Bissell / College Hill

O'Fallon Park

The largest land owner in this area was Colonel John O'Fallon whose holdings of over 600 acres embraced the present O'Fallon Park which was the site of his mansion. Colonel O'Fallon was born in Kentucky in 1791 and came to St. Louis as a young man to work as an Indian agent under his uncle, General William Clark.

After making a fortune in the Indian trade, O'Fallon purchased the large tract on the Bellefontaine Road. He chose the highest point on the property for the location of his mansion which he named "Athlone" after his father's Irish birthplace. Keeping the present park site as his estate, O'Fallon sold off the remainder at a large profit. He augmented his fortune in railroading and banking and later donated one million dollars to local schools and colleges. Following Colonel O'Fallon's death in 1865, the estate was sold to the city for a park in 1875 for $260,000. The mansion was partially burned in the same year and was finally razed in 1893.

It was said that during excavations for its foundation during the 1850's that Indian and mound builder's artifacts were discovered. The house was quite large, containing more than fifty rooms in its four stories.

O'Fallon Park became popular as a driving park and picnic grounds in the late decades of the nineteenth century. During the l890's the lake was constructed and an observatory for sight seeing was erected. An island was placed in the lake in 1904 and retaining walls were erected around it to hold its earthen banks. Boating was introduced on the lake following erection of the boat house in 1908. Electric lighting came to the park in 1914 and some plaster statuary was placed there after the World's Fair. The statues have long since disappeared.

The park originally covered 158 acres and was expanded in 1917 when the Catholic Archdiocese donated an adjacent area of eight and a half acres. This was a former cemetery site which became a bird sanctuary after its acquisition by the City. The park's area was reduced by five and a half acres in 1954 when the State Highway Department acquired the right-of-way for the Mark Twain Expressway. In recent years the park and its structures have been the victims of vandalism and neglect, however, it still functions as a pleasant breathing space for North St. Louisans.

Image - Holly Avenue entrance to O'Fallon Park in 1917