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Forest Park Dedicated June 24, 1876, 140 Years Ago Today (6 Historic Photos)

Forest Park opened 140 years ago today — nearly three decades before the 1904 World’s Fair:

Forest Park, officially opened to the public on June 24, 1876, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. At 1,293 acres, it is approximately 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York.

In 1904, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, The St. Louis World’s Fair, drew more than 20 million visitors from around the world to Forest Park. (St. Louis)

When Forest Park was created by the Board of Aldermen residents to the North & South also wanted large parks in their part of the city, so O’Fallon & Carondelet parks were created before Forest Park opened. At that time the parks were largely rural, a way to preserve land in a rapidly growing city.

When Forest Park officially opened to the public on Saturday afternoon, June 24, 1876, it was located in St. Louis County, almost two miles west of the St. Louis City limits and a 40 minute carriage ride from downtown. 

The Globe-Democrat reported that the opening day ceremony attracted 50,000 people — at a time when the population of the city was only 350,000.

It was on a railroad line, which had opened only a week before the park was dedicated. The train ride from downtown took 20 minutes. 

At the same time as the dedication, the Democratic Party was holding its national convention in Downtown St. Louis. (The 1870 census called St. Louis the fourth largest city in the country behind New York, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.) (St. Louis)

Yes, Forest Park was in unincorporated St. Louis County when initially dedicated. This was a good excuse for me to scan & post vintage/undated images from the archives of Louis (1907-1999) & Georgia (1918-2009) Buckowitz:

Cabanne Spring, Buckowitz Archives
Cabanne Spring, Buckowitz Archives
Hooved Animal Enclosure, Buckowitz Archives
Hooved Animal Enclosure, Buckowitz Archives
Old Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Old Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Old Wabash Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Old Wabash Bridge, Buckowitz Archives
Superintendents House, Buckowitz Archives. "Constructed in 1875 from plans drawn by St. Louis architect James H. McNamara, the Second Empire style house was conceived as part of the original Master Plan for Forest Park. The Cabanne House was completed in June 1876, in time for the formal dedication of Forest Park/" Click image for quote source
Superintendents House, Buckowitz Archives. “Constructed in 1875 from plans drawn by St. Louis architect James H. McNamara, the Second Empire style house was conceived as part of the original Master Plan for Forest Park. The Cabanne House was completed in June 1876, in time for the formal dedication of Forest Park/” Click image for quote source
Pagoda Bandstand, Buckowitz Archives
Pagoda Bandstand, Buckowitz Archives

Information on the pagoda bandstand is too much for the caption:

The original Forest Park bandstand, or music pagoda, was a wooden structure that stood on an island in Pagoda Lake. It was built about the time the park was dedicated in 1876. Mary J. Rankin donated statues representing the four seasons in 1886.

The bandstand was renovated and was landscaped for the 1904 World’s Fair. It was the site of concerts before and after the fair.

However, the bandstand fell into disrepair and was declared unsafe in 1911. 

Before it could be renovated, it blew down in a storm and was damaged beyond repair. 

In July 1924, St. Louis lawyer Nathan Frank donated funds to build a new bandstand. It was designed by Heffensteller, Hirsh and Watson.

The new bandstand cost about $50,000 and is of classic Renaissance design. It is made of white marble with bronze railings and ornaments.

It was renovated in 1981 with $13,000 from the Central West End Charitable Trust, raised by the Central West End Association. 

It was renovated and landscaped by the Flora Conservancy of Forest Park under the Forest Park Master Plan. (St. Louis)

Now you know why “Pagoda Drive” is named as such. A decade until the 150th. For information on events celebrating the 140th click here.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Kiener Parking Garages Need A Major Facelift

Work has started on the $19 million revamp of Kiener Plaza”, which will help guide visitors to the upcoming city-facing entrance to the museum under the Arch. With the 1980s Arch parking garage razed visitors will be directed to existing parking garages in the central business district (CBD) — largely the two Kiener garages — across Chestnut Street from Kiener Plaza.

The East & West Kiener garages are highly visible
The East & West Kiener garages are highly visible
From Market & Broadway
From Market & Broadway

After investing a billion in changes to improve the Arch experience and connectivity to downtown, the first & last thing many will see are the Kiener garages. Today I want to discuss the problems and how we might solve them.

