Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fountain Park (The Park)

Fountain Park was designed to be a treasure on St. Louis' near north side.  It is an oval shaped park surrounded by beautiful homes, churches and a former business building.  It is the one park to serve the Fountain Park Neighborhood.

The park is surrounded by Fountain Avenue:

The park has been in existence since 1889 and still looks pretty good.  The homes and buildings that immediately surround the park range from well maintained to trashed and vacant.
When the Aubert Place subdivision was laid out by John Lay in 1857, a central oval shaped area was reserved for a Park space. In 1889, it was donated by Lay to the City and was named Fountain Park, because of the fountain which was placed there was as a gift from the Merchants Exchange. (source)
The fountain for which the park takes its name is still operational and majestic.

The areas further out are not nice, welcoming places, per my personal experience, I would claim them amongst the worst in St. Louis.  Abandonment, mixed with blind eyes turned on the negative behavior that exists here today.

Think I'm being dramatic?  Statistically, this is the 12th most violent neighborhood in America.  KSDK was one of many local media sources to run this story back in April, 2013:
The area bordered by N. Kingshighway Boulevard on the west, Page Boulevard on the north, N. Taylor Avenue on the east, and Delmar Boulevard on the south tied an area of Chicago for 12th place. This area is comprised of parts of the Fountain Park and Lewis Place neighborhoods.
But, the park itself is still beautiful.  It recently got some new park benches and trash cans, 1 burnt, the others still okay.

Other than that, it is a simple park with a fountain at its center, a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. statue on one end and a tiered planter on the other.

There are some old growth oaks that are stunning.

Why is the MLK statue surrounded by a damaged fence?  Is this to keep out vandals?  This neighborhood is 99% black per the 2010 Census data, who would destroy/deface this?

It's just weird to see a monument to one of the greatest figures in American history with a plaque that reads: "His Dream - Our Dream".  And then surrounded by a beat up fence.

As I mentioned before the oval Fountain Avenue surrounds the park.  There is a bike lane around the park and the homes range from well maintained to decent to trashed and abandoned.

The crumbling former business nearest the northeast corner of the park is awesome but quickly deteriorating worse and worse every time I make it up here.

On today's visit, the sidewalk manholes had been stolen/scrapped and the sidewalks are nearly impassible.

It's a shame this neighborhood has gotten to this point.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fanetti Plaza

Fanetti Plaza is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks. It was established in 1979 and makes up 1.51 acres of the total 2,956 acres of park land in St. Louis.

This triangular park is located between Ivory, Schirmer and Michigan Avenue in the Patch.  The city website doesn't give a location or any information on the park.

However, there is a great personal website with plenty of info on the park.

This website is so comprehensive, I'll have little to add.

Anyhow, Fanetti Park was named after Donald L. Fanetti (1922-1977).  A commemorative plaque exists in the park and describes Mr. Fanetti as:


The Bugle was a humorous newspaper published from 1944 - 1996.

Here's some background on the Bugle from stlmediahistory.com:
After returning from military service in 1944, newspaper founder Donald Fanetti published the first copies of The Bugle. He and his wife, Mary June, came up with many of the humorous features of the paper, such as the “Joke of the Weak” and an advice column from a politically incorrect, battered husband.              
“Donald Fanetti was probably one of the funniest guys in St. Louis history,” says Geraci. “He was always pulling stunts and he got away with a lot of stuff that wouldn’t go today. For example, he advertised that  was going to jump off the JB Bridge. The cops weren’t happy with that at all. A crowd showed up, and he showed up and jumped from a part of the bridge that was about three feet from the ground. I’m told he went to the Illinois side to do it so the police on this side couldn’t grab him” 
Stunts like the JB Bridge caper brought Fanetti and The Bugle to the attention of the late KMOX Radio personality Jack Carney. Carney would occasionally have Fanetti on his popular morning talk show, where the two would poke fun at each other.
The setting of Fanetti Park is nearly perfect as an urban pocket park.  It is on the property of the former St. Boniface Catholic Parish.  

As the Catholic Arch Diocese continues to abandon the city of St. Louis due to lower #'s of Catholics and hence dollars, they chose to close St. Boniface which had been in existence since 1861.  It sold the former church to Rothschild Allen LLC for slightly more than $1 million (source).  The church is now the Ivory Theatre, a ~200 seat theatre that host music, plays, etc.  They recently sold their former school to a Charter School called the Carondelet Leadership Academy:

The Carondelet Leadership Academy Charter School was established in 2010 and is a Tuition-Free independent public school serving grades K-7, expanding to include 8th grade in the fall of 2013. We are managed by American Quality Schools, and sponsored by the University of Missouri. 
Carondelet Leadership Academy is a neighborhood school serving primarily zip codes 63111, 63116, 63118. CLA is designed for students who want a small school with a close-knit community of students, teachers and families, and an academically challenging, hands-on learning environment.

