Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gravois Park (The Park)

Gravois Park is 1 of St. Louis' 108 parks making up 8.2 of the total 2,956 acres of park space in St. Louis.

Per the city website:
One of the original Commons grants of 1812, it is presently bounded by Louisiana and Compton Avenues and on its north and south sides by Potomac and Miami Streets. However, in its early days, this was a rather isolated location and the Park was little frequented by the public. (source)
The park is the only one in the Gravois Park neighborhood, which lies just south of the Cherokee Street district.  

The park was dedicated in the memory of Louis "Uncle Louie" Buckowitz in 1995:

Who was "Uncle Louie"?:
Louis W. Buckowitz, a former alderman and longtime Democratic leader in south St. Louis, died Tuesday (Sept. 7, 1999) at Alexian Brothers Lansdowne Village in St. Louis. He was 92 and had been in ill health for six years.  Mr. Buckowitz was active in city Democratic politics for more than 60 years and served as the 10th Ward alderman from 1977-87.Known as "Uncle Louie," he was proud of the Easter egg hunts and Christmas parties he sponsored for poor children, his influence in persuading ward voters to back favored candidates, and his vigor in helping constituents get jobs or necessary city services. (source)
That's Uncle Louie behind Mayor Cervantes (with glasses)

Apparently this Easter egg hunt was a big deal for nearly 50 years.  

On my visit today, the park was spic and span clean thanks to some groups of St. Louis University students working in the area to pick up trash.

The park is a rectangle with entry ways on each of the 4 corners, all leading toward the centerpiece of the park, this beautiful pavilion:

Looking at the park from the view above, I'd love to see some prairie restoration take place in parts of the park.  Walking paths could be mowed within the prairie grasses to allow people to get in touch with nature.

There is also small playground which has seen better days:

The single water fountain in the park has been vandalized and is inoperable:

There is a former basketball court that has since had the goals removed:

The homes that line this park range from great condition to burned out and boarded up.  

This part of South St. Louis is a pivot point for the future of the south side.  The place is brimming with potential as the architecture is stunning and quite diverse.  It is a working man's neighborhood, so there are less mansions and large homes.  But, man is this place awesome.  

Sadly, a lot of the locals in recent years have chosen to tear the area down as opposed to working hard to make it better.  The signs of decay, neglect and negativity are everywhere.

But there is hope in that the arts/Latino district of Cherokee Street has seen much positivity develop in the last 5-10 years.  This street could serve as an anchor for the area immediately to the south.

Hopefully this part of St. Louis can continue to rise and the park will continue to serve as a peaceful place for 200 more years.  Here's to the good guys turning the tides.  If you read the writing on the wall, apparently there is a class war being waged here.  

I'll be in the corner of the those who quit spray painting on the brick buildings and destroying their surroundings, regardless of class.  Viva Gravois Park.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fremont Park

Fremont Park is 1 of 4 parks within the Benton Park Neighborhood.   It makes up 2.31 acres of the total 2,956 acres of park space in St. Louis.

The park was placed into ordinance in 1963.  It used to be called Pontiac Central Park, but the name was changed.  Fremont takes its name from John C. Fremont, American explorer, plant collector, military man, politician, etc.
John Charles Frémont or Fremont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890) was an American military officer, explorer, and politician who became the first candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party for the office of President of the United States. During the 1840s, that era's penny press accorded Frémont the sobriquet The Pathfinder. Historians call him The Great Pathfinder. (source)
John C. Fremont

Toward the northern part of Benton Park, Fremont is located south of Lynch Street, west of Salena Street and east of the alley behind McNair Street.

Wisconsin Street dead ends into the park on the south side.

The park is in the shadow of the former Fremont Elementary School built in 1896.

This school was renovated as the St. Agnes Senior Apartments.  This property abuts Fremont park.  There are gardens being maintained by the senior citizens on the opposite side of the open field area of the park.

There is a playground, a large open area that was probably a softball field and an underutilized open space on the western edge of the park.

There is one inoperable water fountain and a few well shaded park benches.  The park could use some maintenance as tree roots make the play area treacherous in parts.

There are several old growth oaks that separate the playground area from the east field.

Is that an old tetherball pole?  If yes, that will be the first I've seen so far in the parks.

for those who know

The trees are beautiful and the park is well shaded.

This park could use some fresh landscaping and a little love to make it complement the beautiful homes that surround the park.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Franz Park (The Park)

Franz Park was deeded to the City as a gift by E. D. Franz, and placed into ordinance in 1915.  Here's some detail on the transaction:
Sophia D. Franz gave her 5.32 acres to the city for a park and playground in honor of her husband Ehrhardt D. Franz in 1915, (with the stipulation to be used for a playground for the children).  Ehrhardt was a wholesale merchandiser.  He came to thee United States in 1854, and after accumulating some wealth, moved his family to St. Louis in 1871.  Their house sat on 6730 Mitchell on what is not a tennis court in the playground.  He had large real estate holding in the vicinity of Benton.  He retired in 1873, but went back to work in 1880 in the grocery business until his store burned down.  He then took care of his property interests until he died in 1898 at 65 yrs.  One of the persons presenting the deed to the city was S.H. Kleinschmidt... (source)

The park makes up 4.67 acres of the total 2,956 acres of St. Louis park space.

The park is bordered by Prather Avenue to the west, Glades Avenue to the south, homes that abut Kraft Street to the east and Mitchell Avenue to the north. Check out the bird's eye view of the block and note the fact that a street does not separate the park from the existing homes to the east. 
The park is located in the Franz Park neighborhood of Dogtown in St. Louis' 24th Ward.  

The park is in great condition and is utilized by Wilkinson Early Childhood Center, a fantastic magnet school right across the street.  The school and park at the the near heart of the neighborhood have a positive symbiotic nature and are great anchors and future building blocks for the neighborhood.  

You can tell there are a lot kids spending time here and there were two young families using the park on my visit, one playing soccer, the other playing on the playground.  I try and talk to the young families about where they plan on sending their kids to school and talk up the ones I know about and urge them to give the city schools a try.  This particular family wants to stay in St. Louis and are excited about trying the magnets.  

There are 2 ball field and soccer goals.
The tennis courts where the Franz house once stood is in playable condition, but are due for a resurfacing. And have since been resurfaced as of September, 2014.  Way to go Franz Park!
The playground equipment and pavilions are quite clean and in good shape.
There are some cool stone walls and entry ways along Prather and Glades.
Other structures include a challenge course and a ho hum bathroom/park storage building.
The corner of Prather and Mitchell has a nice art installation from the kids at Wilkinson.
I spotted a homemade plastic bag dispenser that someone installed on the fence for curbing the dogs.
There are plenty of trees within the park to provide shade where people can relax and hang out with their kids on the playground, and there are street trees lining the southern edge of the park.
This nice, clean park is bordered by nice, clean houses.
Cheers to Franz Park, you have a nice pocket of the city.