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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

 

Ninth Street Needs To Be Unblocked Through Citygarden

July 5, 2019 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Ninth Street Needs To Be Unblocked Through Citygarden

Ninth Street through Citygarden was, to my knowledge, never officially vacated by the city.   The late Peter Fischer of the Gateway Foundation just decided it would be closed. He

East block of Citygarden, June 2011

St. Louis loves closing streets. A block here, a block there. The cumulative effect has been disastrous for the city, especially downtown. We have one-way streets but with blocks either closed or some two-way. It’s confusing to residents and visitors.  Everyday at the Downtown YMCA I see cars going to wrong direction on Locust St.

West block of Citygarden on September 8, 2014 @ 8pm

Thankfully Citygarden was designed to have 9th Street open to vehicles.

The site plan clearly shows a narrow 9th Street dividing the two blocks.

At each end rain garden curb bulbs narrow the street to just two lanes — this is a natural message to drivers to slow down. In the center is a crosswalk. On each side is a passenger drop-off point. This is helpful for the elderly and disabled.

The Fire and Ice Cream Truck on 9th Street in 2011

One thing everyone involved failed to do is provide a pedestrian signal for those crossing 9th on the wide “Hallway” that’s supposed to eventually extend the length of the Gateway Mall.

One reason they closed 9th is they didn’t figure out how to let pedestrians using the “hallway” to know when it was safe to cross 9th

Spend tens of millions but not even consider the basics of pedestrian safety.

Most who took the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll thought 9th Street should remain closed.

Q: Agree or disagree: 9th Street through Citygarden should remain closed to vehicle traffic

  • Strongly agree: 16 [41.03%]
  • Agree: 6 [15.38%]
  • Somewhat agree: 2 [5.13%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [2.56%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [5.13%]
  • Disagree: 7 [17.95%]
  • Strongly disagree: 5 [12.82%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

It could still be closed on nice weekends when it’s busy and during special events. It would be nice to be able to exit I-64 at 9th and be able to take it all the way into Columbus Square neighborhood to go home.

Still need to figure out how to fix the lack of pedestrian signal though…

— Steve Patterson

 

Goodbye Mullanphy Park

April 5, 2019 Featured, History/Preservation, North City, Parks Comments Off on Goodbye Mullanphy Park

Friday’s are usually political post, often new bills being introduced at the Board of Aldermen that day. Those will resume when the 2019-20 session begins next week. Today’s post is a look at a wealthy St. Louis family, what’s left of the street & park named after them.

Mullanphy Street was named either for John Mullanphy or his only son, Bryan Mullanphy.

John Mullanphy (1758-August 29, 1833):

Mullanphy was the first millionaire in St. Louis. Born in Ireland, he enlisted the famous Irish Brigade during the French Revoltion. After emigrating to the United States, he opened a trading store in Frankfort, Kentucky. Here he met Charles Gratiot, brother-in-law of Auguste Chouteau (the founder of St. Louis.) Gratiot persuaded Mullanphy to come to St. Louis & he opened another trading store in that city. During the War of 1812, Mullanphy bought a large supply of cotton at low prices. After the war, he shipped cotton to England where it was sold at record high prices. He profited a million dollars which he invested in St. Louis real estate. This became the foundation of the Mullanphy fortune, which was later inherited by his 7 daughters. Much of his later life was spent in philanthropic work. (Find A Grave)

Bryan Mullanphy (September 16, 1809-June 15, 1851)

Philanthropist. He was the only son of John Mullanphy, St. Louis’ earliest millionaire. Educated in Europe, he was disinherited by his father because his expressions of generosity were considered to be “reckless habits,” and the great Mullanphy fortune was divided among his seven sisters. They later re-divided their interitance to include him. In 1840, he was appointed a Judge of the Circuit Court and in 1847 was elected Mayor of St. Louis. Never married, Mullanphy’s will was in litigation for 9 years before being declared void because it was written while he was under the influence of alcohol. Rather than allowing such evidence to be admitted to the court and spoil his public image, his sisters relinquished their claims to his estate. Mullanphy founded the Travelers Aid Society, St. Vincent De Paul Society, Mullanphy Hospital, Mullanphy Park and Playground, Mullanphy School, Mullanphy Immigrant Home and countless other bequests to the poor and unfortunate who came to St. Louis in his era. (Find A Grave)

My guess is the street was named after the father as it was platted prior to 1841. At the southwest corner of Mullanphy Street & 10th Street was Mullanphy Playground, later Mullanphy Park. This, I think, was named after the son who had served as mayor and died at only 41.