The Problems

  • They’re privately owned
  • Owner has little financial incentive to make them more attractive
  • They’re in too good of condition to buy & replace
All four sides of two city blocks are covered in the most awful concrete panels
All four sides of two city blocks are covered in the most awful concrete panels
6th Street is awful with a garage on each side
6th Street is awful with a garage on each side
The layout is dated
The layout is dated
They were built in 1964 (East) and 1966 (West). The garage in the background was used for Famous-Barr for decades -- built in 1962. Photo is approximately 1963-64, from my personal collection
They were built in 1964 (East) and 1966 (West). The garage in the background was used for Famous-Barr for decades — built in 1962. Photo is approximately 1963-64, from my personal collection
The pedestrian entry/exit points require walking into deep walkways, the materials, lighting, elevator, etc don't add up to a positive impression
The pedestrian entry/exit points require walking into deep walkways, the materials, lighting, elevator, etc don’t add up to a positive impression
The East garage pedestrian entry
The East garage pedestrian entry

 

There is some good news…

Built with ground floor retail on all four sides of each -- very rare in the mid-60s.
Built with ground floor retail on all four sides of each — very rare in the mid-60s.
The structures have been maintained. This is structural repairs being made in 2010
The structures have been maintained. This is structural repairs being made in 2010
The concrete exterior panels are attached to the structure, not part of it.
The concrete exterior panels are attached to the structure, not part of it.

The Solutions

With the ugly concrete panels being attacked to the structure one solution is to remove them and reskin it. Easier said than done, but worthy of discussion. Before I go any further let me say I don’t know how this would be paid for. The city has offered facade grants to building owners before, but otherwise using public money on a private building has issues. Perhaps tax abatement if the owner does it? I think this can be figured out — let’s discuss the design.

The old anchors into the structure might not support a new skin after the concrete skin is cut off. Despite being open in the center the exterior walls should continue to allow for airflow — natural ventilation eliminates the need for costly mechanical systems.

I think creative types could come up with some interesting ideas on how to reskin these. I want to share one such parking garage I saw in Cincinnati in November.

This colorful screen appears to be rather simple in construction, click image to view in Google Street View
This colorful screen appears to be rather simple in construction, click image to view in Google Street View
From the sidewalk
From the sidewalk
At night
At night

This screen on an old garage was the work of artist Julian Stanczak, it is titled “Additional”. I like that the Cincinnati garage only had this colorful side facing 6th St.

In St. Louis each of the two Kiener garages could have something unique for each, for each side, or both. I think everyone would agree the South facades facing Kiener Plaza are the most visually important.  All facades should look good day & night — same for the pedestrian entrances for each.

In the past people have mentioned giant video screens but those are costly, cut off airflow, and contribute to light pollution. Steel mesh, colored aluminum, LED lights, etc. are just some of the materials that come to mind. I’d like to see solar panels on the South facade and a new roof canopy to generate power for new LED lighting.

Thanks to reader “Mark-AL” for technical advice.

— Steve Patterson

 

Gateway One/Peabody Plaza Is Here To Stay

In the 1970s/80s the City of St. Louis sought to keep the Gateway Mall marching Eastward toward the the Old Courthouse and Arch. However, there was no money to pay for it. There were also historic buildings in the blocks — the owner(s) proposed renovating the historic buildings. Another plan was selected:

Downtown business executives and union leaders created Pride Redevelopment Corp. and successfully pushed for a plan to clear the land between Kiener and Serra. Then, they would develop office towers on the north side, facing Chestnut. The revenue from the towers would underwrite costs for a “half mall” on the south side.

Over the protests of preservationists, the three notable buildings were demolished. But because the economy remained in a trough, only one tower was built: Gateway One, the 15-story sore thumb that has irked scores over the years. (Now it’s Peabody Plaza, home to Peabody Energy.) (Spotlight: Building interrupting the Gateway Mall is a mayor’s regret)

The Buder & International were imploded in August 1984, the Title Guaranty was also gone by the end of 1984. The half-mall plan called for four identical buildings — one on each of the four blocks from 6th to 10th.  More detail here.

Gateway One is now Peabody Plaza
Gateway One is now Peabody Plaza
Looking East from Citygarden
Looking East from Citygarden
The historic Western Union building facing 9th between Chestnut & Market was razed in 1993 for a 2-block passive green space as part of the Gateway Mall, later remade into Citygarden.
The historic Western Union building facing 9th between Chestnut & Market was razed in 1993 for a 2-block passive green space as part of the Gateway Mall, later remade into Citygarden.
Another 1993 photo of the Western Union building at 900 Chestnut, with the Gateway One in background
Another 1993 photo of the Western Union building at 900 Chestnut, with the Gateway One in background, left

In hindsight, most acknowledge the half-mall plan was a mistake. It was already dead by 1993, but demolition continued. Had the buildings on the two blocks West of Gateway One not been razed the one half building wouldn’t have stood out so much. I moved to St. Louis in August 1990 — Gateway One was already complete by then, But in 1992/93 I personally argued with architect Donald Royce, telling him razing the two blocks between the Gateway One and the Serra “Twain” block was another mistake. Fifteen years later Citygarden almost makes up fir the bad decision.

