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New Book — ‘Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades’ by Jim Merkel

September 25, 2020 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades’ by Jim Merkel

Though I’ve lived in St. Louis for over three decades, I didn’t grow up here. This book is fascinating because you can read stories from over 100 people who did grow up here.

No matter when or where we grow up, the stories, people, and places that populate our memories leave an indelible mark on the manuscript that becomes our life story. A day at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904, meatless meals and hard times during the Great Depression, or knowing Mark McGwire’s precise homerun count that summer of 1998 become galvanized in our own timelines, while other details fade into the background.

In Growing Up St. Louis, hear the stories that stuck with more than a hundred native St. Louisans over the last century, told by the very people who lived through them. Ranging from joyous to humdrum, and even to the grim, these childhood memories offer a glimpse of life in still frame, from the start of the twentieth century to the present day. A young girl is transfixed by the Beatles debut on Ed Sullivan and a future local sportscaster falls in love with sports as he and his dad watch the 1968 World Series.

With new and old photographs to accompany the essays, join veteran author Jim Merkel on a journey through ten decades of coming of age in St. Louis. Whether they spark nostalgia or empathy, they’ll surely provoke commentary about how deeply our tender years impact us for the rest of our lives. (Reedy Press)

I haven’t read all the stories, but I’ve read quite a few. Merkel has done a good job of presenting a variety of people. City & county, black & white, rich & poor, etc.

I can only imagine the stories to be told in 50-60 years about growing up in the 2020s.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Forest Park: A Walk Through History’ by Carolyn Mueller

September 22, 2020 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Forest Park: A Walk Through History’ by Carolyn Mueller

Forest Park, opened in 1876, is larger than NYC’s Central Park. It had already been open over a quarter century when the Word’s Fair opened in 1904 in the park.  Today’s book is a guidebook to help you walk through thr park, exploring the many areas and historic  structures. Because the park is so large the book has eight different walks.

Perched just inside the city, Forest Park has functioned as a proverbial playground for generations of St. Louisans and tourists alike. While you could explore this green expanse of trees and pathways by many modes of transportation, the best way to know its paths and treasures is on foot. With Forest Park: A Walk through History as your guide, you’ll be able to take the time to appreciate the park’s historical markers and natural wonders.

Discover the hills, fields, and winding ribbons of water traversing the park. Find the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. From the monuments to the memorials and the waterfowl to the wildflowers, Kennedy Forest, the Bridge to Picnic Island, and the Saint Louis Zoo.

Local author Carolyn Mueller brings an insider’s perspective after spending a decade living near the park and countless hours exploring its bike paths and running trails. Check out her favorite spots like Kennedy Forest, the Bridge to Picnic Island, and the Saint Louis Zoo, or discover your own as you venture into this crown jewel of St. Louis. (Reedy Press)

I’ve not yet taken the book to Forest Park to follow one of the tours, but with Fall weather I’ll do it soon.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Parks and Recreation System Planning: A New Approach for Creating Sustainable, Resilient Communities’ by David Barth

August 19, 2020 Books, Featured, Parks Comments Off on New Book — ‘Parks and Recreation System Planning: A New Approach for Creating Sustainable, Resilient Communities’ by David Barth

Times have changed considerably in the nearly 75 years since the city released the 1947 Comprehensive Plan, with a section on Public Recreation Facilities. Has our approach kept up with needs of the city, region? A new book is looking to push these forward.

Parks and recreation systems have evolved in remarkable ways over the past two decades. No longer just playgrounds and ballfields, parks and open spaces have become recognized as essential green infrastructure with the potential to contribute to community resiliency and sustainability. To capitalize on this potential, the parks and recreation system planning process must evolve as well. In Parks and Recreation System Planning, David Barth provides a new, step-by-step approach to creating parks systems that generate greater economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Barth first advocates that parks and recreation systems should no longer be regarded as isolated facilities, but as elements of an integrated public realm. Each space should be designed to generate multiple community benefits. Next, he presents a new approach for parks and recreation planning that is integrated into community-wide issues. Chapters outline each step—evaluating existing systems, implementing a carefully crafted plan, and more—necessary for creating a successful, adaptable system. Throughout the book, he describes initiatives that are creating more resilient, sustainable, and engaging parks and recreation facilities, drawing from his experience consulting in more than 100 communities across the U.S.

Parks and Recreation System Planning meets the critical need to provide an up-to-date, comprehensive approach for planning parks and recreation systems across the country. This is essential reading for every parks and recreation professional, design professional, and public official who wants their community to thrive. (Island Press)

This book is for design professionals, bureaucrats , elected officials, and community leaders involved in parks and recreation systems. The contents shows the level of detail:

Introduction: A Framework for Community Sustainability and Resiliency

Part I: Generating Multiple Benefits
Chapter 1. Parks and the Public Realm
Chapter 2. Multiple Dimensions of Parks and Recreation Systems
Chapter 3. High-Performance Public Spaces

Part II: Planning a Comprehensive Approach
Chapter 4. A New Approach to Parks and Recreation System Planning
Chapter 5. Initiating and Planning the PRSMP Process
Chapter 6. The Preliminary Implementation Framework

Part III: Executing the New Approach
Chapter 7. Existing Conditions Analysis
Chapter 8. The Needs Assessment
Chapter 9. Level-of-Service Alternatives
Chapter 10. Developing a Long-Range Vision
Chapter 11. Implementation Strategy

Conclusion: The Power of Parks and Recreation System Planning

You can read a preview at Google Books here, it can be ordered directly from Island Press, locally independent bookstore Left Bank, or that online store. Note: I don’t make anything from these links, just trying to be helpful.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book: ‘The Last Children of Mill Creek’ by Vivian Gibson

April 15, 2020 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book: ‘The Last Children of Mill Creek’ by Vivian Gibson

Mill Creek, a vibrant African-American neighborhood, destroyed by Urban Renewal, is one of my favorite St. Louis subjects. So when the publisher contacted me for a review copy of ‘The Last Children of Mill Creek’ I quickly said yes.

