A Preservation Plan for St. Louis
Part II: Property Types
Period 2 - The Victorian City and the Street Car (1870-1900)
Tower Grove ParkTower Grove Park was laid out in 1868 under the guidance of Henry Shaw and horticulturist James Gurney of London's Regent Park. Tower Grove is representative of the Victorian Walking Park, a romantic creation where trees, shrubs and fantasy park structures were carefully placed to provide pedestrians with picturesque views. Throughout the park are numerous, brightly colored pagodas, band stands, pavilions and bridges. Tower Grove Park is a National Historic Landmark.
Within the park is the Palm House, the oldest greenhouse west of the Mississippi. The red brick building, designed by George I. Barnett, has a metal, side gable roof with ornamental cresting at the ridge. The central entry is set beneath a brick gable and fanlight. Piers separate each bay of the front facade, containing tall, nine-over-nine windows. Side elevations have narrow, round-arched multi-light windows of graduated size, and a stepped corbelled cornice.
A prominent feature of the park is the Bandstand, which was designed by Eugene Greenleaf in 1872-Sunday concerts were often held in the Bandstand in the Victorian period, and it is still in use today. The bandstand has a high onion dome roof, supported by slender, bracketed cast iron posts. Placed in a circle around the Bandstand are the busts of famous composers.
The concept of a private street seems to have been first created in St. Louis; the concept was soon adopted by other major cities in the Victorian era. Private streets were the refuge of the wealthy from the city's noise and pollution, and from the dearth of zoning regulations. Residents were responsible for the maintenance of the street, which usually included a park-like median; in exchange, they had the ability to erect entrance gates, to regulate traffic, and to ban industry and other undesirable uses. Homeowners signed covenants regulating the size and placement of houses, fences and other structures.
Benton Place, in the Lafayette Square neighborhood, was created in 1868 by Julius Pitzman, a Civil War surveyor. Pitzman was responsible for the platting of most of the private streets in St. Louis. Benton Place was built as a cul-du-sac, with a landscaped elliptical-shaped park in the center. Houses on Benton Place are primarily Second Empire style.
Portland and Westmoreland Places were created in 1888, as the Forest Park Addition to the City. Also platted by Pitzman, the two streets extend from Kingshighway to Union, north of Lindell Boulevard. Portland and Westmoreland Places contain some of the city's largest and finest residences. A landscaped median extends down the center of both streets. Entrance gates at east and west ends exhibit a variety of architectural influences.
The earliest private streets, among them Benton Place, had modest stone entry markers. On the later private streets, the gates were far larger and more elaborate, often using a variety of materials and reflecting current popular architectural styles. The Washington Terrace Gates on Union Boulevard, were designed by Harvey Ellis in 1894. Another Victorian fantasy structure, the central block has Chateauesque elements compressed into a diminutive castle: rounded corners are topped by high bell-cast slate roofs with a central clock tower ending in a cupola and spire. Walls of this tiny building are massive, with deeply-recessed openings, belt courses and corbelling. On either side, smaller posts are linked to the central block by wrought iron arches. A small apartment is located within the gate structure.