Tag Archives: parks

Missouri Park and Lucas Place

The small park behind the St. Louis Pub­lic Library is called Lucas Park in hon­or of the fam­i­ly that once owned the land.  In about 1810 Judge J.B.C. Lucas pur­chased a large par­cel of land that includes today’s Lucas Park.

In 1850 the Lucas fam­i­ly devel­oped a new res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood on their land, which they not sur­pris­ing­ly named Lucas Place. From its con­cep­tion this neigh­bor­hood was intend­ed to be very dif­fer­ent with wide build­ing set­backs and deed restric­tions ban­ning com­mer­cial activ­i­ties. The new street Lucas Place was also off­set 50-feet from the city street grid.

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Mis­souri Park and Lucas Place, from “Pic­to­r­i­al St. Louis”, 1875

A defin­ing fea­ture of Lucas Place was a new green space called Mis­souri Park, which the Lucas fam­i­ly had deed­ed to the city in 1854. Mis­souri Park was bound­ed by 13th, Olive, 14th and St. Charles streets. The park stretched across Lucas Place pre­vent­ing through traf­fic into the neigh­bor­hood and was a key ele­ment in defin­ing the neigh­bor­hood as “a place apart”. By 1875 Mis­souri Park boast­ed, “an iron foun­tain, 116 bench­es, 368 shade trees, 277 shrubs, and was sur­round­ed by a wood­en pick­et fence.”  It was also the first park in St. Louis to have gas light­ing along its path­ways.

As com­mer­cial devel­op­ment began to encroach on Lucas Place in the ear­ly 1880s, Mis­souri Park was select­ed as the site for St. Louis’ grand­est build­ing of the peri­od, the Music and Expo­si­tion Hall. Com­plet­ed in 1884, this mas­sive build­ing was St. Louis’ first con­ven­tion cen­ter and encom­passed the entire 4‑acre foot­print of the old Mis­souri Park.  Mea­sur­ing 146,000 square feet the Exhi­bi­tion Hall host­ed the 1888 and 1904 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tions and the 1896 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion. The Music Hall sat 4,000 and was the first per­ma­nent home to the Saint Louis Sym­pho­ny.

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Music and Expo­si­tion Hall, cir­ca 1890

The Music and Expo­si­tion Hall was demol­ished in 1907 hav­ing been replaced by a larg­er and new­er St. Louis Col­i­se­um. The site was then select­ed for the new St. Louis Pub­lic Library, built with a $1 mil­lion gift from Andrew Carnegie. Because the Library was designed to use only two-thirds of the old expo­si­tion site the north­ern part of the old Mis­souri Park was restored to green space and renamed Lucas Park. At the same time Locust Street was cut through the space between the new Library and the restored park. When the street was cut through it result­ed in the unusu­al curve at 13 and Locust streets, which can still be seen today.  By 1918 Lucas Park had been plant­ed with “forty-five thou­sands shrubs and flower plants…set out in artis­ti­cal­ly designed beds” and was one of the finest parks in St. Louis.  After 1950, all the old res­i­den­tial build­ings in the vicin­i­ty of Lucas Park had van­ished (except for the Camp­bell House) as down­town was trans­form­ing into an exclu­sive­ly com­mer­cial dis­trict.

Like this post? Look for the new exhib­it Lucas Place: The Lost Neigh­bor­hood of St. Louis’ Gold­en Age open­ing March 22 at the Land­marks Asso­ci­a­tion of St. Louis. Exhib­it made pos­si­ble through a grant from the Mis­souri Human­i­ties Coun­cil.

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Lucas Park and the St. Louis Pub­lic Library, from a cir­ca 1920 post­card.