A true story of growing up in segregated St. Louis, The Last Children of Mill Creek is the debut memoir by a talented writer finding her authentic voice later in life.

Vivian Gibson is a native St. Louisian who grew up in Mill Creek Valley, a neighborhood of St. Louis razed in 1959 to build a highway. Her family, friends, church community, and neighbors were all displaced by this act of “urban renewal.” In this moving memoir, Gibson recreates the everyday lived experiences of her large family, including her seven siblings, her crafty college-educated mother, who moved to St. Louis as part of the Great Migration, and her at-times forbidding father, who worked two jobs to keep them all warm and fed. With an eye for telling detail, she sketches scenes populated by her friends, shop owners, teachers, and others who made Mill Creek into a warm, tight-knit, African-American community, and reflects upon what it means that Mill Creek was destroyed in the name of racism disguised as “progress.”

The Last Children of Mill Creek is a moving memoir of family life at a time very different from the modern-day, when many working-class African-American families did not have indoor plumbing and when sundown laws were still in effect—and a document of an era that is now often forgotten or denied. In Gibson’s words, “This memoir is about survival, as told from the viewpoint of a watchful young girl —a collection of decidedly universal stories that chronicle the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.” (Belt Publishing)

A family memoir isn’t the usual type of book I’d look at on this blog. It only has one photo, a family photo of a mom reading to kids. No photos of buildings, no maps or charts. Gibson does mention their neighborhood being vacated and razed, but only to provide context.

I’m very glad I didn’t turn it down.

I usually just scan books, but this book I read cover to cover. Yes, it’s a short book — but it still took me a week (post-stroke reading is a challenge for me). Gibson does a wonderful job of introducing the reader to her family and their home that was at  2649 Bernard Street. In doing so she also describes the Mill Creek neighborhood.

Gibson lived with her parents and seven siblings in a 3-room cold-water flat, her paternal grandmother lived alone in the upstairs flat. Yes, a family of 10 lived in just three rooms. Well, her brothers stayed in the basement. Their flat was basically beds and a kitchen. A single light bulb per room. And rats.

With overcrowding into flats lacking hot water, but with plenty of rats, Mill Creek was a slum, right? No, Gibson’s descriptions of her street, neighborhoods, businesses, churches, schools, etc. is of a wonderful tight-knit neighborhood.

Once the current pandemic is over I want to meet Gibson to ask her more about the buildings, blocks, and businesses. In the meantime I’m going to start reading the book again, taking note of the many details she does give. I’d like to see another book — or a film — about the neighborhood.

Many of you likely saw The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, about the failed high rise public housing project. I think someone needs to do a film/documentary about life in neighborhoods a generation before they were razed.  Mill Creek is a good place to start.

Gibson’s book beautifully describes life growing up in Mill Creek, it saddens me it was physically erased. I can’t recommend this book enough, very enjoyable. I’ve spent many more hours thinking about it than reading it.

— Steve Patterson

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New Book — ‘5 Rules for Tomorrow’s Cities: Design in an Age of Urban Migration, Demographic Change, and a Disappearing Middle Class’

February 17, 2020 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘5 Rules for Tomorrow’s Cities: Design in an Age of Urban Migration, Demographic Change, and a Disappearing Middle Class’

The times are changing, how we think about the design of cities also needs to change. The old ways just won’t cut it going forward. Thankfully people like Patrick M. Condon are thinking about the future of cities.

How we design our cities over the next four decades will be critical for our planet. If we continue to spill excessive greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, we will run out of time to keep our global temperature from increasing. Since approximately 80% of greenhouse gases come from cities, it follows that in the design of cities lies the fate of the world.
                                                                                                                                             
As urban designers respond to the critical issue of climate change they must also address three cresting cultural waves: the worldwide rural-to-urban migration; the collapse of global fertility rates; and the disappearance of the middle class. In Five Rules for Tomorrow’s Cities, planning and design expert Patrick Condon explains how urban designers can assimilate these interconnected changes into their work.
 
Condon shows how the very things that constrain cities—climate change, migration, financial stress, population change—could actually enable the emergence of a more equitable and resource-efficient city. He provides five rules for urban designers: (1) See the City as a System; (2) Recognize Patterns in the Urban Environment; (3) Apply Lighter, Greener, Smarter Infrastructure; (4) Strengthen Social and Economic Urban Resilience; and (5) Adapt to Shifts in Jobs, Retail, and Wages.
 
In Five Rules for Tomorrow’s Cities, Condon provides grounded and financially feasible design examples for tomorrow’s sustainable cities, and the design tools needed to achieve them. (Island Press)

I generally like to share the table of contents, but the above publisher description lists the 5 rules, which are the main chapters. Google Books has a preview of selected pages, here. This is a well-sourced academic book, not a coffee table book.

— Steve Patterson

 

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