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Remembering The Old Kiener Plaza

May 15, 2017 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Parks Comments Off on Remembering The Old Kiener Plaza

The ribbon will be cut on the new Kiener Plaza at noon on Friday, May 19, 2017. Kiener Plaza is a 2-block urban park, part of the Gateway Mall, bounded by Broadway (5th) on the East, Market on the South, 7th on the West, and Chestnut on the North.

Originally Kiener Plaza was just one block — Broadway to 6th. The 2nd block was added in the 80s with the Morton May Amphitheater replacing a surface parking lot on the West block.  Sixth Street was closed between Chestnut and Market — just one block. This forced the one-way Southbound traffic on 6th to turn onto one-way Eastbound Chestnut.

The land outlined in white is privately owned. Source: GEO St. Louis

I went through my photos of Kiener Plaza — I’d used a few on the blog before, but added 20+ to this post.

The two blocks were never a cohesive design, from different decades. The new design starts from a clean slate, we’ll see Friday how well it turned out.   See cityarchriver.org/visit/kiener for more information on Friday & Saturday’s activities.

A week from today I’ll have my thoughts on the new Kiener Plaza.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Learn From Embarrassing History, Don’t Brush It Under The Rug

May 8, 2017 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks, Popular Culture Comments Off on Learn From Embarrassing History, Don’t Brush It Under The Rug

Late last month New Orleans was in the news, causing me think about St. Louis’ own confederate statue. .

New Orleans has taken a first major step in fulfilling its 2015 promise to tear down four prominent Confederate statues, an attempt to scrub the city’s public spaces of what many see as white supremacist symbols.
City workers began removing the Battle of Liberty Place statue at 1:25 a.m. Monday in an effort to avoid disruption by protesters who want the monuments to stay, reported The Associated Press. Erected in 1891, the obelisk honors members of the Crescent City White League, a group of all-white Confederate veterans who killed members of the city’s post-Civil War integrated police force. (Huffington Post)

Someone at KMOX also thought about St. Louis:

While the city of New Orleans is removing its Confederate statues, a 32-foot tall monument to Confederate soldiers here in Forest Park still stands — two years after the Slay Administration began exploring how to remove it.

Now the point man on the project, Human Services Director Eddie Roth, is preparing to brief new Mayor Lyda Krewson on where the project stands.

“The most economical and preferred plan is one that would cost about $100,000,” Roth says. “It mainly involves burying the granite shaft in place in Forest Park where it will be preserved.”

Under the plan, the bronze face plate would be removed and stored someplace else. (KMOX)

Our confederate monument was placed in Forest Park in 1914 — a “gift” of the Daughters of the Confederacy.

The confederate memorial was dedicated in 1914, rededicated in 1964.

Our monument, like those in many other cities, was part of an effort to revise history.

The significance of the UDC lies not in its present-day clout, which is negligible, but in its lasting contributions to history— both for good and for ill. From its inception in 1894 up through the 1960s, the UDC was the South’s premier social and philanthropic organization, an exclusive social club where the wives, sisters, and daughters of the South’s ruling white elite gathered to “revere the memory of those heroes in gray and to honor that unswerving devotion to principle which has made the confederate soldier the most majestic in history,” as cofounder Caroline Meriwether Goodlett grandly put it. At first, the UDC provided financial assistance and housing to veterans and their widows, offering a vital public service at a time when for all practical purposes most local and state governments in the South were nonfunctional and/or broke. Later, as the veteran population aged, the UDC built homes that allowed indigent veterans and their widows to live out their days with some measure of dignity. Long before there was such a thing as the National Park Service, the UDC played a crucial role in preserving priceless historic sites, war cemeteries, and battlefields across the South. At the same time, it embarked on a spree of monument building: most of those confederate monuments you can still find in hundreds of courthouse squares in small towns across the South were put there by the local UDC chapter during the early 1900s. In its way, the UDC groomed a generation of Southern women for participation in the political process: presidents attended its national convocations, and its voice was heard in the corridors of the U.S. Capitol.

But the UDC’s most important and lasting contribution was in shaping the public perceptions of the war, an effort that was begun shortly after the war by a Confederate veterans’ group called the United Confederate Veterans (which later became the Sons of Confederate Veterans—also still around, and thirty thousand members strong). The central article of faith in this effort was that the South had not fought to preserve slavery, and that this false accusation was an effort to smear the reputation of the South’s gallant leaders. In the early years of the twentieth century the main spokesperson for this point of view was a formidable Athens, Georgia, school principal named Mildred Lewis Rutherford (or Miss Milly, as she is known to UDC members), who traveled the South speaking, organizing essay contests, and soliciting oral histories of the war from veterans, seeking the vindication of the lost cause “with a political fervor that would rival the ministry of propaganda in any 20th century dictatorship,” Blight writes. (Salon)

I loath the confederate flag, but I don’t see how revising history again will make things right in the future. Instead of spending $100k to bury the monument we should spend that money on a new exhibit around  it talking about the Civi War, St. Louis’ role, the 20th century revision movement, and the 21st century movement to eradicate pro-confederate symbolism. Something powerful like Wall Street’s “Fearless Girl statue. Tell the story of the 150+ years since the end of the Civil War — Jim Crow laws, deed restrictions/Shelley vs Kraemer, segregation, Jefferson Bank protests, Ferguson, etc.

