After the demise of the St. Louis Fair in 1902, its 132 acre grounds, buildings and race tracks (after 1905) laid in abandonment until 1908 when the City purchased it for park use for $700,000. Fairground Park was dedicated in 1909 with appropriate ceremonies after the Fair's structures had been removed. About 1912, the former location of the circular amphitheater was rebuilt into what was then the world's largest swimming pool, with an area of five acres.
This was a rather prosaic ending to the Fairgrounds which had hosted Presidents Grant, Cleveland, and Harrison and had attracted over 80,000 persons on its featured Big Thursday of Fair Week for many years. This was so, because that day was declared a municipal holiday in 1856, and was looked forward to by generations of school children. Long remembered was that occasion in 1859, when it rained steadily for twenty hours and thousands of women and children were marooned on the grounds until the next day. Another notable event in the park's history occurred in October, 1911, when the first air mail in the world was flown there from Kinloch. Fairground Park was considerably improved as a result of the 1955 bond issue which provided lighted ball diamonds, hard surface tennis courts and a rebuilt swimming pool with a new field house. Today, the park continues to function as the outstanding north side recreation area that it has been for so many years.
A major park on the area's western edge is Penrose, at Kingshighway Boulevard and Penrose Avenue. This fifty acre recreational area was acquired by the City in 1910 for $165,000. Other public parks within the Fairground area are W. C. Handy Park, bounded by Euclid, Ashland, Lexington and Shreve Avenues, and Union-Marcus Quarry Park at the north east corner of Marcus and Margaretta Avenues. Adjacent to the area, across West Florissant Avenue, is O'Fallon Park, the other large northside recreational open space. When it was acquired by the City in 1875, the park had an area of 158 acres. It was the northern member of the trio of parks purchased by the City before its limits were extended to include them. The other two were Forest and Carondelet Parks. Named for Col. John O'Fallon, the park was originally a part of his estate along Bellefontaine Road. In 1917, the Catholic Archdiocese donated the 8-1/2 acre site of the former New Bremen Cemetery, as an addition to the park on its western side. Right-of-way for the Mark Twain Express way reduced the park's area by 32 acres in 1954.
Image - The lake and bridges in Fairground Park
Image - Handball courts in Penrose Park
Image - Kossuth Monument in Fairground Park
Image - Boating on the lake at the St. Louis Fair