Posts Tagged ‘North St. Louis’

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Catalpa (Gwen B. Giles) Park

April 9, 2010

Catalpa Park (renamed the Gwen B. Giles Park in 1986), in the Cabanne Neighborhood, sits basically at the intersection of the old Hodiamont Streetcar line’s Right of Way and North Skinker Blvd.

Gwen B. Giles Park (Formerly Catalpa Park) From Hodiamont Ave.

I have driven past this park many times on Skinker and have always wanted to visit the unique, fortress-like playground that makes up its North-Western portion.

Upon actually walking around the park (which was completely deserted on this beautiful Friday afternoon), I found what would have been my dream park as a child.  I can’t even imagine the variety of games that could be played here.

Objects that invite climbing are scattered all over the two bridge-connected hills which make up the main play area. Unfortunately, in addition to all of the wonderful objects of play are discarded beer cans and soda bottles, fast food and snack wrappers, cigarette boxes and liquor bottles (along with broken glass as accompaniment).  The modern looking bathrooms here are boarded shut and the entire park just seems abandoned.  Even the water fountains have been removed.  One corner of the park includes a sculpture of a seal which has clearly seen better days.

Basically, this park is just like too much of our city.  Beautifully planned and put together but doomed to fail at the same time.  As far as I can find out online, this park was most recently renovated (at least the playground and “comfort station”) in 1980 as part of a park rehabilitation project, so when it was renamed for Gwen B. Giles (a local civil rights activist and Missouri’s first female black Senator) in 1986 it may have been in pretty good shape.  I personally believe however, that the real fate of the park was the 1966 last run of the Hodiamont Streetcar and the 1969 “construction of the Skinker Parkway from Maple to Page,” both of which occurred when the park was very young (it was established in 1959).  Seeing the park/city in its current shape is pretty depressing, but its existence symbolizes the incredible potential for the infrastructure we have inherited from our Great City’s past.  Turning the park around could really be a simple as adding a couple of trash cans (there are only two on opposite sides of the park) and bringing out the community one weekend for cleanup.  See more photos I took of the park here.

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Cementland

March 14, 2010

Cementland is a project that has been in the works for ten years.  Ever since I first stumbled upon this New York Times article a year or so ago, I have been curious about the project.  And what a cool project it is.  With the City Museum already in place as one of the region’s most unique and popular attractions, Bob Cassilly still wants to contribute more.

Cementland from Riverview

Cementland is Bob Cassilly continuing to endorse reuse.  It is possible to create something totally new and exciting without starting from scratch.

Cementland Sculpture

With nothing more to go off of than rumors (landscaping work is being done at Cementland) and a few dated articles from around the internet (ranging from the detailed 2000 article in the Riverfront Times, to accounts of “Miss Rockaway Armada,” a crazy boat trip up the Mississippi which culminated in a rock concert on the river at Cementland), I actually think this project could open to the public in the near future.  I really hope it does because I really want to go!

Cementland

More photos of Cementland are available here, here, here and here.  Also, a very funny account of a visit to Cementland can be read at this link.

Further Reading:

http://www.clui.org/lotl/v29/j.html

http://martadouglass.blogspot.com/2008/07/i-love-you-bob-cassilly.html

http://urbanstl.com/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=3541&start=30

Update:

Photos of Cementland in 2011

Update 2:

Photos of Cementland on August 27th, 2011 

Update 12/6/2011:

A new website has been launched for Cementland.  Bookmark it and check back for updates in the coming months.

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Pruitt-Igoe in the Snow

February 15, 2010

After a difficult experience trying to wade through weeds last time I went to Pruitt-Igoe over the summer, I vowed to return during the winter months when the journey would become more manageable.  For some reason I picked a snow day to go.

Pruitt-Igoe Site Looking Downtown

It was still tough to get around this overgrown Urban forest, but signs of civilization were very apparent.  The most interesting site for me were the places that the sewer system surfaces in the dense woods.  The familiar smell of sewer gas and a nice patch of melted snow was a powerful reminder of what this site actually is.

Pruitt-Igoe Sewer

Could this be a job creation center in the near future?  Might it be better for the city left as a forest?  More pictures of the day can be seen here.