Survey #3209, originally a land grant to Gabriel Cerre, was purchased in 1842 by Dr. Bernard G. Farrar and later a portion of it became the site of Hyde Park. Dr. Farrar, who began his practice here in 1809, was the first American doctor in St. Louis. After making a fortune in his medical practice and pharmaceutical business, he invested in real estate in the Bremen area and donated several parcels of his land for church purposes. While administering to the victims of the cholera epidemic in 1849, Dr. Farrar himself fell fatally ill to the disease.
In 1850, his widow, Mrs. Ann C. T. Farrar, subdivided the tract, reserving the future park site as the family estate. Four years later, apparently in anticipation of impending annexation by St. Louis, she sold the 141/2 acre estate to the City for $36,250.
Hyde Park is believed to be a namesake of the famous London recreation ground. For some years after its acquisition, portions of the park were leased to vegetable gardeners by the city. The old Farrar mansion and grounds, located in the park, were rented as a beer garden by the city, as another effort at producing revenue. The mansion contained a bar and rooms and its upper floors were used for hotel purposes.
This pleasant grove attracted political meetings and patriotic festivities and one of these ended violently on July 4, 1863. On that day the park was thronged with nearly 10,000 persons, including about a hundred convalescent Union soldiers from Benton Barracks hospital at the nearby converted fairgrounds. Animosity grew among these soldiers against Confederate sympathizers, who were identified by colored ribbons on their headgear. In the ensuing melee, a large balloon was torn to shreds and the mansion was badly damaged. Soldiers called to restore order fired into the crowd, killing two persons and wounding six others.
Condition of the park deteriorated after the Civil War, until 1874 when improvements were begun. An ornamental fountain, a pond, meandering walks and landscaping were installed by 1876. A fence was added to keep out cattle being herded along Bremen Avenue to the riverfront stock yards. During the 1890's, Hyde Park contained a bandstand, greenhouse and floral display gardens. Although these improvements have long since disappeared, the park continues to serve as a community recreation ground. A fire engine house has occupied the park's southeastern corner for many years. Widening of streets around the park have reduced its area to the present 11.84 acres.
A former park in the area was McKinley Bridge Plaza, bounded by Ninth, Eleventh, Salisbury and Bremen. Created in the late 1920's, this open space disappeared with the construction of I-70.
Image - View in Hyde Park in the 1890's
Image - Fire Station at Blair Avenue and Salisbury Street