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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

 

Richard Serra’s ‘Twain’ Is 35, Remains Unloved By Most St. Louisans…Including Arts Patrons

May 1, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Popular Culture Comments Off on Richard Serra’s ‘Twain’ Is 35, Remains Unloved By Most St. Louisans…Including Arts Patrons

Five years ago I’d hoped to have temporary lighting on Richard Serra’s Twain sculpture — to replicate the original lighting when it was dedicated on May 1, 1982. See We Should Restore “Twain’s” Original Lighting Scheme (1982 Video).

I had a lighting company interested in setting up a temporary display at no cost to taxpayers — money was needed to pay for security to make sure the lighting equipment wasn’t stolen, My attempts to get art patrons, such as Twain’s original benefactor Emily Pulitzer, to pay a couple of thousand dollars were unsuccessful.

Five years later the city block, across 10th Street from Citygarden, remains largely unused.

Once you pass through one of the narrow openings the inside is spacious.
Water collects at the east point of the sculpture

I contacted the Gateway Foundation last week. Hopefully I can interest them in making minimal improvements to the block, addressing the mud at Twain’s entrances, and funding new lighting.

— Steve Patterson

 

Finally Visited The National Blues Museum

February 13, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Popular Culture Comments Off on Finally Visited The National Blues Museum

Last month my husband and I finally visited the National Blues Museum, just a 15 minute walk from our loft. The museum opened in April 2016, but we never got around to visiting until recently. First, we had lunch a Sugarfire Smoke House located in the same building at 6th & Washington.

I’ve been a vegetarian for a quarter century now, but I have no problem eating at BBQ places — as long as they offer something like a portobello sandwich. Smart BBQ places do.

My portobello sandwich at Sugarfire

The museum isn’t large, but it’s well-organized. The displays  and signage is fresh looking.

Entry to the National Blues Museum
Photography isn't allowed inside. but I got one photo
Photography isn’t allowed inside. but I got one photo

There was a concert later in the evening, our tickets would’ve gotten into that as well. I’ll keep that in mind — will plan our next visit, followed by dinner and a blues concert.

Very glad to see the museum completed, I was a sceptic when I first heard the concept.

— Steve Patterson

 

Accessibility To Food Trucks Is Often Lacking Due To Location Issues

January 30, 2017 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Popular Culture Comments Off on Accessibility To Food Trucks Is Often Lacking Due To Location Issues

More than two decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed, the ongoing food truck revolution remains largely inaccessible to those of us who use wheelchairs. Not because of the tricks themselves, but because of where they park.

From a 2013 post — Foods trucks at Third Degree’s open house require lining up on grass — a challenge for some.

In early September a proposed food truck park was in the news:

St. Louis may soon get its first food truck park — a regular gathering spot for some of the area’s best-regarded mobile kitchens. The proposed site is on a stretch of South Vandeventer Avenue — not far from the popular Grove entertainment district — that officials hope to regenerate with new businesses.

Some planning remains, and the park’s developers have yet to choose the project’s name. But they have a site and hope to conduct a food truck pop-up event there this fall.

If plans work out, next spring a rotating assemblage of food trucks will begin to operate daily on what is now an overgrown lot next to the long-ago home of Liberty Bell Oil Co. The vacant building at 1430 South Vandeventer will be redone as the joint commissary for the food trucks. (Post-Dispatch)

My hope is if this moves forward it’ll be designed so everyone can patronize the food trucks. Often I can’t reach the trucks parked downtown at one of my favorite spots: Citygarden.

Even downtown many access problems exist. Just walk up right?
Even downtown many access problems exist. Just walk up right?
No, in this case the window isn't lined up with the walk shown in the previous picture.
No, in this case the window isn’t lined up with the walk shown in the previous picture.
Market next to Citygarden is a very narrow strip of concrete. Enough to stand on but not enough for a wheelchair.
Even when the window is lined up it can still be a challenge if there are others in line.

When I started blogging 12+ years ago I argued for more food carts to activate streets — food trucks weren’t a thing yet. I still wish food carts were more common because they trend to be easier to access in a wheelchair. But trucks have replaced carts so now we need to ensure the public can access them.

— Steve Patterson

 

Christmas Is A Religious Holiday For Many, Cultural For The Rest Of Us

December 28, 2016 Featured, Popular Culture, Religion Comments Off on Christmas Is A Religious Holiday For Many, Cultural For The Rest Of Us
We buy a new ornament every year, this year we got a leg lamp ornament -- a reference to the 1983 classic: A Christmas Story (click image to watch video clip)
We buy a new ornament every year, this year we got a leg lamp ornament — a reference to the 1983 classic: A Christmas Story (click image to watch video clip)

For many of us, Christmas is an important holiday. My husband and I are both atheists, but we have a Christmas tree every year. Sunday his family came down from Springfield IL for brunch at our loft, it’s an important cultural holiday for us.

We’re not alone:

About nine-in-ten Americans (92%) and nearly all Christians (96%) say they celebrate Christmas, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. This is no surprise, but what might be more unexpected is that a big majority (81%) of non-Christians in the U.S. also celebrate Christmas. This includes 87% of people with no religion and even about three-quarters of Asian-American Buddhists (76%) and Hindus (73%). Roughly a third of U.S. Jews (32%) – many of whom have non-Jewish spouses – said in a 2013 survey that they had a Christmas tree in their homes during the most recent holiday season. Among Americans overall, about half (51%) say they celebrate Christmas as more of a religious holiday, while roughly a third (32%) say it is more of a cultural holiday to them personally. (Pew)

The results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll reelected this diversity of views:

Q: For you personally, is Christmas a religious or cultural holiday?

  • Very religious 3 [10%]
  • Religious 7 [23.33%]
  • Somewhat religious 0 [0%]
  • Equally religious & cultural 7 [23.33%]
  • Somewhat cultural 0 [0%]
  • Cultural 8 [26.67%]
  • Very cultural 5 [16.67%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

Though not reflected above, the 25th is just another day in December for others.

However you spent the 25th I hope you had a great day. Trying to decide if I’ll stay up late to ring in 2017 this weekend.

— Steve Patterson

 

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