St. Louisans have had a long love affair with their parks. From the crown jewel of the Parks Department, Forest Park, to the smallest park, Aboussie Park in Soulard, St. Louis residents make their neighborhood parks part of their lives. Parks serve as the anchor of city neighborhoods.
Francis Park is the center of St. Louis Hills, Lafayette Park anchors Lafayette Square, Fairground residents gather in Fairground Park and we are all proud of Forest Park, the heart of St. Louis.
Parks serve as gathering spots for neighborhood meetings, summer concerts and weddings. They are wonderful places to take a stroll, have a picnic, use a playground or watch a softball game. Everyday hundreds of walkers and runners, bikers and bladers and dogs and their owners crowd the paths and sidewalks.
Parks host countless weddings, parties, picnics, family reunions, rallies, and even memorial services. When the Rams won the Super Bowl, the celebration was in Kiener Plaza, a city park. When we hosted the World's Fair, it was in a city park. Almost all outdoor art work is in a city park. (Even the Gateway Arch is in a park, although it is a federal park, not a city park.) Parks also provide a quiet place to get away from the city. And that was their original intent.
In 1812, the first land was set aside to be used for parks. Gravois Park, at Louisiana and Miami;Laclede Park, Iowa and Gasconade;and Mt. Pleasant Park, Michigan and Dakota, are the first parks created in St. Louis. The land was part of the St. Louis Common. When the Common was divided in 1836, an ordinance preserved the 29.95 acres for public use as a park, which became Lafayette Park. It was separated from the Commons in 1844 but it wasn't' until 1851 that it was formally dedicated as Lafayette Square, the name that became associated with the neighborhood that grew up around the park.
In 1868, Henry Shaw gave the city Tower Grove Park, adjacent to his country home and west of the city limits.
Forest Park was established in 1874 when the Missouri Legislature passed ordinances to establish three parks in what was then St. Louis County: Carondelet Park in the south;Forest Park in the center and O'Fallon Park on the north.
The majority of the city's parks were established during the era known as "The Gilded Age" from 1869 to the turn of the 20th century. Parks were created to meet the social needs of a crowded, industrial city. All parks are owned by the city and were designed to meet many needs...escape from crowded apartment buildings, a place to view art work, a home for a zoo and a nature preserve.
It's the Parks Division of the Parks Department that operates and maintains the 108 parks in the City of St. Louis. A city of only 62 square miles has 2,956 acres of park land. The Parks Division also maintains all facilities in the parks including 8 Recreation Centers, playgrounds, fountains, countless statues and monuments, the Jewel Box and the World's Fair Pavilion in Forest Park, tennis, handball and horseshoe courts and baseball, softball, soccer, and rugby fields.
The Horticulture Section is responsible for the two million daffodils that turn St. Louis highways into a sea of yellow each spring.
Workers in the park's greenhouses grow the flowers that are displayed in the Jewel Box and those that are used as bedding plans in outdoor gardens throughout the city. More than 300,000 flowering and foliage plants are propagated and planted each year.