Home » Featured »History/Preservation »Parks »St. Louis County » Currently Reading:

Eleanor Roosevelt Visited St. Louis 75 Years Ago

November 6, 2014 Featured, History/Preservation, Parks, St. Louis County 3 Comments

Seventy-five years ago today First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about her visit to St. Louis the day before.  She arrived at St. Louis’ Union Station, having been in Kansas City.  Later that Sunday she visited Fort Belle Fontaine:

I visited a training school for boys between the ages of 12 and 18, yesterday afternoon. It is about 16 miles out of St. Louis and is run on the cottage system with much land around it. The boys work three hours of the day on academic school courses and four hours on actual labor jobs.

Yesterday being Sunday, the WPA orchestra and the choral leader were putting on a concert in which the boys themselves participated. The commentator told the story of the music which the orchestra was about to play and the boys joined in the singing. Sometimes it was a quartette of boys trained under the WPA recreational project by the choral director, sometimes it was a song by the entire glee club.

The boys never had any time to weary of too much orchestral music, nor did they have to sit still too long, because periodically they rose and sang as loudly as they wanted. (My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt Monday November 6, 1939)

The Works Progress Administration (WPA), started in 1935, had numerous projects on the historic site, including terraces down to the Missouri River.

The WPA built the stone terraces & steps down to the Missouri River
The WPA built the stone terraces & steps down to the Missouri River, that’s my husband on the left

Why is it historic? Glad you asked:

Fort Belle Fontaine Park has been a St. Louis County Park since 1986. Few are aware that this was the first United States military installation west of the Mississippi River, established in 1805. Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery expedition (1804-1806) spent the first night of their expedition on an island opposite Cold Water Creek and their last night two years later at the fort, which had been established in their absence. Other major expeditions left from this site betweem 1805 and 1819 to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Until it was replaced by Jefferson Barracks in 1826, Fort Belle Fontaine was an important gathering place in the wilderness for officers and enlisted men, Native American, French, Spanish and American settlers, trappers and traders, and the local businessmen and farmers who supplied the fort with necessities. (St. Louis County)

A year after, to the day, that Mrs. Roosevelt visited St. Louis her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt won an unprecedented 3rd term in office.

The recent PBS special The Roosevelts was fascinating, highly recommenced!! If you haven’t been, I also revommend visiting Fort Belle Fontaine

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. It’s s shame that the park and all of the WPA work is now in ruin and almost beyond repair. We hike their with our dogs a lot and all of the beautiful terraces, stone pathways and walls, the bridges, etc all all almost destroyed. This is why we need funding for our parks…. the terraces in the photo above are so amazing and a great backdrop for a wedding…….

    • JZ71 says:

      Just another classic example of how government works – it’s way easier to find money to build something new than it is to find money for boring, ongoing maintenance . . . .

      • Mike F says:

        It’s also way easier to find money to build a new class of 110000 ton “stealth” aircraft carriers, or build a B-2 bomber for 2 BillionUSD per plane, at a total estimated program cost of 20 to 35 BillionUSD (classified, so we’ll never know), or build a 5 BillionUSD data collection center in UT, or a Trident ICBM submarine at 1 BillionUSD per, or build a domed sports stadium DT for over 500 MillionUSD, or build a Page Avenue extension for another 500 BillionUSD (this doesn’t include the additional 500 BillionUSD+ for the other improvements necessary to tie it to the rest of surface/highway infrastructure. I could go on.

        The administration of FDR had it right: build things for the people, not just swells, fatcats, a rapacious Military Industrial Complex, and corporate supranational parasites. Our country’s priorities vis a vis public spending for “new” things is so incredibly fucked up, arguing about maintenance is petty and trivial in comparison. There IS definitely money for maintenance, it’s just that we have been bamboozled and PRopagandized to within an inch of our sanity to believe that some bullshit cost-benefit analysis must be applied to every dollar spent on everything but that which goes to the military (contractors; they OWN the military) and the intelligence services. New carrier? Throw Billions at it! New littoral combat ship? Billions! Two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (both unmitigated disasters; created MORE instability in the region than not)? Trillions!!!! (up to 4 TRILLIONUSD so far!). BillionsUSD in tax breaks, tax cuts, indirect and direct subsidies for the corporate supranationals and the parasitic wealthy that own stock in them? You got it! Repair roads? Naw. Bridges. Nope, no money. Fully fund the underfunded backlog of National Parks Service maintenance and new facilities/services budget, plus fund the NPS fully, so that entrance fees and day use fees are eliminated? Go fuck yourselves, you nature-loving, commie-ass hippies! With that 4 TrillionUSD so far spent on those fucking wars, we could have put a bloody subway system with all the bells and whistles in the top 25 population centers in the country (say at 100 BillionUSD per system), and had money left over maintain them into the next millennium. Free healthcare for every single American? What do you think this is, some commiesocialistnazifascist hell-hole? Better dead than red, bitches! But, hey, the banks MUST be “made whole”! Billions upon BillionsUSD.

        “Just another classic example of how government works…” Cynical tripe.


Comment on this Article: