Friday, November 29, 2013

Lyon Park

Lyon Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks making up 10.92 of the total 2,956 acres of park space.  Placed into ordinance in 1868, this is one of our oldest parks and is a great monument to our important history supporting Union efforts during the Civil War.

In the shadow of the Anheuser-Busch InBev brewery, the park is located between Broadway, Arsenal, 2nd Street and Utah in the Kosciusko Neighborhood.

The large complex to the southeast is the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency facility.

The softball fields are used by the ABI employees and are in really good condition.

There is a mid-century service facility complete with a fountain, restrooms and storage space.

The park is named after the ardent Unionist Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon who fortified the St. Louis Arsenal, now the sight of the U.S. mapping facility.

There is also a monument to the importance of the St. Louis Arsenal with Gen. Lyon on horseback:

Here's an entry from the Civil War Muse on Lyon Park and the St. Louis Arsenal:
The St. Louis Arsenal whose grounds on on the east side of Second Street. Just to the west is Lyon Park. Lyon Park was established in 1869 by an Act of Congress which granted an eleven acre section of the St. Louis Arsenal grounds to the city of St. Louis on the condition that the city erect a monument to Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon. 
The Lyon Monument was dedicated on September 13, 1874 and consists of a 28 foot tall obelisk of Missouri granite. The monument is located in the center of the trapezoidal shaped park. 
Walk up to the northwest corner of the park (near the intersection of Broadway and Arsenal) to see the statue of Nathaniel Lyon on horseback and an interpretive sign describing the role played by the St. Louis Arsenal in 1861. Originally located at the corner of Grand and Pine, this statue was moved to its current location in the 1930s.Move out from the trees to get a clear look down the hill at the Arsenal complex. Imagine how it was in the morning of May 10th, 1861, when close to 7,000 newly mustered Federal volunteers marched out of the St. Louis Arsenal on their way to Camp Jackson. 
Unfortunately, there is no access to the Arsenal grounds for it is being used as an active United State Air Force facility. Some of the original buildings still exist. These are some photographs available at the United States Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog:  

Missouri was such a microcosm of the National struggles of the Civil War, the governor Clairborne Fox Jackson favored the secessionists.  It was feared that the Minute Men of Missouri, secessionists themselves, sought to take control of the arsenal.  Congressman Francis Blair, a personal friend of President Lincoln and a Union man, organized a group of German immigrants called the "Union Guard" to protect the arsenal from the Minute Men.  Enter General Lyon who was largely responsible for fortifying the arsenal with cannons and men to protect the large armory for the Union Army.

 Powder and Ammunition Manufacturing Building-photo circa 1936

Magazine For Small Arms Building-photo circa 1936

Read the full story that is included on the interpretive sign right in from of the Lyon statue HERE.

 Congressman Francis Blair

Governor Clairborne Fox Jackson, rebel sympathizer 

General Nathanial Lyon, staunch Unionist

The park is really kind of a no man's land when it comes to residential, heck 2010 Census data counted a mere 14 people in the Kosciusko Neighborhood and the park itself is surrounded by light industrial and trucking operations.

Years ago there was an Oktoberfest festival held here and it was a nearly perfect setting.  The smell of barley from the brewery mixing with potato pancakes and spaetzle was perfect.  They had an inflatable big screen TV that the Cards post season game was being shown.  It was a perfect setting.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pontiac Square Park (With Updates From November, 2016)

Post includes updates from November, 2016

Pontiac Square Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks making up 1.08 of the city's total 2,956 acres of park space.
The park was placed into ordinance in 1908 and is bordered by 9th Street to the east, Ann Avenue to the north, 10th Street to the west and Shenandoah Avenue to the south.  It is located in the Soulard Neighborhood. A one-acre park seems perfect for this location and there are densely packed homes surrounding the park, giving it a private, neighborhood-y feel.
Updates (November, 2016): 

The park takes its name from Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa Nation (1720-1769). Pontiac was born in Michigan and was famous for leading the Native Americans in wars against the British:
Pontiac or by his native name, Obwandiyag (c. 1720 – April 20, 1769), was an Ottawa leader who became famous for his role in Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763–1766), an American Indian struggle against the British military occupation of the Great Lakes region following the British victory in the French and Indian War. (source)
Pontiac, the former General Motors automobile line active from 1926 - 2010 was named after Chief Pontiac as was the city of Pontiac, Michigan.

Although Pontiac’s influence had declined around Detroit because of the unsuccessful siege, he gained stature in the Illinois and Wabash country as he continued to encourage resistance to the British who wanted to take the land of the Indians and displace them. Seeking to end the war, British officials made Pontiac the focus of their diplomatic efforts. In July 1766, Pontiac made peace with British Superintendent of Indian Affairs Sir William Johnson. (source)

Pontiac eventually moved to Illinois east of St. Louis and was eventually murdered by a Peorian Indian on April 20, 1769. There are some disputes, but some experts believe he was buried at Walnut and Broadway in Downtown St. Louis, others believe he was buried on Apple Island in Michigan.
Image is an artist's interpretation of what Pontiac looked like, there are no authentic images in existence (painting by John Mix Stanley)

There is a plaque commemorating his burial place on the unsightly stadium east parking garage, right across from the massive Busch Stadium surface parking lots at Walnut and Broadway.
Pontiac Park is one of my favorite parks in the city. It is so well cared for by the neighbors and there is investment in the form of public art and additional plantings that were not apparent on my original post back in 2013. 

A sculpture titled "Terra Madonna" by artist Uriel Starbuck was installed in the tiered bed leading to the playground:
The sculpture was donated by Starbuck and the Soulard Restoration Group's Beautification Committee was responsible for the move and installation within the park. It was previously on display at the Unity Christ Church in the Wydown/Skinker Neighborhood, right across from Forest Park. (source)

In November, 2014, the Soulard Restoration Group installed a beautiful enclosure screening the utility boxes at the Shenandoah and 10th Street entrance to the park.
Further evidence of the neighbors taking stock in the park takes the form of large planters near a new bench/bike parking station and ferns flanking the interior playground entrances:
My favorite approach to the park is at the corner of Ann and 9th Street where a nice mix of deciduous and conifers blend with lower growing shrubs providing an inviting entrance.
Someone (likely not the park's dept.) has installed berms with beautiful plantings.  There is irrigation and drip tape, leading me to believe the park's dept has nothing to do with this, probably the Soulard Restoration Group. There is a nice mix of new and older trees and smaller perennials.
Anyhow, the park is surrounded by trees and a handsome metal fence.
The stone retaining wall that surrounds the area south and east of the playground is beautiful and speaks to how old the park really is.
There was a person playing catch with her chocolate lab and a father with his two little ones at the playground.  There is a backstop and multi-purpose field that seems right sized for kickball or softball. You can tell the park is respectfully used.
There is also a spray area; neighbors indicated it is functional during the summer.
The homes that surround the park are the typical mix you'd expect from Soulard both original and new.
The gorgeous Lafayette Elementary School at 815 Ann Ave sits in the shadow of the park.  This building is for sale by the SLPS.  I hope it becomes a charter or private school in the future. My wish came true as a developer purchased the former school for $800,000 and did a comprehensive $3.5M renovation into 36 market-rate apartments which will bring added density and people to use this beautiful park. (source)
Check out some good photos of Lafayette School HERE. And here are some photos post renovation as the "Lafayette Lofts":
Congrats to the Soulard Restoration Group Beautification Committee for the wonderful work you have done in Pontiac Park, your volunteer efforts and fund raising does not go unnoticed. Thank you.

Soulard Market Park

Soulard Market Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks, making up 1.94 of the total 2,956 acres of dedicated park space.  This park is in the shadow of the awesome Soulard Market and is probably familiar to most St. Louisans.

The park was placed into ordinance in 1908 and is at the corner of 7th Street and Lafayette Avenue.

The park is made of a large green space to the left in the screen capture above.  This area is used for art fairs, recreation, etc.

The entire park is surrounded by an iron fence complete with Fleur De Lis.

There are 2 playgrounds, 1 for little kids and one for older kids toward 7th street.

I have great memories of eating fresh blackberries and other local treats while the kids run around and play.

There is also a center pavilion which is currently under repair.  This promenade is beautiful and leads up the south entrance to the Market.

There is public art sculpture flanking the entry.

A plaque commemorates Rudolph "Sheriff" Piskulick and it reads:

In honor of "Sheriff" Rudolph G. Piskulick
Mardi Gras, Inc. Board of Directors 2005-2010
Mardi Gras Chairman 2010
Longtime Soulardian

"Soulard has had no greater or bigger friend"

Bike racks are common in the park and around the market.

There is some nice garden work planted between the 2 playgrounds that was done by the Soulard Restoration Group.

As mentioned before, if you want landscaping and a park that complements the pride and style of the neighborhood it takes volunteers willing to work their tails off to make good things happen.  It is good to see the Soulard Restoration Group taking this park under their caring wing.

The buildings, homes and of course the market are typical St. Louis classics.  Visiting this part of town is a blast.  You have pizza, bars, ice cream shops, incredibly good BBQ at Bogarts...etc.  The market and neighborhood have soul.

Soulard is a gem of this city.