In the 1907 Civic League’s Plan for St. Louis they talk about the Mullanphy Playground after the Carr Square District, from page 45:

An opportunity exists for the establishment of a civic center, adequate for the present needs of this district, in conjunction with the municipal playground at Tenth and Mullanphy Streets. The property extending along the Mullanphy Street front of the playground from Tenth to Eleventh Streets, and now under lease by the municipality, should be purchased by the city. It should also purchase the small lot on Tenth Street, now under lease, and the houses on Eleventh Street, now owned by the Mullanphy Board. In these houses there should be established a gymnasium and public bathhouse, a branch reading room of the Public Library and a hall for public meetings. The playground could then be enlarged by dirt tilling and by the removal of the present temporary library and bath buildings to the permanent quarters.  

The October 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows the playground hadn’t yet been expanded.

Sanborn Fire Insurance map, October 1909. Sheet 015, Volume Three.

The houses on 11th remain, block 602 is divided into multiple parcels. Looking at historic aerials going back to 1955 it appears a large building replaced the residential buildings. The gymnasium? Whatever it was, by 1968 the building was gone. The old aerials showed the steps up to the elevated level field of the park.

I recall walking, biking, driving past this park in the early 90s when I lived nearby in Old North St. Louis. As 10th was a one-way street to exit I-70 to reach downtown, many people drove past this park for decades. People still drive past it, but on the other side.

Apple Maps still shows Mullanphy Park, though it never extended to Cass Ave.
Looking west on Mullanphy Street from 10th, it’s blocked by the on/off ramps for the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge that opened 5 years ago.
Looking south toward Cass Ave. you can see the corner steps up to the field that’s higher than the sidewalk.
Closer we see steps off 10th Street and an old stone retaining wall.
A sign next to a tree asks that it not be cut down, that someone is caring for the old tree.

This once-important neighborhood park is now owned by one of Paul McKee’s Northside entities. The surrounding neighborhood hasn’t existed for decades and the west side if now a massive on/off ramp.

Goodbye Mullanphy Park.

— Steve Patterson

 

Gateway Foundation & Sheldon Propose To Replace Richard Serra’s ‘Twain’ Sculpture With Artist-Designed Mini Golf

April 1, 2019 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Gateway Foundation & Sheldon Propose To Replace Richard Serra’s ‘Twain’ Sculpture With Artist-Designed Mini Golf

It has been nearly a decade since the ribbon was cut on Citygarden, a popular 2-block oasis in downtown St. Louis:

Two blocks in downtown St. Louis have been transformed into something unlike anything else in the country. Those two blocks, now called “Citygarden,” feature two dozen works of modern and contemporary sculpture in a completely accessible setting.

The sculptures have been sited in a series of outdoor spaces designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz, of Charlottesville, VA. The garden has been conceived as a kind of oasis, welcoming everyone and eager to interact with everyone. There are no “Do Not Touch” signs on any of the sculptures. Children will be free to run and play in a “spray plaza” featuring 102 separate jets of water in shifting, computer-controlled, color-lit patterns.

The garden represents a partnership between the City of St. Louis, which owns the land, and the Gateway Foundation, which had provided the funding – an estimate $25 million, covering design and construction, state-of-the-art lighting, ongoing maintenance, security, and insurance expenses. The cost of the sculpture, which is and will remain owned by the Foundation, is separate. (Gateway Foundation)

Citygarden has been a huge hit, getting lot of positive attention for St. Louis, and winning awards.

Recognition by professional Landscape Architects

The next block to the west, across 10th Street, has held Richard Serra’s “Twain’ sculpture for decades. In contrast, it’s very sad.

Looking west inside ‘Twain’

At 5pm today the Gateway Foundation & Sheldon will announce a joint project — turning the block west of Citygarden into a mini golf course. Don’t laugh, pop-up mini golf has become very popular in many cities lately, such as Springfield, Missouri. My hometown of Oklahoma City has a permanent mini golf course in their popular Bricktown area.

Oklahoma City’s Brickopolis mini golf, click image for website.

The push for a permeant art golf experience came after the June 2018 indoor pop-up golf at the Sheldon.

St. Louis’ newest mini-golf course is a far cry from any regular golf course. Starting Sunday and through Aug. 12, you can play nine artist-designed holes at “Golf the Galleries,” a new indoor exhibit at the Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries.

Golfers can knock a colored ball through a black-lit rainbow, a volcano made of packing peanuts and a model of the revamped Gateway Arch National Park.

In between swings, visitors can study prints by photographer Simon Martin that show mini-golf courses in the United Kingdom and a selection of mini-mini-golf hole dioramas made by fifth-grade math students at the Wilson School in Clayton. (Post-Dispatch)

The exhibit was

Click image to view the pop-up golf page.

The Gateway Foundation/Sheldon proposal includes creating a permanent outdoor version on the block bounded by Market, 11th, Chestnut, and 10th. Seventh Ward Alderman Jack Coatar will introduce enabling legislation when the Board’s new session begins after Tuesday’s general election.

I’ve been one of the few trying to revamp the block with Serra’s ‘Twain’, but nobody is interested in saving it. If this happens at least the block will become an active space.

— Steve Patterson

 

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