Burying the monument would be brushing an embarrassing moment under the rug.  “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” — click here for variations on this quote.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Arch To Riverfront Ramps Are A Great Improvement

February 20, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on New Arch To Riverfront Ramps Are A Great Improvement

When I first moved to St. Louis in August 1990 the grand staircase down to our riverfront wasn’t complete — it was grass with steps only on the North & South edges. At some point the center steps were completed.But even as a young (20s) able-bodied person the steps were a pain. I recall one time, in the early 90s visiting the Arch grounds with my parents & grandfather — in their early 60s & mid-90s, respectively, The steps were a huge problem.

Visitors to the Arch grounds yesterday enjoy the sun on the grand stairs

This weekend I visited the Arch grounds twice — along on Saturday and with my husband on Sunday. Both days I did all four of the new ramps connecting the upper Arch grounds to Lenore K Sullivan Blvd on the riverfront.

Looking South from the North outlook area,a new ramp on the right and the North steps on the left. The steps are closed currently because they’re in poor condition.
At the bottom of that ramp
Moving toward the river you can begin to see how much longer the ramp is vs the steps
The North steps, mirrored to the South
The two South ramps each feature a longer flat section with s bench. — excellent for those who may need to sit and rest
Looking North from the South lookout area

I saw many people using the new ramps both days, but nobody else in a wheelchair. Users were all ages, some were biking, others walking their dogs, some pushing baby strollers, most just out with family and/or friends.

The Arch & grounds were designed at a time when the disabled were institutionalized — not independent members of the community. Ramps just weren’t done back then.  Today, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, those of us who are disabled are better able to live independent lives.

These four ramps, plus the connection next to the Eads Bridge, make getting to/from the riverfront a pleasure.

— Steve Patterson

 

Remembering Peter Fischer, Improving Citygarden

August 1, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Remembering Peter Fischer, Improving Citygarden

Peter Fischer, the reserved head of the Gateway Foundation, died a year ago Saturday 7/23. His best known work is Citygarden, which opened June 30, 2009:

Citygarden started with his Gateway Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting art and urban design. His affinity for unpretentious art is reflected throughout the park. Park patrons can climb on the sculptures, dart around the water plumes and swim in the fountains.

A frequent visitor to the park, Mr. Fischer especially loved watching kids splash in the water features. When safety concerns arose, he proposed to continue to allow swimming but hired lifeguards to keep watch.

The world soon took note of the park. A New York Times piece praised the park, and numerous awards were given. In 2011, Citygarden won its biggest award, the ULI Amanda Burden Urban Open Space award. (Post-Dispatch)

Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011
Lighting is part of what makes Citygarden so special, September 2011

I was there for the ribbon cutting , I think he was too. But he wasn’t on the stage giving a speech, he always proffered to remain in the background.

One of the few times he and I talked was shortly after Citygarden opened, I saw him sitting and observing people. I rolled over and chatted briefly. I got an email from him once — just before a public Gateway Mall Advisory Board meeting — he didn’t want me taking/posting pictures of the model we’d be shown for Kiener Plaza.

I love Citygarden, visiting often. However, it’s not perfect.

The only restroom is inside the restaurant, so these are on the 10th Street (West) side.
The only restroom is inside the restaurant, so these are on the 10th Street (West) side.

As I’ve stated before, I’d like to see the block to the West joined via the Hallway walkway with a public restroom.

There was no thought about communicating to pedestrians on the hallway about traffic on 9th Street, so Fischer had it closed to vehicles.
There was no thought about communicating to pedestrians on the hallway about traffic on 9th Street, so Fischer had it closed to vehicles.
Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles
Colorful barricades close off 9th Street to vehicles

I chose not too pursue the opening of 9th Street while Peter Fischer was still alive — I knew better. But now, more than a year after his death, I think the subject deserves attention. But it’s not as simple as just moving the barricades out of the way. There’s no way to communicate to pedestrians that Northbound vehicles on 9th Street have a green light.

One way streets function only in pairs — one each direction. Eighth and 10th streets are both one-way Southbound.

— Steve Patterson

 

A Small Local Boulevard Through Forest Park Grew To Become A Major Interstate

Last week I posted about Forest Park’s 140th anniversary.  Earlier this month my husband and I visited the Science Center, looking out from the walkway over Interstate 64 I was reminded that land was originally part of the park.

i-64.kingshighway
6/11/16 2:14pm

In 1958 Kingshighway hadn’t been straightened, but a small road cut through the Southern edge of Forest Park — see aerial. Highways were meant to connect cities to each other, but within cities they divided and consumed valuable land.

— Steve Patterson

 

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