Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Aboussie Park

According to the St. Louis City website, there are 111 108 parks covering 2,956 acres in St. Louis.

Edit (January, 2016), the city updated their website and corrected the list of parks to include a total of 108 parks. 

If you work in alphabetical order, the first of these is Aboussie Park which the city says is in the Benton Park neighborhood.  Per my understanding, I-55 is the east/west divider between Soulard and Benton Park, and the city website confirms this on its neighborhood maps page; so, in this particular case, I am going against what the "authorities" say and claim Aboussie Park as a Soulard entity.  I spoke to a resident walking his dog in the park and he said that local lore says there are concrete markers for Benton Park and Soulard.  I couldn't confirm that, nor find them but I'd like to know if that is true.

Anyhow, Aboussie Park was established in 1981 and is located near Sidney and 13th Street, and just east of the chain link fence on the I-55 easement.  The stretch of Interstate that Aboussie Park lines is probably most recognizable by the shuttered 'Hi-Way Bar' visible just south of the Sidney overpass.




Aboussie Park is recognized as the smallest of all city parks, covering a mere 0.4 acre.

This park is surrounded by well-kept St. Louis brick homes with manicured front lawns and gardens...St. Louis living at its best being cared for by good stewards of our history and architecture.








Like nearly all St. Louis parks, you will notice the familiar wooden sign marking the park.



Aboussie Park takes its name from Martie "Murph" Aboussie (1909-1970), a politician in the 9th Ward.

There are actually two monuments commemorating members of the Aboussie family, the first a sign that speaks to the life of Martie "Murph" Aboussie and the second, a statuette of St. Francis of Assisi in honor of Martie J. (Jay) Aboussie, Jr. who died at the young age of 23 in 2006.



So who is Martie "Murph" Aboussie?  According to my quick research, he was a 9th ward committeeman who had ties to the Lebanese gangs that competed with the Irish gangs of St. Louis in the 1930's.
In the 1930's, two organized crime groups with national connections-one Italian, one Lebanese-reached an accommodation regarding a division of activity.  A committee would handle disputes between the parties.  Jimmy Michaels led the Lebanese contingent.  Through marriage, Michaels was related to a number of politicians of Lebanese descent.  His sister married Martie "Murph" Aboussie, a longtime 9th ward committeeman.  (source:  St. Louis Politics:  The Triumph of Tradition)
Lebanese gangs?  I learn something new with every one of these blog posts...

Aboussie was laid to rest at Resurrection Cemetery in suburban South County.

The sign commemorating Martie "Murph" Aboussie is rather vague on his actual accomplishments, rather characterizing his time as a servant of the common man and a friend to youth.  See for yourself: 



While the city website claims walking trails and a water fountain, I found neither. 

What this park does provide is an area to walk the dog, a place to sit/rest and a small set of trees and shrubs to attract birds and other small wildlife.  One thing you can't help but notice while walking in the park was the smells of coniferous trees and perennial flowers meshing with the smells of barley from the ABI brewery...another great organic scent...one truly unique to this part of town.  The narrow strip of land is too small for building, so this park seems a very appropriate use of this space.

The park has several nice benches and logically placed trash cans.  There are bike racks to secure your bike (although I'm not sure why, as the park is so small you could see your bike from anywhere in the park).





My favorite element of the park was the iron work that someone installed in and around the center circle in the park.  Circles of various sizes that ring the plantings, and the center area is surrounded by semi-circle iron bars.






On the day of my visit, the park was almost completely free of trash and the grass was mowed.  Since this park is not large enough for sports or other recreation, there are only minor things I'd change.  This would include replacing the many dead burning bushes along the I-55 fence. 




This would complete a nice hedge and backdrop for the park.  I'd also remove an old Japanese Pine that has been overgrown with vines and replace it with a nice tall deciduous tree.


Other than that, this is a nice, relaxing space and serves its role of providing the neighborhood with public space in which to relax, walk the dog or gather.  Again, given the very narrow parcel of land, I think Aboussie Park is a very suitable use of land in this far west side of Soulard.  This is not a destination park, or one I would come back to often; but wow is Soulard a beautiful neighborhood.  Any excuse to spend some time in this part of the city is alright by me.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post, this is SOULARD, and I will have words with those who say otherwise. I am shocked that you didnt know about the history of the lebanese in this town. The liesures and the michaels had a gang war in the 80's with car bombings and everything. and ofcourse, mayor francis slay is of lebanese descent. St Raymonds is the lebanese maronite church for the lebanese community here. Go for lunch, on wednesday I think, its amazing.

Mark Groth said...

^ what racket did they run? Cocaine? Unions? Parking lots? :)

Anonymous said...

How can you not remember the car bombing wars of the 1980s? Aboussie, Leisure, Webbe, Michaels; all major players in the organized crime families of St. Louis, which continued into the late 1980s. For the most part, the high profile car bombings and casino rackets of the 1980s drove most of the activity underground. There is still influence in the unions, Jeff Aboussie, who runs the Building and Construction Trades Council, was in the thick of gang wars of the 1980s, but it's been so long now that the media has forgotten about him.

Jonah Perelman said...

And Mike Trupiano, the last recognized boss of the St. Louis LCN family, was married to a daughter of another Lebanese gangster, Virgil Daly. The personal and professional ties between the Sicilians and the Lebanese were very strong here.