public Library basement that was the water supply for the Judge’s home.

“Desirous of contributing to the ornament and health of the City of St. Louis and at the same time to establish a permanent monument to the memory of his ancestor (father) the late Honorable John B. C. Lucas, in the shape of a public square bearing his name,” reads the deed signed by James H. and Marie E. Lucas on March 24, 1857, giving the block of land immediately north of the St. Louis Public Library to St. Louisians. The deed states further that, “This conveyance is however made with the express condition, to wit: that said public square shall forever be maintained as a public promenade for the inhabitants of the City of St. Louis.”

On the same day in 1857 that he signed the deed on Lucas Garden, James H. Lucas sold the block where the Public Library now stands to the city for the sum of $95,000.

In 1859, a board of improvement for the park was created and its development started.

Its layout caused Locust Street to be closed at 13th and the park was given an asymmetrical plan with a bandstand near the foot of Lucas Place. Sale of the buildings at the southwest corner of the park was authorized by Ordinance in 1872. From the time of the first appropriation in 1858 to 1877, $41,465 was spent on it.

The entire 6.25 acres was named Missouri Park and provided popular downtown breathing space until the erection of the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall in 1883. Licensed to a private corporation for a period of 50 years, the ground was restored to use as a park in 1907 and designs for the Italian Renaissance inspired library building were drawn up by the famous architect Cass Gilbert. The library was completed in 1912.

Locust Street was reopened behind the Library from 13th to 14th Streets and the present sunken garden with its fountain was developed. (source)

The 1875 Compton & Dry map shows the park 8 years before the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall was built on the block.

 

Since the formal 1908 plan the park has retained the original feel, but lost considerable detail.

1960, source unknown

For example, the reflecting pool & fountain were recently filled in.

Lucas Park March 2014

Hopefully we’ll eventually put back lost details like the center fountain, I’m not holding my breath though…

— Steve Patterson

 

First Stainless Steel Triangle of Gateway Arch Set Into Place 55 Years Ago

February 12, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks, Planning & Design Comments Off on First Stainless Steel Triangle of Gateway Arch Set Into Place 55 Years Ago
Looking toward the Arch from 4th Street, July 2014

Fifty-five years ago today “the first stainless steel triangle that formed the first section of the arch was set in place on the south leg” of the Gateway Arch. Demolition of 40 blocks of old buildings and original street grid of the original village of St. Louis had begun nearly a quarter century earlier — in 1939.  The idea of completely erasing the riverfront and starting over began following the 1904 World’s Fair.

On April 11, 1934, lawyers filed incorporation papers for the new Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association. Its charge was to develop “a suitable and permanent public memorial” to President Thomas Jefferson along the city’s dingy riverfront.

Its leader was Luther Ely Smith, who always seemed to be in the middle of noble endeavors. He would guide the riverfront project through Depression and war, a massive land-clearance and a top-flight design competition. He would be praised as the founding father when St. Louis selected as the suitable memorial Eero Saarinen’s idea for what would become the Gateway Arch. (Post Dispatch)

Luther Ely Smith (June 11, 1873 – April 2, 1951) didn’t live long enough to see the Arch even started, though he knew which design had been selected from the competition.

Not surprising St. Louis continues to honor people like Smith, someone who created a massive hole in the center of the city for decades. As chair of the City Planning Commission he hired Harland Bartholomew, who also pushed for massive destruction of the city & street grid — widening the remaining streets and opposing new rail transit.  See Harland Bartholomew negatively impacted many cities.

— Steve Patterson

 

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