Back to Gateway One.

Over the years many have said it should be torn down. I’m no fan on the building, but that’s not going to happen. Ever.

The building sold in 2006 for $65 million. For many decades the building will be too costly to raze for more park space — we can’t afford to redo the excessive park space of the Gateway Mall — we don’t need more.   Peabody has another decade remaining on their lease and the building will remain viable for decades.

Face the facts — it’s not going anywhere. Just be thankful St. Louis abandons plans before they’re finished, otherwise we’d have a total of four.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Abandons Public Review Process for The Gateway Mall

In 2010 I was appointed to represent the 6th ward on the newly formed Gateway Mall Advisory Board (GMAB). The idea was to mirror how Forest Park is managed — a conservancy made up of the wealthy to help raise money for projects and an advisory board to let the Parks Dept know if proposed projects complied with the Master Plan, or not. Initial terms were staggered, with three year terms thereafter.

From a March 12, 2010 press release:

Named to the Gateway Mall Conservancy Board were Peter Fischer, GatewayFoundation; Robert Archibald, Missouri Historical Society; Steve Cousins, ArmstrongTeasdale LLP; John Ferring, Plaze, Inc.; David Mesker, retired, A.G. Edwards; EmilyRauh Pulitzer, Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts; Kitty Ratcliffe, St. Louis Convention andVisitors Commission; Henry S. Webber, Washington University; Josephine Weil,Community Volunteer; and Patricia Roland-Hamilton as Executive Director.

Also announced today was the formation of the Gateway Mall Advisory Board, a groupof stakeholders responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Gateway MallMaster Plan and providing ongoing community input about the Gateway Mall. Itscomposition and responsibilities are outlined by City ordinance.

Things went downhill quickly, my post from August 2013: Gateway Mall Still Unloved, Conservancy Resigned, Advisory Board Kept In Dark..  At this point I’d been pressing then Parks Director Gary Bess to initiate the process to appoint myself and others whose terns expired in March 2012. See original list here.

In October 2013 Gary Bess handed out a list at the last GMAB meeting showing the terms of myself and others hadn’t yet expired — see it here. The best word to describe this lists is forged. My original term expired in March 2012 but this new document showed it expires in March 2017 — again the appointments are for three years.  Some on this list now showed up with terms expiring in 2017 — impossible since it was just 2013.  The next month I emailed Bess and others on the GMAB list to let them know of the discrepancy. Bess was going to look into it.

This attempt to create a false record didn’t surprise me, in the 3+ years we did meet, I had to constantly remind Bess of the language in the enabling ordinance and our adopted bylaws. Last year Bess retired from the city and became the St lotus county director of parks, see St. Louis County Parks Director double dipping at taxpayer expense.

On December 31, 2015 the private nonprofit Gateway Mall Conservancy was administratively dissolved by the Missouri Secretary of State. Despite being required by ordinance, the GMAB also no longer exists. Our terns all expired, nobody was reappointed or replaced with new appointees. In January 2014 I was asked by Parks & 6th Ward Alderman Ingrassia if I was willing to be reappointed, I said yes to both and submitted the form to reappointed to a public board. Nothing happened.

The Gateway Mall Master Plan calls the area around Soldiers' Memorial the "Civic Room", click image to see section
The Gateway Mall Master Plan calls the area around Soldiers’ Memorial the “Civic Room”, click image to see section

Soon the History Museum will show their plans for two blocks of the “Civic Room” which includes Soldiers’ Memorial but the public body established by ordinance to review proposals no longer exists. In 2010 I had a feeling the city would abandon the Gateway Mall, master plan, and the public review process — I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Split on Forest Park Entry Markers

In the recent unscientific Sunday Poll the readers were almost evenly split on new entry markers for Forest Park.

Mock-up of an entry marker, northeast corner of Forsythe and Skinker. Photo by Mark Beirn
Mock-up of an entry marker, northeast corner of Forsythe and Skinker. Photo by Mark Beirn

Here are the results:

Q: How do you feel about the proposed entry markers for Forest Park?

  1. TIE 10 [27.03%]
    1. Approve
    2. Disapprove
  2. TIE 6 [16.22%]
    1. Neither approve or disapprove
    2. Strongly disapprove
  3. Strongly approve 4 [10.81%]
  4. Unsure/no answer 1 [2.7%]

Count me among the 16.22% that neither approve or disapprove. I’m not opposed, I’m just not convinced. I don’t want to hear we can’t afford to design park bus stops so motorists won’t park in them if we’ve got millions for this!

— Steve Patterson

 

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