The park has a charming feel and it was designed very well and looks to be well maintained.  

There are walkways, a fountain, park benches and a covered pavilion area.  

The park overlooks some nice restaurants and commercial spaces.  This is a really nice part of the Patch.

Check out a show at the Ivory Theatre and take a stroll through Fanetti Park on your way to a nice dinner at the restaurants in the area.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fairground Park

Fairground Park is 1 of 108 parks in St. Louis.  It makes up 131.46 acres of the total 2,956 acres of park land.

Established in 1908, the park borders the Fairground Park Neighborhood, the Greater Ville, O'Fallon and Jeff Vanderlou.

The park is bound by Natural Bridge Avenue to the south, N. Grand Boulevard to the east, Fair Avenue to the West and Kossuth Avenue to the north.  Prairie Avenue also goes through the park:

From the city website:
"In 1855, a group of public spirited citizens decided to form an association of agricultural and mechanical interests and thus, founded the "St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association". It was decided to hold an annual fair beginning in 1856. Prominent citizens founded the venture which was not intended to pay dividends, all profits going to expand and beautify the enterpriseThe fair was an immediate success and soon became noted all over the country. It was, in reality, a gigantic country fair. The first buildings erected were the amphitheater, mechanical hall and agricultural hall. In addition to the exposition halls, a race course, grandstand and jockey club were built. During the hay day of the racetrack, some of the finest racing horses in the country appeared. 
The last official fair was held in 1902 after which it was abandoned while preparations were under way for the opening of the "World's Fair"."
More from wikipedia:
Fairground Park is a municipal park in St. Louis, Missouri, that opened in 1908. It was originally a privately owned facility, used by the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association for the St. Louis Exposition from 1856 through 1902, though interrupted by the Civil War when the Fairgrounds were used as a Union encampment known as Benton Barracks. The annual exposition ceased in 1902 as preparations for the 1904 World's Fair began.  Another blow to the fair's revival after 1904 was the abolition of horse racing in Missouri in 1905.
In 1908, after a protracted political debate, the abandoned 132-acre (0.53 km2) fairground was purchased from the association for park use by St. Louis for $700,000. The park was dedicated on October 9, 1909. 
All of the former fair structures and zoo buildings were removed except the bear pits of the old zoo and the amphitheater. In 1912, the amphitheater was removed and replaced by the city's first municipal swimming pool, then said to be the world's largest. This was replaced by a new pool in 1958 as part of the 1955 bond issue program, which also provided lighted ball diamonds and hard surface tennis courts.
Fairground Park is the home of the first municipal swimming pool in St. Louis opened in 1912.  In 1949 the pool was opened to black folks in a response from a Federal court procedure saying it was against the 14th amendment to disallow people from public pools, golf courses, etc based on race.
Ms. Boudreau did two other stories on Fairground Park that are a wealth of information:
Upon my visit, the park was bustling with activity.  There were fishermen and women ranging from kids to old timers at nearly every section of the beautiful lakes.  Catfish was the catch of the day.

Some thought was put into tree species selection as river birch and bald cypress were planted on the edges of the lakes.  The "knees" of the trees form beautiful banks and are good sinks for wildlife.

People were skating on the roller rink, folks were setting up for a large festival, picnicking under trees and playing tennis.  All parts of the park had activity.

It was great to see the park in such heavy use.  It was very obvious that this is an important park and a magnet for the surrounding neighborhoods.  This is what a park should be!

Furthermore, the park was in excellent condition and is being cared for and invested in.  The basketball and tennis courts are in excellent shape.  

There are several ball fields and I believe two separate football fields, one complete with a set of freshly painted bleachers:

There are new trash cans and benches installed throughout the park (some burnt, but most not). 

And the grand old trees are being cared for and pruned.  

The walking path is in excellent condition and was in use by stroller pushers, joggers and walkers upon my visit.  The paths are wide enough for bikes too.

Investment and care is evident in the small bathroom and storage buildings which are in excellent exterior condition; while some are still unusable as bathrooms.

Today, the pool is hard to photograph, as I don't believe it is in use as it was empty on August 30th.  There is also barbed wire surrounding the entire pool.  But man, the building itself is a Mid-Century Modern classic worth preserving:

The remnants of the bear pits still exist today.

From this:

To this:

The pits are currently used for Park's Dept. storage.

It's too bad the park historical markers were removed or stolen:

The homes and churches that line the western edge of the park are beautiful and well cared for.

Many of the buildings on the southern edge are gorgeous and in various conditions ranging from well maintained to boarded up.

The suburban planning has hit this part of the city hard stripping it of its character.

The homes to the north are in pretty bad shape.

Fairground Park is an active park serving the surrounding neighborhoods, as it should.  I commend the investment and care that is taking place to keep this the gem that it is.